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A Response to the Obama Administration’s Second-Term Management Agenda

A Response to the Obama Administration’s Second-Term Management Agenda

This article was originally published in August, 2014.

The Obama Administration’s Second-Term Management Agenda

Last week the Obama Administration released details for its second- term management agenda, “Next Steps in the Evidence and Innovation Agenda,” furthering the administration’s position of “Data-driven government management”.  The memo’s guidance and heavy emphasis on using evidence-based performance information to support budget justification provides a direct tie from performance to management decisions.  

The examples provided in the memo are already creating the buzz the administration intended in the government performance community.  One key element of the memo that has been overlooked is the use of workshops to shape policy.  These workshops are an opportunity to overcome a consistent challenge of Executive branch management agendas: a lack of guidance and communication necessary for implementation.

Building a Strong Communications Strategy: the Key to Success

For those of us in the Federal government performance community assisting agencies with guidance and support on the agenda, we often hear from managers and executives about the lack of awareness on the use and intent of management requirements.  This failure is the result of a lack of continuous communication to emphasize the principle that organization performance must drive informed decision-making. These workshops are positioned by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as dialogue sessions.  

While the workshops are an improvement in communication efforts, they should not be the final stop. To meet the expectations that citizens have on the management of tax dollars, OMB should develop a communication strategy that will build off the workshops. This will allow the administration to increase buy-in toward the correct use of data and evidence.  Ensuring that agencies are properly informed will effectively limit the ambiguity of this new management agenda. However,  failing to do so will further enforce apathy toward sound management and performance throughout the Political and Federal spectrum.

The systemic issue for the Federal government when new management policies are introduced is vague, unclear intent. During previous administrations, the executive management agenda fell into the realm of a compliance drill. The Obama administration has the opportunity to use this guidance to drive real management excellence. The administration, in combination with the Performance Improvement Council, should look at continuous outreach efforts to ensure that this single memo does not become like previous efforts on management – a  paper chase.

Jay Eubanks, who wrote this response as the Senior Consulting Manager and Director of Operations at the Performance Institute, is now Chief Executive of 2B Performance, LLC.

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