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If you agree that these principles should exist where you work, but they don’t, work with your manager to make your group more effective. Clay Johnson (unless noted otherwise), Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget, contends these principles are essential for any organization to be effective.

If you would like to suggest other principles that are key to our making a bigger difference, please email.


The government’s focus must be on results. It is not enough to work as hard as we can on a project; we are here to get the job done.

Americans want their government to be more effective and less bureaucratic.

For the Keynote Speaker at Your Next Awards Ceremony
Five years ago, our leaders brought forth a new management agenda, dedicated to the proposition that all taxpayers desire and deserve to have their tax money spent effectively...Now we are engaged in a great awards ceremony, honoring (???) agency groups. We have come to this awards ceremony to consecrate the accomplishments of these employees who have worked brilliantly to implement this management agenda to make their agencies more effective. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this...But, in a larger sense, we here in this room cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow their accomplishments. The employees themselves have consecrated their own work, far above our poor power to add or detract. The taxpayers, our customers, will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but they will be better served forever by the accomplishments recognized here. It is for us, rather, to be dedicated to finishing the work which the employees honored tonight have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the opportunities before us for greater government effectiveness...that from these honored employees we take increased devotion to the cause they have pursued with utmost devotion...that we here highly resolve that these honored employees shall not have toiled in vain to improve their agencies...that our government shall have an even more ardent focus on effectiveness...and that government of the people...by the people...and more effective for the people...shall not perish from the earth.

A manager’s job is to help his or her people be successful, not vice versa.

A forced distribution of performance ratings is prohibited.

We should not be allowed to blame a performance shortcoming on a contractor failure. We are responsible for what goes on in our departments whether we are managing our own employees or contractors.

Most Federal employees want to do a good job, but they need to know what a “good job” is. Managers should be held accountable for clearly defining with, not for, each of their employees what outcomes and results will cause them to be rated Satisfactory, Excellent or otherwise.

Federal employees think we might have gotten too focused on “getting to green” on the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) scorecard, and aren’t doing all we can to ensure being green leads to the agency being more effective. We need to make sure we are creating performance cultures in each agency, and not PMA-compliance cultures.

Whatever we are trying to do more effectively in a Department or agency, we must do it WITH the employees, not TO the employees.

The average Federal agency today is far better managed than our best agency was managed five years ago: per the PMA’s green/yellow/red scoring, the average agency today is rated a bright yellow, while in the fall of 2001, the best agency was mostly red.

Federal employees deserve major credit for the recent, significant improvements in our program, human resource, cost, financial, and IT management abilities. Employees grasp the significance of the improvements in how these functions are managed and understand that these changes will help them and their agencies serve the citizens more effectively. They would not allow or support changes that they did not think were good for their agencies.

If we do not clearly define what we want to buy before we buy it, we will make a bad purchasing decision. Similarly, if we do not clearly define what a person’s performance goals are in the process of selecting him or her, we may make a bad employment decision and we certainly won’t get what we expect.

Transparency of purpose and performance is good, as it makes possible greater accountability for results. In this context, ExpectMore.gov has been called “one of the most intriguing, if not significant, management experiments to come out of government in many years...ExpectMore.gov deserves credit for opening a new chapter on governance in the Internet Age...This kind of public self-assessment is practically unheard-of in the private sector...It’s hard not to imagine that the nation’s Founding Fathers would be pleased, if not intrigued, by ExpectMore.gov as an instrument that supports the precept of government by the people, for the people..” (Government Leader, September/October 2006; Vol. 1 No. 9)

First and foremost we want programs and people to be effective, and get better every year. We do not assess performance as a guise to eliminate people or programs that the Administration or management doesn’t like.

Candor about program performance is good. Even some senior Administration officials question why we highlight programs that don’t work on ExpectMore.gov, giving naysayers ammunition for their claims that we are not doing a good job. Yes, we do tell the American people that many programs do not perform as well as intended, but they already know that. The site helps us publicly commit programs and management to desired outcomes and plans to accomplish them. And the transparency and candor demonstrate that we want to be held accountable for improving government effectiveness.

The Federal government is not too big and complex to be managed. Any organization can be managed effectively that can clearly define:

  • “success”, i.e., the specific outcomes and efficiency levels it desires,
  • a realistic, aggressive action plan that leads to achieving the goal,
  • the specific people who are responsible for accomplishing each of the plan’s milestones, by what date, and
  • the importance of accomplishing the goal.

Managers should be held accountable for helping their employees be successful, working with their employees to develop clear definitions of success, and then helping their employees achieve them.

Federal employees want to be treated as professional public servants, not as bureaucrats.

It is good to be transparent about our goals and how well we are doing at accomplishing them. The taxpayers know the government is not perfect and will give us great credit for committing to get better and wanting to be held accountable for doing so. Following our lead, the Scots, English, Australians, Japanese and others are assessing program performance, but they are reluctant to be as candid and transparent with their assessments as we are here. They aren’t sure they are ready for the level of accountability for improved performance that comes with high levels of transparency.