Managing for Results:

Prospects for Effective Implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act

T-GGD-97-113: Published: Jun 3, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 3, 1997.

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L. Nye Stevens
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GAO discussed the status of the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) and the prospects for its effective governmentwide implementation.

GAO noted that: (1) GPRA seeks to shift the focus of federal management and decisionmaking away from a preoccupation with the activities that are undertaken, such as grants or inspections made, to a focus on the results of those activities, such as real gains in employability, safety, responsiveness, or environmental quality; (2) under GPRA, GAO was to report to Congress on the Act's implementation; (3) GAO's work shows that, to this point, the implementation of GPRA has achieved mixed results, which will lead to highly uneven governmentwide implementation in the fall of 1997; (4) on the one hand, GAO found that the experiences of some of the GPRA pilot agencies and related efforts by nonpilot agencies showed that significant performance improvements were possible when an agency adopted a disciplined approach to setting results-oriented goals, measuring its performance, and using performance information to improve effectiveness; (5) on the other hand, GAO's survey of a random sample of civilian managers and supervisors in 24 major executive branch agencies found that although there had been progress over the last 3 years, managers reported that many agencies did not appear to be well positioned to provide in 1997 an answer to the fundamental GPRA question of whether programs have produced real results; (6) GAO found that agencies are confronting five key challenges that have limited the effective implementation of GPRA; (7) these challenges include those associated with: (a) establishing clear agency missions and strategic goals, especially when program efforts are overlapping or fragmented; (b) measuring performance, particularly when the federal contribution to a result is difficult to determine; (c) generating the results-oriented performance information needed to set goals and assess progress; (d) instilling a results-oriented organizational culture within agencies; and (e) linking performance plans to the budget process; (8) addressing some of these challenges will raise significant policy issues for Congress and the Administration to consider, some of which will likely be very difficult to resolve; (9) GAO noted that GPRA's success or failure should not be judged on whether contentious policy issues are fully resolved; (10) rather, judgment of the success or failure of GPRA should turn on the extent to which the information produced through the required goal-setting and performance measurement practices, once those practices are successfully implemented, helps inform policy decisions and improve program management.

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