Updated GPRA to define government-wide priorities

Monday - 3/21/2011, 3:50pm EDT

Jon Desenberg, senior policy director, Performance Institute

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Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach, Partnership for Public Service

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The Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 updated the 1992 legislation, requiring agencies to improve performance measurement and remove duplicative programs.

The new law will also create a set of government-wide priorities that will be revisited by the Office of Management and Budget every two years, said Jon Desenberg, senior policy director at the Performance Institute, in an interview with the DorobekINSIDER.

These priorities will consist of about 100 national goals that include some programmatic and mission-related benchmarks as well as some that are more "management-oriented," Desenberg said.

Agencies will still be required to do strategic planning. These national goals will be part of the plan but "should not drive the plan," he said.

Some of the goals will encompass more than one agency, Desenberg said. For example, one priority targeting homelessness is headed by three agencies - Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs, he said.

"We're trying to break through the stovepipes and have outcomes that capture the entire government," he said.

The timeline for the goals will be "intermediate-term" - about 18-24 months - holding political appointees accountable while in office, Desenberg said.

Another change the modernized GPRA is bringing is the introduction of a dashboard for performance evaluation. Using online tools, managers will report performance quarterly - instead of annually - and have the ability to examine trends and targets, Desenberg said.

"This is a way to really move into the 21st century," he said.

The Office of Personnel Management is also pushing an overhaul of the federal performance system. In remarks last week at the Interagency Resource Management Conference, OPM Director John Berry said current performance evaluation is "infrequent and rote."

One problem with the current review system is that everybody is "above average," Berry said. Managers need to do a better job of communicating expectations to employees - and that these expectations had employee buy-in, he said.

"Rather than manage our employees, which implies control or constraint, maybe we should support our employees to unleash their full talent and potential," Berry said.

Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach for the Partnership for Public Service, said the statements by OPM show a "probably very conscious decision." In an environment where public opinion is turned against feds, OPM is choosing to deal with performance separate and apart from" the issue of overhauling the General Schedule pay system, as well as separate and apart from cash incentives, McManus said.

In the future, perhaps performing well will mean public recognition or more opportunities to innovate, McManus said.

"It isn't necessarily financially motivated," he said.

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