Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Moynihan advises government managers on performance management

Professor Donald Moynihan shared research on the use of performance management to govern in a presentation to senior federal government managers in Chicago in January. The talk was part of a leadership series, "Chicago Federal Leadership Forum: Insights for Executives," hosted by the Chicago Federal Executive Board.

La Follette School photo by Bob Rashid

Donald Moynihan

Presentation slides

While performance management has been around for decades, it has gained in influence in the last two decades as a tool that helps agencies justify their actions in terms of outcomes, Moynihan says. "Performance management helps hold institutions accountable, but it faces a number of implementation difficulties"

A federal law passed in 1993, the Government Performance and Results Act, required agencies to craft five-year strategic plans, annual plans and performance reports. "Because the mandate came in the form of a statute, it promised more longevity than previous efforts at government reform, and it remains the backbone for monitoring the efficiency of federal agencies," Moynihan says. "In addition, state governments followed the GPRA model, and by the end of the 1990s, all state governments had some form of performance reporting system."

Moynihan documents these reforms and developments in his award-winning 2008 book The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform.

In Chicago, Moynihan outlined the differences between the Obama and the George W. Bush administrations in their use of performance management. Bush sought to integrate performance data into the budget process, with mixed results. Moynihan sees similarities between Obama and Bush in their administrations' use of performance data, but he notes that Obama may revise the Program Assessment Rating Tool that the Office of Management and Budget uses to evaluate programs. Congress and agencies often criticized PART, Moynihan adds, but he expects Obama to retain it in some form.

"Over a period of five years, PART generated an enormous amount of data across government programs," Moynihan says. "If nothing else, the Obama White House has shown a preference for data."