Federal Performance Czar: Same song, different verse?

Ah, a performance czar for the feds. What a concept. That Barack Obama has appointed Nancy Killefer, a former treasury official under President Clinton and ...
by | January 9, 2009

Ah, a performance czar for the feds. What a concept.

That Barack Obama has appointed Nancy Killefer, a former treasury official under President Clinton and now an executive with the venerable management consulting firm of McKinsey and Co., as the federal government's first chief performance officer follows a seemingly inexorable pattern when it comes to newly elected chief executives.

Virtually every new mayor, governor or president since 1950 (or maybe 1850) has swept into office promising to banish waste and inefficiency from government through some sort of top-to-bottom overhaul of the enterprise over which they've just taken charge. Under Ronald Reagan it was the Grace Commission. Clinton-Gore "reinvented" government, an idea ripped off from Texas, which had "reinvented" itself under Governor George Bush. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got into the act with his "blow-up-the-boxes" plan, which went nowhere.

Encyclopedias could be written about the phenomenon. So here we go again. Don't get me wrong. I'm not completely against these efforts, but too often they seem to assume that the concept is somehow completely new when in fact quality initiatives -- by some name or other -- have been bumping around government in some way, shape or form as long as we've had government.

Killefer, a veteran of good management practice and the federal government, is no doubt aware of this. Here's hoping she builds on existing initiatives and ideas -- all the while supporting those brave souls in the federal trenches who day in and out already are trying to do things smarter, better and more efficiently. I wish her luck.

(Mostly though, I wish she would buy 50,000 copies of my book, Measuring Up 2.0 , and pass those around Washington, D.C. I swear it would help.)

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