A new focus on performance management expected

Recent political and legislative developments could re-energize the discussion on performance management and focus government attention on the issue.

One such development is the Telework Enhancement Act that President Barack Obama signed into law in December. It requires agencies to establish policies for their employees to work from locations outside the office. And that, experts say, can’t be done without developing outcome-based performance measures.

“There’s always been a need for performance standards in government, but attendance has been used as the default instead,” said Jon Desenberg, senior policy director at the Performance Institute. “That’s not possible with telework.”

The boost in Republicans’ standing in the new Congress — into the majority in the House and with greater numbers in the Senate — could also bode well for performance management because it has traditionally been a Republican issue. For example, it was a very public issue during the Bush administration, as exemplified by the President’s Management Agenda.

However, the new Congress could also bring some pain for government employees. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has recommended going beyond the recent across-the-board federal pay freeze by also halting step increases and has said he will introduce legislation to that end.

But such a move could promote even more discussion about performance management, Desenberg said.

“Unlike the Bush administration, the current administration hasn’t really gotten involved with performance management,” he said. “With Republicans coming back into power, we’ll likely see it [come] to the fore again.”

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jan 14, 2011 Paul Thompson DC

I agree wholeheartedly that Republicans pay more attention to performance management. But the approach this time is likely to be much more punitive than under President Bush. Say what you want about the previous Administration, there was a sincere interest in promoting better Federal management, and not just punishing Feds or privatizing their jobs. The approach from Mr. Chaffetz and others is likely to be much different. And on the Senate side, a huge void has been left with the retirement of George Voinovich, a champion of sound management and of Federal employees in general. Sad to say, we will not see his like again soon.

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