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Improving Performance Through Partnership

Improving Performance Through Partnership

Partnership. Consensual Decision Making. Employee Involvement. Good Government Standard. These are some of the key concepts and underlying philosophies of the report of the National Partnership Council. These ideas are the basis for proposed changes to be made in Federal human resource management, with improving Government performance as a primary goal.

On January 31, 1994, the Council presented its report to the President proposing legislative changes in staffing, classification and pay, performance management, and labor relations. Council members expressed their support for the direction of the report's proposals and the process used to develop the report, but noted more work is needed.


The Council considers its recommendations as a blueprint for Partnership which is based on the National Performance Review finding that: "We can only transform Government if we transform the adversarial relationship that dominates Federal union-management interaction into a partnership for reinvention and change." It is through partnership that agencies have the best hope of improving individual and organizational performance.

Consensual Decision Making

Consensual Decision Making (or interest-based problem-solving) is the process under which the Council has worked from the beginning. In consensual decision making, rather than approaching the bargaining table with predetermined positions and proposals in hand, management and union partners come to the table with defined interests and open minds for the purpose of developing solutions together. Consensual decision making in the context of performance management means that both managers and union representatives would identify their interests in improving individual and organizational performance and then together develop programs and processes to meet those needs.

The Council proposes a new Government-wide performance management system based on the principles of flexibility, decentralization, and employee involvement. Flexibility and decentralization allow agencies and their employees to develop programs that meet their own needs and interests. Employee involvement ensures that all interests are considered in the decision making process. It also promotes the program's success through greater employee acceptance and buy-in. "Employee Involvement puts energy into the workplace," said Robert M. Tobias, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

To support employee involvement and organizational performance improvement initiatives, the Council places more emphasis on group performance and awards. The Council suggests that agencies could design their performance management programs to operate almost entirely at the group level while still retaining some element of individual accountability. Agencies are also encouraged to establish gainsharing programs.

Good Government Standards

Above all, Council members stressed the importance of their proposed Good Government Standard, with several agreeing that the good Government standard is the single most important breakthrough presented in the report. In decision making processes, the Council suggests that proposed solutions should meet the following criterion: does the solution support improved Government performance? The good Government standard is important because it "emphasizes how labor and management can jointly serve the public," said Alice M. Rivlin, Deputy Director of OMB.

In summary, the Council's report gives direction to the future of performance management as well as other key human resource management systems in the Federal Government. As John N. Sturdivant, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, stated, "The changes outlined in this report are the linchpin to the Vice President's efforts to reinvent government."

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