Managing For Results:

Agencies Have Elevated Performance Management Leadership Roles, but Additional Training Is Needed

GAO-13-356: Published: Apr 16, 2013. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 2013.

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What GAO Found

The designation of senior-level officials to key performance management roles with responsibilities under the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) has helped elevate accountability for performance management within federal agencies and ensure high-level involvement, according to officials GAO interviewed. The 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies have all assigned officials to the key management roles--chief operating officer, performance improvement officer (PIO), and goal leader--required under GPRAMA, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the results of GAO's PIO survey. PIOs GAO surveyed reported that most key officials were greatly involved in central aspects of performance management, such as agency quarterly performance reviews. PIOs GAO surveyed, and priority goal leaders GAO interviewed at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), reported they were supported in their responsibilities by their deputies and other staff. PIOs generally reported that their staff had competencies identified as relevant by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), such as reasoning, to a large extent, although PIOs reported that the competencies were not as widespread among their staff as the other competencies.

OPM has taken steps to work with agencies to incorporate performance management staff competencies into training. For example, OPM is working with the Performance Improvement Council (PIC) to develop a website that will include such training. However, at this time, it does not plan to assess competency gaps among agency performance management staff to inform its work. Without this information, it will be difficult for OPM, working with the PIC, to focus on the most-needed resources and facilitate their use by other agencies.

PIOs generally found that sharing of best practices and development of tips and tools are the most helpful aspects of the PIC, and reported strong agency attendance at meetings and participation in working groups. However, the PIC has not regularly collected member feedback about its performance. Additionally, although the PIC has a strategic plan in place, it has not updated it since GPRAMA was enacted. Routine member feedback and an updated strategic plan that reflects changes required by GPRAMA could help increase the PIC's effectiveness. Without these assessment tools, the PIC lacks an important basis and means for directing and evaluating its performance.

Why GAO Did This Study

The performance of federal agencies is central to delivering meaningful results to the American public. GPRAMA, along with related guidance, assigned responsibilities for managing performance to key officials. It also provided a statutory basis for the existing PIC, a council made up of agency PIOs that is tasked with assisting OMB with topics related to GPRAMA. GPRAMA directed GAO to report on the act's implementation. This report, one of a series under that mandate, (1) examines the status of federal agencies' implementation of the performance management leadership roles under GPRAMA and (2) evaluates the role of the PIC in facilitating the exchange of best practices and improving agency program management and performance.

To address both objectives, GAO conducted a survey of PIOs at all 24 CFO Act federal agencies, as well as in-depth case studies of HHS and NSF, which were selected because they have differing characteristics such as size. GAO also interviewed and obtained documents from OMB staff and OPM officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that the Director of OPM work with the PIC to identify competency gaps for agency performance management staff and use this information to identify and share relevant agency training. GAO also recommends that the Director of OMB work with the PIC to gather regular feedback from members on its performance and update its strategic plan. OPM and OMB staff agreed with these recommendations.

For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Personnel Management concurred with this recommendation and stated that it would work with the Performance Improvement Council (PIC) and agency Chief Learning Officers to implement it. In July 2014, the Office of Personnel Management informed GAO that it had coordinated with the PIC on this recommendation, and that the PIC will take responsibility for the remaining actions needed to fully implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve performance management staff capacity to support performance management in federal agencies, the Director of OPM, in coordination with the PIC and the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) Council, should work with agencies to identify competency areas needing improvement within agencies.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Personnel Management concurred with this recommendation and stated that it would implement it through its support of the Performance Improvement Council's (PIC) performance learning website. The website (https://plc.usalearning.net/) is active, but does not yet identify training that focuses on needed performance management competencies. In July 2014, PIC staff stated that the PIC plans to enhance the functionality of the site and is working to develop a selection of performance training courses.

    Recommendation: To improve performance management staff capacity to support performance management in federal agencies, the Director of OPM, in coordination with the PIC and the CLO Council, should work with agencies to identify agency training that focuses on needed performance management competencies.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The Office of Personnel Management concurred with this recommendation and stated that it would implement it through its support of the Performance Improvement Council's (PIC) performance learning website. The website (https://plc.usalearning.net/) is active, but does not yet offer information about available agency training on needed competencies. In July 2014, PIC staff stated that the PIC is piloting performance learning and practice programs that also provide sharing of performance practices within and across agencies.

    Recommendation: To improve performance management staff capacity to support performance management in federal agencies, the Director of OPM, in coordination with the PIC and the CLO Council, should work with agencies to share information about available agency training on competency areas needing improvement.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Office of Management and Budget staff concurred with this recommendation and in March 2014, Performance Improvement Council (PIC) staff reported that they had started collecting formal feedback from attendees of most PIC-sponsored events. They provided documentation showing examples of surveys used to collect feedback and information compiled from survey results.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the PIC has a clear plan for accomplishing its goals and evaluating its progress, the Director of OMB should work with the PIC to conduct formal feedback on the performance of the PIC from member agencies, on an ongoing basis.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: Office of Management and Budget staff concurred with this recommendation, and in March 2014, Performance Improvement Council (PIC) staff reported that implementation is in progress. At that time, they said that they plan to update the PIC's strategic plan within the next 12 to 24 months.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the PIC has a clear plan for accomplishing its goals and evaluating its progress, the Director of OMB should work with the PIC to update its strategic plan and review the PIC's goals, measures, and strategies for achieving performance, and revise them if appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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