Posts Tagged ‘Office of Personnel Management’

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.


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,  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.

Presidential Appointee Orientation

June 11, 2009

The Presidential Transition Act sets aside funds so the incoming Administration can conduct orientation training for incoming appointees.  According to Federal News Radio, the General Services Administration announced that they have chosen the Hay Group to be the deliverer of the training for the Obama Administration.  In 2000, and before, the Council for Excellence in Government had been the organizer of these orientation sessions, and with its demise earlier this year many thought it would be run by one of the other good government non-profits, so some saw the selection of a for-profit company as surprise.

Related, but not directly, the Office of Personnel Management is conducting an orientation session for new career and non-career senior executives from June 24-25.  Its website notes that this will be an opportunity to “learn about the President’s agenda, his vision and values, and to discuss the unique challenges you face with your new responsibilities.”  There is also a swearing-in ceremony scheduled, as well.

High Performance Government

May 11, 2009

People have been asking me when I was going to blog on the President’s new budget.  I wasn’t interested in jumping in on the program cuts, etc. because everyone else covered that with more depth.  But I was interested in seeing the outline for the management elements in the budget.  That was released today as a short chapter in the Analytical Perspectives segment of the budget, entitled:  “Building a High-Performance Government.” 

 The chapter is at a fairly high level, but outlines six themes:

 Putting Performance First.  The new Administration wants to replace the OMB Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) with a new “Performance Improvement and Analysis Framework.”  The PART helped establish performance measures across federal programs, the budget notes, but “it has been less successful in encouraging the actual use of performance measurement as a performance improvement tool.”  The new approach will “switch the focus from grading programs as successful or unsuccessful to requiring agency leaders to set priority goals, demonstrate progress in achieving goals, and explain performance trends.”  Cross-program and cross-agency goals would receive as much or more focus as program-specific ones.  These themes are consistent with a recent IBM Center report by Shelley Metzenbaum!

Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds.  The emphasis on transparency and accountability that has been consistently hammered on in recent weeks is repeated here.  It reinforces the management focus being placed on the Act’s implementation.

Transforming the Federal Workforce.  The budget notes that almost half the existing workforce will retire the coming decade (with almost one-third retiring in the first term of the Obama Administration).  It notes “In filling these positions, it is essential to restore the prestige of public service and reform the recruitment process. . . “  It continues: “The federal hiring process also needs to be reformed” and this will be led by the Office of Personnel Management.  The budget say greater investments need to be made in the existing workforce and agencies “should make greater use of management rotations both within and between agencies” to better develop leaders.

Managing Across Sectors.  This section is vague but promising . . . . “In the new management agenda, the focus will be on determining and then implementing government services in a manner that provides the best value for taxpayers” by “acquiring needed resources from the private and nonprofit sectors, and collaborating across levels of government.”

Reforming Federal Contracting and Acquisition.  This section reiterates President Obama’s March 4th memo on reforming government contracting, which instructs OMB issue new guidance on: (`) reviewing all existing contracts to determine if they are appropriate, (2) maximize the use of competition in the contracting process, (3) use different types of contracts appropriately, (4) improve the capacity of the acquisition workforce, and (5) clarify when outsourcing is and is not appropriate.

Transparency, Technology, and Participatory Democracy.  This section reiterates the elements of the January 21st presidential memo, committing “to innovate in providing better levels of transparency and openness, and in devising new tools to let citizens have their voices heard by those who serve them.”

As noted, most of these elements have already been described in earlier White House announcements.  However, putting these six elements in one place, together, finally give an outline of the potential priorities for the Obama Administration’s management initiatives.

Advancing Technology: Industry Recommendations

December 18, 2008

The Industry Advisory Council (IAC), which is committed to improving communication between industry and government in the technology world, has shared a set of reports and recommendations with the Obama transition team, according to a story by Federal Computer Week’s Matthew Weigelt, “IAC Tells Transition Team About IT in Government.”


IAC formed a Transition Study Group, co-led by Mark Foreman and Roger Baker, some months ago to draft issue papers on various IT topics.  It presented four of these papers to the transition team last week. IAC said it will provide all of its papers to Obama’s transition team in the next couple of weeks.


Following are links to the four papers, and a brief summary of each:

 Returning Innovation to the Federal Government with Information Technology.  This is the lead paper.  It claims that government is 10 to 15 years behind the private sector in using the latest technologies and processes to improve operations and observes that the federal government’s annual investment of $100 billion in technology is “plagued by bade management, poor planning, and a failure to use best practices,” and that it rewards caution, not risk.  It recommends creating a new “Government Innovation Agency” to serve as an incubator for new ideas via centers of excellence, a repository for best practices, and a reviewer for innovation in every IT project.  The paper also recommends that each agency create two porfolios of IT investment:  one to run the agency and the other to introduce changes to the agency.


Using Federal Information Technology as a Strategic Weapon to Strengthen the Economy and Drive Change for America.  This paper recommends a “strategic view of IT spending across the government.”  It claims “More funding is not the issue” but rather a better use of current investments.  It notes “The federal government is a major force in the growth of the IT industry,” but “government is reducing its investment in R&D programs” and its new acquisitions are backward-looking and reflect existing environments.  It says “investment in out-of-date technology constrains the economic contribution of the IT industry.”  It recommends a new senior IT leader “responsible for creating and executing a national investment strategy to spur private sector competitiveness and innovation” with the authority to “work proactively with industry, influence agencies’ spending, and [have] the ability to compel agencies to coordinate for broader benefit.”


The other two papers (and I’m assuming the yet-to-be-released papers) seem to be more technical in nature:


Government Federated Identity Management.  This paper advocates the need to “create single globally unique personal identities, independent of any relationship that individual has with a particular government agency or other enterprises.”  It seems to focus on the importance of inter-changeable identity management within the federal government so one agency can recognize employees (or contractors) of another agency.  It advocates a “centralized identity framework, identity management and credential issuance” authority and recommends that this be the Office of Personnel Management, since they already do most background checks on employees and contractors.  The paper gets a bit deep, talking about “Shibboleth architecture,” “UW IdP assertion,”  and “Internet2/MACE Signet and Grouper software toolkits,” so be careful!


Identity and Access Management.  From what I can gather, this paper differs from the previous paper in that it seems to advocate creating “a national strategy for identify management” that goes beyond federal employees and contractors.  It says the government must “standardize identity credentialing systems for travel security, immigration control, and employment verification.”  It does note that “The United States has always been resistant to a national identity card,” but that incrementally, different agencies have been developing their own identity cards (passport, e-Verify for employers, security clearances, e-health records, Medicaid, etc.).  The benefits of a national, federated, citizen identity card, though, might allow greater citizen access to benefits and entitlements, better manage emergency responders in disasters, etc.



Think Tanks and Transition 2008: Update

July 9, 2008


The Thinker

The Thinker

I started an inventory back in April (Part I and Part II) of what different think tanks are doing related to the transition.  There was a good story in Federal Times this past week on some of the groups (including the IBM Center), but there are a few more developments over the past few months worth highlighting.


Updates on Think Tank Players


Government Performance Coalition.  The Coalition’s a website on transition issues is being updated more frequently.  The Coalition and its nearly two dozen members (some of whose efforts are described in more detail below) anticipate pulling together a set of insights for the next Administration this Fall.


IBM Center for The Business of Government.  In addition to sponsoring this blog, a series of issue briefs and forums on acquisition reform, the IBM Center will be publishing two books this Fall.  One, “The Operator’s Manual for the New Administration,” will highlight the key features of running an agency, such as what you need to know about government systems dealing with people, money, and technology.  The second book, “Getting It Done,” provides insights for new government leaders on working across different stakeholder groups – Congress, OMB, the media, unions – to get things done.  Its transition website will be regularly updated to reflect these items, as well.


Council for Excellence in Government.  CEG plans to continue its famous “Prune Book” but make it an on-line version this time, highlighting about 25 key jobs. It is also providing pre-transition assistance to the Department of Homeland Security by helping organize emergency and planning exercises under the National Response Framework.


National Academy for Public Administration.  NAPA also assisted Homeland Security by inventorying gaps in the Department’s executive staff rank in a recent report.  A group of Academy Fellows is drafting a series of papers on key management capacity challenges facing the next Administration as well, which will be available on the web later this summer.  NAPA is also collaborating with other groups, as described below.


Partnership for Public Service.  The Partnership has sponsored a series of forums on the human capital agenda for the next Administration.  It is developing a white paper based on its forums and plans to contribute data and information during the general election campaign to further dialog on these issues.  It also plans to provide insights and advice to the next generation of political appointees.


American Society for Public Administration.  The Society’s professional journal, Public Administration Review, published a series of articles related to presidential transition in its July/August issue.   


Association of Government Accountants.  AGA has launched a blog on financial management issues, some of which may be relevant during the upcoming transition.  It is also developing a white paper on financial management challenges, jointly with NAPA.


Center for the Study of the Presidency.   The Center is sponsoring several efforts related to the transition.  One, which is more strategy-oriented, is “Agenda 2008:  A Nation at Risk,” which defines organizational challenges facing the next President.  The more specific effort is its sponsorship of the Project on National Security Reform, which is devoted to rethinking the National Security Act of 1947 which created the Defense Department.



“The President’s Executive Academy.” This new initiative is being developed by a consortium of groups:  the University of Maryland, the Council for Excellence in Government, the University of Pennsylvania, and NAPA.  Under the guidance of Ed DeSeve, a former OMB official, the consortium is developing a curriculum for new presidential appointees, with plans to help support the orientation of new appointees.  It is also planning the development of a web-based orientation and network.


Updates on Government Players


Office of Personnel Management.  OPM has published an updated transition guide for political appointees.    


Office of Government Ethics.  OGE will have an important role in the transition.  It is responsible for reviewing and certifying financial disclosure reports of presidential nominees.  It reviews each nominee’s written ethics agreements and transmits opinion/clearance letters to the appropriate Senate committees responsible for confirming appointees.  It also provides ethics briefings to senior White House officials. 


Congressional Research Service.  CRS produces reports on various topics for members of Congress.  It has produced an updated report on Presidential Transitions.  It will also likely produce a series of other reports on transition-related issues, such as national and homeland security.  


Updates on Academic Players


The White House Transition Project  is conducting a series of interviews of 11 key White House officials about the lessons they learned in their roles and advice they have for their successors.  They are planning on a book later this year with essays on selected transition topics such as:  the first 100 days in the White House (which should be useful to CNN, which has announced a series it plans on the first 100 days); the presidential decision-making system, and the president’s military and foreign policy roles. 


Midge Smith Center for Evaluation Effectiveness (a part of the Trachtenberg School for Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University).  The Center is collaborating with a NAPA advisory group to develop a white paper identifying options for strengthening performance management initiatives in the next Administration.  The effort is based on a series of focus groups with OMB and agency officials and will be ready in the Fall.


Updates on Other Players


Deloitte Public Sector Research.  Deloitte Research sponsored a conference in June on the potential role of Web 2.0 in the next Administration.  It also plans a forum in September to develop a “redesign framework” to facilitate the review of the roles and functions of government.   


Cisco.  Cisco has undertaken several transition initiatives to help the next Administration develop a management agenda. Most recently, it launched a website to engage visitors in identifying new ideas for government that could be offered to the new Administration.  In addition, Cisco’s Alan Balutis supported a special forum on management issues in the Spring 2008 issue of The Public Manager. 


Management Concepts, Inc.  Management Concepts is publishing a series entitled In the Public Interest.  The first book was out in May 2008:  Transforming Public and Nonprofit Organizations: Stewardship for Leading Change by James Edwin Kee and Kathryn E. Newcomer, both with George Washington University.  In addition, Management Concepts is sponsoring (and working on) improvements to program management with CEG, based on a survey of program managers.


OMB Watch. OMB Watch plans to prepare a briefing paper on the regulatory process and options for improving it to be more transparent.


MITRE Corporation.  MITRE is developing a set of white papers on 5-8 topics, based in part on a series of roundtables held in conjunction with CEG in late 2007.


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Again, if you’ve got additions or revisions, the blog lines are open!



Some Interesting Links

July 1, 2008

John Kamensky, Senior FellowThere’s interest in the U.S. presidential transition in other countries, as well.  I had some visitors from the Swedish government drop by this morning and they were curious about how the U.S. government ensures there is an orderly transfer of knowledge about various policy and technical matters between administrations.  Once they realized it wasn’t quite so orderly, they asked:  “How do you maintain your status as the only superpower??”  Good question!


Today, I just wanted to share several interesting resources that came available recently. 


The Office of Personnel Management updated its “Presidential Transition Guide to Federal Human Resource Management.”  The guide provides incoming political appointees a view of government they probably wouldn’t think of . . . with the first chapter titled “Standards of Ethical Conduct,” and ending with a chapter on “Personal Identify Verification.”  It is important for potential Presidential transition team members to know they will not be issued a PIV (authorized under HSPD-12, under the implementing guidance of FIPS-201-1) if “The individual is know to be or reasonably suspected of being a terrorist.”  However, there is a good chance the guide will get an avid audience – there’s an important section about benefits for departing political appointees, including a sample separation notice!


A conference co-sponsored by Deloitte Public Research and the National Academy of Public Administration on “Web 2.0:  the Future of Collaborative Government” was held in early June.  A website with summary materials from that conference is now available.   One of the fun things about the conference was that, as speakers made their presentations, a graphic artist sketched icons and summarized the content “live” on a large scroll of paper that was the stage background.  So if you don’t want to read the papers, you can look at the pictures (sample)!


Finally, there was a nice piece by Richard Walker in the on-line version of Federal Computer Week, “Deputy Chiefs Key to Transition.”  In it, he highlights the importance of the role of career deputies in departments and agencies as the institutional bridges between the current and future administrations.  He points to how many career executives in these roles are already beginning to draft transition plans for their offices.


By the way, “thanks” to readers who send interesting links to be shared.  I don’t always catch everything new that comes out, and I appreciate your pointing things out.

Think Tanks and Other Players: 2008 (Part I)

April 1, 2008

The ThinkerThis is a start of an inventory of who is doing what in terms of developing management advice and support to the incoming President. Since a mix of efforts undertaken by various think tanks and other groups in 2000 helped create a useful bridge in that transition, hopefully similar efforts are underway in 2008. This initial inventory should give you some sense of who is doing what, where the holes are, and where there are opportunities for collaboration.

We’ve divided the various players into four groups: think tanks, government, academics, and other groups. We’re open to other ways of organizing this and, of course, any updates, corrections, or additions. The intended focus of this inventory is on groups supporting government management and the transition – not those groups focusing exclusively on policy issues (that list would be far too long!). There’s at some point a gray area, but this is the general rule of thumb imposed went creating this list. Also, there are oftentimes ongoing collaborative efforts among these different groups and we may not have gotten all these efforts properly described.

October 20, 2008 Update:  NOTE:  This blog entry has been the most popular of all the entries in 2008.  As a result, in conjunctions with Federal Computer Week, these entries are now posted on a wiki site and are regularly updated.  Visit that site and bookmark it!

Think Tank Players

Government Performance Coalition. The Coalition is comprised of a range of good government groups. It has been sponsoring a website on transition issues since March 2007. It is also coordinating a series of seminars on key management issues, such as the February 2008 Government Performance Summit, sponsored by the Performance Institute, and the March 2008 Human Capital Forum, hosted by the Partnership for Public Service. It aspires to develop a set of recommended actions for the next Administration based on these efforts.

IBM Center for The Business of Government. The Center sponsors this blog and recently posted a set of issue briefs on selected issues. It plans to develop a set of management resources and a guide for new appointees. It is also sponsoring a series of collaborative seminars that could result in recommendations to the next Administration on selected topics, such as improving contracting.

Council for Excellence in Government. CEG plans to continue its famous “Prune Book” but make it an on-line version this time. It is also providing pre-transition assistance to the Department of Homeland Security since, as a new department, it has never experienced a presidential transition before. It is also partnering with other groups on related projects.

National Academy for Public Administration. NAPA is also assisting Homeland Security by inventorying the Department’s executive staff positions. A group of Academy Fellows is drafting a series of papers on key management capacity challenges facing the next Administration as well. The Academy is also collaborating with other groups on related projects.

Partnership for Public Service. The Partnership has already co-sponsored a forum on human capital issues facing the next Administration, with CNA Corporation, the Coalition for Effective Change, and others, and plans to summarize insights that came out of that forum. It also plans to gather lessons learned from previous government reform efforts and offer recommendations to the new Administration.

American Society for Public Administration. The Society does not have a specific project but its professional journal, Public Administration Review, plans to publish a series of articles related to presidential transition over the coming year. It is also running a column with questions and answers on government reform with the presidential candidates. It is also coordinating a coalition of good government groups to develop a letter to candidates to encourage access to government by young people interested in public service.

Association of Government Accountants. AGA plans to co-sponsor a forum with NAPA on the role of chief financial officers in the next Administration and the human capital challenges in the federal financial community. Together they may offer recommendations or insights to the incoming Administration.

Center for the Study of the Presidency. The Center is sponsoring several efforts related to the transition. One, which is more strategy-oriented, is “Agenda 2008: A Nation at Risk,” which defines organizational challenges facing the next President. The more specific effort is its sponsorship of the Project on National Security Reform, which is devoted to rethinking the National Security Act of 1947 which created the Defense Department.

Heritage Foundation. Heritage has just published a new book, “Keys to a Successful Presidency,” which offers insights to a new President.

Brookings Institution. Brookings is sponsoring an update to Brad Patterson’s book, “The White House Staff.” It may also sponsor and work collaboratively with others on related transition issues. It’s emphasis at this point is more policy-oriented via its Opportunity ’08 initiative.

American Enterprise Institute. AEI plans to gather lessons learned from past government reform efforts and reenergize its effort to streamline the presidential nomination and Senate confirmation process, in conjunction with the Brookings Institution.

Reason Public Policy Institute. Reason plans to host a forum this summer of top experts to craft a set of recommendations on how the next President can use competitive sourcing approaches. It also plans to focus research on transportation funding issues the next Administration will be facing when the transportation bill comes up for reauthorization.

Government Players

General Services Administration. GSA serves as the administrative arm for the President-Elect’s Transition Team by providing office space and equipment. It also is required by a 2000 law to develop a transition directory, which was a website in 2000. The same law makes GSA responsible for delivering orientation training for new political appointees.

National Archives and Records Administration. NARA is responsible for the out-going President’s records and it is responsible, by law, for assisting GSA in developing a transition directory.

Office of Personnel Management. OPM is responsible for cataloging all the political appointee positions, which are published as the “Plum Book” by congressional committees. In 2000, it also published a guide for executives on personnel rules associated with the transition.

Government Accountability Office. Since 1988, GAO has developed both a list of High Risk Areas and transition reports that assess key cross-cutting management issues and agency-specific issues. For 2008, GAO will likely continue its High Risk list and reprise its “21st Century Challenges” report, but may not publish a separate series of transition reports. It will likely provide a series of short issue briefs to the incoming transition team, Congress, and appointees based on what it has found in its reviews over the years and its advice on improvements the new Administration may want to undertaken.

House and Senate government oversight committees. These committees publish the Plum Book and historically the House committee develops a report on the state of management in the federal government based on reviews of GAO and inspector general reports.

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Since this is getting to be a bit long, I’ll continue the inventory in my next blog entry with the academic and other groups. Meanwhile, your additions and revisions are welcome!