New Working Paper Offers Roadmap for Next Administration on Govt. Performance & Use of Evidence

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new bipartisan working paper authored by former senior U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials Dr. Shelley H. Metzenbaum and Robert J. Shea, entitled Performance Accountability, Evidence and Improvement: Reflections and Recommendations to the Next Administration, outlines six practices that should be used at all levels of government to improve effectiveness, as well as five recommendations for how the next Presidential Administration can build upon established successes in government and learn from past challenges.

“We have seen remarkable progress in recent years reducing problems such as hospital-acquired infections and advancing opportunities such as energy efficiency,” said Dr. Shelley Metzenbaum, who served in President Barack Obama’s Administration as the OMB Associate Director of Personnel and Performance Management. “We see this kind of progress when federal agencies routinely use a few simple tools -- outcomes-focused goals, performance and other data, analytics, and data-informed discussions -- to inform their own and others’ actions, especially when they complement these tools with well-designed research to isolate the impact of government action and test new ways to accomplish more mission for the money. The federal government has established a solid performance management foundation and valuable experience communicating about performance. With advances in data collection, analytics, dissemination, and visualization, the federal government is exceptionally well positioned to build on that foundation and promote broader, deeper uptake of these practices across government. Robert and I co-authored this bi-partisan paper to encourage and help the next Administration embrace these common sense tools to accelerate the pace of progress across the federal government and deliver more effective, efficient, accountable, responsive, and trusted government to the American people.”

“The next President has a unique opportunity to leverage the management progress made in recent years, and ensure that critical performance information is used more effectively in the decision-making process,” said Robert Shea, who served in President George W. Bush’s Administration as the OMB Associate Director for Management. “Our recommendations are designed to help the incoming Administration learn from the experiences of prior Administrations, instead of starting from scratch.”

Metzenbaum and Shea unveiled the paper today at a forum hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy) and the Volcker Alliance. They were joined by Seth Harris, former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor; Ted McCann, Assistant to the Speaker of the House for Policy; and Sharon Kershbaum, Chief Operating Officer of Washington, DC’s Department of Human Services and former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The paper outlines the following six performance management practices that government should employ:

  • Setting outcomes-focused goals;
  • Collecting and analyzing performance data;
  • Running frequent data-rich reviews to identify what works and what needs attention;
  • Complementing routinely-collected data with independent, rigorous evaluations;
  • Using effective communication strategies for a wide variety of purposes aimed at a wide variety of stakeholders; and
  • Adopting carefully structured, evidence-based motivational mechanisms that encourage a culture of learning and experimentation.

The paper also makes the following five performance management recommendations for the next President:

  • Push more aggressively for adoption of the current outcomes-focused performance improvement framework across government.
  • Diversify the communication of performance information.
  • Strengthen capacity.
  • Develop, test and adopt effective accountability mechanisms.
  • Keep it simple to support use, communication and improvement of performance.

“In the past several decades, we have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the constant quest to improve government performance,” said Metzenbaum and Shea. “The insights here offer a roadmap for use by a new Administration to ensure that we build on the lessons of the past, rather than start anew. If our new leaders take our advice, it will accelerate adoption of evidence-based management practices across every level of government. Results on the ground should improve, too.”

About the Academy:

Established in 1967, the National Academy of Public Administration is an independent non-partisan, non-profit organization chartered by Congress to provide trusted advice on the nation’s most critical and complex public management challenges. With a network of more than 800 distinguished Fellows and an experienced professional staff, the Academy is uniquely qualified and trusted across government to provide objective advice and practical solutions based on systematic research and expert analysis. The Academy seeks to improve performance at all levels of government by assisting federal, state and local governments to respond effectively to current circumstances and changing conditions.

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