Management Reform:

Status of Agency Reinvention Lab Efforts

GGD-96-69: Published: Mar 20, 1996. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the National Performance Review's (NPR) initiative to establish reinvention labs in federal departments and agencies, focusing on: (1) the labs' developmental status; (2) factors that hindered or assisted their development; (3) whether the labs were collecting performance data; and (4) whether the labs have achieved any results.

GAO found that: (1) more than 2 dozen federal agencies and other entities have developed a total of 185 reinvention labs; (2) the labs deal with a variety of issues, from personnel management to improving operations using technology; (3) almost all of the labs consider customer service as their primary goal, and consider other government organizations to be customers; (4) while labs considered management support to be important to lab development, the use of regulatory waivers and communication about the labs' progress were rarely needed or used; (5) other federal reform efforts, such as downsizing and the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act, had both positive and negative effects on the labs' development; (6) labs experienced difficulties in sustaining efforts that crossed agency boundaries or challenged agencies' existing cultures; (7) over two-thirds of the labs had collected some type of performance data, ranging from information on unit outputs to informal comments from staff and customers, but some lab administrators refused to collect performance data because they believed it was unnecessary or not worthwhile; (8) the performance data are inconclusive, since there are no previous data for comparison and the nature of the data is subjective; (9) the labs have yielded results by improving customer service, increasing unit productivity and employee morale, and reducing costs at some federal sites; and (10) the value of the labs will be realized only when lab efforts proven to be effective spread beyond the lab sites.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: After consultation with OMB officials, NPR entered a partnership with the Alliance for Redesigning Government to update and maintain NPR's database on the reinvention labs. In August 1997, the Alliance, a part of the National Academy for Public Administration, created the position of clearinghouse coordinator, whose responsibility will be to merge NPR's database with the Alliance's web site. The database includes a description of the lab and its status, and information on its performance measures, its accomplishments, and the lab's point of contact. The clearinghouse coordinator is expected to develop a database of waivers sought by the reinvention labs. While the Alliance is not a federal entity, the intent is to establish an institutional home for the database through the creation of the coordinator position. Officials expect the clearinghouse coordinator to continue working with officials from the agencies' reinvention labs to update the database beyond NPR's tenure.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should ensure that a clearinghouse of information about the labs is established. Working with the NPR task force, the Director should identify which agency or other federal entity can effectively serve as that clearinghouse. The clearinghouse should contain information that identifies the location of each lab, the issues being addressed, points of contact for further information about the lab, and any performance information demonstrating the lab's results.

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


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