Performance management challenge: It's the (fiscal) environment, stupid.

Do agencies have too much to deal with already to do justice to OMB's latest performance management revisions?

As the Obama administration continues its push for better achievement of performance goals, federal executives are in a tough position for setting measures of success because their world is in complete upheaval.

The Office of Management and Budget’s changes to its Circular A-11 don’t have any drastic shifts in thinking, but it’s the environment agencies find themselves in that will make the new measures difficult to realize, said John Palguta, a former federal executive and now vice president of policy at the Partnership for Public Service.


Related items:

OMB unveils detailed plans for performance management changes

OMB Circular A-11


As with so much else about the government recently, sequestration is the largest single factor. Both the anxiety its anticipation is causing and the real cuts to funding that it will demand contribute to the psychological obstacle. On top of that, officials have been dealing with tightened budgets already. Looking to Capitol Hill, House and Senate leaders have agreed to work out a continuing resolution for six months, which essentially keeps budgets flat or could even decrease them. No details have been released yet as Congress is in its August recess.

All officials can do is hope for no reduction in their funding, Palguta said. And whatever happens to their budgets, he added, they can expect their workloads to increase.

Agencies can plan for the short term in times like these, but more distant goals are hard to define. Despite all that, the administration wants federal executives to make long-term plans that will be measured and possibly be available online.

OMB officials are pressing ahead with federal performance management reform, taking on the issue in its latest A-11. The documents, part of OMB’s guidance for agencies in preparing their budget requests for fiscal 2014, include new plans directing agencies toward better management of performance goals.

The broad, multiyear effort aims to boost accountability and operations throughout the government. Central to the reform plans is the mandatory use of Performance.gov, the central location where agencies will be posting their goals, plans, progress, reviews and other information -- some on a quarterly basis.

The website will feature agency and cross-agency priority goals, federal program inventory, strategic agency plans, and annual performance plans and reports.

“Performance.gov is a website that serves as the public window on the federal government’s goals and performance,” OMB officials wrote in the circular.

These metrics are important as Congress, agencies and the administration develop their budgets. It can make an impact, despite the influence of other forces.

“Politics will win over performance, obviously, but performance should influence the decisions,” said Patrick Lester, director of fiscal policy at OMB Watch, a watchdog group.

Palguta echoed Lester’s sentiments, saying the key is to infuse some data and facts into the debate. “A-11 is an attempt to contribute,” he added.

The changes in government also mirror similar moves in other sectors, including nonprofit groups, Lester said.

Performance management has become one measure for organizations to determine efficiencies and deficiencies in their operations -- where they should add or withdraw their resources.

“We’re just at the beginning, and A-11 is one part of a larger movement,” Lester said. “This is the wave of the future.”

The Government Performance Results Act of 1993 laid the foundation for managing agencies’ programs with metrics. President Bill Clinton also launched the Reinventing Government initiative. The George W. Bush administration continued the trend with the Performance Assessment Rating Tool in the 2000s, and President Barack Obama has driven performance management as an initiative since he took office. The most recent changes in A-11 stem from the GPRA Modernization Act, which became law in January 2011.

Among other things, the law requires agencies to set measurable performance goals, enhance coordination to avoid overlapping government programs, and post regular performance updates quarterly on Performance.gov.

Federal executives have been aware of metrics and measures for success for years. However, now the leadership is taking performance to heart and IT is putting it within agencies’ reach. Industry has developed software packages that can assess work and dole out metrics, Lester said. As often happens with IT advancements, the systems become more affordable and available.

Despite technology, the government still faces the lingering dilemma: What is a reasonable and measurable metric?

Palguta, who worked for the Merit System Protection Board, said the board’s mission was to administer justice and fairness. What sort of metric can define that? More important, a wrong metric could skew the results of cases. Other agencies’ missions are less of a conundrum, such as efforts to cut the number of homeless veterans.

The point is to set reasonable expectations and well-defined outcomes. Furthermore, the metrics have to be understandable and worth paying attention to, Palguta said. With the new Circular A-11, those goals will be available to the public eye.

“OMB has put more pressure on agencies to put information out there that they can’t explain away,” Palguta said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.