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.

 


 

Implementing the DATA Act: Working Across Boundaries

 May 19, 2017

Following is a summary of some key points from the May 19, 2017 EOM Panel Meeting:

 

Background:  The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) was passed in May of 2014 and the executive branch was given three years to implement its key provisions.  A key deadline was to post all federal spending data on a single website by May 9, 2017. 

The law requires all federal spending data, including for the first time interagency transfers, to be posted on at least a quarterly basis.  That includes more than $3.8 trillion in annual federal spending and the public will able to track these funds from Congressional appropriations to local communities and businesses for the first time. The scale of this initiative was huge and required significant stakeholder engagement, including transparency and advocacy groups.  

What technical and administrative strategies were used to develop the standards, collect and display the data, insure its reliability, and to engage stakeholders in a meaningful way to ensure their support in the collection and use of the resulting data?

What lessons were learned that could be applied to other large-scale, government-wide initiatives in the future?

Background Reading:

Summary of Presentation:

The context: Implementing the DATA Act successfully looked to be daunting in the beginning.  It was not a popular piece of legislation among executive branch agencies, who were skeptical about its value and because there was little  funding to help agencies implement the legislation (the Congressional Budget Office estimated that implementation efforts would cost agencies about $300 million in its first five  years).  When the project started, only one other country – Finland – had tried anything this ambitious, to pull meaningful info from existing financial, acquisition, and grant systems.

However, there were some bright spots facing those charged with implementing the law – chiefly that the top leaders responsible in both the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury were long-time, executives who had worked together before, and trusted and respected each other.  They approached their joint challenge from the perspective of what was good in the long run for the government, not the institutional perspectives of their respective organizations.  Other significant success factors include: (1) a full-time Treasury implementation team, (2)  its use of innovative and open approaches to developing the key deliverables, and (3) a commitment to proactively engagement a wide range of stakeholders – external advocacy groups, congressional advocates, and the audit community.

Success Factors:  The speakers described ten factors that they attribute to the initial success of launching the first reporting cycle of the DATA act on May 9, 2017 – the launch date set in law three years earlier.  These factors may be applicable to the implementation of other governmentwide initiatives:

  • Mandates. There were clear legal mandates and timeframes for agencies set in the statute. Having a law in place was critical to making progress and motivating agency compliance.
  • Leadership. OMB and Treasury are jointly accountable under the law for implementation and the leadership of both were on the same page.  The initial leaders, Danny Werfel (OMB) and Dick Gregg (Treasury), were long-time career executives who knew each other and respected each other before they were appointed to their positions.  The subsequent leaders, David Mader (OMB) and David Lebryk (Treasury) were also long-time career executives who knew each other and had worked together in Treasury over 20 years before each received their respective jobs.  This good working relationship, and their willingness to stick their necks out in their own respective organizations for each other, cascaded down within their teams.
  • Vision. The top leaders created a common strategic intent/ vision for the overall project – “Better data, better decisions, better government” – that helped guide the effort overall.
  • Business Case. Because of agency antipathy to a mandate that was perceived as costly busy-work, the leadership of the DATA Act implementation initiative set out to make a business case for why this initiative is important. For example, they created a common “sales pitch” to agency CFOs, laying out a future vision for federal financial management and explaining  how the data under this law could elevate their role and allow them to use data to inform decision-making.  If CFOs want to shift from a focus on auditing and transactions to a role of being a strategic leader in their agencies, they needed to have access to near real-time financial data, which the DATA Act will produce.
  • Governance Structure. The implementation team created a governance structure to ensure effective execution:
    • Executive steering committee, comprised of OMB and Treasury officials.
    • An interagency advisory committee, comprised of representatives of the business and functional communities across the government that have stakes in DATA Act implementation (e.g., the CFO, CIO, and CAO Councils).
    • An identified Senior Accountable Officials at each federal agency who is accountable for certifying the data submitted to Treasury, and convened them on a regular basis, as well.
  • Program Management Office (PMO). The leadership team created a program management office in Treasury with full-time staff dedicated to implementing this law. Deputy assistant secretary Christina Ho, was charged with leading a small team.  She recruited a mix of talent  from different perspectives (e.g., former congressional staff, the Sunlight Foundation advocacy group, former DATA Act staff, contractors, and detailees from other agencies and 18F). They saw themselves as advocates for transparency, and providing value to the agencies and public – not just compliance with the law. As such, they did not see themselves bound by traditional thinking on how to implement things in government.  They were all “problem-solvers, not process-focused.”
  • External Pressure. Several congressional sponsors of the legislation -- including, Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Darrell Issa and the leadership of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – remained actively engaged.  The House held hearings and the bipartisan oversight and interest was critical to the success of the project.  External advocacy groups, notably the DATA Coalition, provided expertise and public oversight.  This external attention was seen as useful.  In addition, the law included statutory requirements for GAO and the agency IG to assess progress and the quality of the data.  These actions helped focus agency attention.
  • Robust Communications/Engagement Strategy. Individual members of the leadership team and the PMO invested a lot of time and effort in consulting with a wide range of stakeholders, both inside and outside government. For example:
    • Existing relationships of individual team members with the different professional communities within the federal government – e.g., financial assurance, procurement.
    • Regular engagement with external stakeholders, not just meetings with agencies. Including an online collaboration webpage, an open beta site and monthly external stakeholder calls (e.g., after May 9th launch, the team received a public comment about the functionality of the website, and one week later, it had incorporated that change into the site).
  • Data-Centric Approach. Christina Ho had a data-centric vision that allowed agencies to map the required data from their existing systems and submit the data to Treasury based on a standard format. This lower-cost approach minimized IT system changes which was key to the project’s success and significantly reduced the burden and costs to agencies. Ho sought counsel from the experts at 18F and the U.S. Digital Services to help advise and build support for the data-centric approach.
  • Open Implementation Strategy/ Agile Methodology. The key reason Treasury met the deadline is because it strategically chose to implement an agile development approach, rather than use a traditional waterfall development approach, and to leverage existing resources to the greatest extent practicable.  Unlike the traditional waterfall development approach, which requires defining the requirements up-front, the agile method requires making decisions and changes based on the circumstances observed as the project is being implemented. 

The PMO team felt the implementation approach it used – based on agile principles -- was “revolutionary” and since this is the first government-wide agile project it was not well-understood in regard to its potential impact.  It took a leap of faith within the government community to adopt the agile approach, along with some conviction in the vision the team had.  For example:

  • They typically did not seek permission to do things. They just did it.
  • Every two weeks, there were new deliverables, then adjustments based on user feedback.
  • The PMO team focused its approach on user-centered design, where they consulted widely and frequently with agencies, public, stakeholders.
  • The PMO team used an Open Development approach, where the code is open source and anyone can look at it and offer tweaks.

Role of the Auditors. The law included significant amount of oversight requirements during the implementation phase (which was not common in other government wide laws).  This caused agencies to better document what they were doing re: implementation.  For example, there were 18 GAO audits of the progress of the implementation. Because the project used agile techniques, the Treasury PMO team was able to pivot quickly to respond to recommendations.

Within the IG community, the Treasury IG took the government-wide lead, in concert with the cross-agency Council of the Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency.  The law had a mis-step in timing, asking for an audit before standards were in place, so in lieu of that, the IGs conducted “readiness reviews” in their agencies: 48 IGs assessed whether their agencies were meeting requirements.  A GAO report summed up the IGs’ work and concluded most agencies were on track as of January 2017.

Traditionally, IGs audit progress in implementing IT projects based on whether they met “waterfall” standards, but realized they needed to shift their approach to conform to the “agile” approach being used by the PMO (see GAO guide on use of agile in government). Treasury’s IG developed an audit standards guide that accommodated the agile approach for other IGs to use in assessing their agencies’ DATA Act implementation progress.

The IG community had to learn Agile lingo, and methodology.  They had to develop their own guides, conduct training, workshops, iterative guides, so there wouldn’t be different IG interpretations of progress across agencies.

It Wasn’t Easy, and There’s Still a Lot to Do. While there has been a significant amount of progress, it wasn’t easy.  For example, in setting standards, there was significant debate among different professional communities as to who “owned” a term. 

Still need to get the financial management systems in different agencies to change their cadence as to when they produce data.

The “door opened” on May 9 for the public’s new view and use of federal spending data, but there is more to do, through 2022 according to a report by the DATA Foundation and Deloitte, when the Act is to be fully implemented.

 

 


 

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