Forget a one-size-fits-all federal management approach with performance goals dictated from on high, according to a recent whitepaper from the National Academy of Public Administration. Agencies should be using the wealth of employee satisfaction and performance data available to develop strategies targeting the needs of individual units.

“A good federal management framework has evolved over the past two decades,” said John M. Kamensky, chairman of NAPA’s standing panel on executive organization and management, “but we need to expand the existing framework by creating a new bottom-up demand to improve organizational health and performance that is tailored to the needs of different missions and units.

“We believe a strategic reorientation that makes front-line managers the focal point, and considers the health and capacity of their organizational units, will pay the greatest performance dividends and reduce future risks of operational failures.”

The whitepaper, “Strengthening Organizational Health and Performance in Government,” recommends a management framework with three major components:

  1. Strengthen unit-level performance by using existing data, such as the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, to diagnose the state of unit-level health and performance.
  2. Create a learning-based approach, rather than directives required by the upper levels of an agency, by engaging employees to develop improvement plans for their own units.
  3. Invest in data analytics tools to give managers the opportunity to take advantage of the flood of employee and operational data.

“We envision that over time this new management improvement approach will transform the federal government into an organization that learns from experience, constructively engages employees at all levels in this shared enterprise, and continually strives toward higher standards of excellence in achieving its many missions and policy objectives,” the whitepaper said.

According to the report, the Office of Management and Budget can catalyze support for these changes, but leadership will ultimately have to come from the individual agencies, as this approach prioritizes the needs of small groups over governmentwide requirements.

OMB invited the National Academy of Public Administration to provide insights on the increasing availability of employee data and analytics in September 2017. According to the whitepaper, the Academy’s panel called upon public- and private-sector experts to share their experiences in using data to improve organizational health and performance.

“Today’s extensive report on how the federal government can smartly and strategically evolve using a new data-driven management approach will be a valuable resource for all government agency leaders,” said Terry Gerton, president and CEO of NAPA.

“As the administration thinks about how to shape its federal management agenda, these Academy panel recommendations for organizational health are especially relevant.”