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Department Updates


Implementing Reform at Commerce: The First Year

Laying the Groundwork
Shortly after President Bush issued his plan for management reform, it was clear that achieving success at Commerce rested on obtaining the active involvement of our senior management team as early as possible. Although a strong framework of career employees with responsibility for overseeing administrative functions was already in place, we knew that the sea change called for under the President’s Management Agenda could be brought about only by political appointees and career staff and executives working together.

Our initial step was to convene a meeting of senior managers from all of our bureaus. This was followed by one-on-one meetings with the bureaus to highlight those areas requiring the most directed focus - competitive sourcing, performance management and budget integration, and strategic human capital management. Accountability for implementing the management agenda is being ensured by incorporating it into the Department’s Annual Performance Plans and performance plans for all Senior Executive Service managers.

Our Biggest Challenge
Of the five initiatives, strategic human capital management has been the most challenging. This area represents a growing concern with potential to significantly impact the mission activities of the Commerce Department. Like many other agencies, it is an area in which we have significant opportunities for improvement.

Our initial effort - compiling a first-ever workforce assessment of our 37,000 employees - resulted in a comprehensive and informative document. The next step - developing a workforce restructuring plan - was a greater challenge for several reasons.

First, political leadership was not in place in all bureaus until early this spring, which caused some delays in finalizing plans in several of our largest bureaus. Also, comprehensive and systematic workforce planning requires complex and diverse skills, some of which had to be strengthened - and which will require on-going attention and adaptation. To confront this challenge, we convened a crosscutting team of Department staff to develop a common approach to analyzing workforce needs, planning recruitment and outreach efforts, and modifying human resource policy and systems delivery.

In June, we issued a supplement to an interim workforce plan that had been submitted earlier to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The final product, prepared in consultation with OMB and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), is a stronger and more cohesive blueprint for strategically identifying and addressing our long-term workforce requirements.

Lessons Learned
Strategic management of human capital is an important and complex activity. We have redirected the resources needed to provide the very focused attention that it requires.

Internal collaboration is essential. These five initiatives are linked and must be considered in a comprehensive manner. At Commerce, these activities are coordinated between the Offices of the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration and the Chief Information Officer.

Supplementing in-house talent with external expertise as needed to respond to specific challenges is critical. In our case, we worked closely with OMB and OPM to finalize our workforce restructuring plan. We also consulted with the National Academy of Public Administration during this exercise.

It has been almost a year since the President first issued his management agenda. We recognize that there is much more to be accomplished over the next two-and-a-half years, and we are confident that we are on the right track.


Sam Bodman

Department Updates:
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