Executive Organization and Management

Panel Chair: John M. Kamensky

The Standing Panel on Executive Organization and Management (EOM) is the Academy’s oldest and longest-serving standing panel. The Panel focuses on improving the structure, capacity, management and performance of public institutions. In 2017, the Panel will focus its monthly meetings on the evolution of the Trump Administration’s management agenda, and the implementation of recently-enacted management capacity legislation, such as the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act.  The Panel will also serve as a sounding board for pending organizational and management proposals. The Panel meets monthly in the National Academy conference room. 

From time to time, the Panel members invite non-Fellows to join as associate members. These individuals are invited to provide specific expertise to the Panel. If you feel that your background allows you to make a unique and significant contribution to this Panel's work contact Lisa Trahan, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (202) 204-3648.

 


 

President Trump’s Government Reform Initiatives

 April 26, 2017

Following is a summary of some key points from the April 26, 2017 EOM Panel Meeting:
 

Background: 

To date, there have been four presidential actions that outline the Trump Administration’s management reform initiatives:

  • A memo calling for a restructuring of the federal workforce, and reducing it by attrition.
  • A set of management priorities to be achieved by 2020, accompanying the fiscal year 2018 budget.
  • An executive order to “reorganize the executive branch,” which encourages agencies to take a fresh look at what they do and how they do it.
  • An executive order creating a White House Office of American Innovation headed by Jared Kushner, which is charged with working with private sector executives to “improve government operations” in part by “scaling proven private-sector models.”

These four actions were tied together by OMB via guidance for “reforming the federal government and reducing the federal civilian workforce,” which was sent to agencies in mid-March.  That guidance creates a framework and timetable for action that is rooted in the use of existing management, planning, and budget decision-making processes, rather that creating a separate effort.

Background Reading:

Introduction:

Media reports on the various reform announcements focused on potential staffing and budget reductions, but OMB staff noted upfront that their observation from the inside is that “there is genuine, sincere interest in fixing things that are broken,” and that the goal of the Administration is not to just make incremental progress on what is currently underway but to identify and fix fundamental problems.  Echoing public statements by OMB’s political leadership, they noted that this is not a disguise for budget-cutting.  That will happen, but on a separate track within OMB.  They noted that they’ve been told: “don’t leave anything off the table,” but to start with a blank page and look for bold actions.  The vision is to develop a “comprehensive plan for reforming the government.”

Elements of the President’s Management Agenda.  By 2020, the Administration hopes to achieve four sets of initiatives:

  • Manage programs and deliver services more effectively by taking “an evidence-based approach to improving programs and services – using real, hard data to identify poorly performing organizations and programs.”
  • Eliminate costly, unproductive compliance requirements because “Government-wide policies often tie agencies’ hands and keep managers from making commonsense decisions.”
  • Fix mission support services in order to “make federal agencies more effective and efficient in supporting program outcomes.” The agenda notes that this initiative will: “Use available data to develop targeted solutions to problems Federal managers face . . . by sharing and adopting leading practices from the private and public sectors.” Target areas would include “how agencies buy goods and services, hire talent, use their real property, pay their bills, and utilize technology.”
  • Report critical performance metrics and show demonstrable improvement at the agency level. The agenda notes: “OMB will also regularly review agency progress in implementing these reforms to ensure there is consistent improvement.”

Timetable for Action.  The OMB Guidance sets a deadline of June 30th for each agency to submit high-level drafts of their Agency Reform Plans to OMB for review, along with their plans to maximize employee performance.  As part of their plans, agencies are to identify their major programs, who manages them, and identify ways to focus support on helping them. OMB has asked agencies to designate a senior accountable official.  Many have designated their Performance Improvement Officers.

Final agency plans are due to OMB in mid-September, along with their FY 2019 budget requests.  These plans will be submitted to Congress and made public in February 2018, along with the President’s budget request for FY 2019. OMB staff recognizes there will be a need for some upfront investments to realize longer-term savings.  That’s why the reform initiative is being linked to the budget process.

In early July, OMB will charter teams that will develop cross-cutting reform initiatives.  The idea is to identify a handful of major initiatives and create task forces this summer that will flesh them out as part of a Governmentwide Reform Plan.  It will likely include things that could be done now, as well as things that need additional work and could be done later.  For the most part, the President’s Management Council will own and drive these initiatives forward. 

Routine Actions Placed on Hold.  OMB staff said that OMB itself has undertaken a 60-day review of its requirements placed on agencies to determine which should be eliminated, including statutory requirements.  In addition, OMB is putting on hold some of its routine processes and reviews, which had been previously scheduled, in order to provide agencies “room” to do these reviews.  This includes:

  • Not conducting the planned annual agency strategic review meetings in May-June.
  • Not conducting the planned annual FedStat reviews with each agency.
  • Postponing the development and submission of agency priority goals for FY 2019-20.
  • Not conducting Enterprise Risk Management Portfolio reviews this year (but will still collect submissions and OMB will make an assessment as to quality/maturity)

 


 

Implementing the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act

 March 17, 2017

Following is a summary of some key points from the March 17, 2017 EOM Panel Meeting:
 

Background: 

Legislation passed in December 2016 requiring federal agencies to develop greater project and program management capacity. A NAPA Study Panel prepared a report in 2015 on improving project and program management in federal agencies, which informed the development of that legislation.

Focus of EOM Panel Meeting: 

Now that the legislation has passed, how will it be implemented?  OMB is assessing the “lay of the land” and what elements need to be considered to effectively implement this legislation in a way that it is not just another compliance exercise. The panel discussed issues such as:

  • How can the implementation of this legislation be framed in order to actually help program managers better deliver results?
  • How will these legislative requirements fit into the broader framework of related existing requirements around performance management, contract management, enterprise risk management, IT management, etc.?

Background Reading:

Discussants: 

  • Dan Chenok, IBM Center for The Business of Government (member of NAPA Report Study Panel)
  • Dustin Brown, Office of Performance and Personnel Management, OMB
  • Adam Lipton, Office of Performance and Personnel Management, OMB
  • Christopher Rahaim, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, OMB
  • Greg Giddens, Department of Veterans Affairs (current federal executive program manager)
  • Jim Williams, Schambach & Williams Consulting (former federal executive program manager)

Key Take-Aways:

The 2015 NAPA Report.  The 2015 NAPA report discussed the distinctions between “program” and “project” management.  It posited that they lie on a continuum, where “projects” have a clear beginning, middle, and end (such as a road construction project) and that “programs” are often a longer term collection of projects (such as the Apollo Moon program).

The authors note that capital-intensive agencies, such as Defense, Energy, and NASA, have a tradition of program and project management but that this is not a widespread culture or skill set across other agencies, many of which undertake capital-intensive initiatives such as VA hospital construction and DHS initiatives.

The New Law. The new law requires OMB and federal agencies to:

  • Create or update an existing job series and career paths for program managers.
  • Create a standards-based model of general principles for program management (currently only about 16 percent of government program managers are certified).
  • Designate a senior accountable official in each agency/ Program Management Improvement Officer.
  • Create an interagency council – Program Management Policy Council (chaired by OMB’s Deputy Director for Management) comprised of OMB representatives and agency Program Management Improvement Officers (who tend to currently be in either the acquisition or IT offices). 

Planning for Implementation.  OMB is charged with developing implementation guidance for agencies by December 2017.  The goal is to integrate these new requirements with existing statutory and administrative management requirements already in place and not create a new, separate stovepipe of requirements for this new law, off to the side.

Challenges in Drafting Guidance.  One of the interesting first challenges will be providing definitions of what constitutes a “program,” and what is “program management,” since the new law does not include definitions.  However, other laws do have such definition for “program,” but not in the same context as envisioned in this law.

Another challenge in drafting the guidance is the variety of agencies with different needs and missions.  How do you draft governmentwide standards, yet allow agency-level flexibility?  If the standards are too specific, agencies will ignore them and this will result in a check-box compliance exercise.

A third challenge will be connecting program managers with other parts of the broader management system.  Program management has traditionally been treated as an acquisition function, when in fact it is much broader role, involving: human resources, IT, financial management, mission-delivery functions, potentially other agencies, contractors, the media, and even Congress.  The guidance needs to encompass the contributions of these different functions as well, and not be directed solely to program managers.

The Perspective of Program Managers.  The key job of a program manager is to manage not just the project but the changes that affect the broader organization that accompany any major program or project.  In every agency, you need the right culture and the right elements when undertaking major programs.  You need both tech and soft skills to be successful.  The key elements of this approach include:

  • A consistent governance framework that takes an enterprise view, not just a project-based view
  • Valuing program management as a legitimate career path.
    • Typically, once someone becomes a program manager, they can’t go back to being an operational manager
  • Create joint accountability among internal/external stakeholders
    • A key part of the job of an effective program manager is managing stakeholders – few stakeholders work for you, and the key is how you get results from others, along with their dollars to help support! Need to get support from across the organization (and not have them give you their “C” staff, but their “A” staff to help)

 

 

Upcoming Panel Meeting on 3/17/17



 

On Friday, March 17, from 10:00 AM - 11:45 AM, the EOM Standing Panel at the Academy will meet with several guests and Academy Fellows. The Academy will be joined by Dan Chenok (IBM Center for The Business of Government), Christopher Rahaim (Office of Federal Procurement Policy, OMB), Dustin Brown (Office of Performance and Personnel Management, OMB), Adam Lipton (Office of Performance and Personnel Management, OMB), Greg Giddens (Department of Veterans Affairs), and Jim Williams (Schambach & Williams Consulting).

Legislation passed in December to require federal agencies to develop greater project and program management capacity. A NAPA Study Panel prepared a report in 2015 on improving project and program management in federal agencies, which informed the development of that legislation.

Now that the legislation has passed, how will it be implemented?  OMB is undertaking a study to assess the “lay of the land” and what elements need to be considered to effectively implement this legislation in a way that it is not just another compliance exercise. The panel will discuss issues such as:

  • How can the implementation of this legislation be framed in order to actually help program managers better deliver results?
  • How will these legislative requirements fit into the broader framework of related existing requirements around performance management, contract management, enterprise risk management, IT management, etc.?

 

Read-Aheads:

 

Logistics: 

We will meet on Friday, March 17th, from 10:00 AM until 11:45 AM  at NAPA’s offices, 1600 K Street, NW, on the 4th Floor.  Please note the entrance is on 16th St. A light lunch will be available at noon.

You may join the meeting via conference telephone call: 866-939-8416; passcode: 2288483. Please inform Lisa Trahan (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or by phone (202-204-3648) if you plan to attend.

 

We look forward to seeing you at this session!

 

John Kamensky, Chair

Standing Panel on Executive Organization and Management