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Publication Number: FHWA-RD-02-101
Date: January 2003
FY 2002 Performance Report
IV. Performance Management
The OMB recently adopted relevance, quality, and performance as their investment criteria in Federal research. The criteria were established to conform to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and to reflect the inherent challenge of measuring research outcomes. R&D investment criteria are designed to help improve R&D program management, funding decisions, and public understanding of the potential benefits of investing in Federal research. The OMB expects agency R&D managers to demonstrate the extent to which their programs meet the following three tests:
Relevance. R&D programs must be able to articulate why this investment is important, relevant, and appropriate. Programs must have well conceived plans that identify program goals and priorities and identify linkages to national and customer needs.
Quality. R&D programs must justify how funds will be allocated to ensure quality R&D. Programs allocating funds through means other than a competitive, merit-based process must justify these exceptions and document how they maintain quality.
Performance. R&D programs must be able to monitor and document how well this investment is performing. Program managers must define appropriate outcome measures and milestones that can be used to track progress toward goals, and assess whether to increase or redirect funding. Descriptions of performance should not, however, be limited only to quantitative measures.
RD&T made considerable progress over the past year in areas directly related to the OMB’s recommendations, most notably by developing a lab assessment process that will incorporate expert peer reviews to improve TFHRC laboratories’ quality and performance. Several retrospective RD&T benefit studies were conducted to identify key performance measures and collect data that will be used to track progress and identify the research contribution to FHWA goals and outcomes. This information will be important as we better define the link between research activities and program outcomes.
FHWA’s Office of RD&T coordinates the research and technology program and supports FHWA and U.S. DOT strategic goals for the Nation’s transportation system. The FY 2002/2003 RD&T Performance Plan outlines FHWA research priorities and strategies and shows a clear link between research program goals and FHWA and DOT strategic plans. Research highlighted in the FHWA RD&T plan focuses on providing solutions to complex technical problems by developing economical, environmentally-sensitive designs; efficient, quality-controlled construction practices; and durable materials. The result will be a safer, more reliable highway transportation system.
The Research and Technology Coordinating Committee (RTCC)
The National R&T Partnership Initiative
The primary purpose of the performance management team is to assist the RD&T leadership developing, coordinating, and implementing organizational performance improvement efforts. Performance management efforts currently underway include:
RD&T laboratory assessments will be unbiased, independent expert or peer reviews of the technical and scientific merit of research conducted at TFHRC. The assessment process is designed to:
One of the conclusions of NCHRP Synthesis 300, Performance Measures for Research, Development, and Technology Programs was that “different types of evaluation methods are appropriate for different types of research projects.” This holds true across organizational functions, as well. The RD&T Performance Management Framework chart identifies existing performance measures and assessment mechanisms used by unit managers. It integrates these measures and mechanisms across management functions using FHWA’s Baldrige-based corporate management strategies. This approach enables RD&T to manage, analyze, and integrate information obtained from a variety of sources. It also helps organize the various dimensions of program results analyses, such as financial performance, customer feedback, and business results. The RD&T Leadership Council uses this framework as a tool to assess unit performance measurement activities and to identify measurement gaps.
RD&T conducted studies to identify quantifiable and articulable research benefits that demonstrate their strategic links to FHWA goals and outcomes. We are conducting these evaluations with the understanding that a combination of evaluation methods within a unified framework is needed. The recent NCHRP Synthesis 300 report supports this conclusion. RD&T benefit assessments are largely retrospective analyses and will require data collection throughout the product development and delivery cycles to produce meaningful conclusions. In the short term, RD&T benefit studies will provide a workable taxonomy for data collection and performance measurements that can be applied to a cross-section of RD&T products—ultimately resulting in customer focus improvements, broader programmatic analyses, and more effective business results reports.
Highway Safety Information System
A synthesis report covering lessons learned from the pilot studies will be forthcoming. Highlights will be included in the next RD&T performance report.
This year’s self-assessment process contained more approach variations, compared with those done in previous years. Variations in RD&T office size and complexity, plus logistical scheduling issues for employees, facilitators, and customer involvement led to several offices seeking a more flexible, abbreviated format. This did not, however, diminish the process effectiveness. Participants agreed that the experience was still very valuable for providing an opportunity to review and capture the year’s achievements, to refocus on FHWA’s goals, and to supply a forum for employees to discuss organizational concerns.
Comments related to RD&T offices’ relationships with customers and stakeholders were generally positive and reflected a greater awareness of their needs and improved communication, overall. Roughly 90 percent of research projects are on schedule at this point in the year, and customer surveys conducted by several RD&T offices confirmed better timeliness of response and delivery. There also is a recognition that RD&T’s role is expanding. Several offices’ comments support this conclusion and were centered on the need for more joint planning, better customer survey processes, additional face-to-face contact (meetings, visits, etc.), and greater outreach activities.
Although several offices listed the increased need for joint planning as an area for improvement, RD&T accomplished much in this area over the past year. Many RD&T offices introduced initiatives such as the Infrastructure Long Range Vision, the advanced acquisition planning system, the FHWA security product team, the Western Resource Center technology transfer conference, the advanced research program, and efforts aimed at Title V reauthorization—just to name a few. These achievements link directly to the RD&T “Challenges and Commitments” established last year.
Perceptions of employee development and work-life issues were positive. Offices reported strengths in areas such as flexible work scheduling; work environment; support for training and participation in professional associations; awards and incentives; and relationships with management. The updated technical career track program was an overwhelming success, and RD&T research offices were well-represented in the program this year.
Finally, several key process management improvements were made this year because of input from the previous year’s assessment. These include the updated Leadership Council Action Agenda checkpoint tracking system and improved council meeting format; an advanced acquisition planning system pilot that will be adopted FHWA-wide; the development of a State planning and research (SP&R) handbook for FHWA Field Offices, and the completion of the SP&R (CFR Part 420) rule revision to reflect current practices, conform to plain language standards, and facilitate the overall State planning and research administration processes.
RD&T Organizational Chart
TRT Terms: Highway research--United States--Periodicals, Transportation--Research--United States--Periodicals, Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center--Planning.