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The Balancing Act

The Balancing Act

BLM's Balanced Measures

BLM manages about 264 million acres of land, primarily in the Western United States. As a result of several conflicting trends over the past several years, the Bureau's workload increased significantly while its organizational focus became unclear. The demands the Bureau faced included:

  • increased population migration from the East and Midwest to the West,
  • increased applications for oil drilling permits,
  • increased number of endangered species requiring protection, and
  • increased recreational land use.

Along with its difficulty in prioritizing these competing demands, BLM also experienced a significant reduction in its budget and personnel from 1993 to 1999. Additionally, approximately 75 percent of its employees' performance plans were at least 10 years old, and an employee survey conducted in 1998 indicated that employee satisfaction was significantly declining. To help address these factors, BLM adopted balanced measures that:

  • permit systematic evaluations of performance,
  • link measures to desired performance, and
  • drive management action to create organizational change.

BLM's Reporting System

BLM began its balanced measures approach by analyzing the various work processes against how they help to deliver each of its mission goals. The Bureau uses a management information system that takes into account information such as customer and performance data, managerial cost data, and budget and fund status. The system features standard software across all components and provides standardized reports to all Bureau employees on its intranet, with information updated every 24 hours. The reports are centered on the three balanced measures, referred to as the Financial Perspective, the Customer Perspective, and the Learning and Growth Perspective.

The Financial Perspective seeks to link costs with the Bureau's mission goals and outputs. For example, one of the reports compares across states the unit cost to process applications to permit drillings. The Financial Perspective has helped to:

  • link costs with outputs and mission goals,
  • identify improvement opportunities, and
  • direct budgetary resources to achievement of performance targets.

For the Customer Perspective, the Bureau uses national and state surveys, comment cards, and other information sources to:

  • establish national customer satisfaction performance goals, and
  • analyze survey data to identify opportunities to improve service quality.

For its Learning and Growth Perspective, BLM conducts employee surveys, workforce analysis, and management reviews to help determine what its employees should know, what they should do differently, and what new capabilities they need.

Ms. Hatfield concluded by noting that balanced measures have helped the Bureau achieve several significant results, such as substantial management improvements. She identified these keys to successfully implementing balanced measures:

  • having balanced measures "champions,"
  • keeping goals in focus,
  • putting data and systems infrastructure in place, and
  • demonstrating that decisions are influenced by the balanced measures.

For more information, call Bob Doyle at 202-208-4864.

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