Performance officers lack authority, report says

Performance executives face difficulties with leadership buy-in, red tape, duplicative duties and workplace culture

Performance improvement officers at 23 federal agencies said they often don't have top-level support or enough authority to make improvements, according to a new report.

The officers are hampered by red tape and duplicative requirements, and they juggle multiple duties. On average, less than half of a performance executive’s time is spent on overseeing performance, states the report from the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton. The report, published April 13, was based on a survey of 23 of the 24 federal performance officers.

The senior-level positions were created by an executive order issued by President George W. Bush in November 2007. President Barack Obama supported the order, and the positions were made permanent in the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010.


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Under the law, the performance executives are in charge of strategic and performance planning, measurement, analysis, assessment of processes and use of performance information to enhance results.

However, the performance officers have trouble getting senior executives to commit to making lasting changes, the report states.

In addition to gaps in authority, spotty leadership support, lack of time and duplicative duties, another problem is short-term political leadership and reactive workplace cultures, the report states.

“Performance improvement officers say they have neither the skills nor the tools they need to transform departments or agencies from reactive, output-focused organizations to strategic, outcome-oriented ones,” the report states. “Agency leaders must identify workforce, technology and other gaps in their performance management infrastructure and make the necessary investments.”

The report recommends that performance officers be allowed to focus 100 percent of their time on performance management and be given clear authority to carry out duties that include oversight, management, strategy development, outcomes measurement and program evaluation.

The work of performance managers should be used to hold senior executives accountable, the report concludes, adding, “Without such a commitment, real progress is unlikely.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Sep 22, 2011

The function of Chief Performance Officer should reside in the job description of the Secretary of a department. If a Secretary is not leading the strategic and performance planning for the department, then he/she doesn't understand or is unqualified for the job. Pushing this critical function off as an unfunded mandate confirms that the direction of Federal agencies work is more political than rational.

Thu, Sep 22, 2011

Ya think!? Not to mention Senior Sustainability Officers, Chief Human Capital Officers, Chief Information Officers, and Inspector Generals. An awful lot of upper level policy types without much in the way of resources or implementation power. Most of these offices are for show, while the inertia of bad practices continues.

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