Dustin Brown is the Deputy Assistant Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget. He is a member of the Senior Executive Service and helps lead the Office of Performance and Personnel Management which is responsible for government-wide efforts to improve agency and cross-agency mission performance, and works with the Office of Personnel Management to advance Federal human capital issues. He also helps lead the Administration’s efforts to modernise the interagency infrastructure permitting process and reform the suitability and security clearance process. We sat down with him to discuss his thoughts on progress and performance.
Q: What strategies and systems do you employ at the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) to measure progress?
With enactment of the GPRA Modernization Act in 2010, OMB now plays a central role in managing the processes that guide agency strategic planning, goal setting, performance reviews, and performance reporting. This includes managing the government-wide processes related to the three tiers of the performance framework including a limited number of Cross Agency Priority Goals (15); Agency Priority Goals (99); and strategic objectives (380) that are comprehensive of agency missions.
Metrics and milestones are reviewed quarterly by OMB and by agency leadership for each of the Priorty Goals. Agencies conduct annual strategic reviews that assess each of their strategic objectives using performance measures, evidence and other sources of information.
Q: What are your greatest challenges in mobilising your teams across all the varied functions you oversee?
Increasingly the problems we face require us to work across multiple agencies. However, there is limited capacity that can be dedicated full time to this work given most capacity is dedicated to specific programs. Historically-speaking, maintaining momentum from one Administration to the next has been challenging as well, given the desire to throw out much of what the previous Administration has put in place.
Q: What was one of your most successful programmes?
Having each agency set a limited number of “Priority Goals” has been very successful. Agency leadership engaged more than past efforts due to the fact that we asked leaders to set a limited number of goals aligned to Administration priorities.
Since then, we have expanded this to setting a limited number of “Cross Agency Priority Goals”. They have been effective tools for sustaining leadership engagement in performance management and improvement. We worked with Congress in 2010 to put this into law.
“The public sector needs to do a better job of defining and measuring success.”
Q: How do you envision the OMB in 10 years’ time?
There is increasing interest in using OMB’s convening authority to lead on more issues that require multiple agencies to coordinate. OMB is uniquely positioned to play a key role in this area. For example, my office is currently responsible for leading efforts to reform the government-wide security clearance process, modernise the infrastructure permitting process, and improve customer service for those programs with the highest interactions with the public. I could imagine more OMB resources dedicated to this function over time.
Q: How can Australian public sector professionals apply your learnings in senior leadership engagement?
Firstly, the public sector needs to do a better job of defining and measuring success. Secondly, sustaining leadership engagement in performance management and implementation issues is challenging. Most of the pressures will always be to focus on policy, communications, legislation, and budget.
Establishing regular, data-driven reviews with the most senior leaders willing to commit time to leading these reviews is a key strategy for getting started. Finally, it is important to balance between government-wide requirements and providing agencies with sufficient flexibility to tailor requirements to adapt to their organisation’s culture, mission, etc.