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GPRA Modernization – Just More Bureaucracy Or A New Way To Work?

Earlier this week the President unveiled his new management agenda, part of the process involves a renewed emphasis on creating metrics to evaluate an agency’s programs and goals.

That focus falls under the GPRA Modernization Act. The new legislation provides the government with the foundation for strengthening agency efforts to use strategic planning and performance measurement to improve results.

Jitinder Kohli is a director at Deloitte Consulting LLP and leader of the Deloitte Federal Government Performance practice. He has written extensively about government performance and was a contributor to the new legislation.

Kohli told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that GPRA changes the landscape on government performance.

“In the old world government agnecies were really asked to identify the programs they were doing and what they hoped to achieve. In the new world government agencies are being asked what they are trying to achieve as a whole and how they will get there, how their programs fit into achieving those ends?” said Kohli.

HUD Example

“Take an agency like HUD for example, in the new environment of the GPRA, the kind of goals they might set could include reducing homelessness or eliminating Veterans homelessness. Then the question that the GPRA Modernization Act asks of them is how will the programs you are undertaking fit in towards achieving those goals? How will you know if you are on track? What are you going to do to remain on track?”

Why Does GPRA Matter?

“GPRA is a law, and that makes a difference. It is certainly true that some of the agencies were trying to do these things already. But it seems like a number of other agencies are now beginning to embrace the idea. The law is the trigger. What’s most important though is that people don’t just do this because of the law, but they see the purpose behind the law.”

What’s In GPRA?

“At its heart this law is very simple, basically it says:”

  • Work out what you are trying to achieve for the American people.
  • Give us a plan for achieving it.
  • Constantly keep refreshing that plan to make sure your chance of achieving the goals you set are high rather than low. That’s a big culture change for government.

GPRA the bottom line for gov?

“I spent most of my career in government. People in government don’t have a traditional bottom line. People join government because they want to make the world a better place. What GPRA does is articulate a mechanism for the ways in which agencies are going to make the world a better place that provides a real focus within agencies provides clarity to outsiders about what agencies are trying to achieve. Those two things really allow agencies to increase their impact in the same way a bottom line creates the focus for the private sector.”

Shades of Grey

“Sometimes it is difficult for agencies to have a clear mission. But in order to be successful you have to define what your goals are and the goals need to be ambitious enough so that they really represent making a difference. They also need to be genuinely focused on what matters to the American people rather than the things agencies can easily control.

  • For example: HUD and the VA have adopted a goal to end chronic homelessness for Veterans over the next few years. That is clearly an ambitious goal and it is really a sign of the leadership and resolve at the agency. They also have a goal to reduce chronic homelessness among families. It is not nearly as ambitious of a goal. They have a desire to move the needle clearly, but they are not saying they are going to eliminating family chronic homelessness.

Bad Vs. Good in GPRA

  • “The dark side of GPRA is that it could create internal bureaucracy and people feel like they are spending more time feeding the beast.”
  • “The good side is if people find a way to have the legislative drive better behavior internally and those better behaviors drive you towards better outcomes and greater impact, particularly in tight federal budgets.”

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