Enhancing Performance

Last night, I attended the Service to America Medals ceremony, where I joined in honoring the outstanding performance of a number of federal civil servants. Their accomplishments are inspiring — including establishment of a national suicide prevention hotline for veterans; cutting-edge discoveries that have led to effective treatments for multiple sclerosis and forms of cancer; and development of a loan modification program that kept thousands in their homes.   
These stories illustrate what federal workers and their agencies can accomplish.  Strengthening government performance, however, requires not only outstanding people like those honored last night —  we must also improve the federal government’s system for gathering and using information on program performance.  
In that spirit, Jeff Zients, Deputy Director of OMB and the government’s Chief Performance Officer, is testifying today on the Administration’s ambitious agenda for reforming government-wide performance management. 
As Jeff says, a key weakness of the approach to date is that it places too much emphasis on the production of performance measures to comply with reporting requirements — and too little on actually using performance metrics to inform government decision-making.  Jeff is leading an effort to change this. 
Already, the cabinet and other agencies have been asked to identify a limited number of high-priority performance goals to achieve over the next one to two years. These goals are now being finalized, and agency success in achieving them will be tracked.   As goals are achieved, new ones will be added.  Jeff is also working to integrate other federal performance reporting with these high-priority performance goals. 
There is much more to come on performance management — which is why I’m pleased to announce that today OMB is adding Shelley Metzenbaum to our team.  Shelley is one of the country’s leading experts on performance management, and she will be working with Jeff to bring our transformative agenda to fruition.
Skepticism is often expressed about what federal workers and their agencies can do.  The stories I heard last night, though, illustrate what is possible — and we will be working hard to build upon those inspiring examples and catalyze better performance throughout the federal government.    

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