Panel Paper: “Making the Gprama Data-Driven Performance Reviews Work: Or How Can Federal Agencies Produce Better Results When They Don't Arrest Muggers Or Fill Potholes?”

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 10:25 AM
Mayfair Court (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Robert Behn, Harvard University
At the municipal level, PerformanceStat has proven to be a powerful leadership strategy for producing results.  The New City Police Department created the original CompStat, which is credited with helping to reduce the city’s crime rate.  The city of Baltimore created CitiStat (the first JurisdictionStat), which is credited with improving service delivery by city agencies.  Indeed, this leadership strategy has been adopted—and adapted—by a variety of government agencies at jurisdictions in state and local governments.

Can, however, this performance strategy also be a force for improving the performance of national agencies in the U.S. government?

The “Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act” of 2010 (GPRAMA) imposes on U.S. government agencies a number of requirements designed to improve performance.  One of these requirements is that all agencies must conduct “regular reviews of agency performance, including at least quarterly reviews of progress achieved toward agency priority goals.”

Although the legislation specifies nothing about for these quarterly performance reviews, they appear to be very similar to the regular meetings that are a key leadership behavior of a CompStat, CitiStat, or PerformanceStat.  Actually, even before Congress enacted GPRAMA, several federal agencies (including FDA, FEMA, HUD, and USAID) had already created their own PerformanceStat adapting the mechanics and (more importantly) the underlying principles and key leadership behaviors of CompStat and CitiStat to help improve their own performance.

Still, to produce improved results, FEMA and FDA face challenges that are different in both degree and kind from those confronting a police department or a city.  Municipalities and their departments are very operational; they deliver services directly.  Federal agencies have clear responsibilities; yet they often lack the legislative mandate or the operational capacity to directly produce the desired results.  Moreover, they often lack the ability to specify and measure their won outcomes (sometimes even their own outputs).  And, even if they develop some measures that capture their desired outputs and outcomes, they are often unable to do so in a timely manner—in a way that permits them to analyze these data and to then use the resulting lessons to modify existing operational practices.

Thus, federal agencies that wish to convert their mandated quarterly reviews into meaningful results-producing PerformanceStats will need to experiment with a variety of ways to adapt this leadership strategy to their own purposes. This paper will (a) identify key adaptations that many federal agencies need to make, (b) examine how some of the FedStats that are already up and running have dealt with these challenges, and (c) suggest some general lessons that other agencies might find helpful in creating a FedStats that both satisfies the requirements of GPRAMA and has an impact on performance.