Organizational Transformation:

Implementing Chief Operating Officer/Chief Management Officer Positions in Federal Agencies

GAO-08-34: Published: Nov 1, 2007. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2007.

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Agencies across the federal government are embarking on large-scale organizational transformations to address 21st century challenges. One proposed approach to address systemic federal governance and management challenges involves the creation of a senior-level position--a chief operating officer (COO)/chief management officer (CMO)--in selected federal agencies to help elevate, integrate, and institutionalize responsibility for key management functions and business transformation efforts. GAO was asked to develop criteria and strategies for establishing and implementing COO/CMO positions in federal agencies. To do so, GAO (1) gathered information on the experiences and views of officials at four organizations with COO/CMO-type positions and (2) convened a forum to gather insights from individuals with experience in business transformation.

A number of criteria can be used to determine the appropriate type of COO/CMO position in a federal agency. These criteria include the history of organizational performance, degree of organizational change needed, nature and complexity of mission, organizational size and structure, and current leadership talent and focus. Depending on these five criteria, there could be several types of COO/CMO positions, including: (1) the existing deputy position could carry out the integration and business transformation role--this type of COO/CMO might be appropriate in a relatively stable or small organization; (2) a senior-level executive who reports to the deputy, such as a principal under secretary for management, could be designated to integrate key management functions and lead business transformation efforts in the agency--this type of COO/CMO might be appropriate for a larger organization; and (3) a second deputy position could be created to bring strong focus to the integration and business transformation of the agency--this might be the most appropriate type of COO/CMO for a large and complex organization undergoing a significant transformation to reform long-standing management problems. Because each agency has its own set of characteristics, challenges and opportunities, the implementation of any approach should be determined within the context of the agency's specific facts and circumstances. Once the type of COO/CMO is selected, six key strategies can be useful in implementing such positions in federal agencies.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider the criteria and strategies for establishing and implementing COO/CMO positions as it develops and reviews legislative proposals aimed at addressing business transformation and management challenges facing federal agencies. In doing so, the implementation of any approach should be determined within the context of the specific facts and circumstances that relate to each individual agency.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On January 4, 2011, the President signed into law the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-352). Based on GAO's matter for Congress on implementing COO/CMO positions in federal agencies, the Act designated the deputy head of each agency, or the equivalent, to be Chief Operating Officer (COO). Among other responsibilities, according to the Act, the COO is responsible for providing overall organization management to improve agency performance and achieve the mission and goals of the agency through the use of strategic and performance planning, integrating management functions, measurement, analysis, regular assessment of of progress, and use of performance information to improve results.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To address business transformation and management challenges facing federal agencies, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should work with the President's Management Council to use the criteria that we have developed for determining the type of COO/CMO positions that ought to be established in the federal agencies that are members of the council.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On January 4, 2011, the President signed into law the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-352). In a June 13, 2011 Executive Order, and April 13, 2011 memo from OMB, and based on the Act, each agency is required to designate its deputy head, or the equivalent, to be Chief Operating Officer (COO). Each agency's COO is designated as the Senior Accountable Official responsible for leading agency performance and management efforts. The Deputy Director of Management of OMB, who is also the Federal Chief Performance Officer (CPO) and the Chair of the President's Management Council (PMC)is instructed to work with agencies on performance efforts, which will be led by the agency COOs.

    Recommendation: To address business transformation and management challenges facing federal agencies, the Director of OMB should work with the President's Management Council to, once the types of COO/CMOs have been determined, use the key strategies we have identified in implementing these positions.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On January 4, 2011, the President signed into law the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-352). In a June 13, 2011 Executive Order, and April 13, 2011 memo from OMB to implement the Act, each agency is required to designate its deputy head, or the equivalent, to be Chief Operating Officer (COO). Each agency's COO is designated as the Senior Accountable Official responsible for leading agency performance and management efforts. The Deputy Director of Management of OMB, who is also the Federal Chief Performance Officer (CPO) and the Chair of the President's Management Council (PMC)is instructed to work with agencies on performance efforts, which will be led by the agency COOs. We identified defining the specific roles and responsibilities of the COO/CMO position as a key strategy for implementing the position. In addition to leading agency performance and management efforts, the COO is responsible for leading efforts to reduce wasteful or ineffective programs, policies and procedures. Another strategy was to ensure that the COO/CMO has a high level of authority and clearly delineated reporting relationships. The Act requires that each agency is to designate its deputy head, or equivalent, as its COO. Also, each agency is to designate a Performance Improvement Officers (PIOs) who reports directly to the agency COO.

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