To magnify government’s impact, we need to create a culture where agencies are accountable for their performance.
Since the 2010 passage of the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, federal agencies have enhanced how they measure performance to improve program results. Many have taken concrete steps to designate agency and cross-agency priority goals, create strategic plans, meet quarterly for performance reviews, and appoint chief operating officers and performance improvement officers.
All of these initiatives have resulted in better outcomes—but evidence shows that there’s still room to improve. According to surveys conducted for our reports of agency performance staff, most graded their agencies’ performance culture as a “C,” and 13.3% of respondents gave failing marks. In addition, only 48.3% of respondents claimed their departments’ top leadership uses performance data to drive decision-making to a “great” or “very great” extent.
There’s a strong perception that department-level leaders are making decisions without considering the analytical work. To truly enhance performance, it’s not enough to pay lip service to the importance of accountability—agencies need to do more to embed these data-driven measures into the organizational culture.
We’re committed to helping agencies further the progress they’ve already made in enhancing performance and accountability. We regularly convene the COOs and PIOs responsible for overseeing these initiatives and survey the federal employees who have a hand in implementing them. We track best practices and disseminate those findings across government, helping agency leaders learn from the successful efforts of their peers.
Programs produce better outcomes when employees understand how their performance connects to larger agency priorities. Many agencies that have successfully built a performance culture have used strategic planning documents to clearly articulate organization-wide priorities.
To further align program activities with key priorities, agencies should:
Agencies need data analysts with diverse skills. Not only must agencies find talent capable of gathering vital performance information, but they need employees who can present that information in a way that’s insightful and usable.
To ensure they have the right staff on board to track performance, agencies need to:
Performance staff members are often too removed from field offices where agency programs are organized and implemented; they need to cultivate better working relationships to make more informed decisions.
To help performance staff build meaningful relationships with program staff in field offices, agencies should:
The practice of turning data into information has not become a widespread reality, but agencies should make this a goal and strive to accomplish it. The issue is that many subcomponent performance staff feel they lack the necessary resources to move beyond merely collecting performance statistics.
To convert raw data into usable information, agencies must:
Performance staff often stress the importance of demonstrating programmatic return on investment by rigorously evaluating the cost and performance of programs. Yet program evaluation has not been widely integrated into overall performance initiatives.
To more effectively measure the value of programs, agencies need to:
The Partnership and Grant Thornton explored these questions in this guide, which builds on five years’ worth of interviews with agency performance staff.Read More
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This report by the Partnership and Booz Allen Hamilton is a blueprint for COOs as they work to make our government more responsive, effective and accountable to the American people.Read More
What role do chief operating officers play in agencies? What are their top priorities and challenges? What is the state of management in federal agencies? Those are the questions the Partnership and Booz Allen Hamilton set out to understand in this report.Read More
The Partnership, in collaboration with IBM’s Public Sector Business Analytics & Optimization practice, set out to study federal agencies’ use of analytics and how it helped them achieve better program results. We focused on identifying leading practices that illustrate how data informs decisions and drives meaningful and positive program changes.Read More