Management Reform:

Using the Results Act and Quality Management to Improve Federal Performance

T-GGD-99-151: Published: Jul 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the federal government's efforts to implement total quality management initiatives.

GAO noted that: (1) as the federal government responds to demands for a higher-performing government, Congress, over the last decade, has put in place a statutory framework to promote, create, and sustain high-performing federal organizations; (2) Congress sought to shift the focus of government decisionmaking and accountability from the activities that agencies undertake to a focus on the results of those activities; (3) during the same timeframe that Congress was establishing a statutory framework, other, often complementary, federal management improvement efforts have also been under way; (4) the most noteworthy of these efforts, the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR), was launched by the administration in March 1993; (5) NPR shares many of quality management's principles; (6) NPR's initial focus was to make the government "work better and cost less," and its first phase made recommendations to reinvent government systems and individual agencies' programs and organizations; (7) a related executive branch initiative, the President's Quality Award Program, is the most important statement of quality management principles within the federal government; (8) since 1988, the program has given awards to federal government organizations for: (a) improving their overall performance and capabilities; and (b) demonstrating a sustained trend in providing high-quality products and services that result in the effective use of taxpayer dollars; (9) in looking at the experiences of leading organizations that were successfully pursuing management reform initiatives, GAO found that four top leadership practices were central to making the changes needed: (a) successful leaders devolve decisionmaking authority in exchange for accountability for results; (b) successful leaders use a range of tools to encourage a results orientation; (c) successful leaders take steps to build the necessary expertise and skills; and (d) leaders in successful organizations integrate the implementation of separate organizational improvement efforts; (10) a central principle of both total quality management and performance-based management is that a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished and how progress will be gauged drives daily operations; (11) high-performing organizations appreciate that effectively managing and developing an organization's human capital is essential to achieving results; and (12) high-performing organizations understand and articulate how their day-to-day operations and processes contribute to mission-related results and improved customer satisfaction.

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