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Monday, January 12, 2009

CPO pick signals emphasis on accountability

President-elect Barack Obama’s creation of a chief performance officer probably in the White House means he’s serious about pushing agencies to perform better, be accountable and transparent, and deliver significant results, say experts in federal management.

His choice of Nancy Killefer to be the first person to hold the position only amplifies that commitment.

Obama also indicated that program performance would be linked with budget reform as he warned of the possibility of trillion-dollar deficits for years to come.

Killefer, a senior director at McKinsey and Co., will help scour the federal budget line by line, “eliminating what we don’t need or what doesn’t work, and improving the things that do,” Obama said in announcing his choice.

He also intends to nominate her as the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management.

Killefer’s track record spans government and the private sector. She served in three high-level positions — assistant secretary for management, chief financial officer and chief operating officer — in the Clinton administration’s Treasury Department.

She also led technology modernization efforts at the Internal Revenue Service and prepared Treasury’s computer systems for the Year 2000.

The CPO would lead a team to set ambitious performance targets and hold managers accountable for progress. However, Obama has not yet spelled out all the details of the position.

There will be some challenges in implementing Obama’s plans, Forman said.

The White House usually deals with agency leadership, but program managers are more directly involved in the performance and budget of individual programs, he said.

If Obama succeeds in making Killefer both CPO and OMB’s deputy director for management, she will have legal authority to tighten the link between program performance improvement and the budget, he said.

Bob Behn, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, said agencies must also attack performance gaps at lower levels of management. Agencies need to invest more in middle managers through training and mentoring because they must motivate their line staff to accomplish the strategies to improve performance.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com
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