Performance & Personnel Management Overview

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."

President Barack Obama
January 20, 2009

"Success should be judged by results, and data is a powerful tool to determine results.  We can't ignore facts.  We can't ignore data."

President Barack Obama
July 24, 2009

 "… The test of a performance management system is whether it's actually used…. Federal managers and employees at all levels must use performance goals and measures to set priorities, monitor progress, and diagnose problems."

Federal Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients
October 29, 2009

Delivering High-Performance Government

The American people deserve a Federal Government that respects their tax dollars and uses them effectively and efficiently.  They deserve a Federal Government that is transparent, fair, and responsive.  To improve the performance of the Federal Government along these dimensions, the Administration is pursuing three mutually reinforcing performance management strategies:

  1. Use Performance Information to Lead, Learn, and Improve Outcomes.

    Agency leaders set a few high-priority performance goals and use constructive, data-based reviews to keep their organizations on track to deliver on these objectives.
  2. Communicate Performance Coherently and Concisely for Better Results and Transparency.

    The Federal Government will candidly communicate to the public the priorities, problems, and progress of Government programs, explaining the reasons behind past trends, the impact of past actions, and future plans. In addition, agencies will strengthen their capacity to learn from experience and experiments.
  3. Strengthen Problem-Solving Networks.

    The Federal Government will tap into and encourage practitioner communities, inside and outside Government, to work together to improve outcomes and performance management practices.

Use Performance Information to Lead, Learn, and Improve Outcomes

Government operates more effectively when it focuses on outcomes, when leaders set clear and measurable goals, and when agencies use measurement to reinforce priorities, motivate action, and illuminate a path to improvement. This outcome-focused performance management approach has proved a powerful way to achieve large performance gains in other countries, several States, an increasing number of local governments, and a growing number of Federal programs.

Outcome-focused performance management can transform the way government works, but its success is by no means assured. The Administration is initiating several new performance management actions and is tasking a new generation of performance leaders to implement successful performance management practices.

To encourage senior leaders to deliver results against the most important priorities, the Administration launched the High-Priority Performance Goal initiative in June 2009, asking agency heads to identify and commit to a limited number of priority goals, generally three to eight, with high value to the public. The goals must have ambitious, but realistic, targets to achieve within 18 to 24 months without need for new resources or legislation, and well-defined, outcomes-based measures of progress. A list of these goals is currently available at:

In the coming year, the Administration will ask agency leaders to carry out a similar priority-setting exercise with top managers of their bureaus to set bureau-level goals and align those goals, as appropriate, with agency wide priority goals. These efforts are not distinct from the goal-setting and measurement expectations set forth in the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), but rather reflect an intention to translate GPRA from a reporting exercise to a performance-improving practice across the Federal Government. By making agencies’ top leaders responsible for specific goals that they themselves have named as most important, the Administration is dramatically improving accountability and the chances that Government will deliver results on what matters most. Agency leaders will put in place rigorous, constructive quarterly feedback and review sessions to help agencies reach their targets, building on lessons from successful public sector performance management models in other governments and in some Federal agencies. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will initiate quarterly performance updates to help senior Federal Government leaders stay focused on driving to results. OMB will support the agencies with tools and assistance to help them succeed. In addition, OMB will help coordinate inter-agency efforts in select situations where collaboration is critical to success.

Communicate Performance Coherently and Concisely for Better Results and Transparency

Transparent, coherent performance information contributes to more effective, efficient, fair, and responsive government. Transparency not only promotes public understanding about the actions that government is working to accomplish, but also supports learning across government agencies, stimulates idea flow, enlists assistance, and motivates performance gain. In addition, transparency can strengthen public confidence in government, especially when government does more than simply herald its successes but also provides candid assessments of problems encountered, their likely causes, and actions being taken to address problems.

The Administration is initiating several new performance communication actions. First, the Administration will identify and eliminate performance measurements and documents that are not useful. Second, what remains will be used. Goals contained in plans and budgets will communicate concisely and coherently what government is trying to accomplish. Agency, cross-agency, and program measures, including those developed under GPRA and PART that proved useful to agencies, the public, and OMB, will candidly convey how well the Government is accomplishing the goals. Combined performance plans and reports will explain why goals were chosen, the size and characteristics of problems Government is tackling, factors affecting outcomes that Government hopes to influence, lessons learned from experience, and future actions planned.

Going forward, agencies will take greater ownership in communicating performance plans and results to key audiences to inform their decisions. Making performance data useful to all audiences—congressional, public, and agency leaders—improves both program performance and reporting accuracy.

To that end, the Administration will redesign public access to Federal performance information.

The Administration will create a Federal performance portal that provides a clear, concise picture of Federal goals and measures by theme, by agency, by program, and by program type. It will be designed to increase transparency and coherence for the public, motivate  improvement, support collaboration, and enhance the ability of the Federal Government and its service delivery partners to learn from others’ experiences and from research experiments. The performance portal will also provide easy links to mission-support management dashboards, such as the IT dashboard launched in the summer of 2009, and similar dashboards planned for other common Government functions including procurement, improper payments, and hiring.

While performance information is critical to improving Government effectiveness and efficiency, it can answer only so many questions. More sophisticated evaluation methods are required to answer fundamental questions about the social, economic, or environmental impact of programs and practices, isolating the effect of Government action from other possible influencing factors. OMB recently launched an Evaluation Initiative to promote rigorous impact evaluations, build agency evaluation capacity, and improve transparency of evaluation findings. These evaluations are a powerful complement to agency performance improvement efforts and often benefit from the availability of performance data. OMB will make information about all Federal evaluations focused on the impacts of programs and program practices available online through the performance portal.

Strengthen Problem-Solving Networks

The third strategy the Administration is pursuing to improve performance management involves the extensive use of existing and new practitioner networks. Federal agencies do not work in isolation to improve outcomes. Every Federal agency and employee depends on and is supported by others—other Federal offices, other levels of government, for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, and individuals with expertise or a passion about specific problems. New information technologies are transforming our ability to tap vast reservoirs of capacity beyond the office. At the same time, low-technology networks such as professional associations and communities of practice are also able to solve problems, spur innovation, and diffuse knowledge. The Administration will create cross-agency teams to tackle shared problems and reach out to existing networks, both inside and outside Government, to find and develop smarter performance management methods and to assist others in their application. It will tap their intelligence, ingenuity, and commitment, as well as their dissemination and delivery capacity.

The Performance Improvement Council (PIC), made up of Performance Improvement Officers from every Federal agency, will function as the hub of the performance management network. OMB will work with the PIC to create and advance a new set of Federal performance management principles, refine a Government-wide performance management implementation plan, and identify and tackle specific problems as they arise.

The PIC will also serve as a home for Federal communities of practice, some new and some old. Some communities of practice will be organized by problems, some by program type such as regulatory programs, and some by methods such as quality management. These communities will develop tools and provide expert advice and assistance to their Federal colleagues. In addition, the PIC will address the governance challenge of advancing progress on high-priority problems that require action by multiple agencies. The Administration will also turn to existing external networks—including State and local government associations, schools of public policy and management, think tanks, and professional associations—to enlist their assistance on specific problems and in spreading effective performance management practices.

Agency Performance Improvement Officers (PIO) June 2010

Past Program Reporting and PART

Top of Page