Some agencies use performance measures to make decisions: GAO

Despite having an abundance of performance measures to determine effectiveness, agency managers generally do not use them to inform their decisions any more than they did several years ago. But one group of agencies identified in a Government Accountability Office report has demonstrated that performance measures and practices can improve effectiveness.

Performance measures identify problems and provide the map for how to correct them. The value of these measures lies in making use of them to help make critical decisions. The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 was designed to hold agencies accountable for assessing performance and achieving results.

GAO reviewed how agencies from the Labor, Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Commerce departments and the Small Business Administration used performance information and practices to help make key management decisions.

“Creating results-oriented cultures in which performance information is routinely used to make key management decisions will require the sustained attention and commitment of top agency leadership and more widespread adoption of the practices identified in this report,” said Bernice Steinhardt, GAO’s director of strategic issues, in the recently released report.

Practices, which include demonstrating management commitment and aligning agency-wide goals, objectives and measures, can help agencies identify and share effective approaches, allocate resources, and recognize and reward performance. For example, the National Weather Service adopted a more accurate and timely flash-flood monitoring and prediction application based on the improved performance data from a pilot conducted in Pittsburgh.

Senior managers at Veterans Affairs conduct monthly performance reviews at different levels of the organization. Each VA administration reports financial status, workload and key performance measures, and most recently added progress in improving unsatisfactory performance and when results were expected. Success stories and the activities used to achieve them also are reported. Mid- and lower-level managers also participate in performance review meetings.

GAO also recommended that agencies describe helpful next steps in using the performance information and adopting best practices for broader sharing. It conducted the review for one year ending in August.

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