OMB preparing performance management dashboard

Administration will list agencies\' progress in meeting their high-priority goals detailed in the 2011 budget request. OMB wants quarterly updates to ensure age...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Management and Budget is setting up a new dashboard to measure agency performance against the three-to-eight high priority goals developed in 2009.

Shelley Metzenbaum, OMB’s associate director for performance and personnel, says the dashboard is part of the data-driven approach the administration is taking to move agencies toward improving program performance.

“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,” says Metzenbaum during the Executive Update 2010 conference sponsored by the Senior Executives Association in Washington. “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.”

Metzenbaum would not offer any details on when the dashboard would be made public, but says it will be online once it’s ready.

“It really is an experiment on what the goals and measures are,” she says. “It is very complex to do that. We are trying not to be overly prescriptive. We are asking agencies what they want to focus on in terms of measures of their high priority goals.”

Another part of this data-drive approach OMB is taking are quarterly meetings with agency Performance Improvement Officers (PIC) on how they are meeting their high-priority goals. OMB asked agencies last summer to come up with three-to-eight high priority goals. The administration published them in the fiscal 2011 budget request.

“These data driven performance reviews both within the agencies and with OMB will be looking at this quarterly data to say ‘OK where do we need to step in?” Metzenbaum says. “Either because we can be helpful and actually what we want to do is take a success and spread it elsewhere…[or] looking for problems that need attention.”

She says the sessions are similar to what federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra does with TechStat sessions for technology projects.

The idea of data-driven performance management is far from new. The Clinton administration worked with Congress to pass into law the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and the Bush administration created the Performance Assessment Ratings Tool (PART) to evaluate federal programs for results.

Metzenbaum says agencies have hit a plateau in terms of improving performance through data. Additionally, these reporting requirements evolved to becoming too much of a compliance exercise because the data was not easily obtained or used for improvement, she says.

Congress also is paying attention to the trend for performance-based results. The House Wednesday passed the Government Efficiency, Effectiveness and Performance Improvement Act of 2010 (H.R. 2142) that would require agencies to set high-value goals and make public quarterly assessments on how they’ve met those goals.

“My bill will help reduce the deficit by rooting out government waste,” says Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), author of the bill, in a release. “With this bill, Congress can make more informed decisions as we fund federal agencies and their programs. Better information yields better results, and these reports will help us invest in what works and fix what doesn’t.”

There is no Senate companion bill.

Despite the challenge of coming up with the right data to measure program performance, several agencies are using this approach to transform programs.

Frank Anderson, the president of the Defense Acquisition University, says the goal is to make sure programs align with and contribute to the larger mission and goals of the enterprise.

Anderson, who will be retiring at the end of June, says DAU does quarterly assessments of their priorities to make sure management knows what needs to be worked on and how it meets the agency’s priorities.

He says the results at DAU are dramatic:

  • Driven down the average cost of training a member of the acquisition workforce to $10 per training hour from $30 an hour.
  • Increased the student throughput by over 300 percent
  • From 2000 to 2006, we grew training outcomes every year without any increase in funding.

“The idea that to do more requires more money, we do not believe that it’s true,” he says. “It requires you establish the right priorities. There are some things you are investing in today that you really do not want to invest in tomorrow. And the other side of that, are you as efficient with the things you are doing today as you need to be tomorrow, and do you have strategies to drive out the inefficiencies?”

Shelby Hallmark, the Labor Department’s director of the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs, says data-driven performance management improved a program Congress once called the worst in government–the Federal Employees’ Compensation program.

He says the number of employees on workers compensation was growing by four percent a year and costs were increasing by as much as 10 percent a year.

Hallmark says over the last 15 years data drive management helped reduce the number of employees on worker’s compensation by 40 percent. He says it remains a high-priority goal for the department.

“We figured out how to address that problem by managing and using data to determine where we were and apply accountability up and down the organization,” he says. “This was a clear case of an outcome that was well beyond the power of one little segment, OWCP, to accomplish. Therefore it became a good example of what you can do just by focusing on areas, setting goals and letting people know about them. That little fact accomplished great results.”

Metzenbaum says similar to what Labor did, OMB is looking at cross-agency priorities, such as veterans homelessness or healthcare reform.

“We are putting in place a process where we start moving on these issues and we can’t do them all so we will set priorities,” she says. “We will say OMB will not get engaged but we hope the agency is moving forward on this and these are their high-priority goals.”

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