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Measure of Success

Since fall 2001, federal agencies have been receiving quarterly report cards on how well they're meeting performance standards established by the Bush administration in the President's Management Agenda. The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management track the progress of all agencies in five key areas: workforce, e-government, competitive sourcing, financial performance, and budget and performance integration.

Agencies receive a "traffic light" rating showing their progress. The light is green if an agency meets all of the criteria in a particular category, yellow if results are mixed and red if its performance is unsatisfactory (for current ratings, go to www.results.gov/agenda/scorecard.html). For example, to achieve a green in financial performance, agencies must, among other things, present a financial statement that has been approved by auditors and demonstrate that they use financial information on a regular basis to manage their programs.

Sophisticated hardware and software, including business intelligence applications, could play an important role in helping agencies achieve green ratings, said Robert Shea, who oversees the budget and performance integration initiative as OMB's councilor to the deputy director for management.

"Technology is a tool we should be able to use to address a lot of problems," he said. "We should be able to collect and report financial information quickly and get performance information on a more regular and accurate basis."

Agencies that don't show significant progress in meeting the various criteria suffer by comparison, Shea said.

"Shame is the powerful incentive of the score cards," he said. "Each agency sees the progress of their compatriots, and the president raises the score cards regularly with Cabinet officials. Many people were skeptical in the beginning that this sophomoric tool would be effective. I can assure you that it's taken very seriously by the agencies."

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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