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Challenges for the New Chief Performance Officer

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· Define your goals up front. The indispensible first step to creating useful measurements is identifying what it is you seek to accomplish. Once you have a clear objective or standard of performance, you can work backwards to create effective measures to judge performance.

· Keep it simple. The key to effective oversight is looking at the right measures, not the most measures. Focusing on a limited number of items, which are directly linked to your goals, will also make measurements more useful for managers and ensure they do not place an undue collection and analysis burden on an organization.

· Make data transparent and accessible. Releasing information publicly will help engage the general public in the work of government, as well as allowing measurement experts in academia and business to parse data and offer ideas to improve federal management. Transparency also creates an incentive for agencies to do a better job of collecting and using data.

· Release data in real time. Old information reveals how well an agency did. Managers need up-to-the-minute data to help improve how they are going to do.

· Listen to the people who know best. There is no better source of information on the health of federal organizations than the people who work in them. Case in point, a look at the 2003 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government (bestplacestowork.org) rankings, which measures employee engagement at federal agencies, would have told you that FEMA had the most disaffected workplace in the federal government.

· Build on what we already have. Our government is awash in data. The incoming administration should examine PART and GPRA and highlight the information that is relevant to managers and salient to the public.

· Make this a presidential priority. On this count, establishing a chief performance officer is a step in the right direction and an encouraging sign. Moving forward, the question is whether or not the president's whole leadership team, including Cabinet secretaries, will prioritize this issue and hold managers accountable for measuring performance.

Some people will surely argue that creating a modernized system of performance measurement in government would do nothing to reduce the number of federal failures. No matter what you do, government will always mess things up. Of course, people also said the Boston Red Sox would never win a World Series. Then they hired Bill James and won two championships in four years. The lesson: once you've clearly established your goals, don't underestimate the power of measurement to achieve them.

Max Stier is president and CEO of Partnership for Public Service, a group that seeks to revitalize government.


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