Change Management and the President’s Management Agenda (PMA)

In FMP’s most recent blog post, “Change Management-Getting Down to Basics,” our authors identified what change management is, why it is so hard, and why it is so important. FMPer, Lauren Wright, having spent 32 years in the Federal government and the last 18 years in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has seen firsthand how hard change really is, and how committed both leadership and frontline staff need to be to make even small changes stick for the long term. Lauren details her insights below and highlights change management evident in Presidential Management Agendas.

Presidential Management Agendas (PMA) are the long-term strategies and goals that the Administration has for improving and/or modernizing government. Each Administration issues a new agenda. Due to the significant changes in strategies and goals listed, a lot of change management takes places upon implementing all those changes. Each of the agendas also made perfect sense for that particular time period and each achieved both positive and negative results. So, let’s take a brief tour through PMAs in the most recent years and touch upon some of the results achieved.

The Clinton Administration: The Clinton Administration developed an initiative called “National Performance Review” (in the second term the name changed to “National Partnership for Reinventing Government”). The following are the principles developed by the reinvention team.

The Bush Administration: Fast forward eight years to the Bush Administration and the first, formally titled “President’s Management Agenda (PMA)” was developed by the new administration. This agenda focused on five Government wide initiatives.

The Obama Administration: During the Obama Administration, each term contained four broad initiatives and the inclusion of sub-initiatives.

The Trump Administration: Fast forward to 2018 and here we are!

The reason I have laid out each of these agendas is to show that while descriptors are different, the fundamental goals are all still similar. Each agenda built off the one before it. The major differences are in how to achieve a more accountable, fiscally responsible, modernized federal government that touches almost every aspect of taxpayers’ lives. I believe the closest we came to doing this was with the Scorecard method under the Bush administration. As someone who was responsible for the agency scorecard at OMB (yes, we were scored) I knew what the criteria was to “get to green” and participated in the quarterly updates with both OMB and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). I will admit, these were often contentious meetings, but in the end, we were able to see progress in meeting the goals outlined. The downside of the scorecard process, in my humble opinion, was that oftentimes the goal posts would change, making it impossible to “get to green” in some areas.

In the end, I believe each Administration truly had the best of intentions to achieve the monumental goal of an improved federal government. However, trying to move giant steps in limited amounts of time, with resistance from many directions, and little support from Congress, makes each PMA a change management nightmare. While we oftentimes think about change management within the confines of a specific project or organization, remembering that the same principles and challenges exist for changes of national importance drives home the criticality of investing in solid change management practices.

If you’re interested in learning more about FMP’s change management capabilities and services in this area, please contact BD@fmpconsulting.com

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