Partnership for Public Service Presidnet and CEO Max Stier urged Congress on Wednesday to answer 25 key questions before moving ahead with proposals to reorganize federal agencies as part of efforts to save money and increase efficiency.

Wednesday’s hearing — “Why Reshuffling Government Agencies Won’t Solve the Federal Government’s Obesity Problem” — was scheduled to shed light on proposals to assess and reshuffle the size of our federal government.

Referring to the proposed consolidation of trade and export functions within several federal agencies into a newly constituted Commerce Department, Stier suggested the series of questions during testimony at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing and encouraged lawmakers to proceed with caution.

“Government reorganizations are usually motivated by a desire to advance policy objectives and achieve operational efficiencies,” he testified. “They are often initiated or given momentum as a result of government failures; the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director for National Intelligence following the 9/11 attacks are two notable examples.”

Stier continued: “When government fails, however, it typically has little to do with the way agencies are organized and almost everything to do with the performance of senior leadership at federal agencies, their ability to effectively manage the people working under them and the culture of the agencies. The 9/11 Commission summed up this dynamic best when it said, “The quality of the people is more important than the quality of the wiring diagrams.”

Stier recommend the Committee, and Congress as a whole, consider the following 25 questions when reviewing government reorganization proposals:

1. What is the mission(s) of the new entities that will result from this reorganization?

2. What problems are we trying to solve with this reorganization?

3. What other options have been considered to solve these problems?

4. What are the intended short-term and long-term outcome(s) we want to achieve?

5. How long will it take to implement the reorganization proposal?

6. How long will it take to achieve desired outcomes?

7. How will this reorganization affect the public, federal employees, private sector interests, and government policies, programs and management?

8. What are the potential problems and unintended consequences that may result from this reorganization?

9. What will be done to mitigate those problems and unintended consequences?

10. Who will be responsible for overseeing this reorganization, and what are their qualifications?

11. How will this reorganization be implemented? How has the reorganization plan been influenced by past merger, consolidation and reorganization experiences in the public and private sectors?

12. Do the affected agencies have highly qualified and well-resourced management personnel with the skills necessary to implement the reorganization efficiently and effectively?

13. How will Congress, federal employees, private sector interests and other stakeholders be engaged to participate in the process? Who is responsible for communicating with these stakeholders, and how will communication occur?

14. How much is this reorganization expected to save, over what time horizon, and what are the sources of those savings?

15. How much is this reorganization expected to cost, over what time horizon, and how will it be funded?

16. Who is responsible for establishing implementation milestones and measuring progress against those milestones?

17. Who is responsible for establishing performance goals for the new entities that will result from this reorganization, and how will performance information be collected, measured and reported?

18. How will this reorganization process ensure transparency?

19. What strategies will be employed to reduce spending in the new entities that will result from this reorganization (e.g., programmatic cuts, reengineering, personnel cuts, IT investments, etc.) and how will impact on efficiency, effectiveness and performance be measured?

20. What is the desired culture of the new entities that will result from this reorganization, and what steps will be taken over the long term to foster that culture? How will agency leaders create an environment that rewards innovation and empowers employees to contribute new ideas to save money, improve business processes and increase impact?

21. What skills and competencies will be needed in the individual selected to lead the new entity or entities that will result from this reorganization?

22. What skills and competencies will be needed in the senior executives of the new entities, and what steps are necessary to identify, recruit, develop and retain a senior executive corps with these skills?

23. What skills and competencies will be needed in the workforce of the new entities, and what steps are necessary to identify, recruit, develop and retain a workforce with these skills?

24. Which committees of Congress will oversee the new entities that will result from this reorganization, and what steps can be taken to ensure that these agencies do not receive inconsistent direction from multiple congressional overseers?

25. What steps will be taken to ensure continuity in the management and implementation of this reorganization from one presidential administration to the next?

Stier also pointed to findings in a report on “Making Smart Cuts” released in September by the Partnership and Booz Allen Hamilton. According to the report, the most successful agencies will be those which avoid some of the mistakes made during the Clinton Administration and see smaller budgets as a time to reassess priorities and programs and restructure.

“Our findings suggest that budget cuts can present a valuable opportunity for reform and, if planned and implemented properly, can lead to a stronger, better government. However, the report also suggests that a rush for savings, without focus on planning and implementation, can lead to a government that is less capable and less responsive to the American people.”

Speaking more specifically about proposed reorganizations, he testified:

“It is easy to create new organizational flow charts. The hard work requires unifying managers, employees and different cultures into a common mission; integrating financial, human resources and technology systems; and reshaping relationships with important stakeholders that include Congress and private sector interests. Successful reorganizations require a clear vision, sustained commitment over many years, an upfront expenditure of money even during tough budgetary times, and strong leadership. The mixed track record of prior reorganizations is evidence that, too often, those elements are lacking.”