OMB charts performance improvement course

Focus will shift from data collection to using performance information to achieve better results.

The Obama administration is moving its performance improvement strategy away from collecting and reporting information and toward using the data to improve outcomes, according to a governmentwide memo from the Office of Management and Budget.

"Agencies should consider this year a transition year during which OMB and the [Performance Improvement Council] will move to a more dynamic performance planning, management, improvement and reporting framework that is useful, streamlined and coherent," wrote Shelley Metzenbaum, associate director for performance and personnel management at OMB.

While the memo does not appear to break any new ground or to change any policies --Metzenbaum detailed some of the goals at last week's Senior Executives Association's annual Career Executive Leadership Conference -- it does signal the direction of OMB's performance management approach.

For example, it encouraged agencies to apply "unrelenting attention" to achieving the High Priority Performance Goals identified in the fiscal 2011 budget. The objectives, Metzenbaum said, should be integrated into agencies' strategic and annual performance plans, and will serve as the basis for their fiscal 2012 budget submission.

Senior agency leaders should hold goal-focused, data-driven reviews at least once every quarter to evaluate progress and to ensure steps are taken to achieve better outcomes and higher productivity, Metzenbaum wrote. Agencies also should make a senior official responsible for each goal, the memo said.

"Over time, we expect all agencies to establish review processes that strengthen performance management across their agencies, regularly using analysis of performance and other relevant data to improve results and productivity," Metzenbaum wrote.

Because agencies established the High Priority Performance Goals just recently, the efforts likely will continue into fiscal 2012, and should be funded within agency discretionary budget targets, according to the memo. The administration also is working to establish a single federal performance website to show agencies' progress in achieving the targets.

In addition, OMB outlined its expectations for the types of information that should be included in each agency's annual performance report. They should provide details about the status of long-term and annual goals, notable trends, progress markers and potential challenges. The annual report should link output targets with long-term annual goals, Metzenbaum wrote.

In a nod to the George W. Bush administration's management agenda, the memo noted agencies should integrate their Program Assessment Rating Tool performance measures into their annual reports. But, if an agency finds that certain PART measures are not useful, then it can propose eliminating them during meetings with OMB officials, lawmakers and other key stakeholders. The list of dropped measures and the reasons for their deletion are to be included in the annual performance report, the directive said.

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