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January 10, 2008

My Farewell

At my request, EPA's Assistant and Regional Administrators have been sending me their goals for 2008. Here are my goals for 2008  in the form of my farewell speech. No, I'm not leaving soon.

Deputy Administrator's Farewell Speech January 19, 2009

A teacher once asked her third grade class if any of the students had heard of Julius Caesar. “Yes,” said one girl in the back of the classroom. “What do you know about him?” the teacher asked. “Well, I know he lived a long time ago and he was really important.” “Anything else?” the teacher prodded. “Yeah, he gave really long speeches . . . and they killed him.”


I don't intend to talk for long.

For over three years I've been in charge of making EPA run better. I think it's the best job I'll ever have. It's tough to say ‘goodbye.'

It's been an exciting 42 months. First we set up a system for governing at the ‘corporate' level by creating quarterly management reports and meetings. Building off this I believe we have become the best-managed Agency in the Cabinet. Look at what we did in 2008 alone. We were:

  • the second Agency to achieve, and keep, the highest possible score on the President's Management Agenda;
  • the only Agency to create a new organization, the Program Analysis Division, whose full-time job is to look for ways to improve operations and outcomes.
  • one of a few agencies to systematically capture, disseminate, and validate best practices;
  • the first Agency to internally broadcast, live, regular senior management progress meetings;
  • the only Agency I know of to have our senior career managers regularly meet to make decisions regarding improving our operations and management systems;
  • and the first federal Agency to win the President's Quality Award for overall management back-to-back.

Part of this success is due to the fact we used measures to manage rather than just using them to report. Since 2005 we've reduced the number of measures by 20 percent making those that remain more vital. In 2008:

  • EPA, for the first time, corralled all our performance measures into one central repository;
  • all EPA offices were able to access all our measures electronically and some offices were able to create tailored electronic dashboards; and
  • managers were not slaves to measures but constantly asked the key question, “What are the outcomes we are really trying to achieve?”

We accomplished these things because hundreds of people at this Agency understand that when EPA works better, public health and the environment improve faster. Management initiatives are gobbledygook unless they lead to cleaner air, water, and/or land. It's that simple.

I'll miss working on EPA's operations and on EPA's mission. But most of all, I'll miss working with people who get up every morning, look themselves in the mirror and ask, “How can I improve what we do today?”

Thanks and farewell.


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Where would I look to find out more about the newly-created Program Analysis Division. For example is there an EPA website that provides more information. I am interested to learn how this new organization relates to the Evaluation Support Division in OPEI and the Office of Program Evaluation in OIG. Thanks for the great blog.

Perhaps its just me, but indulging in a pseudo farewell letter that talks about all the successes of a management team one still directs is narcissism. At the least, the title of the post is bound to cause confusion.

Actually, in the 1980s and into the mid-1990s, EPA had one centralized place to track performance. The Strategic Planning and Management System was run by the planning and policy office, and it contained and reported on a wide variety of EPA program performance measures and actual accomplishments. SPMS "spims" was created by EPA Deputy Administrator Al Alm. But EPA abandonded SPMS, later renamed STARS, due to the onset of GPRA, widespread staff dislike of activity reviews, and a hands-off attitude among senior staff.

The new EPA Program Analysis Division is being established in the Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI), which is in the Office of the Administrator here at EPA HQ. Briefly, the new division's work will complement that of the offices you mention. It will work in tandem with EPA programs to help provide managers with the information and tools they need to integrate program analysis into their key decisions in a timely way. The division's work will build on the significant and ongoing accomplishments of a number of existing EPA organizations such as OPEI's own Evaluation Support Division, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and the Office of Program Evaluation in the Office of the Inspector General. In the coming weeks we will be updating OPEI's web page (http://www.epa.gov/opei) with the new organization chart and more information about the new division.


Thanks for mentioning former Deputy Administrator Al Alm. The work we are doing could not have been accomplished without the progress made by Al and another former Deputy Administrator, Hank Habicht. We stand on their shoulders.

Great post!
My favorite quote -
"Management initiatives are gobbledygook unless they lead to cleaner air, water, and/or land. It's that simple."

In short, I have 10 goals for 2008:
1. Focus on outcomes not measures
2. Achieve five greens on the PMA
3. Create a Program Analysis Division
4. Create a Best Practices system
5. Broadcast some management meetings
6. Improve the Innovation Action Council
7. Win the President's Quality Award (again!)
8. Create "measures central"
9. All EPA offices access all our measures
10. A few offices use electronic dashboards

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