Obama Looks To Chief Performance Officer To Streamline Government
Source: Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) – April 24, 2009
By: Beth Mirza
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President Barack Obama has tapped business management consultant Jeffrey Zients to be the federal government’s first chief performance officer, tasked with eliminating wasteful government programs and tightening up federal spending.
Zients is Obama’s second pick; Nancy Killefer withdrew her candidacy when problems arose concerning her failure to pay employment taxes on household help. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made a campaign promise in 2008 to create a “SWAT team” to work with agency leaders and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to improve results and outcomes for federal government programs while reducing waste and inefficiency. The chief performance officer will head the team and report directly to the president. Zients will work with federal agencies to set tough performance targets and hold managers responsible for progress.
“If we’re going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation, we need to change the way we do business in Washington,” Obama said in his weekly radio address on April 18, 2009. We need to restore the American people’s confidence in their government—that it is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families’ needs.”
Lean is a management principle that focuses on “accelerating the product through the chain,” Wince said, by taking out waste. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven methodology used to eliminate defects, improve processes and cut costs.
“From our perspective, there is lots of opportunity for [Zients] to be successful,” Wince said. “I hope that he’ll look at waste in [government] programs, make them more effective and reduce costs. We see that [is needed] now in our work in federal and state government.”
Zients, who will also serve as the deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget, has 20 years of business experience as a CEO, management consultant and entrepreneur with a deep understanding of business strategy, process re-engineering and financial management. He served as CEO and chairman of the Advisory Board Co. and Chairman of the Corporate Executive Board. These firms are leading providers of performance benchmarks and best practices across a wide range of industries. He is the founder and managing partner of Portfolio Logic, an investment firm focused primarily on business and health care service companies. Zients’ new boss intends to put him right to work, according to the radio address.
“In the coming weeks,” Obama said, “I will be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective. In this effort, there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects.”
One of the best ways to drill down to the root of the problems is to consult with the front-line workers who know where the “systems break down and the workarounds that they have to do every day,” Wince said. “These are the people who know where the skeletons are and where the opportunities are.”
Wince said his company worked in Iowa to help to allow businesses to expand or add to existing buildings. The state’s business council wanted to reduce the timeframe from 12-to-18 months to nine-to-10 months. Wince’s firm helped shorten the timeline by shortening the time projects had to spend waiting for redundant approvals and improving the system to eliminate workarounds.
Such change, Wince said, is “led from the top and executed at the middle and lower levels.”
“None of this will be easy. Big change never is,” Obama said. “But … I am confident that we can break our bad habits, put an end to the mismanagement that has plagued our government and start living within our means again.”
Beth Mirza is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
All contents © 2009 Society For Human Resource Management. All Rights Reserved.
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