Today’s Public Administrators asks administrators working in the public sphere about their experience implementing and shaping policy on the ground. This segment talks with 2014 Trachtenberg alum and MPA Juliana Crump, who is now a Performance Manager in the Office of Performance and Personnel Management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). We sit down to ask her about performance management and her transition from Trachtenberg to working for the government. All views expressed are her own and not necessarily the views or position of the U.S. government.
Q&A compiled by Megan Mattson, Executive Editor
Q: What makes performance management important? Why does that matter in government today?
A: We want federal government programs to be as efficient and as effective as possible. Someone needs to step back and take a look at how they’re performing, where they should be, and if they’re not performing at the levels they need to, how we’re going to get there. We can use effective, evidence-based policy-making or we can leverage the federal performance management framework, which includes things like goal-setting and reporting publicly on progress made. It’s all about taking a step back. That’s really important because sometimes you can fall into a siloed point of view if you’re just working on one program or issue area. Taking a government-wide, cross-cutting look is something that is unique to OMB.
Q: How does performance measurement differ in the public sector from the private sector?
A: We have a number of statutory and legal requirements. The GPRA Modernization Acts of 1993 and 2010 have helped set the standard, but there is some flexibility in how it’s implemented. The PMIAA, the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act of 2016, has helped set the standard for how we develop program management standards and practices. We’re also working on government-wide benchmarks that are appropriate for measuring performance in the public sector.
Q: Can you speak more about some of the tools that OMB uses to look at programs?
A: We use the federal performance framework established by the GPRA Modernization Act, and coordinate the development and publication of Agency Strategic Plans, Agency Priority Goals, Annual Performance Plans, and Annual Performance Reports. We also oversee Performance.gov, a website that we use to improve government transparency and accountability by centralizing reporting of existing goals, performance, and programs. Additionally, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) is published at the beginning of every presidential administration and sets the strategy for performance management improvement. The PMA will vary from administration to administration, so performance managers must have the flexibility to shift priorities from one year to the next.
Q: What does it look like to be a performance manager?
A: It really varies. In our office, we have a number of key priorities that we work on including agency burden reduction and infrastructure permitting. One project that stands out was the Executive Order 13781, Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch. The EO required OMB to post a notice on the federal register with a link to where the general public could provide feedback on where they saw areas for efficiency and improvement in the federal government, including agencies and programs that they thought should be consolidated or eliminated. Over the summer, I published the federal register notice and led the gathering of all public comments. We ended up receiving over 106,000 comments in three months! I was tasked with organizing the comments, searching for common themes, and sending the public comments to agencies for consideration in the development of their reform plans.
When people think of Washington, they think it’s the moon and they often feel disconnected. As performance managers it’s important to find ways to connect with the general public and improve their experience in actually interacting with government. Ultimately, our goal is to improve the confidence of the American people in the capability of government by holding agencies accountable for achieving program results.
Q: What are some of the main challenges when it comes to performance management?
A: One of the main challenges we face is just the sheer magnitude of Federal government programs. It’s hard to make meaningful impact and improvements when we have such an enormous scope. When the scope of any project is too large, it’s hard to see those performance shifts in the directions you want in a short period of time. It’s much easier to notice trends and impact when you’re able to target very specific programs, but our mission is to improve the overall outcomes of all Federal government programs, which can be challenging.
Q: What was the transition from Trachtenberg into OMB like?
A: Seamless! Trachtenberg helped make the transition to OMB super smooth. The network is fantastic. I get to work with former teachers, including Nancy Potok, and fellow alum like Malissa Levesque. I do find that there is overlap with things that I encountered in grad school. For example, I still work with my MPA capstone clients in my current role at OMB, so I think that was the most applicable part of the program for me. I think it’s important to stay connected with the Trachtenberg community because D.C. is a small town, and our community definitely gives you a leg up when you’re first starting out. We’re lucky to have an extremely active and engaged alumni network, and I love being a part of it.