Management of VA:

Implementing Strategic Management Process Would Improve Service to Veterans

HRD-90-109: Published: Aug 31, 1990. Publicly Released: Aug 31, 1990.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) use of strategic management processes, focusing on: (1) lessons VA learned from past department-wide strategic management processes; and (2) the development of a flexible secretarial-level strategic management process that VA could adapt.

GAO found that: (1) VA faced such significant management challenges as aging medical facilities, weaknesses in information and quality assurance management systems, and dramatic changes in the veteran population; (2) implementation and design flaws prevented a 1981 attempt to implement a strategic management process; and (3) a strategic management process could enable VA to manage change proactively and to avoid crisis management. GAO also found that key elements to a successful strategic management process included: (1) participation of key line managers in formulating the strategic direction for VA; (2) presentation of the strategic management process as a way to develop a clear future direction and shape the VA budget; (3) elevation of only key issues to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs' attention; (4) shared understanding of future directions among the three major VA components, resulting in enhanced consistency between their day-to-day actions and VA objectives; (5) participation of such key external groups as Congress, veterans' service organizations, and the Office of Management and Budget; (6) strong, sustained support from the Secretary to encourage the process' acceptance into the VA organizational culture; and (7) close monitoring of the process's implementation process to ensure that it is properly carried out. In addition, GAO found that, in April 1990, VA established the Secretary's Strategic Management Process, a new integrated approach for planning and managing VA work.

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