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Finally, A Name!

The Obama management agenda finally has a name: the Accountable Government Initiative. In a memo from President Obama to the 7,000 members of the senior executive service, he highlights six initiatives and their progress to date. He also says: “I have tasked our Chief Performance Officer, Jeff Zients, with leading the Accountable Government Initiative,. . . “ and asks for regular updates.

The six initiatives were announced back in July with little fanfare, but today’s memo provides high level visibility and press that “review our approach to performance management, detail our strategies and key initiatives, and describe the early progress we have achieved.”

In a follow up memo, Zients says that progress on performance will be through a web dashboard called performance.gov which will be used to “inform regular, data-driven reviews.” But it is currently only open to government employees. It will be open to the public, as well, starting later this year. In the meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of the six initiatives:

1. Driving agency top priorities. Agency leaders have cumulatively identified 128 high priority performance goals. Each goal has a designated “goal leader” and are to be completed in 12 to 24 months. Progress will be tracked quarterly. In addition, OMB is focusing efforts on improving key citizen programs. The focus is on agencies with the most interaction with the public, where they will set clear service standards and defined metrics to be tracked via a “customer service dashboard.” In addition, OMB is investing $100 million to conduct new program evaluations to find which programs work and which don’t.

2. Cutting waste. OMB conducted “line-by-line” reviews to identify programs that are out-of-date, don’t work, or are duplicative. In FY 2010 and FY 2011, OMB says it identified $20 billion in such programs. OMB also set a goal of reducing improper payments by $50 billion by 2012, and a goal of $3 billion in cost savings by removing excess and surplus property.

3. Reforming contracting. The President is following through on his campaign commitment to save $40 billion in contracting annually and reducing the use of high-risk contracts. Each agency has a goal of reducing dollars obligated via high-risk contracts “by implementing sound contracting procedures.” OM B is also working with agencies to “pool the Federal government’s buying power” for common-use items such as copy paper in order to receive discounts. OMB also is budgeting $158 million for civilian agencies to build the capacity of their acquisition workforce to better manage contracts.

4. Closing the IT gap. OMB is leading efforts to “fundamentally change the way the Federal Government managers IT projects” by monitoring the performance of existing projects via the IT Dashboard as well as “TechStat Sessions” to review plans for troubled projects. Dozens of projects have been halted or redirected. The lessons from these sessions will be pulled together to serve as guidelines for other agencies. In addition, agencies are beginning to adopt more efficient technologies, such as cloud computing and consolidating data centers. Also, OMB places a continued emphasis on enhancing federal cybersecurity.

5. Promoting accountability and innovation through open government. The Obama administration places emphasis on strengthening accountability through transparency. In addition to data.gov, the administration has created PaymentAccuracy.gov as well as Recovery.gov, and is expanding USASpending.gov. It is promoting innovation through greater participation from employees, via its SAVE Award program. It is casting a wide net for ideas via the use of challenges and prizes, such as its challenge.gov initiative.

6. Attracting and motivating top talent. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is leading the President’s improved hiring initiative as well as undertaking efforts to engage and retain top talent. In addition to using a governmentwide Employee Viewpoint Survey, it created the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations. Ending with a nod toward the senior executives, the memo notes a recently-launched effort to identify and implement best practices in SES recruitment, appraisal, and development.

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Really interesting.

Any feedback John on historically how these programs work out? What are the options on how they end up?

Key success factors?

Frank Stein

We’re seeing increasing evidence that use of Performance Management tools can have a positive contribution in government. Nucleus Research recently reviewed 2 local government implementations of PM and found paybacks of just a couple of months. I’ll post more in a separate blog post on GovLoop.

John Kamensky

GovLoop – Implementation of any reform initiative depends on sustained, top-level support as well as bottom-up involvement. The trick is how to make this happen, then the next challenge is how to sustain the reforms in the long-term. Each of the six elements of the initiative have different paths for implementation, with different actors and different potential barriers. Persistent attention –which is promised by President Obama — will help.

In a world with many issues competing for attention, this will be a challenge. But as Sec. Gates is showing, it can work.


Great thoughts. Makes sense – needs persistent attention. My guess too is that needs real results quickly – people need to see there is real action – either services better or penalties/rewards for acting.

George Deryckere

Once the performance.gov site is open to the public taxpayers will be able to see what their government is trying/promising to do and whether we are being successful. The key will be whether agencies establish solid goals and objectives and what action is taken when goals are not met. My philosophy is not meeting a goal doesn’t necessarily equate to failure but an indication of a problem. When goals or milestones are missed management (OMB) in this case, needs to review the circumstances and determine whether it is an indication of larger problems within the government. Agencies can correct internal problems but there needs to be an overall landlord to pull all of the agency fixes into a collaborated solution.

John Kamensky

George – The newly-passed GPRA Modernization Act will help institutionalize this approach, I hope. It requires something like Performance.Gov and quarterly reviews of progress against priority goals – agency-level and government-wide.