Archive for the ‘Transition 2009’ Category

Transition 2008-2009 Blog Index

September 1, 2009

This is the final entry to the IBM Center’s Presidential Transition 2008-2009 blog.  Following is an index of highlights from the 275 entries over the past two and a half years we’ve been writing.

But we’re not leaving!  The IBM Center for The Business of Government is expanding its blogging, post-presidential transition.  The new blog — The Business of Government Blog — will focus on the broader themes related to the management challenges of implementing President Obama’s agenda and the governance issues facing public sector leaders.  In coming weeks, we will be adding other bloggers, but for now, you can bookmark our new landing page and start reading today.  Share this new link with your friends!

Finally, thanks to our many readers and contributors who made over 95,000 visits to the Presidential Transition 2008-2009 blog!

Blogs on “The Big Picture” — Where Is Government Reform Going?

Blogs on What the Campaigns Said About Government Reform

Blogs on the History of Transitions

Blogs on the 2008 Transition:  Pre-Election

Blogs on the 2008-2009 Transition:  Post-Election

Blogs on The Bush Administration’s Transition-Out Activities

Blogs on the Obama Transition:  The First 100 Days

Post-100 Days:  Staff Transitions and Other Actions

Blogs on Recovery Act Implementation

Blogs on Open Government Implementation

Blogs on Other New Administration Management Initiatives

Blogs on FY 2011 Budget

Blogs on Management Ideas for the New Administration

a.  Getting Results/Governance

b.  Workforce

c.  Technology/Web 2.0

d.  Managing/Improving Performance

e.  Engaging People

f.  Government Contracting

Blogs on Advice for the New Team

Blogs on What Other Groups Are Doing

Where Is Waldo?

August 28, 2009

Everyone is familiar with the anonymous military aide who follows the President everywhere carrying the codes to launch nuclear missile attacks. Less known is the anonymous archivist from the National Archives who tracks the President’s minute-by-minute meetings and phone calls.

These records are typically available to historians years later.  Well, President Obama’s “greater transparency” initiative has resulting in some of this information being available on an almost real-time basis.  With this information, the Washington Post has launched “POTUS Tracker” (POTUS is the insider acronym for “President of the United States”).

The most valuable commodity of any President is how he uses his time.  This new website gives insight into how President Obama is spending his. It is a veritable “where is Waldo!”  It graphically depicts what kinds of issues he’s addressing, who he is meeting with, where he is having events around the country, and the kinds of meetings (press conference, rally, etc.).

For those who like to track statistics and are despairing of those of their favorite baseball team, this might be the antidote!

Performance Pay: Here to Stay?

August 27, 2009

Not unlike the recent public healthcare debates, the mention of performance-based pay generates much passion.  The continued rollout of the Defense Department’s version of performance pay was put on hold at the beginning of the Obama Administration, pending a study.  That study is now out.  It is short and clear:  continue the pause, rethink some of the initial premises put in place in 2004, engage employees in re-designing the system, and be sure to invest in training managers. While the report concludes” “Successful performance management systems have the potential to enhance organizations performance and drive effective results,” it pointed to several implementation actions taken in recent years that led to frustration by both managers and employees.

Media played up the unions’ disappointment that the system was not rejected outright.   But separately there were strong signals from John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, that President Obama is committed to linking pay to performance as a condition of any broader governmentwide pay reform efforts.

What should be the focus of the “rethink?”  A coalition of good government groups, the Government Performance Coalition, outlined several “key drivers for enhancing the prospects of success:”

Focus first on instituting a proven performance management system.  Performance management must initially be separated from pay.  The system has to be tied to proven improvements in performance, and “an effective performance system must be recognized as benefiting employee motivation and engagement, as well as recruitment and retention, regardless of pay.”

Second, provide for the proper level of transparency.  Without the ability to understand one’s rating or the way in which the process functions, a major reason for the enhanced system is lost.”

And third, reinforce the value of constructive ongoing communications.  Employee-manager feedback and dialogue are important, but oftentimes difficult to achieve.  Training helps, but it is important for leaders to “sustain a workplace culture that values constructive communication.”

Interestingly, these elements were reflected several years ago in an assessment of the performance pay system implemented at the Government Accountability Office.   This isn’t a new topic.  This blog has highlighted several other related IBM Center reports on this topic, if you want to dig into some of the background.

Obama Appointees: Not Yet Halfway There

August 24, 2009

“Seven months into his presidency, fewer than half of his top appointees are in place advancing his agenda,” notes Peter Baker in a New York Times story, “Obama’s Team Is Lacking Most of Its Top Players.”

He goes on to say: “Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled. . . . ”  He notes that Obama is trying to fix the financial markets but has no assistant secretary for financial markets.  He is fighting two wars but has no secretary of the Army, and is holding a summit on nuclear nonproliferation but has no assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation.

Dr. Terry Sullivan, executive director of the White House Transition Project, told Baker “If you are running G.M. without half your senior executives in place, are you worried? I’d say your stockholders would be going nuts.”

Baker also describes how there is more progress in putting officials in place than in other recent administrations and how the finger-pointing for the slow pace is “being freely passed around” between the executive and legislative branches.  The White House personnel office offers a higher count of appointees; other sources (such as the Washington Post’s Head Count website) offer lower counts, depending on what positions are included or excluded from the counting.

In a separate story, Chris Dorobek describes how the confirmation of Martha Johnson as administrator of the General Services Administration is being held up in the Senate.  He offers several reasons that are bipartisan in nature:  Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is mad at GSA for discouraging government conferences in resort locations, like his home state city of Las Vegas, and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is blocking action because he wants a federal office building built in Kansas City. . . . meanwhile GSA has no top leader while the agency is facing an historic challenge to effectively manage  a 1,100 percent increase in its spending for the coming year under the Recovery Act.

Update: The White House Transition Project

August 20, 2009

I had lunch yesterday with Martha Kumar, who helps run the White House Transition Project,  and she encouraged a visit to their website to see their “Six Month Review” of the Obama Administration’s transition.  You should visit also!

They’ve got a running tally of the status of presidential appointments as of the six-month point (55 percent identified or confirmed, of the top 542 positions).  They note the delay in confirmations tends to be on the White House side – not the Senate side — of the appointment process.

They have also drafted some essays on specific topics:  a review of Rahm Emanuel’s effectiveness on the job so far (a positive assessment), a review of Jim Jones’s role as national security advisor (still evolving), and a piece on presidential travel (Obama has earned lots of miles!).  Additional essays in production include a piece on the organization of the White House, and the interaction between the President and the press.

Efforts to Engage the Public

August 12, 2009

The healthcare reform debates raging across the country in townhalls and on-line, all show that Americans do want to actively engage in their government.  Obama’s Open Government Directive, which is still under development, intends to expand public involvement.  But various agencies are already jumping in.

The Environmental Protection Agency has long been a leader in engaging citizens.  They’ve developed extensive resources and networks that can be of help to others.  They are currently helping revamp the main website for public participation in e-rulemaking, regulations.gov.  Here, they are encouraging citizen involvement in redesigning the website.

The Office of Personnel Management has posted a draft version of its 2010 strategic plan on line and is asking for both employee and public comment.

The Department of Homeland Security has invited the public to participate in a statutorily required Quadrennial Review of its policies and priorities. Federal Computer Week’s Ben Bain notes that the review covers six areas, such as border security and disaster response.  The first on-line dialogue sponsored by this effort ended several days ago, with 10,000 participants.  The next dialogue will launch at the end of the month, followed by a third several weeks later.

Federal agencies aren’t the only ones getting excited about increasing citizen participation.  A conference held earlier this month brought together over 90 participants committed to “strengthening our nation’s democracy” via a range of efforts, including voting reforms, institutional changes to that way government engages citizens, as well as grassroots organizing.  Participants developed a draft set of action items for Obama’s White House as well as the broader democracy movement, which participant Sandy Heierbacher summarized in her blog:

1. Draft Statement of Principles (The preamble which will likely carry the definitions, values and ethics talked about during the conference)
2. Democracy Skill-Building Agenda (How to transfer knowledge and ability to do this work)
3. Health of Democracy Report (The state of this imperfect union)
4. National Demonstration Projects (To show the real world value of what was proposed)
5. Recognize and Support Engagement by Disenfranchised Communities (To ensure full inclusion)
6. Institutionalize Participatory and Collaborative Governance (Embed it in federal, state and local institutions)
7. Ensure Adequate Resources for Public Engagement (Paying for it)
8. Adopt and Electoral Reform Agenda (Self explanatory — more later)
9. Feedback on Consultation Efforts (Evaluation)
10. Mechanism for Sustaining Leadership (Ensuring that this doesn’t disappear in four years)
11. International Exchange (Learning from our global colleagues)

Details and the final report will be posted here where available.

FY 2011 Budget: Obama Science Spending

August 11, 2009

Agencies got their budget marching instructions from the Office of Management and Budget back on June 11th, but the science agencies (NASA, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, etc.) have recently received additional guidance.

Ben Bain, in a Federal Computer Week story, “Agencies Told to Target Money for Tech Projects,” says that OMB director Peter Orzag, and John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, have sent out a joint memo to science agencies that, cumulatively, will spend nearly $150 billion this year:

That memo says that these agencies’ budget submissions, due September 14th, should focus on the following four priority areas:

  • Develop strategies that support economic growth
  • Promote technologies to reduce energy dependence and address climate change
  • Improve health
  • Protect troops, citizens, and national interests

These can be done by improving the productivity of research institutions (e.g., universities and labs); strengthening science, tech, and engineering education; improving infrastructure; and improving space capabilities.

Agencies will need to describe expected outcomes from their investments in relationship to the above priorities, and develop data sets to document their investments and make these datasets available to the public.

Particularly intriguing, the memo states:

“Agency budget submissions should also explain how the agency plans to take advantage of today’s open innovation model—in which the whole chain from research to application does not have to take place within a single lab, agency or firm—and become highly open to ideas from many players, at all stages. Agencies should empower their scientists to have ongoing contact with people who know what’s involved in making and using things, from cost and competitive factors to the many practical constraints and opportunities that can arise when turning ideas into reality.”

This implies a strong emphasis on applied vs. basic research.  It’ll be interesting to see how basic research agencies fair under this set of new expectations.

Obama’s Contracting Initiatives: An Update

July 29, 2009

President Obama’s 2008 election campaign made strong commitments to reduce the government’s dependence on the use of contractors. Now come the implementation details:

The Bush Administration had been a big promoter of the use of contractors, basically doubling spending on contracting to about $500 billion a year. Congress pushed back on some initiatives to outsource some government functions – even when the Republicans controlled the Congress.  It increased restrictions, embedded study requirements regarding the appropriate balance of government vs. private employees, required the Administration (in the Defense Department authorization bill) to develope a definition of what constitutes “inherently governmental” positions, and directed the Intelligence Community to conduct an assessment of its staffing mix between public and private resources, and the Intel Community is beginning to tilt its staffing mix toward more government hires.  Most recently, the Senate has proposed banning all outsourcing studies.

In his first 100 days, President Obama signed a memorandum on contracting reform directing a re-assessment of public vs. private sectors in providing governmental services.  The new deputy secretary of Defense issued internal guidance on how Defense agencies should address this, as well.  The presidential memo included several studies and deadlines.  Several of those have just been released, according to a story by Joe Davidson in today’s Washington Post, “OMB Moves to Cut Outside Contractors.”

According to the Post article, OMB has (or will) issue four guidance memos to agencies:

  • Improving Government Acquisition.  This memo set out guidance to agencies to review their existing contracts and buying practices in order to save $40 billion a year through better practices.  It requires them to:  (1)  develop plans to save 7 percent of contract spending over the next two years (3.5 percent in fiscal year 2010; 3.5 percent in fiscal year 2011); and (2) reduce by 10 percent next year the amount of dollars awarded under “high risk contracting authorities” such as non-competitive contracts, cost-reimbursement contracts, and time-and-material contracts.
  • Managing the Multi-Sector Workforce.  This memo sets out initial guidance to help agencies improve their management of their combined public sector and contractor workforces.  It requires agencies to (1) adopt a human capital planning framework that covers their multi-sector workforce, (2) pilot an analysis of at least one program where the agency has a concern about an over-reliance on contractors, and (3) develop guidelines for when to in-source work to government employees (along with an attachment based on earlier guidance developed by the Defense Department).
  • Improving the Use of Contractor Performance Information.   This memo, directed to agency procurement officers, requires them to submit an electronic record of contracting performance to a central governmentwide database.  It also directs them to develop internal procedures and designate individuals to be in charge of ensuring contracts are assessed. 
  • A third memo will be issued by OMB in the Fall covering competition, contract types, acquisition workforce, and when outsourcing is or is not appropriate.

The private sector, in an assessment by the research firm FedSources, seems to have already recognized that the growth in contract spending may be over.  In a story last month by Elise Castelli for Federal Times, “Contract Spending Expected to Flatten,” she wrote that the study “projects government contract spending to grow at a compound annual rate of 2 percent between 2008 and 2014.  That’s a sharp contrast to the 12 percent compound annual growth rate of the last six years.”

Fact-Based Governing

July 27, 2009

Maryland’s State-Stat.  Last week I took a field trip to Annapolis to visit Governor Martin O’Malley’s much ballyhooed State-Stat management system.  It is a variation of Baltimore’s Citi-Stat, which O’Malley created in 2001 when he became mayor.  It could serve as an inspiration for what the federal government might do to track the implementation of the various agency-level goals to be submitted to OMB by the end of the week, as well as to coordinate the work of the various “czars” working on cross-agency initiatives.Maryland Flag

Baltimore’s Citi-Stat.  There have been several studies of, as well as awards for, the city system.  And the state-level version, which has been in operation for the past two years since O’Malley has become governor, has been adapted to include a handful of broad, cross-agency goals developed by the governor.  These goals are being driven by a new Governor’s Delivery Unit.

The characteristic, though, that I saw as most power was how agency heads were creating their own versions of State-Stat within their own agencies.  This happened in Baltimore City as well.  This means that the use of strategic analytics – characterized by fact-based decision-making — is being driven down into how agencies do their work, and it is not just a compliance exercise.

Fact-Based Governing Is Expanding. While most prominent in Maryland, these methods are being applied more frequently in other states (such as Washington State) and localities.  The development of “data warehouses” — putting data in one place to analyze and look across organizational boundaries to inform decisions or actions – is happening in police departments as well as homeland security state fusion centers.

Great Britain has a parallel.  Beginning in 2001, the prime minister’s office created a “Delivery Unit” to track key outcome-related priorities, using about 30 Public Service Delivery Agreements to define the contributions of various agencies.  Maryland’s Delivery Unit is newer and just beginning to develop connections between goals, actions, and resources.

The Next Steps.  The trend is moving from performance measurement to performance management.  The fact-based governing approach is the next stage in an evolutionary model of performance management, starting with the standard required reporting from the 1980’s and 1990’s that were descriptive (recording and reporting on what happened and what’s the problem) and then moved to a model that was more analytic (resource planning, measuring performance and processes to determine what will happen if . . . ?) then to a predictive model (How can we achieve the best outcome? What will happen next?).

The challenge, though, according to New York University’s Dennis Smith is that “Every decision involves values and facts.” But he notes: “. . . my aspiration is for a society where public policy and management decisions use systematic thinking to clarify value issues and use empirical evidence to resolve factual disputes.” (Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2009).