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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-05-040
Date: March 2005
Office of Research, Development, and Technology FY 2004 Performance Report
FHWA's R&T program supports the mission of the Agency to enhance mobility through innovation, leadership and public policy. It contributes to achievement of the USDOT and Agency strategic goals and is stakeholder driven. Stakeholders are engaged throughout the entire R&T process from agenda setting, through the conduct of research, technology and innovation deployment, implementation, and customer feedback.
In measuring performance, the Office of RD&T uses the Agency Corporate Management Strategies (CMS), based on the Baldrige Criteria, as a framework for improving internal business processes and meeting the needs of our customers. The Baldrige Criteria consist of seven functional categories vital to organizational performance: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management, and business results. The U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) manages the Baldrige National Quality Program in close cooperation with the private sector. Congress established the Baldrige Award program in 1987.
In addition to the CMS framework, RD&T utilizes the following criteria established by the OMB for Federal investment in R&D:
Performance Management Framework
Our approach to performance management builds on our planning process. The RD&T Performance Management Framework chart below identifies existing performance measures and assessment mechanisms that are utilized by unit managers and integrates them across management functions using the Agency's Baldrige-based CMS. This approach helps us manage, analyze, and integrate information obtained from a variety of sources and mechanisms. It also helps keep in mind the various dimensions for analyzing program results, such as financial performance, customer feedback, and business results.
Performance Management Workgroup
The primary purpose of the Performance Management Workgroup is to help the RD&T leadership develop, coordinate, and implement organizational performance improvement efforts. The workgroup also helps RD&T leadership improve the management of research programs and assists in the adoption of effective practices. Performance management efforts currently underway include:
RD&T Research Benefits Case Studies
RD&T periodically contracts out retrospective benefits studies to collect data on the benefits of RD&T research, glean insight into characteristics of successful R&T projects, and identify potentially useful methodologies for documenting and/or estimating benefits that could be used to evaluate other RD&T projects. RD&T contracted out evaluations of HSIS, QuickZone, and Infrastructure R&D with the understanding that there is no single approach to the issue of research performance measurement and benefits assessment. A synthesis report on these three studies was completed in FY 2004. All three studies indicated that RD&T products are widely used and well regarded by our customers. Products were especially well received when customers were involved in design and testing. Benefits of research conducted in the areas of high performance steel, ground penetrating radar, and geotechnical R&D, just to name a few, have helped transform the state-of-practice and saved millions of dollars in infrastructure construction and maintenance costs. Cost savings at a national level have been estimated to be more than ten times the annual research funding.
To determine whether our research products are meeting the needs of our customers, RD&T seeks and obtains customer feedback through such mechanisms as formal surveys, Web links, and focus group meetings. A Customer Survey Workgroup is helping the Leadership Council identify existing mechanisms for receiving customer feedback and to develop and implement an RD&T customer survey.
The questions in the FHWA's State and local partner survey that relate to deploying technology and innovation provide us with important information/customer feedback. In particular, the R&T Leadership Team has adapted a question, which asks how satisfied customers are with the deployment of technolo-gies/innovations that are designed to help improve their program. The question serves as an overall indicator of how well we are meeting customer needs.
Respondents in the FHWA State Customer and Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Partner Survey Wave III and IV indicated that communications on T&I were good overall. Respondents mentioned that FHWA contacts in the T&I arena were knowledgeable, provide information from other States, and share lessons learned. Areas for improvement included the need for more timely and advanced notice of new T&I and the need for guidelines on how to implement them.
RD&T Lab Assessment Process
Beginning in FY 2004, FHWA established a full-scale lab assessment process. The process has been refined over the course of the year and is working well. RD&T laboratory assessments are unbiased, independent expert reviews of the technical and scientific merit of research conducted at TFHRC. The assessment process is designed to:
A lab assessment handbook was developed to guide lab assessment panel members in examining the relevance, quality, and performance of laboratory research. Assessments focus primarily on the conduct of research, but also examine whether the research activities have high potential value and whether they have achieved stated objectives. The review process is continuous, with each laboratory having the benefit of an assessment every 3 to 4 years. Three labs were assessed in FY 2004: Asphalt, TReL, and Hydraulics.
The advice we have received from the panels has been invaluable. Knowledge of related work at universities, State DOTs, other government labs, or private industry is often shared. In addition, the experience of preparing for the assessment has been a useful exercise for FHWA staff, and we have strengthened ties to other labs and organizations as a result of on-site interactions and follow-on exchanges between panel members and TFHRC staff.
Lab assessments have also served as a valuable opportunity to obtain feedback from customers and stakeholders (who are interviewed by the panel)—and have raised the visibility of the work of the labs with these customers and stakeholders.