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Office of Personnel Management

                       Accompanying Report of the
                      National Performance Review
                      Office of the Vice President
                             Washington, DC
                             September 1993


Executive Summary 1

Redefine the Mission and Role of

the Office of Personnel Management

OPM01: Strengthen OPM's Leadership Role in Transforming Federal Human Resource Management Systems 7

OPM02: Redefine and Restructure OPM's Functional Responsibilities to Foster a Customer Orientation 11

OPM03: Change the Culture of OPM to Empower its Staff and Increase its
Customer Orientation 15

Agency Reinvention Activities 19

Summary of Fiscal Impact 25


  1. Summary of Actions by Implementation Category 29
  2. Accompanying Reports of the National Performance Review 31

Implementation Categories

Each action is followed by a number in parentheses that indicates the necessary avenue for effective implementation. Appendix A organizes all actions according to these categories.

(1) Agency heads can do themselves

(2) President, Executive Office of the President, or Office of

Management and Budget can do

(3) Requires legislative action

(4) Good idea, but will require additional work, or may be better

suited for future action


ABLE Able Beneficiaries Link to Employers

CSRA Civil Service Reform Act

GAO General Accounting Office

HRM Human Resource Management

IRS Internal Revenue Service

MARS Microcomputer Assisted Rating System

MSPB Merit Systems Protection Board

NPR National Performance Review

OPM Office of Personnel Management

SPARQ Serving with Pride and Reaching for Quality

SSA Social Security Administration

Executive Summary

"I'm in the front rank of radical change," James B. King, director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), told Government Executive magazine in mid-1993. "Why take it in little exotic chunks? Why don't we start right at the beginning and take it through to see how it can work best?"(1)

King is not shy about OPM's need to change, nor about its failures. A paper he prepared for the National Performance Review (NPR) said of the agency:

Its rebirth in 1979 as the Office of Personnel Management was intended to reshape its identity from rulemaker and enforcer to developer and supporter of management systems to make the federal agencies more effective in serving the public. Nevertheless, though some progress has been made, the process of change is incomplete. OPM still oversees a regulatory system based on central control, and has failed to embrace its new responsibility as a management agency.(2)

King's candor, and his bold approach to change, comes not a minute too soon for his 14-year-old agency, which has long disappointed its critics. Washington has never needed a new, revitalized OPM more than today. The NPR's vision of fundamental, far-reaching changes in all management systems will demand a major cultural change across the government over the next decade. OPM must lead the way in transforming that vision into reality, although many others also will play key roles--agency heads, the agency's human resource management (HRM) professionals, executives, managers, supervisors, employees, unions, and Congress.

Specifically, the NPR's recommendations for reinventing HRM call for maximum deregulation and delegation, trust, accountability for results, decentralization, and entrepreneurial behavior. Managers will be trusted to act fairly and responsibly in managing their employees, and will be held accountable for their actions and for achieving a productive, diverse, multi-skilled, customer-oriented workforce. Employees will be involved in decisions that affect them and will take pride in their contributions. Where employees are represented, labor and management will work cooperatively as partners in carrying out the organization's mission.

In this system, OPM (and agency HRM offices) must assume the primary role of consultant, providing expert advice and assistance, not acting as an obstacle to progress. In providing such leadership for the cultural change, OPM should take two concurrent paths. One is a long-term commitment to a new internal culture that emphasizes a results-oriented approach to HRM and eliminates the control mentality. The other is continuing the commitment to involve all stakeholders in redesigning HRM systems.


Created in January 1979 with passage of the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA), OPM was supposed "to strengthen the government's human resource infrastructure by implementing the framework outlined in the law, serving as the government's central personnel leader, and advising the President on personnel matters."(3) But CSRA also created serious problems for OPM, both vis-a-vis other personnel organizations and within OPM itself.

CSRA "fragmented the major responsibilities for federal personnel management by creating OPM, the MSPB [Merit Systems Protection Board] and the Federal Labor Relations Authority out of the Civil Service Commission," personnel expert Larry Lane has written. "Even within its own sphere of responsibility, OPM contained a basic contradiction. Its management doctrine was dedicated to control and accountability while its operational methodology was committed to decentralization and delegation. As a management agency, OPM had little that it could directly control. The meaningful action in implementing CSRA was at the agency level."(4)

While agencies moved to implement CSRA, OPM struggled to find its identity. It could not keep up with, let alone provide leadership and consultation to, the agencies. When OPM tried, its efforts were "universally regarded as too late, too inconsistent, and not sufficiently informed."(5)

During its formative years, OPM pursued two other policies that shaped its character and image. First was its "consistent pattern of excluding the federal personnel community from deliberations on policy and program development."(6) Although OPM met its objective in breaking with the past civil service practices that CSRA was reforming, it also cost itself any viable leadership role in the law's implementation.(7)

Second, OPM relied on a political control process in which the main players in policy development were the assistant secretaries' group.(8) This reliance on political appointees only grew in the Reagan years, when former OPM director Don Devine sought to replace OPM's traditional management orientation with an unswerving emphasis on responsiveness of the public service solely to political direction from within the executive branch. Devine sought to have OPM assert ideological leadership and to establish a system of political administration throughout the federal sector. This approach placed OPM in a bitter adversarial relationship with Congress, labor unions, and other representatives of public service interests.(9)

For the decade beginning in 1981, OPM's budget for direct personnel management activities decreased 45 percent in constant dollars, while the number of political appointees almost doubled.(10) "The career workforce at OPM was subject to frequent reorganizations, forced transfers, and assignments of individuals away from areas of their expertise."(11)

These events left an indelible mark on the agency and contributed to its reputation for ineffectiveness as a central management agency. Not surprisingly, Connie Horner confronted a demoralized agency when she succeeded Devine in 1985. In her major accomplishment, she reversed OPM's politicization by requiring participation of career executives in all discussions of policies affecting the federal workforce.

Constance Berry Newman, who served as OPM director from 1989 to 1992, began a serious rebuilding process and was particularly effective in involving the major stake-holders--unions, the personnel community, managers' associations--in strategic planning for federal HRM. Her initiatives, and the emphasis she placed on civil servants' role in delivering critical public services, began to give OPM a more positive image. But today, despite Newman's leadership, King still has a big job ahead of him.

A Reinvented OPM

To assume the position required in a reinvented government, OPM must alter its role, overhaul its structure, and change its internal culture.

Today, OPM conducts activities in three main categories. It develops legislation, policies, and administrative systems and pro-grams that support HRM; acts as evaluator and regulator of agency behavior; and provides governmentwide services, such as background investigations, examinations, training, and benefits administration. Un-fortunately, its varied roles interfere with its efforts to provide advice to the administration's top executives on transforming HRM.

Thus, OPM should take steps to clearly define and publicize its HRM policy, service, and leadership roles, such as by describing them in published documents. At the same time, it should delegate operational work to the agencies and create a reinvented program of oversight and assessment of the agencies.

Along with its role in a reinvented HRM process, OPM's structure needs an overhaul. Currently, the agency is run by a director and deputy director (both confirmed by the Senate), has 6,100 employees in Washington or field offices across the nation, has a $460 million administrative budget, and manages two trust funds with annual expenditures that total over $50 billion. While critics deride OPM's structure as ineffective, NPR recommendations will place even more demands on the agency.

To fulfill those demands, OPM should restructure itself to better address customer needs and to reflect its changed roles and functions. In that process, OPM should consider, among other things, how it can best reinvent its approaches to compliance and evaluation, integrate and refocus its research and development offices, reexamine the role and size of its Office of the Inspector General, improve interagency training functions to reflect and reinforce governmentwide policy and culture change, and help agencies build a more diverse workforce.

The CSRA's promise that agencies would enjoy more latitude over personnel matters has gone unmet, with OPM still maintaining central control. But if the need for change is clear, its prospects are less so. OPM's employees may lack the skills to serve as facilitators of government change.

With success, however, an internal cultural change at OPM can serve as a model for the rest of government. It will let OPM's staff play a more effective leadership role in governmentwide and agency cultural change and reinvention initiatives. In providing that leadership, OPM should use various interagency groups to involve more individuals in the change process. And in setting governmentwide policy, OPM should consider using negotiated rulemaking (reg-neg), which brings interests together in efforts to diminish conflict before policy changes are enacted.


  1. Shoop, Tom, "Managing Workers of America, Inc.," Government Executive (July 1993), p. 39.
  2. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Human Resources Management for the 21st Century (Washington, D.C., May 1993), p. 4.
  3. U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), Managing Human Resources: Greater Leadership Needed to Address Critical Challenges, GAO/GGD-90- 19 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, January 1989),
  4. 2.
  5. Lane, Larry M., "The Office of Personnel Management: Values, Policies, and Consequences," in Patricia W. Ingraham and David H. Rosenbloom, eds., The Promise and Paradox of Civil Service Reform (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992), pp. 106-7.
  6. Lane, p. 107.
  7. Ibid., pp. 107-8.
  8. Ibid., p. 108.
  9. Ibid., p. 107.
  10. Ibid., p. 109.
  11. GAO, p. 6, and Lane, p. 110.
  12. Lane, p. 110.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Redefine the Mission and Role of the Office of Personnel Management ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Strengthen OPM's Leadership Role in

Transforming Federal Human Resource Management Systems


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has been widely criticized since its creation in 1979 for failing to fulfill its role as the government's central personnel leader. In 1989, a General Accounting Office report concluded, "The government is not well-postured to meet future challenges, in part due to lack of effective OPM leadership."(1) OPM must transform itself into the leader and consultant originally envisioned by the Civil Service Reform Act to meet current demands being placed on federal agencies to provide higher quality services at less cost and produce the critical reforms needed to make the personnel system more responsive.

In testimony at his confirmation hearing, Director King emphatically stated his commitment to this leadership role:

Our major challenge will be to equip federal workers and managers to meet the President's and the public's expectations for the coming years: to become smaller but more productive. We cannot meet these expectations without the participation of the workers and managers who deliver the service. We must support them by reducing bureaucracy and creating a workplace that combines flexibility in procedure with accountability for results . . . . The Office of Personnel Management will play a central role in this government-wide transformation. In matters of management, OPM's orientation should be direction for and support of federal agencies, not micromanagement by rule. But even as we put more decision-making authority into the hands of our workforce, OPM must assume leadership and oversight for policies and programs that the President, Congress and the public expect will be indispensable throughout the government.(2)

The activities currently performed by OPM fall into three main categories:

developing legislation, policies, and administrative systems and programs that support human resource management;

acting as evaluator and regulator of agency behavior; and

providing governmentwide services, such as background investigations, examining, training, and benefits administration.

In addition, OPM performs many operational functions that place staff members in the decision processes of agencies.

Need for Change

OPM's multiple roles and responsibilities have diffused and weakened its ability to provide the leadership necessary to advise the administration's top executives on transforming human resource management. In its operational role, OPM is frequently placed in the position of second-guessing agency decisions and is perceived as interfering in agency operations. These perceptions in turn create a negative view of the agency, which inhibits its ability to exert a positive leadership role. This view is further rein-forced by OPM 's process-based compliance activity, which does not provide the kind of feedback or oversight needed for effective leadership.


  1. Clearly define and publicize OPM's policy, service, and leadership role in addressing critical human resource problems and transforming human resource administrative systems. (1)

The director of OPM should create and publish a document by spring 1994 that clearly delineates OPM's role as leader of the federal public service. Elements of this role should include:

advising the President on issues affecting the administration's management of federal employees;

demonstrating commitment to diversity;

planning for development of the workforce of the future and identifying strategies for providing the training essential to achieving culture change;

conducting research, providing consulting services, and advising agencies on best practices;

coordinating and sponsoring interagency cooperation on common issues;

influencing governmentwide change; and

leading by example.

2. Delegate operational work to the agencies. (1)

The director of OPM should immediately adopt and aggressively act on those recommendations contained in the National Performance Review Accompanying Report on Reinventing Human Resource Management that do not require legislation and that address changes in the hiring system and the classification system.

3. Supplement agency accountability for policy and program implementation with a reinvented program of oversight and assessment. (1)

The director of OPM should abolish the existing compliance program by June 1994 and design a new process that is consonant with the principles of deregulation, delegation, and flexibility within the framework of the merit principles. The current program was designed with an orientation toward strong centralized control and adherence to process and procedure as the measure of acceptability and effectiveness. It is incapable of providing the kind of oversight needed for the future in which results, mission accomplishment, and customer satisfaction are the primary measures of quality and effectiveness.

Under the envisioned human resource management system, agencies will have full authority and responsibility for running their personnel systems consistent with a limited set of OPM-identified standards supporting merit, diversity, and equity. OPM will provide guidance to agencies on establishing adequate accountability mechanisms. OPM will monitor agency activities within the identified standards, leaving operational human resource administration and management to agencies and their managers. This process will serve as the administration's overall assurance of the effectiveness of its separate human resource systems. In designing its oversight program, OPM should clearly identify those aspects or elements of human resource administration and management where it may be important to establish common structures or measures to ensure governmentwide equity and/or consistency with merit principles. OPM should involve agencies in the identification of these elements and the tests or measures that should be applied on an exception basis.


  1. U.S. General Accounting Office, Managing Human Resources: Greater Leadership Needed to Address Critical Challenges, GAO/GGD-89-19 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, January 1989), p. 7.
  2. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Governmental Affairs, testimony by James B. King, March 30, 1993.

Redefine and Restructure OPM's Functional

Responsibilities to Foster a Customer Orientation


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is headed by a director and deputy director appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The agency has approximately 6,100 employees located in the central office in Washington, D.C., and in field offices around the country. There are six major organizational components: Career Entry Group, Personnel Systems and Oversight Group, Retirement and Insurance Group, Human Resources Development Group, Investigations Group, and the Administration Group. Five regional offices carry out programs in the field: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. The Washington Area Service Center provides similar services to agencies in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In addition, there are service centers in key field locations, federal job information and testing centers, and other field duty stations.

OPM's administrative budget is about $460 million. It manages a trust fund of about $22 billion. Through the six organizational components and field units, OPM assumes roles in three broad areas:

establishing governmentwide policy and procedures for human resource management;

acting as a regulator and evaluator of agency behavior; and

providing governmentwide services.

These three roles are often performed within a more or less decentralized, but centrally regulated, federal human resource system.

Need for Change

OPM has had difficulty balancing its multiple roles and goals. OPM's goals often tend to conflict. OPM's internal structure inhibits the agency's ability to deal effectively with these issues. Some critics claim that OPM has lost its administrative capacity and doubt that the agency can "reconstitute the nature of the organization and reestablish the validity and usefulness of what it produces."(1) The Clinton/Gore transition team assessed the OPM structure as chaotic and suffering from a lack of integration.(2) As far back as 1989, the General Accounting Office recommended that "OPM initiate an internal management improvement and organization development agenda."(3)

Implementation of the National Performance Review (NPR) recommendations concerning human resource management will place new demands on OPM. Structural and organizational changes will be needed to ensure the agency's capability to respond to these demands and support the government culture change effort.


  1. Restructure OPM to reflect its commitment to meeting its customers' needs. (1)

Decentralizing personnel authority and assuming new roles will require OPM to restructure along lines that set a new standard for organizing human resource units throughout the federal government. OPM has an opportunity to reorganize itself in a way that removes current barriers to its own effectiveness and sends a message through-out government that OPM is indeed serious about significant change.

A changed OPM role presents the opportunity to reorganize and rightsize in a way that contributes to OPM's efficiency and effectiveness. This will involve both structural and cultural changes within the agency. Such restructuring should be timed to maximize OPM's contribution to achieving the administration's chief goal-- namely, the smooth and successful transition of responsibility for human resource management from OPM to federal agencies.

2. Downsize OPM to reflect its changed roles and functions. (1)

Implementation of NPR recommendations will require significant changes in the size and structure of OPM. Although OPM will have to decide how to approach this task, key considerations should include:

downsizing and realigning examining services, but funding that staff on a reimbursable basis (e.g., establishing a revolving fund or developing contracts with agencies);

helping agencies achieve a more diverse workforce through use of their personnel and management systems;

working with agencies to institute a more effective nationwide job information system;

integrating or refocusing OPM research and development offices;

completely reinventing OPM's approaches to compliance and evaluation;

integrating and changing aspects of OPM's information and database systems, including the Macon Service Center and Central Personnel Data File;

improving interagency training functions to reflect and reinforce governmentwide policy and culture change (this will be especially important to reinforce OPM's leadership role);

changing the Investigations Group from a monopoly to a service organization; and

reexamining the role and size of OPM's Office of the Inspector General, giving strong consideration to incorporating a more collaborative problem-solving role, as recommended in the NPR report on the inspector general function.

Cross References to Other NPR Accompanying Reports

Department of Justice, DOJ12: Streamline Background Investigations for Federal Employees.

Department of Treasury/Resolution Trust Corporation, TRE13: Streamline Background Investigations for Federal Employees.

Streamlining Management Control, SMC03: Change the Focus of the Inspectors General.

Improving Financial Management, FM06: "Franchise" Internal Services.


  1. Lane, Larry M., "The Office of Personnel Management: Values, Policies, and Consequences," in Patricia W. Ingraham and David H. Rosenbloom, eds., The Promise and Paradox of Civil Service Reform (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992), p. 116.
  2. Government Operations Cluster, "Office of Personnel Management: Presidential Transition Book," December 1992, p. 70. (Draft.)
  3. U.S. General Accounting Office, Managing Human Resources: Greater Leadership Needed to Address Critical Challenges, GAO/GGD-89-19 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, January 1989), p. 95.

Change the Culture of OPM to Empower its

Staff and Increase its Customer Orientation


Congress intended that the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) would "provide federal agencies with more authority and flexibility because it recognized that agencies bear primary responsibility for personnel management."(1) This authority has clearly not been delegated and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is still viewed as holding many of the controls that keep agencies from exercising the personnel authority that CSRA promised.

A recent assessment views OPM as having "attempted to move out of a role as a control agency and, instead, to reach out to serve the personnel needs of the wide range of federal departments and agencies. While a step forward, this shift in role has been limited. The relationships between OPM and agencies are devised as highly technical conversations between personnel specialists. Rarely were they linked to substantive policies for change."(2)

The current policy for change in the Clinton/Gore administration clearly calls for skills of collaboration and coordination across agency lines and within OPM itself. Changing from roles of technical specialists to facilitators of government change will be difficult for many employees in OPM.

Need for Change

Regardless of whether OPM refocuses its mission, restructures, or rightsizes, its real success will occur only to the extent that the OPM staff values the new direction and has the skills to perform OPM's new roles. Few would argue with the statement that the civil service system is "an administratively moribund system that disallows the exercise of human judgment and discretion."(3) Any judgment and discretion that is left often falls to personnel specialists who must attempt to interpret regulations in an extremely technical system.

This has created a "gulf between cultures--that is, between line managers and personnel professionals--that produces adversarial relationships."(4) Personnel specialists throughout government have become technicians with expertise in interpreting and applying rules and regulations. OPM, because of the volume of federal personnel regulations, has had to devote considerable resources to being able to provide such technical interpretations to support agencies. This has caused two sets of dependencies. First, agencies have come to see OPM as the super-expert charged with interpreting the Federal Personnel Manual, laws, and regulations. Second, many OPM staff members have come to believe that their careers are dependent on indepth knowledge of laws and regulations. This is all probably true; how-ever, it will make change at both the agency and OPM staff levels extremely difficult.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) found that OPM has "serious internal problems, and a diminished capacity to implement its initiatives."(5) In the same study, GAO identified management and morale problems. The following recommendations provide some suggestions for OPM to consider as it attempts to change its culture and help its staff assume new roles.


  1. Use OPM's internal culture change effort as a model for the rest of government. (1)

OPM has already recognized the need for change, under a new vision for OPM that will include the creation of a "work environment based on trust, commitment, participation, labor-management cooperation, and respect for employees as people, not just workers."(6) The changes OPM is embarking on will not be easy; they will involve downsizing and most likely some significant reorganization. OPM leadership will have to create a collaborative approach to this change. Success in OPM's change effort will enable OPM staff to have a more effective leadership role in governmentwide and agency culture change and reinvention initiatives.

The role of OPM as a leader of the federal public service demands that external stakeholders as well as internal staff be involved in the change process. A long-term strategy will be needed. Both understanding and commitment will be essential.

2. Use a variety of interagency groups to involve OPM's external stakeholders in changing federal human resource systems. (1)

The director of OPM should consider using the concept of virtual organizations as a primary thrust of OPM's new leadership role. Virtual organizations provide a different way of developing policies and obtaining consensus on new directions where multiple stakeholders are involved. They do not rely on the traditional hierarchical organization structures; rather, they involve cross-agency links where people and functions have common concerns. As a result, virtual organizations can serve as networks that help balance agencies' needs and desires for independence with OPM's leadership role of creating cooperative interdependence. This means that virtual organizations can provide better opportunities to use a wider range of methods for achieving agreement on new directives. Negotiated rulemaking is one such method.

OPM has already made significant strides in involving the federal personnel community in rethinking human resource systems. The National Academy of Public Administration believes that more must be done to move to a point where managers accept new roles in managing human resources. Specifically, "[e]ach major organization in the federal government . . . should have a Council on Federal Resources Management. The councils should be composed of top leaders, managers, employees, and employee representatives at the appropriate level."(7) These councils will be involved in developing an agency's organizational and business strategic plan. OPM should consider supporting such efforts as part of its leadership role.

The National Performance Review (NPR) recommendations provide the Director of OPM with opportunities to take a personal role through involvement in a number of interagency groups, which may become virtual organizations. These include the President's Management Council and the National Partnership Council. All of these initiatives put line management at the forefront of change in the executive branch. They also provide opportunities for modeling OPM's new leadership role for building consensus for change and applying negotiated rulemaking techniques.

Regardless of the direction OPM takes, it may derive two benefits by placing more decisionmaking authority in the hands of interagency groups and task forces: more agency ownership of decisions that affect agencies, and a diminished perception of OPM as a controller and regulator of agency behavior.

This approach will require OPM to take on more coordinative and collaborative roles. Staff will have to have the ability to broker relationships across agencies and develop advisory or interactive mechanisms for resolving common problems. Developing computerized information networks, facilitating teamwork, providing research findings, and sharing best practices will become essential.

3. Improve OPM's policymaking process through experimental use of negotiated rulemaking. (1)

The typical process for developing governmentwide human resource policies and rules involves a set of sequential steps including initial drafting by OPM staff; distribution for comment by agencies, unions, and other stakeholders; redrafting; publication in the Federal Register and receipt of public comments; and final drafting, often followed by additional distribution for comment prior to publication as a final rule. On a major policy issue, this process is time consuming and does not guarantee that the interests of all affected parties are represented and taken into consideration.

Negotiated rulemaking uses alternative dispute resolution techniques to improve rulemaking by forming a committee made up of representatives of affected interests to negotiate a proposed rule with the assistance of a trained facilitator. The objectives of regneg are to reduce the time and expense of rulemaking and to produce more acceptable and workable rules.

This process obviously would not be appropriate in all cases, particularly on controversial issues; however, the potential for improving customer satisfaction with human resource systems makes experimentation worthwhile. In connection with implementation of NPR recommendations, OPM should select one or more policy program areas (where legislation is not required) to test the effectiveness of negotiated rulemaking.

A public forum for soliciting comments is especially important on major policy issues because it ensures that stakeholders are made aware of proposed rules, have the chance to review them, and go on record with their comments. OPM should continue to use interagency groups, such as the Interagency Advisory Group, as a way to involve OPM's external stakeholders in the process of changing federal human resource systems.

4. Develop programs to help OPM and agency personnel specialists broaden their customer focus. (1)

One key method for both changing the OPM culture and supporting collaboration with agencies is through employee rotation programs. The Director of OPM should state as a matter of policy that a certain percentage of OPM professional positions will be filled on a rotational basis by agency, state, or local government personnel, or line managers. These positions will be filled on a three- to fiveyear reimbursable rotational basis. In addition, the director should set as a goal that all OPM staff will acquire some experience in a department or agency and that, in the future, most employees will have work experience in other organizations prior to working at OPM. This will have the added value of gaining fresh viewpoints from all agencies, and it will provide another method of developing agency staffs. Such a program will also encourage mobility, which provides additional opportunities to create culture change in the Federal Government. As OPM's role changes over time, a concerted effort needs to be made to expand the skills and orientation of the OPM staff through training and career development.

Cross References to Other NPR Accompanying Reports

Improving Customer Service, ICS01: Create Customer-Driven Programs in All Departments and Agencies that Provide Services Directly to the Public.

Improving Regulatory Systems, REG03: Encourage Consensus-Based Rulemaking.

Reinventing Human Resources Management, HRM13: Form Labor-Management Partnerships for Success.


  1. U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), Managing Human Resources: Greater Leadership Needed to Address Critical Challenges, GAO/GGD-89- 19 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, January 1989),
  2. 28.
  3. Radin, Beryl A., Professor, University of Southern California, "Some OPM Transition Issues," Washington, D.C., November 1992, p. 1.
  4. Horner, Constance, "Beyond Mr. Gradgrind: The Case For Deregulating the Public Sector," Policy Review (Spring 1988), p. 35.
  5. Perry, James L., "Strategic Human Resources Management: Transforming Federal Civil Service to Meet Future Challenges," Bloomington, IN, March 1993, p. 5.
  6. GAO, p. 6.
  7. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Human Resources Management for the 21st Century (Washington, D.C., May 1993), pp. 12-13.
  8. National Academy of Public Administration, Leading People in Change: Empowerment, Commitment, Accountability (Washington, D.C., April 1993), p. xv.

Agency Reinvention Activities


The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reinvention labs are initiatives that directly address the goals of the Vice President's National Performance Review (NPR): quantifiable achievements in the areas of cost savings, responsiveness to customer needs for service, and empowerment of employees to identify and implement improvements in the way OPM does business.

The three reinvention labs identified for the NPR in April 1993 are briefly summarized below. Two of the three labs involve use of improved technology and automation to provide staffing (employment) services that save time and money, providing greater value at lower cost. In the third lab, a claims processing branch is being recast as a self-managed work team. Expected results include both greater productivity and higher employee morale.

Ten other OPM initiatives are also underway or have results to report.

Description of Labs

  1. Telephone Application Processing.

OPM's search for better ways to serve its customers now lets job seekers file a job application directly to OPM's computer database in Macon, Georgia, by using a touch- tone telephone and a toll-free number. This initiative provides a simple way for interested individuals to apply for federal jobs and enables federal agencies to compete more effectively in the job market for qualified applicants. The system became operational on June 14, 1993, and covers professional nurses, an occupation for which there are continuing shortages of qualified candidates. Information about applying for jobs by telephone is provided to those who inquire about nursing jobs through OPM Service Centers, through the Career America (telephone) Connection, and an electronic bulletin board--the Federal Job Opportunities Board.

Applicants use their touch-tone telephones to provide information to the data-base about their education, experience, and availability for employment by responding to a series of automated voice prompts. The entire process takes about 10 minutes, and the applicant' s name and background information is available for referral to agencies within 24 hours. Agencies gain direct access to the applicant database using a touch-tone telephone. The referrals they request are telefaxed automatically within a matter of minutes.

2. Project Able Beneficiaries Link to Employers (ABLE).

On May 21, 1993, OPM launched an initiative to help disabled workers who are looking for work find suitable employment. The objective is to link disabled beneficiaries of Social Security programs with employers. Numerous studies show that people with disabilities want to work and can work, yet fewer than 1 percent of Social Security disability beneficiaries actually return to employment.

Under Project ABLE, OPM, the Social Security Administration (SSA), and state vocational rehabilitation offices in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia are working in partnership to create a new referral system that will place federal employers in direct contact with members of this targeted group. The project is designed to equip vocational rehabilitation counselors with the knowledge and tools to identify and certify job ready clients for referral using an OPM-sponsored automated referral database.

Training has been completed for 100 state vocational rehabilitation specialists, and disabled beneficiaries are being enrolled in the program. Beginning in October, federal agencies in the pilot areas will be able to obtain lists by telefax of job ready enrollees.

OPM anticipates that Project ABLE will be an excellent source for employers to locate job ready, qualified individuals with disabilities--increasing the hiring of these persons and enhancing the vocational rehabilitation services that are available to them. SSA believes that the project will increase access to rehabilitation services provided by the states and enrich understanding of SSA work incentives, employment safety nets, and other resources available to beneficiaries. SSA believes that Project ABLE will reduce dependence on disability, supplemental insurance, and other entitlement programs; increase opportunities for beneficiaries to gain independence; and enable them to become fully participating members of society.

3. Self-Managed Work Teams for Processing Retirement Claims.

OPM designated as one of its internal reinvention laboratories a retirement claims processing branch that is being recast as a selfmanaged work team. The goal is to forge a group of highly trained and highly motivated employees who are fully responsible for turning out a well-defined work product. As the employees' role changes, supervisors also change their role to that of coach, mentor, team facilitator, or team member.

The creation of self-managed work teams is a long-term investment. The first phase involves intensive training for team members, including supervisors and managers. Ultimately, the team will be strictly accountable for accurate and timely processing of retirement cases. To assess whether improvements are realized in these outcomes, the team's timeliness and error rate will be compared to historical data for the team in its more traditional configuration and also to data for comparable organizations not participating in this reinvention lab.

Other Reinvention Initiatives at the Office of Personnel Management

  1. Annuitant Tax Withholding.

In the past year, OPM's Retirement and Insurance Group has received more than a quarter million requests from its total 2.3 million annuitants to change the tax withheld from their retirement annuities. To make a request, annuitants must use a four-page set of instructions and worksheets to comply with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations. Many are multiple requests from annuitants who are not happy with the amounts being withheld from their monthly retirement benefits.

Most applicants know the amount of tax they would like to have withheld, but they are required to supply information, make calculations, and transfer the results to an application sheet to change the actual amount of tax withheld. OPM staff have created a computer program that allows an annuitant to enter the amount of money he or she wants to have withheld; the program changes the withholding amount accordingly, then calculates all of the proper withholding information that is required by IRS.

A test of the new, simpler, customer-oriented system is underway. It is expected to cut the average monthly volume of requests considerably. The first months for which data are available indicate progress--in June 1992, 32,000 requests were received; in June 1993, the number of requests had fallen to 15,000.

2. Health Benefits Enrollment Administration.

Federal employee health benefits program administration historically has been decentralized. Agencies send premiums to OPM and enrollment information to insurers. Frequent problems arise when insurers try to reconcile enrollment information they get from agencies and the actual premiums they get from OPM.

In response to the errors and the high cost of correcting them, OPM is conducting a pilot that demonstrates how to prevent the errors in the first place. In initial tests of the pilot, OPM has forwarded premiums and enrollment information to insurers at the same time. If the test proves successful, its scope will be expanded.

Two results are expected: (1) carriers will be able to match enrollees and the premiums paid; and (2) enrollees will be promptly and accurately recognized as members of the health insurance plan they have selected.

3. Simplified Selection Process.

OPM is sponsoring a Department of Agriculture demonstration project, the first to test simplification of hiring systems for both blue- and white-collar employees. The primary intervention is the simplified examining system, which uses two eligibility groupings (quality and eligible) rather than the rating and ranking process and rule of three in the traditional system. Managers can choose any individual from the quality group but must give absolute preference to veterans.

The simplified system has been a success. Asked about what they liked best, agency managers said they liked (1) more local control through direct hire, (2) more direct involvement by managers in the hiring process, (3) advertising for positions in professional journals and newspapers, and (4) having a larger pool of candidates referred for selection.

4. Automated Rating System.

The Microcomputer Assisted Rating System (MARS) is an automated system to rate and rank applicants for jobs where no written test is required. The system uses a computer scanned application form and a database of validated assessment procedures; that is, a machine creates a roster of applicants for a job. The system eliminates the need to prepare written crediting plans. The system also eliminates the need for manually rating the applications for each individual job. MARS currently is being tested in OPM's Dallas and San Francisco Regions; processing cost reductions are expected to be verified in the coming months.

5. 24-Hour Results for Clerical Testing.

OPM is looking for ways to streamline and improve the effectiveness of the clerical hiring process. Prior to October 1992, OPM examined and referred clerical candidates using methods and processes that required mailing test scores to computer facilities in Macon, Georgia, and certificates of scores to agencies who sought to hire clerical employees.

Now, OPM's San Francisco Service Center uses high-speed optical scanners for scoring written test answer sheets and qualifications information. The results will be entered into the inventory of certified eligible candidates for clerical jobs within 24 hours of testing--in many cases, on the same day the test is administered. Use of existing technology for this purpose will prevent loss of applications or testing documents and reduce the need for staff to process paper. Preliminary estimates indicate that reductions in processing costs could drop from $17 to $6 per application. Other benefits include a faster turnaround for agencies as well as for job applicants.

6. Job Information Services.

The Boston Service Center is one of a number of OPM offices implementing cost-effective improvements for providing customers with the latest federal employment information. In Boston, OPM's Service Center provides live operator service during business hours to callers from throughout New England. Local callers also have the option to switch calls to the National Jobline in Macon, Georgia, if they want information about jobs nationally and they do not need to speak to an operator. During non-business hours, local calls in Boston can be switched to the 24-hour National Jobline.

7. Managing Investigations of Prospective Federal Employees.

OPM's Federal Investigations Processing Center at Boyers, Pennsylvania, is the central receipt and control point for all OPM investigations of prospective federal employees. During the latter part of 1990, teams at Boyers began to analyze the Center's work to identify opportunities for process improvement. Measurable results can be seen in more timely completion of cases with less rework, and no increase in staff. The two highest volume types of cases are the National Agency Check and the National Agency Check with Inquiries. The Center produces over 150,000 of these work items annually. In the past two years, the average time to complete a National Agency Check has been cut from 49 to 23 days, and to complete a National Agency Check with Inquiries, from 64 to 52 days.

8. Agency-Based Recruitment Strategy.

OPM's agency-based recruitment strategy is designed to delegate to agencies all appropriate recruiting activities and decisions. One significant initiative under this strategy is a project called "Improved Timeliness of Examining Through a Shared Approach with Agencies." In examining and referring lists of candidates to agency managers with vacancies to fill, the Washington Area Service Center has reduced processing times by 67 percent since 1986--from an average of 30 work days to an average of 10 work days--while increasing the quality of candidates referred. This was done by inventing a new approach to examining--sharing the process with agencies as co-producers, and replacing the traditional, often ineffective, register system. Agency customers (managers) have shown their satisfaction with candidates by increased usage of OPM's Washington referral lists. In 1988, managers made selections from only 60 percent of these lists. Since 1988, usage rates have moved up, with managers currently making selections from 89 percent of the lists.

9. Serving with Pride and Reaching for Quality.

OPM's Washington Area Service Center has adopted a continuous improvement approach that they call SPARQ--Serving with Pride and Reaching for Quality. The Center has used this approach to identify and respond to customers' requirements in the delivery of staffing, training, and investigations services in the Washington area. The Washington Federal Job Information Center is by far the busiest in the OPM nationwide network, answering hundreds of thousands of employment inquiries each year. Under the SPARQ initiative, major customer service improvements were made while actually decreasing staff costs. A nationwide survey of customer expectations of federal employment centers found that the job-seeking public wanted real job vacancy information and access to a live person who could answer their questions. Because staffing up the Center was not financially feasible, the Washington staff developed a number of less costly alternatives.

They voice-recorded all of the current federal vacancies on an automated phone system and made it available to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They expanded hours during which the Center is open, introduced regularly scheduled walk-in (no appointment necessary) employment seminars, and rearranged the recorded information message matrix to clarify how to choose to speak to an information specialist without wading through numerous recorded messages. Results were remarkable. The number of customers served annually rose from about 30,000 to more than 90,000 telephone contacts and from about 25,000 to more than 47,000 walk-in or seminar contacts. The staff was simultaneously reduced overall by 15 percent from 1990 levels or about $165,000 per year.

10. Training Course Registration.

Employees who have been nominated for OPM training courses need to know whether their attendance is confirmed, whether they have been assigned to another class, or whether the class has been can-celled. Customers require this information so that they can schedule work assignments in their organizations and make economical travel arrangements. Therefore, when customers call to inquire about their status in a particular class, OPM must be able to reply accurately and promptly.

To keep customers satisfied and informed, OPM's Washington Area Service Center has established a uniform participant registration process that clarifies information about each course and sets a standard for mailing acceptance letters to registrants 15 days before classes start. An OPM team is currently studying the process to determine where other economies can be achieved and service to customers improved.

Summary of Fiscal Impact

The restructuring of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in connection with implementation of National Performance Review Recommendations should result in a reduction of more than 12 percent in OPM staff over the next 5 years.


Appendix A:

Summary of Actions by Implementation Category

(1) Agency heads can do themselves

OPM01.1 Clearly define and publicize OPM's policy, service, and leadership role in addressing critical human resource problems and transforming human resource administrative systems.

OPM01.2 Delegate operational work to the agencies.

OPM01.3 Supplement agency accountability for policy and program implementation with a reinvented program of oversight and assessment.

OPM02.1 Restructure OPM to reflect its commitment to meeting its customers' needs.

OPM02.2 Downsize OPM to reflect its changed roles and functions.

OPM03.1 Use OPM's internal culture change effort as a model for the rest of government.

OPM03.2 Use a variety of interagency groups to involve OPM's external stakeholders in changing federal human resource systems.

OPM03.3 Improve OPM's policymaking process through experimental use of negotiated rulemaking.

OPM03.4 Develop programs to help OPM and agency personnel specialists broaden their customer focus.

Appendix B:

Accompanying Reports of the National Performance Review

Governmental Systems Abbr.

Changing Internal Culture

Creating Quality Leadership and Management QUAL

Streamlining Management Control SMC

Transforming Organizational Structures ORG

Improving Customer Service ICS

Reinventing Processes and Systems

Mission-Driven, Results-Oriented Budgeting BGT

Improving Financial Management FM

Reinventing Human Resource Management HRM

Reinventing Federal Procurement PROC

Reinventing Support Services SUP

Reengineering Through Information Technology IT

Rethinking Program Design DES

Restructuring the Federal Role

Strengthening the Partnership in
Intergovernmental Service Delivery FSL

Reinventing Environmental Management ENV

Improving Regulatory Systems REG

Agencies and Departments Abbr.

Agency for International Development AID

Department of Agriculture USDA

Department of Commerce DOC

Department of Defense DOD

Department of Education ED

Department of Energy DOE

Environmental Protection Agency EPA

Executive Office of the President EOP

Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA

General Services Administration GSA

Department of Health and Human Services HHS

Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD

Intelligence Community INTEL

Department of the Interior DOI

Department of Justice DOJ

Department of Labor DOL

National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA

National Science Foundation/Office
of Science and Technology Policy NSF

Office of Personnel Management OPM

Small Business Administration SBA

Department of State/ U.S. Information Agency DOS

Department of Transportation DOT

Department of the Treasury/ Resolution Trust Corporation TRE

Department of Veterans Affairs DVA