Chief Operating Officers?



Jonathan D. BreulOn April 24, 2007, I attended a forum sponsored by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) which generated ideas on when and how a chief operating officer (COO), chief management officer (CMO), or similar senior-level position in selected federal departments and agencies might effectively provide the continuing, focused attention essential to integrate key management functions and long-term transformational efforts.


The federal government is in a period of profound transition that will require agencies to embark on large-scale organizational change initiatives in order to address 21st century challenges. GAO has documented that agencies are suffering from a range of long-standing management problems that are undermining their abilities to efficiently, economically, and effectively accomplish their missions and achieve results.


One proposed element of an overall strategy to address these systemic federal governance and management challenges involves the creation of a senior-level position and focus concerted attention on long-term transformational efforts. GAO believes there is general agreement on the importance of the following actions for organizational transformation and management reform:

  • Elevate attention on management issues and transformational change. Top leadership attention is essential to overcome organizations’ natural resistance to change, marshal the resources needed to implement change, and build and maintain the organization-wide commitment to new ways of doing business.
  • Integrate various key management and transformational efforts. There needs to be a single point within agencies with the perspective and responsibility – as well as authority – to ensure the successful implementation of functional management and, if appropriate, transformational change efforts.
  • Institutionalize accountability for addressing management issues and leading transformational change. The management weaknesses in some agencies are deeply entrenched and long standing and will take years of sustained attention and continuity to resolve.

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