Make No Small Plans

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kamensky-blog-photo.jpgGAO’s released another timely report this past week that helps frame some of the management challenges facing the next President.  What a Christmas present!

The report, “A Call for Stewardship: Enhancing the Federal Government’s Ability to Address Key Fiscal and Other 21st Century Challenges,” describes a baker’s dozen of tools to help the President and Congress address four over-arching strategic management challenges: 

  • Direction-setting and performance measurement
  • Priority-setting and decision-making
  • Information and transparency
  • Implementation and execution

GAO discusses several potential tools to address each, based on past reports and observations of states and other countries.  A number of these I’ve raised in earlier blog entries – such as the use of key national indicators and revisions to the political appointment process. Several I’ve plans to address in the New Year.  However one tool in the GAO report that I found intriguing was its call for a “strategic management plan” for the executive branch. 

Presidents in the past have had their management initiatives:  Reagan had Reform ’88, Bush I had swat teams, Clinton had his reinvention initiative, and the current President Bush has his management agenda.  But GAO is calling for something more formal:  “A strategic management plan for the executive branch that includes key management and operational strategic goals for the next 3-5 years could provide the additionally needed long-term focus.”  It goes on to note:  “The benefit of such a plan is that it can be targeted to cover a range of ‘good government’ issues that are non-partisan in nature and can provide an integrating mechanism within an administration and well as continuity of goals to future administrations.” 

Past experience shows that a new team comes in, declares “shock” at the miserable state of affairs they’ve discovered, and launches a new series of initiatives to fix the mess left by his or her predecessors.  Continuity is the last thing they want. . . even if it makes sense!    So, while a management plan may be a good “integrating mechanism within an administration,” it is likely that such a plan would not provide continuity to a future administration.  Also, creating a “strategic management plan” sounds bureaucratic and un-interesting. . . . launching “reform initiatives” sounds more Presidential!

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One Response to “Make No Small Plans”

  1. Norman M. Macdonald Says:

    I’ve been hearing talk about long range plans and agendas since the early ’60s when I worked for NASA. We in fact had five year money for a great deal of what we did and it actually help cut costs. Those were the days they were ahead of schedule and under cost.

    In the old days mention a “five year plan”and people would say that’s a Soviet idea and it will not work. That mantra has become the DNA of how we plan. The reason the Soviet’s had problems it was top down planning. As long as we do top down – command and control planning we are stuck in this unending cycle that short changes everyone. Maybe we should network from the bottom up.

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