Management Reform_ Elements of Successful Improvement Initiatives

U.S. Government Accountability Office
GAO's Performance and Accountability Series outlined the major management challenges confronting the largest federal agencies and discussed opportunities to improve their performance. (See GAO/OCG-99-22SET, Jan. 1999.) Many of these challenges involve longstanding, difficult problems that will not be quickly or easily solved. In fact, sustaining major changes will require a cultural transformation at many agencies. Success in overcoming problems of this magnitude often depends, at least initially, on whether an agency has a well-thought-out management improvement initiative to guide its reform efforts. This testimony discusses six elements that GAO believes are crucial to ensuring that management improvement initiatives truly take root and solve the problems they are intended to fix. These elements are (1) a demonstrated leadership commitment and accountability for change; (2) the integration of management improvement efforts into programmatic decisionmaking; (3) thoughtful and rigorous planning to guide decisions, particularly to address human capital and information technology issues; (4) employee involvement to elicit ideas and build commitment; (5) organizational alignment to streamline operations and clarify accountability; and (6) strong and continuing congressional involvement.
GAO noted that: (1) serious and disciplined efforts are needed to attack the management problems confronting some of the federal government's largest agencies; (2) successful management improvement efforts often contain a number of common critical elements, including top leadership commitment and accountability, the integration of management improvement initiatives into programmatic decisions, planning to chart the direction the improvements will take, employee involvement in the change efforts, organizational realignment to streamline operations and clarify accountability, and congressional involvement and oversight; and (3) experience has shown that when these elements are in place, lasting management reforms are more likely to be implemented that ultimately lead to improvements in the performance and cost-efficiency of government.
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