Department of Education:

Long-Standing Management Problems Hamper Reforms

HRD-93-47: Published: May 28, 1993. Publicly Released: May 28, 1993.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Education's management to identify actions that could improve organizational performance.

GAO found that: (1) Education lacks a clear management mission of how to best marshal its resources to effectively achieve its mission; (2) Education's ability to implement solutions to its problems and effectively plan is impeded without a process for setting clear goals and priorities; (3) past political leadership at Education did not give priority to building and maintaining an organization that could implement major policy initiatives; (4) in developing and implementing critical policies, goals, priorities, and programs, Education does not have in place the structures and systems it needs to support managerial decisionmaking and accountability; (5) a shortage of technically qualified staff has contributed to financial and information management problems; and (6) many Education managers believe that management problems remain unresolved because of the agency's culture, characterized by a focus on short-term solutions, highly centralized decisionmaking, and limited communications with and use of career employees.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Secretary's Reinvention Coordinating Council, composed of political appointees and senior career employees, has been meeting on a weekly basis to establish a framework for implementing such initiatives as the National Goals legislation. The framework has been established, strategic planning process developed and engaged in throughout the Department.

    Recommendation: Building on the initial steps taken by the department over the last 2 years to improve operations, the Secretary of Education should articulate a strategic management vision for Education that demonstrates how its management infrastructure will be developed to support its mission and such secretarial policy priorities as the National Education Goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The strategic planning process has been implemented and a strategic plan developed and implemented throughout the Department.

    Recommendation: Building on the initial steps taken by the department over the last 2 years to improve operations, the Secretary of Education should adopt a strategic management process in the Office of the Secretary for setting clear goals and priorities, measuring progress towards those goals, and ensuring accountability for attaining them. Once implemented in the Office of the Secretary, the Secretary should take the necessary actions to implement this process throughout the department. Such a process should also provide a vehicle for ensuring both secretarial-level and employee involvement for solving major management problems and for planning and managing long-term change.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Secretary has initiated efforts to build a spirit of teamwork among political and career officials and to encourage a free flow of ideas on how to best address management problems within the Department. The Secretary has also communicated to staff the importance he places on a number of specific areas, such as collaboration and cooperation with other agencies. The Department has also begun to address concerns identified in an employee survey and plans to conduct a second survey later this year. The Department now targets recruiting efforts for technical and policy positions to people, but many key positions remain open. The Secretary has implemented the planning phase of the strategic management process, but the plan has not been fully implemented.

    Recommendation: Building on the initial steps taken by the department over the last 2 years to improve operations, the Secretary of Education should enhance management leadership throughout Education and strengthen agency culture by: (1) implementing a departmentwide strategic management process; (2) identifying good management practices within Education and supporting their adoption where appropriate in other parts of the department; (3) rewarding managers for good management and leadership; and (4) filling technical and policy-making leadership positions with people with appropriate skills.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department is refining its financial management strategic plan and redesigning its core financial management systems. The Department has also begun implementing its strategic and tactical plans for information technology resources. Education has established a committee to address problems in data collection and dissemination and is working with the National Academy of Public Administration to determine what information is useful in meeting program goals and objectives. Finally, the Department has formed task forces to address recruitment issues, to study the use of training funds, and to make recommendations to ensure adequate support for training across the Department.

    Recommendation: Building on initial steps taken by the department over the last 2 years to improve operations, the Secretary of Education should create for information, financial, and human resources management, strategic visions and strategic plans that are integrated with the department's overall strategic management process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

 

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