OMB redefines performance expectations

As the President implements his policies and programs, federal executives recognize the continuing challenges ahead to deliver on results for the American peopl...

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Since the establishment of a federal Chief Performance Officer by then President-elect Barack Obama in early January of 2009, federal executives have wondered at some point or another about what is expected from them.

Shelley Metzenbaum, associate director of the Office of Management and Budget for Performance and Personnel Management told Federal News Radio her office’s work can be boiled down to one goal.

“What we’re focusing on,” said Metzenbaum, “is trying to help government work better. Very simply. It’s not very sexy, but it’s really incredibly important.”

Metzenbaum talked about some of the challenges of that at the opening session of the Senior Executives Association’s Executive Update 2010.

“Our challenge is to tap the intelligence, the expertise and the leadership of the senior executives to help government work better,” explained Metzenbaum.

As for concerns she’s heard about from those senior executives, Metzenbaum said the biggest was the challenges they can’t control.

All of the different things you need to move in order to improve outcomes and then I think the other challenge is there’s risks involved here. We’ve asked every cabinet member to identify their near-term high priority goals and that’s in the President’s budget for the first time. Those are ambitious and so we know we’re not going to accomplish every single one of them but we sure as heck are going to try, but at the same time there are risks involved. And that’s a real tricky thing in government. If you try something you want to innovate, if you’re not failing some of the time, you’re not innovating.

Career leadership, Metzenbaum said, understands that.

One of the biggest changes going on in government is a shift of emphasis from process to outcomes. Senior executives are quickly changing from saying “tell me what to do” to “tell me what you need.”

The “emphasis on outcomes is not new,” said Metzenbaum, “it’s just hard. But we have experience. We’ve seen where it’s worked.”

The other thing that is really important is if you really want to learn from experience, you sometimes have to gather your data and analyze it in ways that allow you to say what’s working, where is it working and where is it not working, and why is it working and why is it not working. Really understanding the factors, the drivers that leverage, the change drivers. That’s something we really need help (with) from the senior career executives.

Metzenbaum noted the help is readily available.

“I think most of them came into government because they wanted to make a difference and that we need to figure out with them the barriers we need to take down.”

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