For today’s column, I wanted to start with a FedCoach pop quiz. Please complete the following:

A PIO is a...

a.       Programmed Input/Output

b.      Public Information Officer

c.       Well-known Peruvian restaurant in New York City

d.      Performance Improvement Officer

e.       All of the above

The correct answer is “e” all of the above which, I believe is one reason why I’m frequently asked by federal leaders, “What’s a Performance Improvement Officer?”

With increased scrutiny around federal spending, performance and results, our government’s Performance Improvement Officers (PIOs) play an important role in agencies, and it’s vital for federal managers at all levels to understand who they are and what they do.

A PIO is a senior-level agency leader with responsibility to supervise agency performance management activities; advise agency leaders about measuring performance; and assist with integrating performance information into an agency’s employee performance appraisal process.

The position was established under an executive order issued by President George W. Bush in 2007, continued under the Obama administration, and then made permanent when the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act passed last year.

Given the importance of the position, why is it that many federal managers have not heard of PIOs?

A recent report by Grant Thornton and by my organization, the Partnership for Public Service, found that PIOs’ low profile is due in part to a lack of top-leader support, confusion about where PIOs reside within an agency, the perception that they’re simply managing external compliance exercises, and short-term political leaders who are more often focused on policy than on management and operations.  

In this difficult budgetary climate where federal managers have to do more with less, it’s more important than ever that your programs are effective and can be justified with proven results. Rather than fearing negative reviews, managers should make use of performance measures and enlist the help of PIOs to make adjustments and improvements that can benefit your programs and, we hope, the American public.

Whether you’re a PIO or another federal leader, how are you managing and measuring your agency performance? Now more than ever, we should be sharing stories with one another about the good and the bad, as well as lessons learned.

Please share your stories and post your ideas below, or email me at