Why Biden’s presidential management agenda is a big deal


The publication of the management plan for the president of each new administration predictably raises the question, “Is this a big deal?” For the new Biden PMA, the answer is a clear “yes”, in a subtle and surprising way.

The new PMA builds on four earlier efforts: Clinton’s “government reinvented”, which promised “a government that works better and costs less”; Bush’s 14-point plan and his introduction of the performance appraisal tool; Obama’s agency-based approach to ensuring the success of federal programs across the country; and Trump’s interlocking gear plan – information technology modernization, data accountability and transparency, and a federal workforce for the future.

With these 20 years of history, it is impossible to be a serious president without carving out a major and different slice of the management issue. Performance.gov has become the primary source of continuity for the management of the federal government. But every president wants to put a new imprint on the federal government’s considerable management challenges.

Compared to previous LDCs, Biden’s strategy is hyper-focused on just three cross-cutting areas: strengthening the federal workforce, providing a better customer experience, and improving federal management processes for grants and contracts. Previous LDCs covered much more territory. Obama’s targets, for example, spanned 16 different interagency priority goals. Biden’s PMA is much more focused.

And this precise focus sets up four “important” elements of the Biden PMA.

First, the top managers of the federal government have signed up, literally, to the PMA, with two pages at the very end of the document. Unlike previous LDCs which generally had a top-down impression (with the exception of Obama’s PMA, which made agencies responsible for setting their own goals), members of the President’s Management Board (Assistant Secretaries or CEOs federal government operations) departments and agencies — added their signatures at the end of the document.

This brings collective government-wide support to the PMA, as well as a personal commitment from key government managers to moving the agenda forward. The big question that usually comes up after leaving the PMA is: “Good ideas, but will agencies join?” The two signature pages answer that question, although it remains to be seen what priority the agenda will receive within the agencies amid ongoing political issues.

Second, for federal employees, the PMA engages senior government officials to involve them much more effectively in the work of their agencies. There has never been more emphasis on employee engagement in other LDCs than in this one. There has also never been a clearer warning about the need to improve engagement, as the report shows how much the federal government is lagging behind private industry in employee engagement.

The report underlines the urgent need for the federal government to recruit young workers more effectively, especially since the share of the workforce under the age of 35 is twice as high in the private sector. With baby boomers regularly heading out the door and with the growing need for skilled federal workers in STEM and data science, this is an existential problem for the federal government.

Third, for citizens, the PMA commits the government to a much greater effort to improve customer service. A small note in the report on the federal government’s organization to better cope with life events – such as births, marriages, retirements and deaths – that involve intensive involvement with a multitude of government agencies is d ‘of particular importance. This is a fundamental and important change in the federal government’s customer service efforts.

Citizens facing these events often have to come into contact with many agencies dealing with related issues, often sharing the same information. In fact, as one of my recently retired friends pointed out, “retirement is not for wimps,” given the challenges of negotiating Social Security, Medicare and Social Security. multitude of other government-related retirement issues. PMA plans to make interactions with citizens easier and more transparent while creating back-office channels to connect the information agencies need to do their jobs. Life event government has been an important part of reforms in countries as large as Australia, Estonia, Malaysia, and Slovakia, and it could dramatically improve citizen satisfaction with government. federal.

In many parts of the federal government, there is often a strong reluctance to consider customer service as a driving force on the agenda. “We don’t interact with citizens and therefore we don’t have clients,” is the answer. But everyone — everyone — who works for government is ultimately there to serve citizens. Sometimes, as with social security, this link is direct. Sometimes, like in the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control mission, it’s indirect. And sometimes, in programs like contract management and grant management, it makes it easier for other parts of government to connect directly with citizens. For all, PMA is a call to remember who pays the bills and for whom the government exists. And that provides a basic language for also dealing with an important part of ART, “advancing equity”, which is everyone’s business. This is a fundamental redefinition of accountability because government connects with citizens.

Last but not least, PMA anticipates a convergence of committed employees and customer service. This is not about involving employees as a separate process from program management, but rather focusing all of their work on the needs of their customers, from the citizens’ perspective. This is not to establish a general principle of customer service, but rather to use service to citizens as the main driver of employee engagement.

This link is a giant leap in the federal government’s management strategy. It answers the questions of “commitment – for what?” “And” customer service, how? He reshapes accountability by moving away from the process to focus on outcomes that matter to both employees and citizens. This creates an opportunity to gain trust, as there is ample evidence to point to the retail level linkages between service providers and recipients.

In short, the PMA creates a chain of accountability from the president to his political appointees, from appointees to federal directors, and from them to federal employees and ultimately to citizens. The combination of the direct link with the citizens, coupled with the personal responsibility that the persons appointed by the president have agreed to assume, marks a revolutionary turning point in the strategy of the PMA.

There are many questions that will need to be fleshed out, from how supervisors will advance employee engagement and relate customer service to the broader challenges of recruiting, retaining and managing the workforce. artwork. It would take a document three times as long to sketch that out – and it will take a lot of careful thought to fill in ideas that are still in their infancy.

But to the question “Is this a big deal?” The answer is unequivocally yes. As Washington once again sinks into the mire of executive-congressional bickering, this move is one that federal executives can accomplish on their own and without new legislation. This could present a huge opportunity for the Biden administration, especially since the implementation of the infrastructure bill and social agenda will require the precise executive reshuffle that the PMA imagines.


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