Management agenda drives the challenges

To be challenged is to be tested.

For government managers, the catalog of major tests seems to grow by the day.

After 9-11 and during war, security is a bigger challenge than ever. Managers are facing stepped-up pressure from the Office of Management and Budget on competitive sourcing, e-government, enterprise architectures, performance-based services contracting and peformance/budget integration.

And funding. In times of tight budgets, where's the money to fund your projects and programs coming from? And how are you going to get it?

While most of these challenges have been around since the 1990s, originating in legislation such as the Government Performance and Results Act, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 and the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998, the driving force now is President Bush's Management Agenda. It has cranked up the heat several notches.

Five imperatives

The agenda adds up to one awesome package of challenges, all neatly tied together into five overall imperatives: strategic management of human capital, competitive sourcing, improving financial performance, expanded electronic government, and integrating budget and performance.

When administration officials were cobbling together the agenda, they decided against taking a broad-brush approach.

'We narrowed the list,' OMB director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said. 'The whole theory was that it was going to be hard enough to make real, lasting progress on any one of these priorities. And if we picked too many and tried to attack everything at once, that's guaranteed futility.'

He added: 'I would not pretend that this is at all an exhaustive list or that these five comprise everything we're trying to get done. But the idea was to take a few things that would be high impact and very urgently in need of attention, and never take our teeth out of them until we felt we had done a good job.'

In one way or another, the management agenda's items intersect and overlap.

'They are very interconnected,' Daniels said. 'You can't write a sensible human capital plan for an agency without thinking about how IT, for example, might change the way you deliver that service. So they absolutely do connect, and we're learning all the time about new ways they do connect.'

The 10 challenges we address in the following pages merge in many ways, too.

There are, for example, inextricable relationships among enterprise architectures, data sharing, e-government and the financial bottom line.

'Without enterprise architectures to guide and constrain IT investments such as e-government initiatives, stovepipe operations and systems can emerge, which in turn lead to needless duplication, incompatibilities and additional costs,' the General Accounting Office said in a report last year.

Enterprise architectures also will guide management decision-making in various ways in each of the 10 challenge areas.

In pursuing the management agenda and its ultimate goal'no less than the transformation of government'managers also face another test in that now-familiar bugaboo, cultural resistance.
That's a fancy way of saying that Other People are in the way of reforms.

Resistance can come from old agency hands who are set in their ways.

It can also come from top-level political appointees whose professional credentials are built on old ways of doing business, Daniels said.

OMB wants to hear from managers who are encountering internal opposition.

'Where you have ideas, where you see ways to improve performance, my view is that you have a duty to make those ideas known,' he said. 'We've got to elicit those ideas and make sure they're not suppressed.'

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