OMB to transform performance reviews

By Meg Beasley
Federal News Radio

Agencies must transform how they evaluate their programs and how they use that data to improve their overall performance.

Developing and implementing more effective performance review panels are one of several new requirements outlined in a memo released Friday by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

In the memo to all departments, Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director for performance and personnel, says OMB will work with the Performance Improvement Council (PIC) to shift from a performance assessment approach that focuses on simply gathering information to an approach that focuses on using that information to improve agency functioning.

Agencies should expect the new approach to emphasize using performance data to:

  • Lead, learn and improve outcomes
  • Improve communication about performance
  • Strengthen problem solving networks

“Agencies should consider this year a transition year during which OMB and the PIC will move to a more dynamic performance planning, management, improvement, and reporting framework that is useful, streamlined, and coherent” writes Metzenbaum.

The memo also reminds agencies to devote “unrelenting attention” to achieving the near term high priority performance goals that agency leaders identified last summer, published in the President’s fiscal 2011 budget request sent to Congress in February.

OMB also hopes to make Government Performance and Results Act (GRPA) documents more useful. GPRA, passed in 1993, requires agencies to become results-oriented and develop long-term strategic plans, annual performance plans and to publish an annual performance report showing actual results compared to each annual performance goal.

The memo follows Metezbaum’s presentation at the Executive Update conference sponsored by the Senior Executives Association June 16.

“Let’s use the data diagnostically to figure out what’s working so we do more of it and what’s not working so we can do less of it,” Metzenbaum said at the conference. “Let’s understand why it’s working so we can promote those levers of change and why it’s not working so we can prevent those levers.”

The memo also outlines management responsibilities in conducting “goal focused, data driven reviews at least once every quarter…and identify[ing] a senior accountable official responsible for each goal.” Agencies must measure progress and compare it against that of other agencies, looking for and adopting best practices across the government.

Agencies also will be responsible for making this information accessible to agency leadership, managers, employees, Congress and the public through GRPA documents. To this end, the memo explains what information those documents must contain, including agency strategic plans, fiscal 2010 performance reports and 2012 budget plans.

Metzenbaum writes that while OMB recognizes agencies will begin at different stages of the process, “over time, we expect all agency leaders to apply these performance management practices at the bureau level and across all agencies to deliver improved outcomes and higher returns on the taxpayer dollar.”

Meg Beasley is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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