Over the years, we have seen different versions of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) issued―all striving to attain similar outcomes, but sometimes urging different methods to achieve them.
So, what makes the latest PMA different? In some ways, absolutely nothing. However, here are five things that have my internal optimist excited about its release:
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IT modernization and data hold center stage: The PMA clearly puts IT and effective use of data as the change agent and enabler for better government mission, service and stewardship. It clearly states that modern technology is the backbone of a digital government adding that: “Meeting customer expectations, keeping sensitive data and systems secure and ensuring responsive, multi-channel access to services are all critical parts of the vision for modern government.” And for data, “Initiatives must provide the tools to deliver visibly better results to the public, while improving accountability to taxpayers for sound fiscal stewardship and mission results.” Music to our ears.
As I write this blog post, I’m sitting in a new “office”—actually temporary accommodations in a building owned by a company that rents out space when you need surge capacity. I decided yesterday to work here today and, an hour later, I received my login information and a mobile app to download. When I arrived today, they checked my ID, gave me an access card and a rundown of the printers and the facilities. Just 15 minutes after arriving, I had everything I needed to be successful and productive for the day, all done electronically. This type of stakeholder experience, easy to find in the private sector, is what we all want from the government—for internal and external stakeholders alike.
People share the spotlight: Without the right resources being applied, we can’t get to a desired outcome. This PMA simultaneously acknowledges what is right with our dedicated public servants and what is wrong with the systems to attract, retain and develop those talented people into the federal government’s ranks. It tackles areas such as alignment to mission, market comparable compensation, streamlined hiring and dismissal processes, continuous learning and more. I’m someone who believes strongly that everyone can be great at something and that the challenges most organizations face is finding the people that are great at what the organization needs and then keeping them inspired. The government is a set of large, decentralized, complex organizations with important missions; having the right talent is essential for success.
Cross-agency priorities provide short and long-term focus: Any successful organization needs to have goals for the long-term future and a plan of discrete steps to move toward them in the short-term. Time is a challenge. The cross-cutting priority areas provide a simple framework to focus long-term effort on some of the most challenging goals, such as customer experience, sharing quality services and shifting from low-value to high-value work. Meanwhile, the functional priority areas identify a set of specific business processes that are ripe for improvement and where results can be achieved within the timeframe of the current administration.
Outcomes are king: If you look at the PMA implementation documents or listen to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) senior adviser Margaret Weichert, you know that quarterly delivery of results is required. We in private industry are used to this. Our performance is judged every quarter by our stakeholders and simply saying, “I’m working on it” doesn’t cut it; you need to show regular tangible outcomes. I know many dedicated public servants who have held to this high standard for decades. Now the government is doing so transparently, a truly exciting development.
Leadership is in lockstep: For the kickoff to the PMA and for many subsequent events, we see leaders across the OMB, the General Services Administration, the Office of Personnel Management and other key leaders speaking the same language, advocating the same goals and working together. Much work still remains to achieve that alignment throughout their respective organizations; however, having it at the top is a significant step forward. The leadership modelling collaborative behavior will change the culture. I have seen it happen before; we all look to the leaders to determine the organizational norms we should adhere to.
None of these things by themselves are new ideas, of course. None of them are rocket science. However, the latest PMA does a great job of bringing together a set of needed reforms, a perspective on how to approach those reforms and a team to implement them that seems to be well aligned and collaborative.
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