Managing for Social Change: Improving Labor Department Performance in a Partisan Era

59 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2015

See all articles by Seth D. Harris

Seth D. Harris

Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

Date Written: April 25, 2015


This article tells the story of the successful effort to turn around the Labor Department’s performance during the first five years of the Obama Administration. The Labor Department leadership team, largely chosen for its policy expertise rather than any management experience, used common-sense performance measurement and management to improve workers’ lives and the nation’s economy. The article critiques the two principal laws that purport to structure and guide the executive branch’s performance planning and explains how the Labor Department succeeded in improving its performance despite these laws and Congress’ lack of interest in implementing them or holding agencies accountable for compliance or good performance. The article also offers a reform agenda for improving federal government performance both through congressional action and activist stakeholder engagement.

Keywords: Labor Department, government, government performance, performance, performance measurement, performance management, GPRA, Obama, measure, metrics, data driven, government reform

JEL Classification: H10, H11, H19, K31, M10, M11, M12, M14

Suggested Citation

Harris, Seth D., Managing for Social Change: Improving Labor Department Performance in a Partisan Era (April 25, 2015). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 17, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

Seth D. Harris (Contact Author)

Cornell Institute for Public Affairs ( email )

294 Caldwell Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-2602

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