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Huge Challenges Await the Chief Performance Officer

By Ed O'Keefe

What Would You Do?
President-elect Barack Obama called his appointment of Nancy Killefer as the first chief performance officer "among the most important I will make." The task ahead of her -- as the nation's first CPO and as a deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget -- is daunting, considering the thousands of government programs and millions of employees she now has to evaluate.

So what will she do, how will she do it and what new policies will she enact? What would you do? (Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.)

Obama said cabinet secretaries and key staff members will "meet with Nancy soon after we take office – and on a regular basis thereafter – to discuss how they can run their agencies with greater efficiency, transparency and accountability."

Nancy Killefer
Nancy Killefer, the nation's first chief performance officer (By Linda Davidson / Post)

The goal of improving government efficiency and measuring its performance has plagued presidential administrations for years. President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a "Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System," while President Richard M. Nixon tried "Management By Objective." President Jimmy Carter introduced zero-based budgeting while President Bill Clinton (through the work of Vice President Al Gore) tried to "reinvent" government.

Most recently, the Bush administration launched the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), "to assess and improve program performance so that the Federal government can achieve better results." The program "is far from
perfect," according to a background document on the program. "In fact, after using it for the first time, we have identified a number of shortcomings that will need to be addressed." In several conversations over the past few days, several observers agreed that PART will need a serious overhaul by the Obama administration.

In a 2006 report by McKinsey and Company called "How Can American Government Meets its Productivity Challenge?" Killefer and colleagues wrote that "nobody measures government productivity" noting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had stopped doing so in 1994. They wrote that PART has "been unable to significantly alter the political dynamic of the budget process -- results remain a secondary factor in decision making."

They issued several recommendations:

1.) Measure productivity again, providing an ongoing, transparent indicator of progress
2.) Set an ambitious national government productivity target
3.) Create more transparency in agency and program performance
4.) Give agency managers incentives to make productivity gains
5.) Build management capability at agencies by introducing the Chief Operating Officer role
6.) Boost OMB's management function.

Some caution that the Killefer cannot create yet another system to measure performance, as previous administrations have done.

"The first thing she's going to have to do is to figure out how to measure success, because there's no agreement about that now," said Robert Tobias, director of the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation at American University who has worked with Killefer on the IRS Oversight Board.

"You have to get a uniform, across-government agreement on how to measure," he suggested, a comment echoed by others.

"They're too many systems already," said Adam Hughes, director of federal fiscal policy for OMB Watch. "I think the challenge for her is to figure out what are the good aspects of the way the government currently evaluates government performance, and where are the bad parts."

Hughes also suggests Killefer "has got to include more people in the conversation about performance," since the Bush administration's development of PART "alienated too many other constituencies."

Some of Killefer's recommendations already exist in practice.

The Web site for New York City's Office of Operations allows residents to track everything the city does -- from filling potholes to responding to emergency medical calls.

“Too often in government, there is no accountability," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his statement congratulating Obama on his creation of a CPO. "In business and government, I have learned that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it and our success in New York has been rooted in the hard analysis of the data we collect."

Such transparency might help Killefer identify government managers and other federal employees worthy of promotion, especially since she said she hopes to work on "engaging and drawing on the talents of the federal workforce in order to deliver on our promise of a new, more efficient and effective government."

"With the right transparency, government can take immediate action and know who is leading teams, who the rising stars might be or how to get rid of the bottom performers," said Lars Dalgaard, CEO of management consulting firm SuccessFactors.

As for the creation of chief operating officers, some departments already have them. Last year's Defense Authorization Act established a chief management officer at the Defense Department and the bill implementing recommendations of the 9/11 Commission strengthened the Under Secretary for Management position at the Department of Homeland Security by also making it the deparmtent's chief management officer.

What Would You Do? What do you recommend Killefer do? Where should she start? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 9, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, What Would You Do?  
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First thing to do immediately is: Order a "Complete" & Totally Transparent AUDIT of the so-called 'Federal Reserve' agency(private banking corp);- then file Criminal charges against them; then Abolish the unAmerican unConstitutional FEDERAL RESEVE ACT!!!!

Posted by: jward52 | January 9, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Any review needs to address the redundancy of many federal government programs. The first place to start is the organizational chart of the federal government. A massive reorganization is needed to streamline the government so that performance measurement can be focused and disciplined. We need to better manage the bureaucracy, which means addressing performance measurement and organizational structure simultaneously as opposed to part and parcel. If we treat only one symptom of the problem in isolation without a more holistic approach then we will never be successful at improving U.S. Government performance.

Posted by: joecarter | January 11, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Their does need to be uniformity in govt. I have been to a few different agencies and each has their own way of doing things, their own softwares, etc. To me, ALL govt agencies need to use the same softwares especially in acquisitions, contracting, accounting, finance. Each agency needs to conduct personnel and directives the same except for those for which their mission dictates.

FOr instance, DoD has their own acquisition and contracting directives. They have their own software by which vendors and contractors get paid. And even within DoD, you STILL have different divisions with seperate softwares.

GSA has their own forms and softwares for the purpose of purchasing, tracking sgency spending that does business with them, their own contracting software, etc.

When DoD and GSA do business together, its a freakin nightmare. DoD doesnt ackowledge GSA forms and doesnt use GSA software and vice versa.

How can you measure anything if at each agency you have to be familiar with each agency''s softwares and how they do business? Govt should connect financially by using the same protocals.

Posted by: davethewave1 | January 12, 2009 4:50 AM | Report abuse

Flattening organizations by requiring a supervisor to have at least 5 subordinates (if fewer, a 'lead' worker of the same grade could be used), would would probably save hundreds of millions.

Posted by: ropavo | January 12, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

The enormity of the task begs the question, "where to start?"

My suggestion: start with contract reviews and flag all those that have no tangible performance metrics other than a quasi-budget amount representing how much taxpayer money can be spent.

Such contracts exist all across the federal government and ending them will be a clear signal that the new administration measures performance (i.e., productivity) by the accomplishment of objectives that are more than corporate welfare.

Posted by: upstate111 | January 12, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Priorities: Refine PART. Reenergize GPRA with measurable strategic goals/objectives. Include performance data WITH all budget documents. Publicize explicit performance data in President's Budget and Congressional hearings. Reward/punish executives (esp. political appointees and SES) based on performance rather than activities.

Posted by: larry2 | January 12, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

State benchmarks (Oregon, North Carolina) deine progress measure for the major outcomes. The feeral government needs a similar set of benchmarks. Without such clarity 80% of the general public knows that we, as a country, are going in the wrong direction but are unable to define the correct direction. Benchmarking is an essential step in the right direction. All federal agencies need to have their programs aligned with these benchmarks. All should be able to demonstrate how they contribute to the improvements in the benchmark measures. If they cannot then they should not be funded. Funding should reflect a consensus among taxpayers who define the benchmarks.

Posted by: reginaldkcarter | January 12, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

The first thing she should do is re-define the War on Drugs as a medical rather than a law enforcement problem and start the process of treating and assisting drug addiction rather than punishing the victims.

Posted by: jeromestoll | January 12, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

She should start by implementing to the federal employment system, no career positions without performance. The federal employees who are employed by the American people should understand that what is good for the employer, is good for them. If Americans do not perform in their jobs, there is no loyalty from your bosses enabling lack of productivity. So it should be with all federal employees.

There are ample measures contemporary to measuring efficacy of people and department. There are merit pay models, and team building scenario's where teams are acknowledged for results and contribution.
Just like us in "real life scenario's", government has to sharing the rewards and the suffering on the federal level that American's have to bear in the private sector.
This should go for house and senate rules too either thru term limits or transparency, like on C-span where we can see and watch how our representatives contribute to solving problems rather then create them or do nothing at all. The fact that Senator Byrd at 91 who can barely think let alone speak, is an abomination, while we are required to retire at an age, way earlier then federal employees do...its got to stop and laws must be enacted for the 21 st century that make sense...Break traditional models that are killing us.

I think department cabinet and agency heads and secretary's as we call them should include "for the American people" in title. i.e., Secretery of State, for the American People. Secretary of Labor for the American people. I think title change will elevate the conversation and results of Washington and shift the mentality and narssacism that exists from federal elected officials and employees alike...
In short, If its tax payers money used, they work for us and they need a subtle reminder in congress, the senate, and at all federal levels. The mantra "for the American People" should subliminally work as reminder that your decisions are for the American people, your work is for the American people, your job overall is for the American people, that's your boss, they hire based on performance of their dollars like any other boss and they fire for lack thereof...short, sweet, simple. Maybe then Washington will attract valuable employees to do the work "for the American people" and get rid of the people who suck the oxygen out of the system. Time to modernize politics and federal government operations.

Posted by: llafair1 | January 12, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

From a quality perspective, the obvious place to start is with the customers. Before we measure performance, we need to have a firm grasp of what we are expected to deliver to our customers and then select measures that specifically relate to those expectations. Gore's reinvention, for example, focused on arbitrary reductions in pages of regulations or number of supervisors without any study of whether those measures would actually improve government operations and meet or exceed our customers' expectations. We need to focus on key processes, improve those processes, and standardize work to assure consistent implementation. Assuming up front that we know not only the problem but the solution is not going to work. We need a scientific approach to problem solving and process improvement. Focusing only on results without any thought on how we can get there will not institutionalize improvements. Management often devises elaborate performance measurement systems that do not measure outcomes that are important to customers or to effective and efficient operations. People like Mark Graham Brown and Donald Wheeler have published books that are helpful in this respect. And members of the American Society for Quality have a wealth of expertise available if the government truly wants to devise effective performance measures and to actually improve customer service delivery.

Posted by: bigtom6156 | January 12, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Can we have a day go by without some bureaucrat thinking up yet one more public office? The Chief Performance Officer is pure crap!
No "performance officer" is necessary if each head of the many agencies does his/her job; that's where the responsibility for "performance" lie, not with some high paid outside sheriff!

Each major party is guilty of this endless adding on to the Federal Bureaucracy and the people who have to pay their salaries are not well served by this pigging out at the Treasury.

Posted by: Doubtom | January 12, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I am familiar with the Mckinsey Global Institute work done by Ms.Killefer, and feel she has a good grasp of the overall problems.
I would suggest four areas to consider identifying in assessing govt work performance:
1. The budget cycle begins Oct 1 but the budgets are not disaggregated to field units for usually two months, then spending freezes are imposed on Aug 1, effectively creating a fiscal year from Jan 1 to July 30, or seven months. Hiring,project coordination, etc., further reduce productive time. It is nearly impossible to be efficient when the budget amounts are not known, the scope of the work to be done cannot be defined, nor the personnel, materials and personnel obtained.

2.To advance in the federal service requires transfer or promotion to new locations on a continual basis. While this provides individual exposure to many facets of agency business and prepares one for leadership, it robs ground level activities of continuity in program leadership.

3.Political disruption of program continuity is a real problem. Any assessment of performance should transparently identify the political source
and scope of interference or disruption in the execution of budgeted projects.Making earmarks and overseeing them may be a constituent service but it usually occurs at the expense of program efficiency.

4. Please do not use the Gore model of National Partnership for Reinventing Government! The core of that program, reducing the population of high salaried, close to retirement personnel who possessed the skills, agency memory, and experience necessary for stability amid change just for the sake of budget reduction was a disaster.It left agencies staffed with inexperienced leadership which struggled to keep their ships afloat and rendered them unable to counter the onslaught of disprutive and questionable program changes that were subsequently invoked by Bush appointees. From failure to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts at EPA to the failure of oversite at Treasury, we will be paying for Gore's well meaning but poorly formed program for a long time.
The Germans have a word for this: schlimbesserung. It means change that makes things worse.
I have every confidence that Ms. Killefer will not led us on such a path.

Posted by: georgeduffy | January 12, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

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