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AGA Research Recommends Ways to Drive Government Performance Improvement


The Association of Government Accountants (AGA) today released a report sponsored by Management Concepts that focuses on how to best use performance information to drive program improvement in the federal government.

The report, Using Performance Information to Drive Performance, examines the federal government's data-driven performance review process, which was established within the last two years and is still evolving. It describes the status of the process within the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies and selected components. The main purpose of the project, however, is to provide recommendations on how the performance improvement process can be expanded and used in the future.

“The challenge is to expand the use of performance information to drive performance improvement deeper into the agencies, across all programs and, most important, beyond changes in personnel, and particularly changes in administrations,” stated Relmond P. Van Daniker, DBA, CPA, AGA's Executive Director. “This challenge can be met and overcome. The considerations, recommendations and other information discussed in this report provide a road map.”

The research was based primarily on interviews with 24 Performance Improvement Officers (PIOs) or their designees, program managers and delivery partners. These interviews revealed the current status of the data-driven performance review process. The rapidly evolving nature of this program means that many policies and practices have changed, and are still changing, since the time of the interviews.

The Obama administration has asked CFO Act agencies to apply the data-driven performance review process to high-priority performance goals. Some agencies and their components, however, have been conducting such reviews around other program goals for several years. The primary determinant as to whether the process is used in an agency is its leaders—the attention and time they devote to performance reviews and improvement.

On balance, the data-driven performance review process is working, the report concludes. Several instances were described in which analysis of performance measures revealed performance shortcomings, alternatives were explored and adopted, and performance improved.

Research recommendations include:

- Leadership is the primary determinant of the success of the process; the first requirement is to ensure that there is an interested person who is comfortable with data at the Chief Operating Officer level.

- An agency will likely have many performance goals, so a prioritization process should be established to focus the reviews on those areas of the strategic and performance plans that matter the most.

- Managers are the persons expected to drive performance, so the process must be designed to ensure that the performance information available to them is information they can use to manage. Obviously, it should be quantifiable. That is the foundation of data-driven management.

- The data to be used to drive performance improvement should be the data used to operate the programs day-to-day (while enabling personnel to keep the intended outcomes in mind). The ideal is for performance data to be collected in the field, automatically transferred to headquarters, and then accumulated in an automated performance information system. The system should also provide for transfer of the data to OMB and posting to, where it can be made available, in whole or in part, to the public.

The report is the product of a research project sponsored by Management Concepts. The author of this research report is Harold I. Steinberg, CGFM, CPA, a retired partner from KPMG LLP and former first acting controller/deputy controller for the Office of Federal Financial Management, U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

To view the report, visit:

About AGA: AGA is the premier Association in advancing government accountability. We support the careers and professional development of government financial professionals working in federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector and academia. Founded in 1950, AGA has a long history as a thought leader for the government accountability profession. Through education, research, publications, certification and conferences, AGA promotes transparency and accountability in government.

Association of Government Accountants
Jennifer I. Curtin, MPA, 410-430-1785

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