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Last Updated: March 23, 2007

Help make the program you work on even more effective. Work with your manager to make sure the principles below are present where you work. Clay Johnson, the Deputy Director for Management at OMB, contends these principles are essential for any organization to be effective.

Please email other management principles you think are key to making your program more effective.


A manager should congratulate an employee when he/she meets or exceeds their goals. An employee's work is his/hers to do: the employee should "own" it and be responsible for it, not the boss. If a manager thanks an employee for doing a good job, the manager is implying the employee is helping the manager be successful, for which the manager is grateful.

We can do everything we do now, better. When we think our methods are as sophisticated and effective as possible, we need to remember that it was only recently that someone got the idea to put wheels on suitcases.

Don't fear the PART. We talk a lot about the PART, the Program Assessment Rating Tool, used today to assess Federal program performance: we have a good or bad PART score, we want to rePART our program, we want to prohibit or institutionalize the PART, we disagree with our PART rating, etc. We need to remember that the PART is not a gauntlet to be run, but is instead a very short list of basic questions that every purposeful public or private sector organization should answer to generally assess their current performance and set the direction for future improvement. The PART "score" and subsequent debate are not to be feared. The public welcomes the process' inherent, enhanced accountability for and commitment to greater effectiveness. A former Clinton OMB official has commented that the value of the PART and ExpectMore.gov will be proven by their continued use in future Administrations.

Some want to "do" while others want to "be." We need more "do."

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

It is hard to measure the effectiveness of many of our programs as the Federal government is charged with taking on many difficult, complex issues that often take a long time to solve. But shame on us if we aren't always trying to find better ways to account for what we do, and better understand how to accomplish our goals.

Liberals and conservatives alike want the government to be more effective.

It's important for career employees to make the case with their actions and results that they want every Administration and Congress to hold them accountable for continuously improving their effectiveness. Federal employees wonder if future Administrations are going to "stay the course" and continue making greater government effectiveness a priority. Every Administration talks about wanting to "fix" the government: "elect me and I'll make it work better." But they usually tackle a few symbols of systematic problems, like expensive purchases, without fixing the systemic issues (no accountability, no goals, poor information systems, and the like) that made it possible for the problems to occur. It's hard to improve a system as big and complex as our government, and requires Administration-to-Administration commitment. Federal employees can help ensure the continued commitment to greater government effectiveness.

People! Success depends so much on how well people work together. The quality of an idea will not ensure its success; it has to be implemented by people, working together. With any attempt to improve performance or implement a new idea, managers must do it WITH the people, not TO the people: make sure the employees know what's in it for them, and that they know the "why" as well as the "what."

Program performance transparency is good. Some union presidents, members of Congress and Federal employees respond to the ExpectMore.gov site with complaints that their favorite program works better than we say, that we don't list all that's being done to improve performance, and that they would have thought more about it if they had known this information was going to be made public. This debate over a program's performance is good: the debate should be about performance, not funding levels, or inputs.

We need to listen to our customers. Americans want their government to work better than it does currently. Americans want their government to spend their tax dollars on real needs and get what they pay for.

The first step toward greater effectiveness must be an objective assessment of current performance. Currently we CAN and DO assess the performance and cost of most every Federal program, in a consistent, professional manner. We can and do assess how government assets are being managed, maintained, and deployed.

Agencies should be required to better manage, develop and reward their employees, to better serve the American people, and to maximize their employees' opportunities to grow and develop. Compared to their private sector counterparts, Federal employees are less likely to be satisfied with the info they receive on what's going on in their organization, with their opportunity for a better job, with their training, with their immediate supervisor, with the recognition they receive for doing a good job, with their involvement in the decisions that affect their work, and with the use made of their skills and abilities. (Federal Employee Survey, 2005)

Employees should be recognized and rewarded more than those who do not perform as well.

Currently sufficient steps are not taken to deal with poor performers who cannot or will not improve, and differences in performance are not recognized in a meaningful way. (Federal Human Capital Survey 2004)

Our goal should not be that all human capital programs are alike, but that all employees are treated alike. (Toni Dawsey, Assistant Administrator for Human Capital Management, NASA)

We can not have enough accountability for performance. Our mission and goals are only soft targets or aspirations unless we say we want to be held accountable for accomplishing them by a specific date and they are included in the person's performance standards.

Instead of saying they shouldn't be held accountable for their program's performance if they didn't get the money they requested for that year, managers should establish with their manager what they are to be held accountable for, given the resources and authority available.

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.

We need to make sure we are creating performance cultures in each agency, and not PMA-compliance cultures. 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.

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

Federal employees should be given 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.

We must clearly define what we want to buy before we buy it; otherwise we will make a bad purchasing decision. Similarly, we must clearly define what a person's performance goals are, in the process of managing or selecting him or her; otherwise we 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 to get better every year. We do not and must 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 use ExpectMore.gov to highlight programs that don't work, giving naysayers ammunition for their claims that we are not doing a good job. Yes, we 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 site's 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 and need to be treated as professional public servants, not as bureaucrats.

It is good to be transparent about our goals and whether we are 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.

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

It is important to honor the work of your employees and commit to build on their accomplishments. Perhaps at your next awards ceremony, the keynote speaker will want to make some of the following Lincoln-esque comments:
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, and most importantly, bad management.

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