GSA office wants better results

GSA FY 2003 Performance Plan

The General Services Administration has created an office to coordinate existing and future initiatives aimed at improving the performance of agency programs.

Stephen Perry, administrator of GSA, earlier this month named Boyd Rutherford as the associate administrator of the new Office of Performance Improvement. The office will refine and lead reform initiatives developed during the past year, when GSA evaluated its management processes.

"This job, while it involves some planning aspects, it's really an implementation job," Rutherford said.

Perry set management reform and performance improvement as a priority when he first came to GSA in May 2001. Combined with the White House's reform efforts through the President's Management Agenda and the latest progress score cards issued earlier this month, GSA has not been neglecting performance improvement, Rutherford said.

However, "it takes a while to figure out what is going on [in an agency] and also to figure out what areas might need a little improvement help," he said.

After last year's evaluation, GSA set six agencywide strategic goals for performance improvement. The goals closely mirror the those of the President's Management Agenda, focusing on enhancing service for federal customers and industry partners, and improving financial and workforce management.

Officials also hired Accenture to evaluate the impact of overlap between the agency's two contracting services, and the new office will oversee implementation of the recommendations from that study.

Rutherford, who will report directly to Perry, will lead a team of senior management executives from across the agency and work with planning teams in each of the agency's business areas.

At a meeting this week, the management executives will define the expectations for the business planning teams, which will develop performance improvement initiatives. Business plans, which will include specific short-term initiatives, long-term goals and milestones, should be completed and ready to implement by the beginning of fiscal 2003, Rutherford said.

GSA is not the first agency to take this enterprise approach to performance improvement.

Several agencies set up performance improvement offices even before the White House released the President's Management Agenda in August 2001, and even more have done so in recent months. GSA should learn from their experiences to ensure that the new office does not become just another management exercise, experts say.

"It makes eminent good sense [to create such an office], but the cautionary note is that management structures never solve problems on their own — they enable problems to be solved," said Barry White, director of government performance projects at the Council for Excellence in Government.

In June, GSA released its fiscal 2003 performance plan, required under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. The plan outlines more than 100 performance goals and measures.

The new office needs to refine those measures and actually move them into the agency's daily processes, said Carl DeMaio, director of the Performance Institute and director of government redesign at the Reason Public Policy Institute.

"They are saying the right things," DeMaio said. "Now we'll have to see how they implement it. It's been very hard for GSA to come up with meaningful performance measures."

Experts agree that one of the office's biggest challenges will be getting support from all GSA employees and customers. Without that support, the office will have a hard time making the necessary process changes to really make a difference, DeMaio said.

Rutherford plans to start talking with service and business leaders and to work through those leaders to reach employees. Office officials are also scheduling briefings with employee union representatives and will seek input on potential initiatives and how well those initiatives are progressing, he said.

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Targeting results

The General Services Administration's new Office of Performance Improvement will be responsible for:

* Leading efforts to create a process to identify and implement changes to improve performance agencywide.

* Overseeing implementation of the action plans, process and organizational changes, and other initiatives developed to meet GSA's six agencywide strategic goals.

* Incorporating the President's Management Agenda into GSA processes.

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