New SES performance system scheduled for fall 2011

August, 09, 2011

According to, the Office of Personnel Management is targeting the completion of  the design of a new performance management system for senior executives by the end of September 2011. However, experts in the area of expertise seem skeptical as to the timeline. flexibility and practicality of the venture.

Last week, in a memo to federal human resources officials, OPM Director John Berry called the timeline for the design of a standard Senior Executive Service performance management system “very aggressive,” saying agencies would implement the new tool in phases during the next two years to ensure a smooth transition.

“This concept will significantly improve the certification process and the overall performance management of senior executives by providing a common framework and structure — while enabling agency customization — thereby improving consistency, clarity, transferability, efficiency and accountability,” the memo said referring to the creation of a uniform design.

Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said she would be surprised if a new framework is completed by the end of September. “I think this is easier said than done,” she noted.

Bonosaro said SEA is still waiting for specific details on what a standard performance system for senior executives would actually look like. One modification under consideration, she said, is the expansion of executive core qualifications, which could then be applied throughout a senior executive’s career instead of just at entry into the SES. But it’s unclear how that would specifically work as a set of permanent metrics, Bonosaro added. The executive core qualifications, which are used to select SES candidates, include five core competencies: leading people, leading change, results driven, business acumen and building coalitions.

There are a variety of different SES performance management systems and approaches to executive evaluations currently in use. “The absence of a standardized system has also created complications and administrative burdens for agencies to achieve approval and certification of their performance appraisal systems,” the memo said.

Bonosaro said the concept of streamlining and standardizing a performance system works in theory, but the devil is in the details. “As a general principle, uniformity sounds fine,” she said, pointing out it’s a question of how uniform and how flexible a system is that determines its success.

The President’s Management Council started a work group in 2010 to look at ways to streamline the performance evaluation system for senior executives, as part of a broader initiative designed to improve and enhance the SES. The recommendation to create a standard system came out of that work group. The council now has charged another group with devising the actual nuts and bolts of the framework for implementation.

In a February memo to members of the Senior Executive Service, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients and Berry wrote that tight budgets, along with a growing workload, impending retirements and limited opportunities for development are straining the SES workforce. One of the recommendations in that memo included strengthening personnel performance management and simplifying administrative processes. The recommendations were developed in coordination with more than 50 officials from 19 agencies and outside groups, including the Senior Executives Association.

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