OMB's Liebman: Getting beyond PART

Monday - 7/6/2009, 6:48am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

Refining the management plan for the federal government.

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By Max Cacas
FederalNewsRadio


It's been nearly six months since Inauguration Day, and now one of the top feds at the Office of Management and Budget is offering a more detailed picture of what's expected of federal workers and their agencies in the next several years.

Dr. Jeffrey Liebman is Executive Associate Director and Chief Economist with the Office of Management and Budget. Last week, he was the wrap-up keynote speaker to the Senior Executive Association annual conference held at the Grand Hyatt hotel in D.C.

He touched on a number of topics of interest to the top level federal managers. At the top of the list: how the Obama Administration plans to measure agency and program performance.

Liebman says that means, building upon, and not necessarily tearing down, the Bush Administration's PART.

The prior administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool helped the federal government establish performance measures across the federal government, but it has been far less successful in encouraging performance measurements as a performance improvement tool. The Government Accountability Office found that among the federal managers familiar with PART, only 26% said that PART results were used in management decision making, and only 14% viewed PART as improving performance.

Liebman also says others have been concerned about a lack of transparency in the PART rating process, and have argued that it focused too much on rating programs and justifying budget decisions, and not enough on performing trends and improving performance.

As FederalNewsRadio first reported last May, Liebman told the SEA conference that OPM plans to work with the Program Improvement Council on "building a better PART", and says it will focus on five areas:

  1. "The new framework will shift away from static judgements of programs as 'effective' or 'ineffective' toward higher-frequency explaining of performance trends.
  2. We're going to be much more strategic in our performance and evaluation activities.
  3. In order to break down silos, cross-program and cross-agency goals will get as much attention as program specific goals.
  4. We're going to be encouraging smart risk taking. A manager who has a smart idea, who tests it out, and it fails, should be rewarded and encouraged for trying something innovative, not penalized for the failure.
  5. We're going to create a culture where managers are encouraged to actively engage in evaluation activities. "

Liebman also discussed ideas to improve and expand the federal workforce. One of those ideas involves giving talented feds a chance to learn more about their agencies.

"We need to encourage things like management rotations within and between agencies," he told the SEA meeting. "Private sector firms, when they get top young talent, try to rotate these people through all parts of the organization so that by the time they reach top management positions, they have a breadth of experiences so they know how to lead, with the whole range of challenges that senior managers face."

Liebman contrasts that with the status quo in the federal government, where "one's career tends to get narrower and narrower as one gets promoted."

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On the Web:

Federal News Radio- Performance council to lead new program evaluation approach

Senior Executives Association - seniorexecs.org

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