2015 Winner — Social Security Administration, Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Office of Appellate Operations (ODAR/OAO)
One of the largest administrative judicial systems in the world, the Social Security Administration’s ODAR/OAO is responsible for the final two levels of the administrative appeals process for SSA disability claims. The Office faced a growing backlog of cases, and the massive size of their workload demanded that they systematically and strategically approach the challenge of improving their processes.
To reduce their case backlog, ODAR/OAO needed to both improve accuracy (thus reducing the number of remanded, or “re-tried,” cases) and increase case processing speed. Sampling a broad cross-section of Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) responsible for reviewing the cases, the organization benchmarked their current skill sets and determined program goals against 84 metrics by which ALJs can be evaluated. Curriculum designers considered best practices in adult education and stressed the critical-thinking component of the learning process. The final training product was a 2-day train-the-trainer program and a 1-week advanced training program for the ALJs.
“We understood that to achieve a meaningful and lasting improvement in the quality of our services,” said Glenn Sklar, Deputy Commissioner, ODAR, “we must use a data-driven approach to get at the heart of the issues we face and produce meaningful and measurable results.”
For ODAR/OAO, the results of this initiative were eye opening. After the training, the Office saw a 5% or greater improvement in 35 of the 84 performance metrics of ALJs. They also saw a 2% - 4.99% improvement in 14 of the 84 metrics. Statistically speaking, this training had a significant impact on ALJ performance.
Internal response was overwhelmingly positive: judges found the experience “invigorating,” and many said the training got to the heart of issues, pushing them to think in entirely new ways. Not only did the training improve the work process, it inspired participants to take what they’d learned and share it with other judges.
The success of this project validates the organization’s efforts to use data to drive decisions about policy and training for all employees. ODAR/OAO developed an effective training that achieved statistically significant results and also created enthusiasm among participants—increasing the probability that information will be retained, applied, and shared among colleagues.
“Being recognized for our training efforts to improve the disability appeals process is validation of ODAR’s hard work over the last several years,” said Patricia Jonas, Executive Director, OAO. “But the real reward comes from knowing that it is helping us achieve our mission to provide people who seek disability benefits with a timely, fair, and accurate decision, while complying with all laws, regulations, and policies.”
2014 Winner — Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Employee Development Division (EDD)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Employee Development Division (EDD) was recently tasked with changing the agency’s culture of leadership across all levels of responsibility. A primary goal of FEMA’s workforce enhancement initiative, this change entailed improving areas such as leadership trust, accountability, and performance. Individuals across all levels needed to develop competency in leader proficiencies and learn management skills required for success, and supervisors needed to be educated about their role in developing employees and prioritizing learning needs.
Faced with budget constraints and the need to provide training for agency employees nationwide, the EDD knew that its activities, workshops, and programs should be transportable, scalable, and inclusive. This goal led to the design and successful implementation of an Individual and Organizational Progressive Leader Development Program designed to build proficiency in leader competencies.
The wide-scale, innovative model uses multiple instructional strategies and keeps the needs of adult learners at its center. All training elements, which meet the established standards, are designed with a focus on mission-critical leader competencies. A significant percentage of training comprises non-classroom activities that benefit individual and organizational growth. These include workshops and programs for employees that range from GS-specific training to an internal mentoring program; a book club; webinars; and a workshop series.
Key learning concepts are taught across the organization—to team members, team leads, supervisors, managers, and executives — and are also used in team - and organization building activities and general workshops. This has enabled FEMA to begin developing common learning tools using terms and concepts recognizable to all.
A review of the first (FY13) cohort revealed measurable outcomes which include 20% of program participants being promoted into supervisory positions or receiving grade level increases, or transitioning from “on-call response employees” to permanent, full-time agency employees. Additional measurable outcomes included an increase from 50% to 92% in supervisory-required training compliance within six months of program participation. The EDD, serving as an in-house resource for leadership development, continues to provide training-related individual and developmental services to employees who have completed the program.
2013 Winner — Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Field Policy and Management
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Field Policy and Management seeks to ensure that its performance and use of resources result in detailed and accurate performance measures. In response to congressional inquiry, HUD sought to integrate an intervention to improve its track record in reporting how the agency addresses its organizational initiatives.
Previous attempts to implement reporting methods had been unsuccessful because they were not performance-oriented, required extensive staff time, and failed to provide concise, objective data results. It was essential to HUD’s success that it improve the ability of field members to track their projects, demonstrate alignment to HUD strategic goals, and report out progress updates.
The winning intervention was a Training and Orientation Program (TOP) designed to reinforce the use of a cloud application for tracking and reporting project performance. With field and headquarters staff consisting of hundreds of employees in 80 field offices throughout the U.S., and with oversight by 10 regional headquarters, implementation presented unique challenges.
Users at all locations received in-class, hands-on training in the new cloud application and then completed online testing and certification. The app itself is designed to include embedded help and guidance, as well as an audiovisual “how-to” program. TOP was implemented from October 2011 to July 2012, and it continues today with various enhancements based on continuous employee feedback.
This classroom/online training combination, paired with ongoing user support provided by the app itself, has been enormously successful. The cloud system is now used by 100% of the staff, with 25-30% logging in daily to perform project-related work. Additional benefits of the program are the acceptance of a common method for project planning and reporting, and the availability of a common real-time view of progress at various leadership levels. Numerous field recommendations have resulted in improved reporting to Congress and others. As a benefit extending beyond the reporting aspects of the intervention, this program has presented an opportunity to introduce performance and process philosophies to a key set of federal executives.
2012 Winner — Naval Aviation Test and Evaluation University, Naval Air Systems Command
Why they won:
The Naval Aviation Test and Evaluation University (NATEU) was developed by the Naval Air Systems Command to provide training to Department of Navy flight test personnel and to share this training with other Department of Defense entities and industry partners. Unlike other areas of postgraduate study, comprehensive test and evaluation engineering training is not available through any traditional academic institutions. The University was developed in response to a challenge from the Chief of Naval Operations to “improve training and development opportunities for our civilian workforce, recognizing that their individual growth is an institutional gain.”
The NATEU results were impressive. They aligned training with a career path progression; created comprehensive and specialty training; partnered with industry for team training; improved testing and evaluation execution with Naval Air Systems Command; and increased organizational efficiencies. In just three years, they have also created over 100 core and specialty training courses which revitalized the Naval Air Systems Command workforce by fully developing the organization’s pool of qualified test and evaluation practitioners. Much of this was done through the use of cohort training, building a more cohesive and collaborative workforce.
Update since the award:
At the time of the award entry, NATEU had trained 2,000 students; now they have trained 4,000 students. With the training framework and infrastructure, they have been able to create an accelerated reach into the organization as well as within the broader Department of Defense.
What the Deming Award has meant to their agency:
“The Deming Award served as our ‘Underwriters’ Laboratory’ stamp of approval. It validated our training efforts on a grander scale outside our own Navy perspective and enabled us to gain recognition within the DoD.”
— Stephen E. Cricchi
Director, Integrated Systems Evaluation,
Experimentation and Test Department
Naval Air Systems Command
2011 Winner — Social Security Administration’s Office of Appellate Operations
Why they won:
Because of a dramatic rise in the number of American citizens filing for disability insurance benefits and appeals, and an organizational changeover from paper to electronic files, the Social Security Administration’s Office of Appellate Operations (OAO) was experiencing extensive backlogs and wait times.
A system was needed to train and develop employees to ensure greater customer satisfaction. In response to this need, OAO created a state-of-the-art course, training 187 analysts as well as an additional 200 new employees. The course focused on curriculum that revolutionized how employees are taught new skills, with the desired goal of achieving a high rate of efficiency and accuracy and defining good public service. The OAO developed feedback loops that guided training decisions based on best practices, and, as a result, 150 of its 200 new employees were trained to be fully productive in just eight months — an improvement on a learning curve that had previously lasted eighteen months. In addition, they established a framework for future agency training efforts, all of which will now incorporate the successful design features of the OAO New Analyst Design Team.
Update since the award:
With a mission of improving public service across all levels, OAO is well on their way to training their organization of 1,200 to ensure individual quality that drives results. This training has transformed the way they work and has already saved the Social Security Administration billions of dollars. It is truly built on the principles that W. Edwards Deming espoused — using process improvements to change individual performance to affect an organization.
What the Deming Award has meant to their agency:
“Winning the Deming Award provided visibility for us and this transformative training within the Social Security Administration as well as with other agencies. We are currently working with the Canadian Government Disability Program, the Veterans Administration, and the North Carolina Department of Revenue. Without the recognition received from the Deming Award, we wouldn’t have been this extensive in our reach.”
— Patricia Jonas
Social Security Administration
2010 Winner — Park Facility Management Division, National Park Service
Why they won:
Over the years, the National Park Service (NPS) has grown and its facilities have become more complex. Some national parks now have infrastructures similar to those of small towns, with roads, generators, water and wastewater systems, and a variety of public buildings to maintain. Much of the NPS asset portfolio is historically significant, such as Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, and the Washington Monument. It is the NPS mission to maintain such assets into perpetuity. Given this requirement, NPS facility managers need to do more than reactive maintenance when breakdowns occur; preventive maintenance is essential.
Several years ago, the National Park Service faced a severe shortage of qualified facility managers due to retirements and increasing technical demands. To prepare emerging leaders for a culture shift from reactive emergency maintenance to preventive upkeep, in May 2006 the NPS launched the Facility Manager Leaders Program (FMLP). Each year, a small group of 15 to 18 park workers receive mentoring support and training. FMLP participants learn the latest concepts and standards of facility management to prepare them to compete for facility manager positions, and they learn how to successfully maintain park assets by applying state-of-the-art industry practices. Since the program’s inception, nearly 60 percent of FMLP graduates have taken positions as facility managers or chiefs of maintenance, and facility work orders have shifted from reactive to preventive maintenance. The results of the program ensure that the NPS is better staffed and prepared to continue to achieve its mission of preserving unimpaired the natural and cultural resources of the United States’ national park system.
Update since the award:
With responsibility for maintaining our nation’s parks and a portfolio of unique assets like Mt. Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument, the National Park Service is tasked with keeping these ready for people to experience them — in perpetuity. This vast responsibility comes with unique challenges that are best served with the lifecycle management approach NPS has taken, which has included training and preparing the facility manager leaders of tomorrow. The training continues full-force as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
What the Deming Award has meant to their agency:
“The Deming Award substantiated and validated the direction we had taken with our training approach. To receive this national recognition was a great testament to the work we are doing.”
— Tim Harvey
Chief, Park Facility Management Division
National Park Service
2008-2009 Winner — The Directorate of Legal Information Services, United States Air Force
The Directorate of Legal Information Services, United States Air Force (USAF), launched a major program to help its legal professionals enhance their information technology (IT) skills in order to improve effectiveness and productivity. The Directorate of Legal Information Services conducted an in-depth survey that determined the barriers that prevented legal professionals from keeping pace with technological advancements. As a result, they were able to provide training in specific mandated time slots and include staff in course instruction reduced to short, concise modules. They were able to provide participants immediate, practical tips and tools that saved them time and effort. The award-winning program produced overwhelmingly positive results that led to improvements in administrative efficiencies and enabled more than 7,000 USAF legal professionals to make full use of IT tools and put valuable time back into their workdays.
2007 Winner — The Office of Departmental Operations and Coordination (ODOC), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD’s Office of Departmental Operations and Coordination developed the HUD Monitoring Desk Guide.It conducted training and development, assisting staff in understanding the internal control environment. They focused on conducting risk analysis using on-site versus remote monitoring. Additionally, ODOC created comprehensive monitoring strategies, conducted monitoring reviews, and wrote a final monitoring report. The initiative resulted in the removal of HUD’s programs from GAO’s high-risk watch list and used a multidisciplinary approach to develop training programs. In addition, HUD revised and updated its policies and procedures and created the HUD Monitoring Desk Guide to assist employees. The award-winning program also trained more than 2,700 staff members and 800 managers and supervisors nationwide.
2006 Winner — The Office of Acquisition Management (OAM) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
OAM provides contracting and acquisition services to EPA program offices nationwide. Determined to improve their performance, OAM’s 300 employees underwent a rigorous training program and transformation process in 2001. There were three goals: to respond more quickly to frequent changes in government acquisitions and contracting; to strategically address reduced budget and staffing; and to regain lost business by providing outstanding internal customer service. OAM redefined its mission and strategic goals, streamlined business processes to reduce red tape, implemented measures to gauge performance, and empowered its workforce. Employees received training in technical contracting, business skills like negotiating and problem solving, and executive coaching. Although OAM worked with a reduced budget, the results were positive. Employee satisfaction has risen dramatically, and turnover has fallen. Customers are also more satisfied, and — very important — former customers have returned.
2005 Winner — Naval Surface Warfare Center
Faced with the prospect of substantial attrition of senior managers due to retirement, in 2001 Port Hueneme launched a rigorous Management Succession Program. An established training institution delivered a series of training courses to primarily first-level supervisors, focusing on problem solving, conflict management, and leadership and communication skills. Action-learning components required teams to address real issues likely to face the future leadership. Teams gathered facts and presented plans to senior management to build their competencies. Participants learned by experience how to effectively build coalitions and affect organizational change. Graduates of the first class achieved concrete results. In just three years, these individuals held more than 20 percent of department head or equivalent positions. The Naval Surface Warfare Center expects further organizational gains as graduates of future classes advance to senior management positions.
2004 Winner — U.S. Navy, Human Resources Academy for Excellence, Human Resources Service Center, Northwest (HRSC, NW)
To improve customer service delivery and create a common business model, the HRSC, NW, developed a training initiative — the Human Resources Academy for Excellence. The Academy implemented a three-track system with leadership, service delivery, and functional modules. The program begins at the leadership level and teaches team leaders to focus on the key products and services that are important to the customer. To assess the effectiveness of the teams, leaders determine delivery standards and measures. This plan becomes a leadership grid, which incorporates marketing, staff development, and positive reinforcement. After the initial training session, leaders continue to develop their work teams in a six-month follow-up plan.
In the service delivery module, leaders and teams learn how to deliver excellent customer service and manage workloads efficiently. The Academy designed functional modules to guide human resources specialists on how to communicate performance standards and gather information essential to job performance.
Because of the Academy's efforts, HRSC, NW, has classified and filled jobs faster than ever and streamlined its efforts to “delight the customer” — the stated organizational goal. The program has met with such success that the Navy’s Office of Civilian Human Resources is deploying it throughout the other seven regional human resources centers.