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!