Performance guru Metzenbaum leaving OMB

Wednesday - 4/24/2013, 9:06am EDT

Shelley Metzenbaum, the administration's day-to-day lead on performance management, is leaving.

Industry sources confirmed Metzenbaum is having a going away party at the Office of Management and Budget today. She is going back to Boston where she served as the founding director of the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts.

Metzenbaum has been the associate director of performance and personnel management at OMB since September 2009, where she has led the governmentwide performance initiatives. Her biggest accomplishments include the development of the Performance.gov website, increasing the role of agency Performance Improvement Officers and pushing the concept of performing data-driven analyses to measure impact and success of programs.

An OMB official confirmed Metzenbaum is leaving and her last day is May 3.

"From working to implement the GPRA Modernization Act to launching Performance.gov to helping transform the Employee Viewpoint Survey so they are powerful performance improvement resources, my experience helping federal agencies deliver more mission for the money has been incredible," Metzenbaum said in an emailed quote. "I want to especially thank my team at OMB and the tremendous individuals across the agencies for their leadership in improving our government for the American people."

Shelley Metzenbaum, performance management lead, OMB

It's unclear who will be acting in her stead. Dustin Brown is the deputy assistant director for management and would be a leading candidate to take over on an interim basis.

From the beginning, the Obama administration took a mixed approach to performance management, applying top down oversight through the requirement for agencies to decide on three-to-eight high priority goals, and a bottom up approach by letting agencies decide what those are.

The White House expanded its performance agenda over the last five years through the use of "stat" sessions, specifically around technology (techstat), cybersecurity (cyberstat) and acquisition (acqstat) to help address long-standing challenges through the use of data and by bringing agency leadership together make tough decisions.

Agencies also led "stat" sessions among the ones that received the most attention are HUDStat and FDATrack . The administration expanded its top-down approach in 2012 with 14 cross-agency priority goals.

Throughout all of this, Metzenbaum oversaw the implementation of these efforts. While Jeff Zients is the chief performance officer by title, Metzenbaum is widely recognized for her enthusiasm and vision for the administration's performance management agenda.

"Shelley has made a substantive contribution to the development of the federal performance framework that has evolved over the past 20 years," said John Kamensky, a senior fellow and associate partner with the IBM Center for The Business of Government. "She came to Washington four years ago with a vision of changing the focus of the government's performance framework from one focused on compliance and targets to one focused on a small handful of important priorities, with progress driven by evidence-based, data driven decisions. She catalyzed the development of meaningful, measurable priority goals across the government, introduced the use of data-driven decision-making meetings at senior levels, helped put in place a statutory framework to embed these approaches for the long-term, and built a cross-agency professional network that should serve her successor well."

Metzenbaum did experience some shortfalls. OMB delayed the launch of Performance.gov by several months. Additionally, the portal fell short of expectations in the fact that the data was seldom and inconsistently updated. For example, OMB and agencies updated data this past quarter on Peformance.gov, but the section on hiring the best talent still has only 2011 data for agency-by-agency breakdown on the time it takes to hire a new employee, while the rest of the section has 2012 data.

Metzenbaum also couldn't get the Experts Networks off the ground. OMB announced the initiative in the 2011 budget request to Congress that it wanted to launch "an Expert Networking (Expert-net) tool to let agencies use crowd sourcing and social media to find help in solving mission critical issues." But it never got much traction.

She also initiated several efforts around the personnel side of her portfolio, where she helped run the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations Council. But most of the efforts that came from her office were left for the Office of Personnel Management to implement.

Still, even with these disappointments, Metzenbaum's impact on the government's ability to measure performance and use the data to make better decisions is clear.

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