Diversifying and Expanding Technical Skills at GAO

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-04-01.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

       ,-0   4                                                                 :<   i   r

                 United States General Accounting   Office
                 Report of the Comptroller General’s                           ’ ’
3AO              Task Force on Interdisciplirxary

April 1990

                 and Expanding
                 Technical Skills
                 at GAO


GAO/PEMD-90-18    Volume 1
Executive Summq

                   In September 1988, the Comptroller General established a Task Force on
Purpose            Interdisciplinary Management to review the utilization, training, and
                   management of technical staff within the General Accounting Office
                   (GAO), and to recommend any needed changes in the agency’s manage-
                   ment practices. The task force report is published in two volumes.

                   Over several decades, GAOhas hired staff with a wide range of technical
Background         skills to respond to the increasingly complex issues that the Congress
                   has asked it to address. In this context, “technical staff’ refers to
                   employees with advanced training in disciplines that are outside GAO'S
                   mainstream professions -accounting and business or public administra-
                   tion. The term incorporates both staffmembers providing technical
                   assistance in specific areas and those with technical training who func-
                   tion as evaluators producing reports.

                   To assess GAO'Scurrent management of this multidisciplinary staff and
                   to identify potential alternative approaches, the task force carried out a
                   series of related data collection activities. After formulating an opera-
                   tional definition for technical staff (p. 28), task force members con-
                   ducted a census of those technical staff currently employed by the
                   agency, and interviewed a sample of 43 former technical and nontechni-
                   cal GAOstaffmembers. All current technical staff (470 persons) and mid-
                   level GAOmanagers (376 persons) were then queried via two mail
                   surveys, which obtained response rates of 92 percent and 89 percent
                   respectively. In addition, the views of 38 of GAO'Ssenior managers were
                   elicited through six focus groups. The range of available alternatives
                   was explored through a systematic review of relevant literature, as well
                   as interviews with outside experts and nontechnical managers of techni-
                   cal staff in both public and private organizations.

                   GAOhas had notable success in building a workforce with strong techni-
Results in Brief   cal skills and is making great headway in its efforts to manage that
                   workforce in an interdisciplinary manner-that      is, producing reports
                   that closely integrate contributions of staff from a wide variety of tech-
                   nical and nontechnical backgrounds. However, the agency will have a
                   continuing need to enlarge the technical capabilities of -all its profes-
                   sional staff through a combination of recruitment and internal as well as
                   external training. GAO'Spersonnel information systems currently do not
                   contain sufficient up-to-date data on staff education and training to
                   enable the agency to routinely monitor its progress along these lines.

                   Page 1                      GAO/PEMDM-18   GAO Tecknical   Skills Task Force Report
                     Executive   Summary

                     Most of GAO'Stechnical staffmembers find their work challenging and
                     interesting, and 57 percent of them reported that they are moderately to
                     very satisfied at GAO.Yet fewer than half (43 percent) would recom-
                     mend GAOas a place to work for those with training similar to their own,
                     and attrition rates for technical staff are much higher than those for
                     nontechnical staff. Areas where technical staff believe that improve-
                     ments would most enhance GAO'Sattractiveness to them include
                     increased access to personal computers, higher salaries, and more input
                     into decisions on the way their work is planned and carried out.

                     Many organizations, in both the private and public sectors, have not suc-
Principal Findings   ceeded in their efforts to integrate staff trained in technical disciplines
                     that are outside the mainstream of their professional workforce. GAOhas
                     addressed this issue by creating three different roles for technical staff:
                     providing technical assistance, carrying out assignments in technical
                     divisions where most colleagues have advanced degrees, and working
                     side-by-side on projects with auditors. This range of opportunities has
                     enabled GAOboth to attract top-flight staff with a wide spectrum of
                     technical skills, and also to facilitate the spread of technical capabilities
                     and awareness among its nontechnical staff.

                     Although most technical staff are generally satisfied with the use of
                     their work in GAOreports, some find that it is not always accurately por-
                     trayed, or that issues are not always decided in a technically adequate
                     way. GAOcurrently makes little use of outside technical experts to
                     inform the resolution of technical disputes or to provide other forms of
                     assistance in the development of GAOproducts.

                     Most GAOmanagers believe that the technical staff make a great contri-
                     bution to the agency’s work. However, many managers have concerns
                     about the interpersonal and written communication skills of technical
                     staff, and they also find them less knowledgeable about agency proce-
                     dures than their nontechnical colleagues. This seems to be due more to
                     gaps in the training that technical staff have received at GAOthan to
                     disinterest on their part. Indeed, 56 percent of technical staff report that
                     they find GAO'Sbasic working procedures to be reasonable, but only 43
                     percent of them had received training in those procedures during their
                     first 6 months on the job.

                     GA0 is currently revamping its curriculum of internal training courses.
                     The experience of other organizations suggests that the integration of
                     technical staff into the organization can be facilitated by tailoring at

                     Page 2                       GAO/PEMJI-90-18   GAO Tednical   Skills Task Force Report
                      Executive   Summary

                      least parts of this training specifically for them. In particular, differ-
                      ences across disciplines in the meaning and use of certain words or con-
                      cepts can be clarified, and the rationale for GAO'Soperating procedures
                      can be explained in terms of the professional norms that technical staff
                      bring with them. GAOmanagers and technical staff agree that the latter
                      also need expanded opportunities for external training in technical

                      Many technical staff find that the work they actually do at GAOdiffers
                      markedly from what they expected when they joined the agency.
                      Although most managers recognize the importance of conveying to
                      potential recruits an accurate sense of the nature of the work they are
                      likely to do at GAO,as well as a clear picture of the way GAOfunctions as
                      an organization, it appears that these intentions may not be fully real-
                      ized in practice.

                      Many technical staff prefer not to shift into managerial roles, but 70
                      percent of them would welcome opportunities to manage, especially if a
                      promotion were involved. Historically, technical staff at GAOhave felt at
                      a disadvantage in competing for promotions. Indeed, a large proportion
                      of GAOmanagers reported their view that technical staff (line as well as
                      technical assistance staff) are not as well suited for management as
                      their nontechnical colleagues. The task force, however, found that more
                      than a quarter of the senior officials currently holding line management
                      positions at GAOqualify as technical under its definition. At the same
                      time, the agency has not yet taken advantage of the existing potential
                      under GAO'Snew broad-banding structure to create nonmanagerial Band
                      III positions that senior technical staff could compete for.

                      Based on these findings, the task force recommends to GAO'Smanagers
Recommendations       that they

                  . enhance their use of recruitment interviews to validate the interper-
                    sonal and communication skills of technically-trained candidates and
                    also to convey to them accurate impressions about GAO,the work they
                    would be likely to do, and their opportunities for promotion;
                  . foster the job satisfaction of technical staff by involving them where
                    possible in project decisions and providing them feedback and public
                    recognition for their contributions;
                  . expand the informal use of outside technical experts; and
                  . ensure that channels exist in their unit through which unresolved tech-
                    nical issues can be raised to the appropriate level.

                      Page 3                       GAO/PEMD-90.18   GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
Executive   Summary

The task force recommends to GAO'Stechnical staffmembers that they

learn GAO'Sorganizational procedures and professional norms as soon as
possible after joining GAOand also try to establish contact with seasoned
GAOemployees, both within and outside their technical discipline; and
improve their ability to communicate well to lay audiences via available

The task force recommends that the Comptroller General

increase the number of nonmanagerial Band III positions that senior
technical staff can compete for, while preserving the essentially mana-
gerial focus of the Senior Executive Service;
expand training in technical subjects for all GAOstaff;
obtain an adequate supply of personal computers as soon as possible;
ensure that all technical staff receive training in GAO'Sorganizational
procedures immediately after their arrival at the agency, training that
explains those procedures in terms of the professional norms of the
major technical disciplines;
publish a glossary of terms that have different meanings and connota-
tions across diverse disciplines; and
continue the development of a common, GAO-wide, personnel informa-
tion system to maintain complete, accurate, and up-to-date information
on the educational attainments and training of all GAOstaff.

The task force also asks the Comptroller General to consider making
courses in auditing and accounting available to technical staff on a vol-
untary basis and to provide training in supervision skills specifically
related to the management of technical staff.

In conclusion, the members of the task force express their conviction
that GAOis making excellent progress toward the goal of interdiscipli-
nary management and that the above recommendations-all          of which
have been approved by the Comptroller General-are both necessary
and achievable. Indeed, it should be borne in mind that the concerns
uncovered by the task force are largely the products of GAO’Ssuccess in
diversifying, expanding, and managing its staff resources to meet con-
gressional demands for ever more complex evaluations. By recom-
mending that GAOmove forward in optimizing the use of its staff’s
technical skills, the task force thus recognizes both the advantages of
GAO'Scurrent situation and also the areas where improvements are

Page 4                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Tecknical   Skills Task Force Report
Page 5   GAO/PEMD-99-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report

Executive Summary
Chapter 1                                                                                              10
A Task Force on        What Is Interdisciplinary Management and Why Is It of
                           Interest to GAO?
Interdisciplinary      Some Institutional Background                                                   13
Management             What Is Meant by the Term “Technical Staff” and How Is                          17
                           It Different From the Term “Specialist”?
                       The GAO Workplace Today: Some Preliminary                                       19
                       Looking Forward                                                                 22

Chapter 2                                                                                              24
The Task Force
Chapter 3                                                                                              31
What Is Known About    Fitting-In: Minimizing Tensions and Maximizing Work                             32
Interdisciplinary      Improving Job Satisfaction for Technical Staff                                  35
Management?            Assuring Good Communications in the Workplace                                   37
                       Implications for GAO                                                            38

Chapter 4                                                                                              40
The Current Practice   Distribution of Technical Staff Within GAO                                      41
                       “Fitting-In”: Minimizing Tensions and Maximizing Work                           43
of Interdisciplinary         Quality
Management at GAO      Improving Job Satisfaction                                                      46
                       Assuring Good Communication                                                     61
                       Summary and Conclusions                                                         53

                       Page 6                    GAO/PEMDBO-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report

Chapter 5                                                                                                 56
Capitalizing on What   Training for Technical Staff in Organizational Procedures
                            and Technical Skills
Has Been Achieved:     Training in the Management of Technical Staff                                      61
Effecting and          Monitoring the Technical Capability of GAO Staff                                   62
Monitoring             Summary                                                                            64
Improvements in
GAO’s Technical
Chapter 6                                                                                                 65
Task Force             Task Force Recommendations to GAO Managers                                         67
                       Task Force Recommendations to Technical Staff
Conclusions and        Task Force Recommendations to the Comptroller General                              70
Table                  Table 2.1: Methods Used by the Task Force to Answer the                            25
                           Three Evaluation Questions and Where in the Report
                           the Results Are Presented

Figure                 Figure 2.1: Definition of Technical Staff for Purposes of                          28
                            Inclusion in the Task Force Census

                       Page 7                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report


           Assistant Comptroller General
ADP        Automated Data Processing
AFMD       Accounting and Financial Management Division
ARC0       Atlantic Richfield Company
ARM        Assistant Regional Manager
BARS       Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales
BOB        Bureau of the Budget
           Central Assignment and Payables System
CEO        Chief Executive Officer
CPA        Certified Public Accountant
CTC        Corporate Technical Committee
DELTA      Database for Entry-level Tracking
DMTAG      Design and Methodology Technical Assistance Group
EAG        Economic Analysis Group
EEO        Equal Employment Opportunity
GAO        General Accounting Office
GGD        General Government Division
GPA        Grade Point Average
GS         General Schedule
GWU        George Washington University
HHS/IG     Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General
HIS        House Information System
HRD        Human Resources Division
IBM        International Business Machines
ICI        Imperial Chemical Industries
IMTEC      Information Management and Technology Division
MIS        Management Information System
MIT        Massachusetts Institute of Technology
NFC        National Finance Center
NIH        National Institutes of Health
NIST       National Institute for Standards and Technology
NSIAD      National Security and International Affairs Division
OCE        Office of the Chief Economist
OIRM       Office of Information Resources Management
OJT        On-The-Job Training
OPM        Office of Personnel Management
OR         Office of Recruitment
PAES       Personnel Awards/Education System
PC         Personal Computer
PEMD       Program Evaluation and Methodology Division
PFP        Pay for Performance

Page 8                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
RCED     Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division
RFF      Resources for the Future
SE3      Senior Executive Service
SMIS     Staff Management Information System
TAG      Technical Assistance Group
TI       Training Institute
TRS      Training Registration System

Page 9                    GAO/PEMD99-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 1

A Task Force on Interdisciplinary Management

               In September 1988, the Comptroller General established an internal task
               force on interdisciplinary management in the General Accounting Office
               (GAO). The task force mandate was to review the management, training,
               and utilization of technical staff from many different disciplines in the
               GAOworkplace; determine whether a changing workforce required any
               concomitant changes in GAO’S management practices; and make recom-
               mendations as needed in all or any of these areas.

               The report is published in two volumes. Volume 1 contains the analyses
               and recommendations of the task force. Volume 2 provides more
               detailed descriptions of the various data collection efforts conducted by
               the task force.

               It is probably fair to say that the task force came into being because of a
               generalized realization that changes in recruiting objectives had shifted
               GAO'Sstaff composition away from what had been a remarkably homo-
               geneous population of auditors in the nineteen fifties and sixties toward
               a multidisciplinary workforce with many different kinds of skills, train-
               ing and backgrounds, in the seventies and eighties. This shift was not
               accidental. On the contrary, GAOmade deliberate efforts between 1970
               and today to widen and deepen its expertise in a variety of technical
               areas. This happened in part because of GAO'Sown recognition of a need
               to diversify its skill base, in part as a response to congressional requests
               involving issues of continually increasing technical complexity, and in
               part as a result of developments taking place in the analytical and eval-
               uative fields.

               These efforts have been notably successful. In his memorandum setting
               up the task force, the Comptroller General commented on the important
               contributions staffmembers with advanced technical skills had made to
               the quality and credibility of GAO'Swork.’ Many members of the Con-
               gress and of the academic community have also expressed this view.
               However, having established this initial success, it seemed equally
               important now to build upon and develop it by examining, in the Comp-
               troller General’s words, “where we need to reinforce or disseminate
               good practice, and where we need to find new solutions to managerial or
               technical problems.”

               In this report, the task force responds to this charge, documenting what
               has been learned about the current status of technical staff at GAOand

              ‘Charles A. Bowsher, “A Task Force on Interdisciplinary Management at GAO” (memorandum to the
              heads of divisions and offices, September 23, 1988).

               Page 10                            GAO/PEMD-90-18    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
                       Chapter 1
                       A Task Force on
                       Intenlieciplinary Management

                       recommending ways by which that status might be improved through
                       actions taken by GAOas a whole, by individual managers at GAO,and by
                       technical staffmembers themselves. In particular, the task force focus
                       has been on the procedures followed in recruiting technical staff, the
                       training they receive once hired, and the different approaches to their
                       management at GAO.An additional emphasis has been on determining
                       the degree to which technical staff have found GAOto be a supportive
                       environment-conducive      to producing high-quality work as well as pro-
                       viding desirable career options. Throughout, the task force has looked
                       for ways to maximize not only the personal satisfaction that technical
                       staff derive from their work and the ease of their adaptation to GAO,but
                       also the optimal application of their technical skills to the purposes of
                       the agency as a whole.

                       Before proceeding further, it will be useful to define the term “interdis-
                       ciplinary management”; to review briefly some of GAO'Srecent history;
                       and to explain what is intended by the task force’s use of the term
                       “technical staff.” This background should allow the reader some under-
                       standing both of GAO'Spast evolution and of its current workplace con-
                       figuration. These two, taken together, supply the dynamic context into
                       which the task force’s efforts must fit.

                       Bringing people from multiple disciplines into the GAOworkplace has
What Is                confronted GAO'Smanagers with a difficult task: to run audit and evalu-
Interdisciplinary      ation teams that produce strong reports under compressed timelines,
Management and Why     while employing staff with varied types and levels of skills and training.
                       It is true, of course, that good management is never easy; still, many
Is It of Interest to   burdens are lightened when staff “speak the same language” because
GAO?                   they have come from the same field, or the same university, or have
                       experienced the same level of education. But when groups working on a
                       project are truly heterogeneous, and the end report must be an inte-
                       grated one, then the manager needs to create an environment in which
                       effective communication and collaboration can take place despite the
                       barriers of different training, different approaches or methods, and dif-
                       ferent modes of expression. This is the classic situation for interdiscipli-
                       nary management, which is the art of bringing together a number of

                       Page 11                        GAO/PEMDBO-18   GAO Technical   Skilb   Task Force Report
    Chapter 1
    A Tack Force on
    I.nt.erdiaciplinary Management

    individuals representing dissimilar areas of expertise to work on a com-
    mon problem in such a way as to permit the integration of their individ-
    ual contributions into a cohesive whole.2
    The concept of integration           is the key difference between interdiscipli-
    nary and multidisciplinary            management. In the latter, staff work sepa-
    rately, and their individual           products are also separate. Although work
    contributions are made by            staff of different disciplinary backgrounds,
    they are juxtaposed rather            than meshed together.

     There are several reasons why interdisciplinary management is likely to
     be important at GAO.First, given the advent of technical staff along with
    the close collaboration and product integration that are normal on GAO
     projects, such management is already a fact of life for some managers,
     and seems destined to spread as GAOcontinues to diversify its staff. Sec-
    ond, interdisciplinary management has had some spectacular successes
     in the past, especially in defense-related areas like the Manhattan Pro-
    ject during World War II, and many more recent ones in which contribu-
    tions from different scientific disciplines, human factors research,
    engineering studies, and politico-strategic analyses have been tightly
    integrated. The RANDCorporation, especially, has seen the potential of
    this kind of management, setting up its matrix organization with the
    specific aim of facilitating interdisciplinary research (see appendix II in
    volume 2 of this report). Third, the kinds of substantive issues likely to
    confront GAO,the Congress, and the nation over the next 20 years
    clearly indicate the need for this kind of management: problems as
    diverse as global warming, the decline of industrial competitiveness, or
    inadequate service delivery in urban and rural areas, all call for efforts
    involving integrated contributions from many different fields.3 Indeed,
    most reports of progress presented today in the scientific and technical
    literature include information that is useful to a number of different dis-
    ciplines. Fourth, interdisciplinary management presents a target of

    sLibrary of Congress, “Interdisciplinary Research: An Exploration of Public Policy Issues,” prepared
    for the Subcommittee on Science, Research and Development, House Committee on Science and Astro
    nautics (October 1970), p. 9; see also Lowell H. Hattery, “Interdisciplinary Management: Research
    Needs and Opportunities,” prepared for the International Conference on Interdisciplinary Research
    Management (Ulm, West Germany: April 1979) p. 2.
    %irectly to the point, a recent study of the American ability to compete internationally found that a
    major problem was a kind of “caste system” in U.S. companies which separates “design people” from
    “manufacturing people,” so that an engineer working on a product may know little about the results
    of consumer research, or the profit margins of the product being developed, or even the costs of the
    engineering changes he or she has proposed. This contrasts with Japan where everyone involved in a
    project is an integral part of the team dedicated to developing the product. (The Economist, February
    l&1989, pp. 6869.)

    Page 12                                GAO/PEMD-90-18     GAO Technical    Skills Task Force Report
                    Chapter 1
                    A Task Force on
                    Interdisciplinary Management

                    opportunity for GAO in that the rigidly disciplinary structures of many
                    other organizations do not permit them to pursue excellence in this area.
                    Finally, the idea itself is merely a logical extension of GAO’S long-term
                    evolutionary development: the agency has been moving in this direction
                    for many years.

                         was established 68 years ago as the nation’s independent audit
SomeInstitutional   GAO
                    agency. That role has deeply affected both GAO’S internal culture and the
Background          way it has been perceived by the rest of the federal government and by
                    the public at large. Indeed, the agency’s reputation for objectivity and
                    probity derives in large part from its history, mission, and procedures as
                    an independent auditing institution.

                    Across the years, the scope of GAO’S work has expanded well beyond its
                    original domain of financial audits and “economy and efficiency”
                    reviews. Since 1967, the Congress has asked GAO with increasing fre-
                    quency to assess the effectiveness of federal programs. These requests
                    placed major demands on the organization to produce sophisticated
                    analyses of complex programs within relatively tight timeframes.

                    GAO   responded to this change in the nature of its work by bringing in
                    new staffmembers with increasingly diverse training and experience.
                    The nearly exclusive recruitment of accounting majors in the nineteen
                    fifties and early sixties slowly gave way to a more mixed group of staff
                    with degrees in business and public administration as well as

                    At the same time, a number of people with more specialized technical
                    skills were also hired, beginning with a small staff of systems analysts
                    in 1967. Over time, staff with quite different training (e.g., computer
                    scientists, statisticians, operations research analysts, economists, and
                    others) were recruited to provide expert knowledge in a range of areas.
                    Most of these people functioned as “specialists,” either in headquarters
                    or in the regions. This means that they advised auditors-who      in GAO
                    are called “generalists” -on segments of projects (rather than working
                    on projects from beginning to end), or that they assisted auditors (rather
                    than assuming responsibility for leading projects themselves). Other
                    technically trained staff, however, did carry out complete projects and
                    managed them. But they were still called “specialists,” and tended to be

                    4See,for example, U.S. GAO History Program, Leo Herbert: GAO, 1966-1974 (GAO/OP-7-OH, Decem-
                    ber 19%3),pp. 63-64.

                    Page 13                            GAO/PEMD-90-18    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 1
A Task Force on
Int4vdisciplinary Management

concentrated in a few units that undertook more technically oriented
studies, such as the Energy and Minerals or Program Analysis

In this way, GAO attempted to acquire the technical expertise needed
without disrupting the basic structure that had developed over the
agency’s first half century of existence: a “generalist” auditor main-
stream culture supported by subcultures of technical “specialists.” This
also meant, however, that since technical staff were concentrated in
assistance roles, or in a few technical units, work and work procedures
in the mainline units remained relatively unchanged. That is, the new
skills (in automated data processing, for example, or in survey research,
or data analysis) were too unevenly spread across GAO’S divisions and
regions to make a major impact on the day-to-day work of the organiza-
tion. And the spread of these skills was further impeded by a growing
perception on the part of technical staff that their own interests were
not well served by this mainstream/non-mainstream dichotomy.

These staff felt that they were performing valuable services for GAO but
that being part of a subculture was hurting their career advancement, as
evidenced by the greater success of generalist auditors in acceding to
upper level positions6 In GAO’sregional offices, for example, -all vacan-
cies at the GS-13 and -14 levels had been designated generalist auditor
positions. This created two problems for technical staff in the regions, as
they saw it. First, there were no positions for them to be promoted to on
the basis of their special skills and experience. Second, their skills and
experience were discounted when compared to the skills and experience
of generalist auditors7

This situation seemed to leave technical staff at GAO with three fairly
problematical alternatives: try to join the ranks of the generalists and
manage projects from beginning to end (which might eventually weaken
technical skills through disuse but improve career paths); remain in the
technical role for which their training had prepared them and accept a
de facto ceiling on career advancement (which meant sure and certain
frustration for technical staff); or leave GAO for greener pastures (which
signified the loss of GAO’S investment in these staff). These alternatives

“Roger L. Sperry, et al., GAO 1966-1981: An Administrative History (U.S. GAO, 1981), p. 178.
“Ibid., pp. 177-78.

7WaIter C. Herrmann, Jr., and Fred D. Layton, “Internal Task Force Report on Managing Specialists in
the Regions,” July 1980, p. 6.

Page 14                               GAO/PEMD-90-18     GAO Technical    Skills Task Force Report
ATa&kForce       on
InterdiadplInary    Management

were thus either at cross-purposes with the intended goal of generalizing
technical expertise at GAO, or they came at heavy cost both to technical
staff and to GAO.

Concerns related to these two issues-the spread of technical skills and
the fairness of existing career practices-were      documented in two inter-
nal reports. The first of these was a 1979 paper outlining the negative
impacts on technical staff morale and retention that stemmed from the
dominance of generalists at GAO.~ The report pointed out that a kind of
caste system of generalists and specialists existed at GAO;~ that the over-
whelming majority of GAO staff considered the term “specialist” to be
derogatory; that organizational traditions and rewards appeared to dis-
courage specialization lo ; and that, in sum, this situation was obstructing
GAO'S efforts to broaden its talent base and develop increasingly higher
levels of technical expertise.

The second report was that of a task force charged with examining spe-
cialist problems in the regional offices. l1 It noted the staff perception
that technical work was “a career liability,” and cited survey results
showing that 86 percent of regional technical staff saw their promotion
potential as having been hurt by their technical work.

The two reports came to the same conclusion, essentially that equal
opportunity was needed for non-mainstream groups. Both recommended
that separate promotion criteria be established for technical staff.

‘Harry S. Havens, “Some Thoughts on the Concept of Specialists and Generalists in GAO," February
 1979, pp. 4,8, 13, 14.

‘The report noted, “One of the oddest this about the caste system is that the lower caste consists of
people whom GAO decided, as a matter of policy, it wanted to attract. The economists, operations
research analysts and others. . didn’t arrive by accident, nor did those people originally seek out
GAO. They were actively recruited because GAO decided to broaden the base of talent available to it.
Yet the caste system works to rninimire the usefulness of that group and to maximize their desire to
leave GAO.”
“‘The report said that “the most important training this group [generalist auditors] receives is that
gamed after arrival in GAO. The early years of an auditor’s career in GAO are spent acquiring,
through formal training and OJT, a whole new set of skills and, in the process, forgetting (because of
disuse) whatever skills were acquired prior to arrival in GAO [emphasis supplied]. The result is that,
after a few years in GAO an auditor who arrived with a degree in economics behaves and thinks just
like an auditor who arrived with a degree in accounting, or business, or political science, or English.
Any benefit which might have been gained through recruiting a broader range of disciplines is lost
because those skills are never used or further developed. It doesn’t matter what disciplines we recruit
if they all come out looking alike as a result of the socialization process.”

’ ’ Herrmann and Layton, op. cit.

Page16                                  GAO/PEMD-90-1sGAOTechnhlSkilleTaekForceReport
chapter 1
A Task Force on
Interdlwiplinacy Management

A new impetus toward broadening the base of GAO'Stechnical expertise
occurred in 1980 with the establishment of the Institute for Program
Evaluation (now the Program Evaluation and Methodology Division). In
the course of its development, the new division brought into GAO,over
time, a sizable group of technical staff from a wide variety of disciplines
(including all of the social sciences, but also physics, mathematics, sta-
tistics, operations research, chemistry, engineering, and others) with
experience in an equally wide variety of program areas. These staff,
however, were not intended to perform “specialist” functions. They
would be working on projects and supporting requests from the Con-
gress: that is, performing the same function as generalist auditors.

In the same way, the Information Management and Technology Division
was established at GAOin 1983, and brought in computer scientists to
conduct reviews of all types. Both of these new divisions thus further
reinforced the effort, begun in the late sixties, to broaden the base of
GAO’S talent pool.

An additional move, implemented between 1984 and 1986, consecrated
the continuing importance of technical assistance at GAO: Design, Meth-
odology, and Technical Assistance Groups (known as DMTAGS)were
established in each of the four program divisions.12 Given that technical
assistance groups were already established in the regions, this meant
that every unit in GAOwould now have a cadre of technical staff able to
assist in the conduct of its projects. In addition, division and regional
managers were encouraged to help technical staff move out from the
DMTAGSand work directly on projects with auditors in the field.

Thus, technical staff at GAOtoday have three different options: to work
with auditors on segments of jobs where special skills can be used to
best effect; to work in a technical division where most people have
advanced degrees; or to work side-by-side with generalists in the field,
becoming generalists themselves and eventually managing projects with
important potential for career advancement. In the last two of these
three cases, technical staff are not specialists, but instead perform the
same job functions as generalistauditors.

?‘his followed a recommendation of the Task Force on GAOReports, “Excellence Through the 80’s”
(November 1982), p. 13.

Page 16                             GAO/PEMD-90-18    GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
                       Chapter 1
                       A Task Force on
                       Interdisciplinary Management

                       The evolution in work and in staff composition and functions has thus
                       been considerable at GAO since the nineteen fifties. Moving beyond finan-
                       cial audits and economy and efficiency reviews (both of which GAO con-
                       tinues to do in sizable quantity), the institution now routinely handles
                       requests from the Congress for program effectiveness evaluations, for
                       audits of complex computer system procurement and performance, for
                       forecasting and related prospective research, and for methodological cri-
                       tiques of others’ studies. Simultaneously with this expansion of its work
                       menu, GAO has moved from a homogeneous generalist auditor workforce
                       to one in which the majority is still made up of individuals with bache-
                       lors degrees in accounting, business, or public administration, but where
                       an increasing fraction includes quantitatively trained people with
                       advanced degrees in a variety of disciplines. Finally, concomitant with
                       changes in the work and the workforce, the organization of the work
                       itself has changed, offering new opportunities of various kinds for tech-
                       nically skilled staff.

                       As the above discussion has shown, the word “specialist” has long been
What Is Meant by the   a part of GAO'S vocabulary. The Task Force on Managing Specialists
Term “Technical        defined them as possessing: “technical expertise, such as designing a
Staff” and How Is It   sampling plan, evaluating a mathematical model, or assessing the relia-
                       bility of computerized data,” and noted that specialists “have acquired
Different From the     skills beyond those usually expected of the general audit staff.“18
Term “Specialist”?
                        Thus, in 1980, it was understood that a specialist at GAO possessed tech-
                        nical expertise of a particular kind, and assisted auditors in the techni-
                        cal aspects of their jobs. This is not very different from what technical
                       staff working in the assistance role at headquarters or in the regions do
                       today. But it is also the case that since 1973 persons with strong techni-
                        cal capabilities have been staffing and managing entire projects at GAO,
                       that they have also been working directly with auditors as full-time pro-
                       ject staff, and that it is in these two areas that the greatest growth in
                       technical staff recruitment has occurred. Although these people have
                        continued to be called “specialists” at GAO, it is evident that this term is
                       too narrow to define all three technical roles. Therefore, the task force
                       decided to use the broader term “technical staff” to cover people with
                       skills that are - in the words of the Task Force on Managing Special-
                       ists-“ beyond those usually expected of the general audit staff,”
                       whether their role is that of the “specialist” or not. The term is also a

                       13Herrmann and Layton,op. cit., p. 7.

                       Page 17                                 GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 1
A Task Force on
Interdisciplinary Management

shorthand way of pinpointing that the discussion here refers to particu-
lar technical skills, not to organizational placement.

But what then does “technical” signify? Clearly, the task force could not
use the broadest dictionary definition here, which might apply to almost
anyone at GAO.Nor does it use the earlier GAOdefinition of a “technical
specialist” as “one who devotes or limits his interest to a single set of
technical skills and is unusually proficient in the application of those
skills.“14 Rather, the term is used here relative to the task force’s man-
date: to look at what promotes and what impedes interdisciplinary
Gagement .

Therefore, the technical population whose condition the task force seeks
to examine is made up of those staff with disciplinary backgrounds and
training markedly different from those of the generalist auditor staff,
whatever their organizational placement. And it is especially important
to include technically trained staff who are assigned to the ordinary
work of the office (whether audits or evaluations) because it is they
who are most likely to have difficulty-from     an interdisciplinary per-
spective-in becoming integrated into GAO'Smainstream. The question
here is less whether the powerful GAOsocializing principle discussed ear-
lier still works, but rather whether such socialization is the best way to
broaden GAO'Sdisciplinary base. That is, interdisciplinary management
seeks to preserve, hone, and expand the different skills of people in the
workplace, not to let them become dulled, dated, or diminished through

This means that the term “technical staff,” as used in this report, should
be seen as inclusive. It speaks to background and training, but also to
the type and level of education, and to the content of the work per-
formed. But the term (again as used here), is also exclusive: people
trained as auditors may well have acquired technical skills equivalent to
those of “technical staff” but are not likely to have difficulty in inte-
grating GAO'Smainstream. Finally, the term is iterative, in harmony not
only with GAO'Spast, but also with its likely future evolution. The tech-
nical/nontechnical dichotomy is no more survivable in an interdiscipli-
nary context than was the generalist/specialist one. Indeed, the task
force believes that those technical skills celebrated today as exceptional
will be the norm at GAOwithin 10 years. Thus, interdisciplinary manage-
ment must conceptualize -all skills in the workplace as dynamically


Page 18                        GAO/PEMIMO-18   GAO Technical   Ski&   Task Force Report
                        ckapter 1
                        A Tank Force on
                        Interdbciplinary Management

                        As an initial effort to determine the current status of GAO’S “technical
The GAO Workplace       investment,“16 a few exploratory interviews were conducted with tech-
Today: Some             nical staff functioning in all three roles (staffing or managing projects in
Preliminary             a technical division, performing technical assistance, and working with
                        auditors at field sites) and with nontechnical managers at different
Observations            supervisory levelsIB These interviews surfaced some continuing con-
                        cerns on both sides.

Technical Staff Views   Technical staff raised three main issues having to do with promotion
                        opportunity, recognition, and job satisfaction.

                        With regard to promotion opportunity, the chief problem mentioned by
                        technical assistance people was that they feel they have too few oppor-
                        tunities to progress beyond the GS-14 level. People in the technical divi-
                        sions shared this view, except that for them, the threshold was at the
                        Senior Executive Service (SF%)level. All contended that these “ceilings”
                        on promotions reflected a continuing disadvantage of technical staff
                        compared to auditor generalists. However, promotion opportunities
                        below the ~~-16 or SESlevels no longer seemed to be viewed as a prob-
                        lem, at least for headquarters staff.

                        Recognition problems mentioned were, in the regions, the paucity of
                        awards to technical staff and, in the divisions, lack of positive verbal
                        feedback from managers. While the number of awards was not raised as
                        an issue by DMTAG staff, some said they felt their efforts often went
                        unrecognized. They believed the chief reason for this was that supervi-
                        sors often failed to ask the questions that could determine who in fact
                        had made the major contributions to a project. No technical staffmember
                        or manager queried in the technical divisions raised any issues with
                        respect to awards.

                        All technical staff interviewed, whatever their role or function, had
                        comments to make on job satisfaction issues. Many said that needed
                        work tools are often hard to get. A number of staff (especially computer
                        scientists) mentioned misunderstandings that had occurred during
                        recruitment interviews about the nature of GAO work: some came to GAO

                        ‘“Bowsher, op. cit., p. 1.

                        “Eleanor Chelimsky, “Managing Technical People at GAO: How Do We Retain and Integrate Them?”
                        (Memorandum to the Director, IMTEC, and the Regional Managers of the New York and Boston
                        offices, February 2, 1988); and “Transforming GAO’s Multidisciplinary Workforce into an Interdiici-
                        plmary Workforce for the Nineties” (Memorandum to the Comptroller General).

                        Page 19                               GAO/PEMD-BO-18     GAO Technical    Ski&   Task Force Report
Chapter 1
A Task Force on
Interdisciplinary Management

believing that they would be designing systems, and found instead that
they would only be reviewing them. Technical assistance and technical
division staff mentioned work areas that are too small for their needs.
All felt that technical training for people with advanced skills has been
inadequate (lack of travel money was blamed in some regional cases, but
the more generalized view was that “technical training has been swept
up into generalist training”). Some technical people working directly
with auditors at field sites complained of isolation, pointing out that
good matches are not always achieved among technical staff, assistant
directors, and a particular audit site population. These same staff said
that generalist managers sometimes feared using methods new to them
and thereby weakened or inhibited technical staff efforts to develop
sound and innovative methodology.

Staff in the technical divisions surfaced some special job satisfaction
problems that seemed to reflect organizational relationships between the
technical and the generalist programming divisions. These staff were
concerned about institutionally prescribed “one-way procedures” (for
example, technical divisions having to coordinate their work with pro-
gramming divisions, but not vice versa), and also talked about “both
misunderstandings and fundamental differences” with respect to what
was viewed as an appropriate methodological approach across divisions.

Thus, the issues that surfaced from these exploratory interviews with
technical staff suggested the possibility that a certain evolution in their
situation had taken place over the past few years. The promotion limita-
tions now discussed chiefly concerned exclusion from the very highest
grades; and a shortage of awards seemed to be a problem mainly in the
regional offices. Instead, job satisfaction issues appeared to be taking on
more importance relative to the other issues of promotion and recogni-
tion, and the former seemed quite closely tied to the particular technical
role or function of the staffmember.

Two questions, then, immediately      come to mind. (1) Perceptions aside,
are technical staff disadvantaged     vis-a-vis generalists with regard to
promotions and awards? And (Z),       how important are the issues they
raise to technical staff? Important    enough to cause them to “vote with
their feet”? The task force looked    at some existing data to see what, if

Page 20                        GAO/PEMDBO-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
                  chapter 1
                  A Task Force on
                  Lnterdiscip~    Management

                  any, discrepancies might emerge between generalists and technical staff
                  with regard to awards, promotions, and separations.17

                  Based on data for one technical staff series and for one generalist series,
                  technical staff do not seem to be disadvantaged, overall, either with
                  regard to promotions or awards. However, these data cannot supply a
                  definitive evaluation of this issue, since they do not inform on entry into
                  the SES and since access to the ~~-16 level may be masked by the average

                  On the other hand, the data do suggest that technical staff may be leav-
                  ing GAOat a relatively high rate. While some of this attrition could be
                  favorable (e.g., technical staff who are happy at GAO may be leaving for
                  career advancement elsewhere), it does seem important that retention of
                  technical staff should last at least long enough for GAOto be able to
                  recover the costs of recruitment, orientation, mentoring, training, and all
                  the other costs attendant upon bringing someone up to speed at GAO.

Managers’ Views   In general, managers included in the exploratory interviews were lauda-
                  tory of the contributions being made by technical staff; all however,
                  mentioned ongoing problems in their assimilation into GAO work groups.
                  Most of the managers’ experience related to DMTAGS, but two did address
                  issues that arose when technical staff worked under generalist auditor

                  All managers discussed the importance of making sure that the technical
                  staff recruited are the kinds of people who can fit in at GAO.They
                  pointed out that some technical experts whome         to GAOfrom universi-
                  ties may chafe painfully at agency rules and regulations, and may not
                  see the need to acquire GAOskills, to understand GAOvalues, or to fulfill
                  GAOjob requirements. Specific problems they said they had found in
                  managing technical staff were: a certain insensitivity to deadlines; an
                  unwillingness to consider factors other than technical ones; overuse of
                  technical terms in their writing; little experience in being managed or in
                  reporting to supervisors, or in having their work reviewed in great
                  detail; and reluctance to learn GAO’S careful methods of report prepara-
                  tion and quality control (especially workpaper development, indexing,
                  and referencing). Managers reported conflicts, based on these and other

                  17Howard Rhile, “Analysis of Promotions and Awards Data for Specialists and Generalists” (Memo-
                  randum to the Directors of IMTEC and PEMD, and to the Regional Manager of the New York Office,
                  July 6, 1988).

                  Page 21                              GAO/PEMIMO-18     GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
                         chapter 1
                         A Task Force on
                         Interdieciplhuy Management

                         work problems, which appeared to reflect both different ways of look-
                         ing at methodological issues and difficulties in communicating across
                         different backgrounds and training, different ways of expressing things,
                         and perhaps also, differential willingness to listen.

Promising Practice       The exploratory interviews surfaced a few managerial responses cur-
                         rently being put in place that are intended to address some of these
                         problems. For example,

                     . In all of the programming divisions, DMTAGstaff have now become active
                       in interviewing new technical candidates. This not only facilitates select-
                       ing those technically qualified staff who are most likely to adapt well to
                       GAO,but should also diminish misunderstandings about what GAOwork
                       is all about.
                     . DMTAGstaff in two programming divisions now help in placing technical
                       staff moving out from the DMTAGto an audit site. (That is, their help is
                       sought in deciding on the most propitious match of people and locale
                       with the technical staffmember.)
                     l In one technical division, all staff now receive training, upon entering
                       GAO,in workpaper preparation, indexing, and referencing.
                     . Most divisions now formally recognize technical contributions to their
                       projects in their reports.

                         These exploratory interviews do not, of course, suffice as measures of
                         current technical and managerial views or status, and the task force
                         immediately identified the need for a much more careful and compre-
                         hensive data collection effort (see chapter 2). However, the information
                         gleaned does suggest that changes, moving in the direction of alleviating
                         at least some technical staff problems, have been taking place at GAO.
                         Those concerns that continue to be raised, however, once again empha-
                         size the difficulties involved in integrating the kinds of elements-both
                         technical and nontechnical-that      need to be brought together in devel-
                         oping and executing GAO'Swork.

                         In sum, over the last two decades, GAOhas responded to a growing
Looking Forward          demand for more technically sophisticated studies by substantially
                         increasing the number of technically trained people it has hired, both at
           Y             entry level and above. However, the process of integrating these techni-
                         cal staff into the mainstream GAObody of generalist auditors is only now
                         beginning to develop momentum. As GAOmoves toward an interdiscipli-
                         nary workplace, and as training continues for all staff, technical and

                         Page 22                      GAO/PEMD-SO-18   GAO Technical   Ski&   Task Force Report

nontechnical staff will be brought into ever closer cooperation, both
groups will evolve, and the distinction between them should start to

There is little doubt that interdisciplinary management has a particular
resonance for GAO'Smission and basic purpose as an institution. The dif-
ferent types of questions that are addressed by GAO,the data that are
collected and analyzed, the products that are generated, the reporting
style that must meet the needs of different customers, and the indepen-
dence, objectivity and probity that must inform GAO'Swork do not
derive from, or fit into, any single disciplinary mold, or any technical
versus nontechnical orientation. The need the task force sees is to sus-
tain and reinforce the strengths of GAO'Sgeneralist auditor-indepen-
dence, traditions, values, and work quality-while     drawing, in a
coherent and appropriate fashion, on the relevant contributions of a
range of technical disciplines.

Almost any GAOassignment can illustrate the point. Take, for example,
an evaluation of a military training program. Various academic disci-
plines and subfields will provide insights and methodologies that are rel-
evant to different aspects of the overall problem: educational
measurement, human factors analysis, technology diffusion, and organi-
zation theory. In addition, concrete details about the structure of the
armed forces, the organization of particular programs, and the charac-
teristics of selected weapon systems can all have a major impact on the
analysis, quite apart from the concepts or methods that emerge from the
perspectives of academic disciplines. These programmatic realities will
often drive both the questions that need to be considered and the data
available for answering them. Finally, GAOreports are intended to be
read by a range of technical and nontechnical audiences. They need to
be technically accurate, understandable, and inherently credible to all
readers. But establishing and maintaining an effective balance among all
these competing objectives and perspectives is no simple matter.

For the past 20 years, GAOhas been responding to its changing congres-
sional mandates by moving incrementally toward an interdisciplinary
workforce. That trend will necessarily continue as the demand for GAO
to perform and defend technically complex studies increases. The task
force charge was to look systematically at what that will require of both
the organization’s managers and the technical and nontechnical staff
working within it, In so doing, the purpose is to help the agency make its
necessary adaptations more rapidly-and      at lower human and financial
costs-than would otherwise be the case.

Page23                      GAO/PEMDBO-18GAOTedmicaJSkillsTaskForceReport
Chapter 2

The Task Force Approach

                 The task force’s mandate was, in essence, to assess how GAOis doing in
                 integrating its growing technical staff, and to determine whether the
                 agency’s current ways of doing things-especially     in managing, training,
                 and utilizing technical people--are moving it closer to the broad institu-
                 tional goals it has implicitly espoused for about two decades.

                 In deciding how best to fulfill its mandate, the task force attempted to
                 define those goals (based in part on the GAOsource documents discussed
                 in chapter 1) as follows:

             l to widen, deepen, and continually modernize GAO'Stechnical expertise;
             . to preserve GAO'Sinstitutional values of independence, objectivity, and
             . to optimize the application of technical staff skills in GAOprojects; and
             . to manage technical staff in such a way as to maintain and expand their
               skills, ease their adaptation into the GAOworkplace, and maximize the
               satisfaction they derive from their work.

                 Given the increasing complexity of GAO'Swork, and given also the
                 increasing heterogeneity of GAO'Sworkforce, interdisciplinary manage-
                 ment seemed to the task force a useful framework within which to try to
                 reach these four goals, consecrating as it does the move away from a
                 mainstream/non-mainstream organization to a pluralistic one that delib-
                 erately sets out to be hospitable to new disciplines and new ideas.

                 The discussion of the goals and framework led the task force to identify
                 a set of evaluation questions whose answers would allow the formula-
                 tion of guidelines and recommendations that could help attain those
                 goals. These questions were the following:

                 1. What is known about interdisciplinary management and how it can be
                 achieved? For example, what does the literature say, what do experts
                 suggest, and what relevant experience has there been in other organiza-
                 tions? How similar is the experience of different federal agencies to that
                 of the GAO,and what useful lessons can be learned?

                 2. What is the present status of interdisciplinary management at GAO?Is
                 preliminary information derived from a few technical staff, managers,
                 and early GAOdocuments- suggesting specific difficulties of technical
                 staff integration into GAO'Smainstream-borne       out by more generalized
                 data and more current perceptions in the GAOworkplace? What precisely
                 are the problems, if any, that need to be addressed?

                 Page 24                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
                                                     The Task Force Approach

                                                     3. How can GAObest monitor its “technical investment”? What kinds of
                                                     indicators are needed to know how well GAOis doing in training and
                                                     retaining technical staff?

                                                     To answer these questions, the task force undertook a series of 10 stud-
                                                     ies, using different methodologies. These are summarized in table 2.1.

Table 2.1: M0thOd8 U80d by the Task Force to Answer the Three Evaluation Questions and Where in the Report the Result8 Are
Evaluation question                               Method                                            Where detailed
1. What is known about interdisciplinary management            Literature review                                        Appendix I
   and how it can be achieved? (chapter 3)
                                                               Interviews with experts in interdisciplinary             Appendix II

                                                               Interviews with managers of technical staff outside      Appendix Ill
2. What is the present status of interdisciplinary             Census of GAO technical staff                            Appendix IV
   managment at GAO? (chapter 4)
                                                               Interviews with technical and nontechnical staff from    Appendix V
                                                               divisions and recions who have left GAO
                                                               Survey of technical staff                                Appendix VI
                                                               Survey of GAO mid-level managers and users of            Appendix VII
                                                               technical staff; focus groups of senior managers
                                                               Analysis of relationships between the technical and      Appendix VIII
                ..._. . . ._.~~~~~~_                           mid-level manager survey findings                                                   -
3. How can GAO best monitor its progress in training           Review of available orientation and training programs    Appendix IX
   and retaining technical staff? (chapter 5)                  -~
                                                               Review of systems for identifying and tracking           Appendixes     X and XI
                                                               recruitment, training, retention, and rewarding of
                                                               technical staff

                                                     With regard to the initial evaluation question (i.e., what is known about
                                                     interdisciplinary management and how it can be achieved), the task
                                                     force conducted three studies. First came an extensive review of prior
                                                     assessments and analyses in the theoretical and research literature. Sec-
                                                     ond, interviews were performed with eight experts in interdisciplinary
                                                     management. These people were senior executives with experience both
                                                     in public sector agencies and private sector organizations offering areas
                                                     of comparability with GAOin terms of product (audits and evaluations),
                                                     personnel constraints (government agencies), or discipline (accounting
                                                     firms and social science research organizations). Third, the task force
                                                     interviewed nontechnical managers of technical staff outside GAO.In all
                                                     of these efforts, the task force sought to learn whether other organiza-
                                                     tions have dealt with workforce changes similar to those at GAO,how

                                                     Page 26                              GAO/PEMD-90-18    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 2
The Task Force Approach

successfully those changes were handled, and what useful lessons could
be learned from their experience.

The task force devoted five studies to the second question (i.e., what the
status of interdisciplinary management currently is at GAO). Here, the
effort was to establish what the situation is like now for technical staff
and their managers at GAOwith regard to a variety of issues (for exam-
ple, what general problems technical staff have encountered at GAO;
why skilled technical people have left the agency; what the first year at
GAOhas been like from the perspectives of both technical employees and
their managers; how technical work has been integrated into a GAOprod-
uct; what communication problems have occurred; what general prob-
lems nontechnical managers have experienced in managing technical
people; how the career path has worked at GAOfor technical person-
nel-whether     in the DMTAGSor regional TAGS,in technical divisions, or
working at program division audit sites; and the kinds of training techni-
cal personnel have received).

It was immediately clear that two surveys would be required to get at
these and other issues: one for technical staff and one for their mana-
gers. However, it also became clear that there was a problem in deciding
who should be included in the technical staff survey. This was due to a
gap in GAO'Sinformation about its technical people: currently, there is no
ability to count them accurately or to track their progress because of the
various options afforded by GAO'Sclassification system. Technical peo-
ple can choose to belong to the “evaluator 347” series (which includes
large numbers of nontechnical people), or to the “evaluator-related”
series. The problem for counting them, then, is that if the 347 series is
used, a majority of nontechnical staff are included. But if the 347 series
is left out of consideration, it should not be assumed that only a tiny
number of technical people would be missed. On the contrary, in the
technical divisions and elsewhere, many social scientists have chosen
this classification. Further, even in the “evaluator-related” series, which
ought to be less ambiguous, there are still a number of categories that
include both technical and nontechnical people (the “management ana-
lyst 343” and “program analyst 345” are examples).

Thus, the task force had to undertake a considerable effort merely to
determine which staff at GAOshould be considered technical and receive
a questionnaire in consequence. The first step in this effort was to arrive
at an operational definition of “technical staff”; the second was to con-
duct the first systematic census ever done of GAO'Stechnically trained

Page 26                      GAO/PEMD=90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 2
The Task Force Approach

The task force’s definition of technical staff is given in figure 2.1. It
responded to several imperatives:

it would capture everyone with doctoral training, even those whose dis-
ciplines made it easy for them to be integrated into the GAOworkplace;
it avoided assuming that only people with the Ph.D. have technical skills
(staff with or without the B.A. could qualify under 3.e.);
it put some emphasis on the relation between technical training and
work content at GAO;
it seemed unlikely to include too many nontechnical people;
it allowed unit heads the discretion to include technical staff who were
excluded via the other categories; and
most importantly, it distinguished between mainstream disciplines (i.e.,
those which did not appear to pose a socialization or integration prob-
lem at GAO) and non-mainstream disciplines (see 3.d.).

Page 27                       GAO/PEMD89-18   GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
                                             The Tads Force Approach

Figure 2.1: Definition of Technical Staff for Purposes of Inclusion in the Task Force Census

     For inclusion in the census, the staff member should meet the following three criteria:

     (1) The individual has a current GS level between 9 and 15 if still at GAO (last GS level at GAO if the person has left the

     (2) The individual is either a current GAO employee (regardless of when hired), or if no longer with GAO, hired by GAO
     within the period of January 1984 and December 1988.

     (3) The individual belongs to at least one of the following categories:

     (a) Any current staff member in a divisional DMTAG, economic assistance/analysis group, or regional office TAG,
     plus all non-administrative staff in PEMD and OCE. (Staff on a short-term-less than one year-rotational  assign-
     ment are excluded.)

     (b) Anyone who once worked in one of the DMTAGs, EAGs, regional TAGS, PEMD, or OCE and then transferred
     somewhere else within GAO (again excluding those on short-term rotational assignments).

     (c) Anyone who has completed a Ph.D. in any discipline.

     (d) Anyone who was hired by GAO specifically to work within his or her field of training, represented by a masters
     degree in any of the following disciplines: economics (but not business), sociology, anthropology, psychology,
     political science (but not public administration or public policy), all physical and natural sciences, computer
     science, mathematics and statistics, engineering, and operations research,

     (e) Any other staff member considered by the division head or regional manager to perform specific technical
     functions. (For each such case a description of those particular functions is needed.)

                                             Once the definition was established, its validity as a way of identifying
                                             technical staff for the census was pre-tested by applying it in one divi-
                                             sion. (That is, the census was performed in that division, using the defi-
                                             nition, and the results were reviewed by people in the division who
                                             knew all the staff with technical training and could assess the appropri-
                                             ateness of inclusions and exclusions based on the definition. It was
                                             determined that no one was excluded who should have been included,
                                             and that no one who was included really did not belong in the group.)
                                             Finally, the census itself took place in all of GAO'Sdivisions and regional
                                             offices, as well as in some staff offices, which allowed the identification
                                             of the universe of technical staff at GAO,according to the task force

                                             Page 28                           GAO/PEMD-9&18    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Rqort
The Task Force Approach

The next step was to attempt to illuminate the issue of technical staff
attrition, as discussed in chapter 1. To determine the reasons why tech-
nical staff had decided not to stay at GAO,the task force conducted inter-
views with 18 technical and 21 nontechnical staff who had left GAO
between 1986 and 1988. These interviews had a first purpose of helping
to explain departures: the task force believed that people who had left
GAOmight well be more candid about their experiences some time after
their departure than they had felt was possible at their exit interview.
In addition, the interviews had two other purposes: to distinguish expe-
riences common to GAOstaff from those unique to technically trained
personnel; and to refine the focus of the two large technical staff and
managers’ surveys.

The task force then moved to develop and administer these two surveys.
The first was addressed to the adjusted universe of technical staff
located through the census (470 persons); the second survey went to GAO
supervisors who manage or consult with technical staff (376 persons).
In both the interviews and surveys, information was obtained on all the
issues mentioned earlier (e.g., first-year experiences at GAO,training
received, and so forth).

In preparing the survey of current technical staff, a three-step proce-
dure was used. First, the numerous task force questions were translated
into survey items. Second, the draft survey was reviewed by all the task
force members for technical and substantive input. Third, the draft sur-
vey was pre-tested with samples of technical staff representing the
ranges of disciplines and experiences in the universe; revisions were
made and re-testing was completed before the survey was mailed out.
These precautions helped to generate a 92 percent response rate.
Finally, the usual GAOprocedures were followed in clearing and coding
the data, and ensuring accuracy in preparation of the large resulting
data files. These data were then combined with selected information
drawn from GAO'Spersonnel files, such as dates of entry, promotions,
and transfers within GAO.

The survey of mid-level managers (i.e., those supervising and consulting
with technical staff) was augmented by a set of focus groups in order to
reach senior managers, include their perspectives in the task force
thinking, and assure the completeness and institutional sensitivity of the
eventual recommendations. At the same time, the management survey
was developed for the much larger group of issue area directors, assis-
tant directors, assistant regional managers, and others. This survey was
reviewed by all members of the task force, and was pretested with

Page 29                     GAO/PEMLH@lf3   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
chapter   2
TheTad ForceApproach

appropriate samples of managerial personnel before it was finalized.
Using regular GAOprocedures, follow-ups were conducted to assure high
response rates, the resulting information was coded and checked, and
data tapes were prepared. These efforts culminated in a response rate of
89 percent.

Finally, in a fifth study, the task force performed an analysis of the
relationships between the findings of the two surveys.

With regard to the third question (i.e., how GAOcan best monitor its
progress in training and retaining technical staff), the task force
reviewed current and planned approaches to the orientation and train-
ing of technical staff. In addition, the task force identified major ongoing
and planned administrative data systems that could provide relevant
information on the progress of all GAOstaff in acquiring technical skills
and examined their strengths and limitations for this purpose.

Because the findings and recommendations of this report have the
potential to affect different segments of the GAOpopulation, the task
force met with many groups and disseminated information to explain
the purpose of its work and solicit input. The study was highlighted, for
example, in the October 3-7, 1988, Management News; presented at the
Spring 1989 Technical Conference; and discussed at meetings of Direc-
tors for Planning and Reporting, Directors for Operations, and other key
groups. In addition, the two surveys and the focus groups (involving a
total of about 900 GAOstaff) created a very special opportunity to
obtain the opinions and perceptions of GAOmanagers and staff in all of
these areas. The findings and further details of the methodology of each
individual study are presented in the appendixes. The next chapters
integrate the results across the relevant task force studies to answer the
three evaluation questions.

Page 30                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Slrilh Task Force Report
Chapter 3

What Is Known About
Interdisciplinary Management?

                 As noted in chapter 2, the task force turned to three sources of informa-
                 tion on the experience of other organizations with interdisciplinary
                 management: published literature, interviews with individual experts in
                 the field, and interviews with nontechnical managers currently directing
                 technical staff. The effort here was to learn as much as possible about
                 what other organizations have done and to report on promising practice
                 in integrating technical and nontechnical staff. The information
                 obtained from each of the three studies the task force performed is
                 reported in appendixes I, II, and III. This chapter presents a summary
                 drawn from all three sources.

                 Looking across the results of these studies, then, two points stand out
                 immediately. First, both the effort to achieve an interdisciplinary
                 workforce and the problems encountered in doing so are old, wide-
                 spread, and well recognized. Many different organizations over the past
                 30-40 years have diversified their staffs, and much has been written
                 about how to manage such diversity effectively. Thus, GAO'Sown evolu-
                 tion is part of a more general pattern.

                 The second point is that none of the three studies revealed issues that
                 were appreciably different from those already laid out by GAO'Stask
                 force (see chapter 1). This similarity (or lack of dissimilarity) increases
                 the relevance of outside experience for GAO.

                 What then are the issues? Synthesizing those discussed in all three stud-
                 ies, there appear to be three general themes that have emerged in orga-
                 nizations trying to integrate a number of disciplines under a single roof.
                 These are:

             .    “fitting-in”: tensions among different value systems and their impacts
                 on work quality;
             l   job satisfaction among technical staff; and
             l    communications within the organization.

                 These are discussed below, along with a number of strategies for dealing
                 with them that were identified and developed by the various organiza-
                 tions and respondents queried by the task force.

                 Page 31                      GAO/PEMDBO-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
                         Chapter 3
                         What Le Known About
                         Interdisciplinary Management?

                         The literature abounds with discussions of the problems faced by tech-
Fitting-In: Minimizing   nical staff in fitting into any large organization (see appendix I). Per-
Tensions and             haps the most common d%?&lties-and           those most relevant to GAO-
Maximizing Work          deal with: positioning technical staff so that they can favorably influ-
                         ence work quality without causing great institutional turmoil; recon-
Quality                  ciling research autonomy and peer review methods of quality assurance
                         with the hierarchical control and authority typical in organizations; and
                         meshing one set of professional standards with other sets and with orga-
                         nizational policies and practices generally.

                         Overall, the organizations examined by the task force made use of a
                         number of different structural arrangements to incorporate technical
                         staff into their workforces. Some concentrated technical staff in sepa-
                         rate units. Some instead dispersed technical staff throughout the organi-
                         zation. While each of these approaches revealed characteristic strengths
                         and weaknesses, neither appeared to have succeeded in taking maxi-
                         mum advantage of technical staff expertise while minimizing the prob-
                         lems raised by their assimilation into the organizational culture.

                         Assigning technical staff to separate work units, as was done in the
                         Inspector General’s office at the Department of Health and Human Ser-
                         vices (HHS), the Bureau of the Budget, and Coopers and Lybrand (see
                         appendix II), tended both to accentuate the differences between techni-
                         cal and nontechnical staff and to reduce the conflict those differences
                         generate by restricting the contact between technical and nontechnical
                         colleagues. Separation seems to have made it easier for technical staff to
                         maintain their distinctive disciplinary culture and thereby helped their
                         organizations to recruit and retain analysts with a higher caliber of
                         technical expertise. However, this autonomy came at the price of some
                         organizational irrelevance: technical work tended to be viewed as
                         peripheral to the core concerns of the organization, its influence on the
                         organization’s general work quality was limited, and the technical staff
                         claim on centrally distributed resources was correspondingly weak.

                         Organizations that pushed for a thoroughgoing integration of technical
                         and nontechnical staff faced the reverse situation. That is, the techni-
                         cally trained staff who remained in the organization did work closely
                         with their nontechnical colleagues, but because that work involved
                         many nontechnical elements, and because keeping technical capability in
                         a “cutting-edge” state requires constant honing, their organizational
                         immersion meant the stagnation or decline of their technical expertise
                         over time. Meanwhile, those staff most concerned with building and sus-
                         taining their technical knowledge tended to leave for more technically

                         Page 32                         GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 3
What IEI Known About
Int.erdlsciplinary Managemeut?

stimulating work environments, and it became more and more difficult
for the organizations to recruit top-flight analysts.

The lesson here seems to be that, if the purpose of bringing technical
staff into an organization is to allow that organization to maintain and
improve its technical capabilities in a changing market, then too much
separation is a self-defeating strategy (little organizational stress, per-
haps, but little organizational influence, either) as is too much assimila-
tion (again little stress, but a gradual loss of the desired expertise). The
problem is that, to the extent technical staff disengage from their disci-
plinary communities outside the organization, they are less likely to
keep up with new developments in their field. Moreover, they will be
less aware of the higher-level standards of technical quality that peers
within their discipline are familiar with and take seriously. Thus, orga-
nizations may benefit if their technical staffmembers are not too com-
pletely assimilated into the prevailing organizational culture. What is
needed is a strategy that accepts some institutional turmoil but maxi-
mizes both the quality of technical skills and their dissemination, where
needed and appropriate, across the organization. IBM and RANDhave
understood this; and GAO,with its three options for technical staff (see
chapter l), appears to be dealing well with this problem.

The difficulty of reconciling peer review with hierarchical quality con-
trol, mentioned earlier, has to do with the belief among technical staff
that organizational norms and objectives are automatically satisfied if
professional colleagues have approved the technical quality of the work
produced. The literature presents this problem as one of organizational
values that technical staff have tended to downplay: e.g., the need for
clarity of communication to groups outside their own disciplinary com-
munity, the need for careful documentation of evidence to support con-
clusions, wd the need to comply with organizationally developed work
procedures as opposed to reliance on individuals exercising their profes-
sional judgment. RANDand Resources for the Future (RFF), for example,
have had problems in these areas, as has GAO,and it is certainly the case
that the conflicts or divergent views between technical and nontechnical
staff, or among staff representing various disciplines, must be resolved
in some fashion. Both the substantive content of those decisions and the
manner in which they are made will affect the ability of an organization
to use its technical staff effectively. Organizations vary in their open-
ness to relevant information from technical as well as nontechnical
staff, in their capacity to consciously weigh tradeoffs between technical
standards and established organizational priorities, and in their ability
to arrive at clearly defined resolutions that all interested parties within

Page 33                          GAO/PEMIMO-18   GAO Tedmical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 3
What b Known About
In~rdieciplinary Management7

the organization can accept without an inordinate expenditure of time
and effort. RAND’Sand RFF’Smultiple peer reviews, and Arthur Ander-
sen’s “practice director” (see appendix II) are two cost/effective mecha-
nisms for dealing with this problem.

With regard to communicating clearly to general audiences, the potential
for conflict between technical and organizational norms is nowhere more
acute than in the area of writing. Technically trained staff writing on
technical subjects usually view their disciplinary colleagues as their
main audience, and this engenders the use of specialized technical
vocabulary (i.e., jargon) and detailed explanations of any caveats or lim-
itations that apply to the data or analytical techniques employed. But
the organizations for whom technical staff work typically focus on very
different audiences, such as corporate managers, policymakers, journal-
ists, the general public, or all of the above. As a result, these organiza-
tions often have quite different priorities for their written products.
Their audiences are less likely to find fault with particular points;
rather, the concern is that they will simply ignore written products that
are not clear, concise, and fairly emphatic in the message they convey.
So there often arises a fundamental conflict between the technical
staff’s standard for a complete and accurate description of the work
that was done, and the organization’s need to produce reports that will
be read and understood by diverse audiences.

In the same way, professional standards may not suffice in the organiza-
tional environment. Technical staff bring with them to the workplace a
set of professionally-defined standards of quality, and the expectation
that analysts should be willing and able to assume personal responsibil-
ity for maintaining these standards through their individual exercise of
professional judgment. Not only do organizations want to assert hierar-
chical authority, however, most have discovered the practical necessity
of developing their own work procedures and standards for assuring the
quality of their work, and these reflect their history, their objectives,
and their understanding of their clients’ requirements. These standards
and procedures are often very different, however, from those defined by
academic disciplines. Thus, technical staff are much more likely than
nontechnical staff to find themselves torn between the value system of
the discipline whose technical expertise they have acquired and the
organization’s own norms and expectations.

The issues of peer review versus hierarchical control and of professional
versus organizational standards and procedures may not be as dichoto-
mous as they appear, however. Regular reviews of internal technical

Page 94                        GAO/PEMD-99-18   GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
                   Chapter 3
                   What Is Known       About
                   Interdisciplinary    Management?

                   work by outside experts have not interfered with responsible manage-
                   ment control at RANDand RFF, for example. Instead, they help manage-
                   ment by providing an assurance of the technical quality of staff work at
                   the same time that they satisfy the preference of technical staff to have
                   their work judged by technical peers. Among the organizations
                   examined by the task force, the two that relied most heavily on reviews
                   by external experts- RANDand RFF-ahO put the strongest emphasis on
                   maintaining a high level of technical expertise in their permanent staff.
                   Further, organizational standards and procedures act more as an add-on
                   to professional norms than anything else. What is needed here is to
                   ensure that new technical staff are given the opportunity to be trained
                   early on in such standards and procedures, rather than assume, a priori,
                   that they are in conflict with disciplinary values. Arthur Andersen, for
                   example, has developed an extensive training program to convey to its
                   technical staff the organization’s highly detailed specifications of
                   approved practices and procedures. At GAO,this translates into a paral-
                   lel need to train new technical staff in “workpaper” preparation, index-
                   ing, and referencing.

                   At the same time that management and nontechnical staff may worry
Improving Job      about the commitment of technical staffmembers to organizational goals
Satisfaction for   and expectations, technical staff may complain of being “second-class
Technical Staff    citizens.” Particularly in organizations that are not dominated by techni-
                   cally trained people, some technical staff may feel misunderstood,
                   underappreciated, and alienated from the organizational “mainstream.”
                   Management may accord their work less priority or solicit and act upon
                   their views less frequently.

                   The discussion in appendix II of problems in the Bureau of the Budget
                   (now OMR)is especially relevant in this regard. Nontechnical colleagues
                   tended to ignore technical staff or treat them as a threat to their own
                   status within the organization. Even when the specific expertise of tech-
                   nical staff was valued, their attention to detail and “perfectionism” (see
                   appendix III), for example, was not appreciated. One federal agency has
                   tried to compensate for this by formally drawing the attention of the
                   organization to the contributions of its technical staff.

                   A particularly sensitive topic among technical staff in some organiza-
                   tions is salary. Many federal agency managers believed (see appendix
                   III) that a.good deal of their high turnover among technical staff
                   stemmed from their inability to pay competitive salaries. Private sector
                   organizations, on the other hand, generally took considerable care to see

                   Page 36                            GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 3
What Is Known       About
Interdisciplinary    Management?

that their salaries kept up with those offered by potential alternative
employers of technical staff, such as major universities.

Several strategies have been adopted in various organizations to
improve job satisfaction among technical staff. When salary could not
be increased, these organizations often resorted to nonfinancial recogni-
tion. Perhaps because of tension between professional and organiza-
tional value structures and their uncertain acceptance by nontechnical
colleagues, technical staff appear to have been particularly pleased with
indications that their contributions to the organization were noted and
appreciated. Also, because of their ties to their disciplinary communi-
ties, technical staff seem to value recognition from peers outside the
organization. Organizations varied in the extent to which they promoted
opportunities to garner such recognition.

For example, the HHS IG’S office recognizes outside publications of
agency staff by listing them in its annual report; this seems to be unique
among the organizations queried by the task force. IBM provides wide
recognition to its best technical people-those who have made excep-
tional intellectual contributions to the corporation-through     different
initiatives (e.g., a corporate technical committee, a fellows program, and
a sabbatical program; see appendix II). Other organizations, especially
federal agencies, have attempted to compensate for uncompetitive sala-
ries by emphasizing certain types of resources, including up-to-date
equipment, a suitable work environment, and the ability to obtain rele-
vant training (appendix III).

Still other organizations have opted to institute a “dual career ladder” to
conciliate the organizational need to attract and retain technical staff,
and the technical staff’s desire to receive higher salaries without assum-
ing management responsibilities. The task force looked at some applica-
tions of this concept in a number of organizations and examined the
experience as discussed in the literature. Reviews appear to be mixed.
While technical staff in some of these organizations are pleased with the
dual ladder, it is also seen as divisive by some organizations, and
appears much more effective at its bottom rungs than at the top.

Overall, organizations tended to enhance job satisfaction for technical
staff through the proxy of their managers. “Verbal feedback” was
important; so was “promoting” the skills and accomplishments of tech-
nical staff to the rest of the organization (see appendix III). The key
lesson here is the importance of the manager/technical staff relationship
in helping technical staff become integrated into an organization. At

Page 36                            GAO/Pm90-18   GAO Tednicd   Skills Task Force Report
                    Chapter 3
                    What IO Known About
                    Int4wd&ciplhry Management?

                    GAO,this is especially relevant to the situation where technical staff
                    work closely with nontechnical staff in the field.

                    As already noted, the intellectual frame of reference acquired through
Assuring Good       graduate education in a technical field frequently subsumes a special-
Communications in   ized vocabulary. Words and concepts are used in particular ways as a
the Workplace       matter of course within the discipline. Other disciplines may use the
                    same words or concepts quite differently, and this has led to communi-
                    cation problems both across disciplines and between technical and non-
                    technical staff within organizations (see appendix II). One of the experts
                    interviewed recommended that organizations integrating new disciplines
                    prepare a glossary for the use of all their employees describing varia-
                    tions in meaning for terms relevant to their work.

                    Two kinds of general strategies have been used to reduce communica-
                    tion problems, the first being training for both managers and technical
                    staff, and the second a kind of deliberate integration of technical staff
                    into the nontechnical workplace. Some audit organizations provide audit
                    and accounting training for technical staff as well as technical training
                    for nontechnical staff and managers. Other federal organizations require
                    nontechnical managers to maintain a good understanding of technical
                    issues in their areas, and emphasize the importance of training in their
                    agencies to everyone they recruit (appendix II). RAND,IBM, and other
                    organizations believe in the importance of managerial training for tech-
                    nical staff. Training, in sum, is a way of exposing both mainstream and
                    nonmainstream groups in an integrating organization to the language,
                    procedures, thinking, goals, and values of the other.

                    Deliberate integration also takes place in some organizations which team
                    new technical recruits with seasoned, successful technical staff, or use
                    rotational appointments that technical staff can request. To improve
                    technical staff understanding of management perspectives, IBM, along
                    with several other organizations, offers technical staff temporary
                    assignments in management positions outside their regular work units.
                    This enables technical staff to see how well they will perform in a man-
                    agement role, and how much they like it, without putting their current
                    technical position at risk. IBM has also created ad hoc laboratories that
                    combine research and product division staff on a temporary basis. In
                    this way, IBM brings the resources of its “leading-edge” technical staff to
                    bear on critical development problems without severing their associa-
                    tion with the more advanced technical culture of the research division.

                    Page 37                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Teclmical   Skills Task Force Report
                       Chapter 3
                       What Is Known About
                       Interdisciplinary Management?

                        Finally, organizations have focused heavily on the recruitment inter-
                        view to select technical staff who can function as part of a team and
                        who can communicate well-both          verbally and in writing. Technical
                        staff retention and job satisfaction also seem to be increased by fully
                        and precisely describing to potential recruits what they can expect their
                       job to be like if they choose to join the organization (see appendix III).
                        For example, some federal agencies make a point of explaining to new
                       technical staff that their promotional opportunities will be limited if
                       they do not wish to become managers. While this may narrow the pool
                       of potential recruits, it is also likely that most of those whose applica-
                       tion or acceptance of a job offer might be discouraged by this informa-
                       tion would not do well were they to come, In addition, the adaptation of
                       those who do join the organization is not encumbered by false

                       Two general conclusions emerge from this review of the experience of
Implications for GAO   other organizations in dealing with issues of interdisciplinary manage-
                       ment. First, many of the concerns about the integration of technical
                       staff at GAOthat prompted the establishment of this task force are repli-
                       cated in a number of other organizations. This implies that the issues
                       arise, in large part, not from particular characteristics of GAO,but rather
                       from a more generic set of factors most probably linked to the divergent
                       value systems of technical disciplines and large organizations, and to the
                       push-and-pull of forces in an evolving, dynamic context.

                       The second general conclusion is that problems related to interdiscipli-
                       nary management can be ameliorated, if not fully resolved, by a wide
                       variety of measures. Many involve tradeoffs, primarily between levels
                       of technical competence and adherence to organizational norms and
                       expectations. But these tradeoffs are not immutable. Highly targeted
                       strategies have been developed for a range of situations that creatively
                       and flexibly maximize incentives for constructive interaction among
                       technical and nontechnical staff.

                       Three smaller points also seem noteworthy. First, in thinking about
                       today’s GAO,the distinction between mainstream and non-mainstream is
                       as important to keep in mind as that between technical and nontechni-
                       cal. (However, as the agency moves toward greater pluralism, it is likely
                       that both distinctions will become decreasingly relevant.) Second, all
                       four of the task force goals noted in chapter 2 (i.e., to widen, deepen,
                       and modernize GAO'Stechnical expertise; to preserve GAO'Sinstitutional

                       Page 38                         GAO/PEMD-SO-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 8
What b Known About
Interdbciplhary Management?

values of independence, objectivity, and accuracy; to optimize the appli-
cation of technical skills in GAOprojects; and to help technical staff
expand their skills, adapt to the GAOworking environment, and maxi-
mize the satisfaction they derive from their work) need to be considered
in applying strategies to GAO.Finally, individual improvements should
not come at the price of organizational divisiveness.

In any case, the first step in applying what has been learned from the
literature and the task force interviews is to understand more precisely
what the current situation is at GAO,with regard to interdisciplinary
management. What are the perceptions of both technical staff and man-
agers with regard to its status, patterns, and development? The next
chapter provides the results of the task force’s efforts to garner that

Page 89                       GAO/PEMT%9@18   GAO Teclmical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 4

The Current Practice of Interdisciplinary                                                         -
Managementat GAO

                The task force carried out five major activities to assess the current
                practice of interdisciplinary management at GAO.First, a census was
                undertaken to try to determine the number and organizational place-
                ment of technical staff at GAOusing a standard definition across the
                entire agency (see chapter 2). Second, the task force carried out detailed
                interviews with a sample of 43 individuals (both generalist evaluators
                and persons identified as technical staff) who had left GAOin the previ-
                ous 3 years, and some who had returned after spending time in other
                organizations. Third, it surveyed all current technical staff members (as
                identified by the census) with regard to their experiences at GAOand
                attitudes about the organization. Fourth, a similar survey asked GAO
                mid-level managers about their experiences with and attitudes toward
                technical staff; this survey was supplemented by a number of focus
                groups involving 38 senior managers. Finally, the task force compared
                the responses from the technical staff and mid-level manager surveys to
                determine patterns of agreement and divergence between them. The
                detailed findings of each of these activities are presented in appendixes
                IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII.

                Because all of the data collection efforts were coordinated with each
                other, they have the advantage of using a consistent definition of techni-
                cal staff. Thus, the staff identified through the census were the ones
                who received the technical staff survey, and technical staff who had left
                GAOwere selected for interview based on the same definition. This
                greatly enhances the validity of synthesizing results obtained from the
                different sources. Also, the similar construction of the two survey
                instruments (which reached, in all, 375 mid-level managers and 470
                technical staff) allows proper comparison across the two perspectives
                (see appendix VIII). In addition, the response rates achieved by these
                surveys-89 and 92 percent respectively-mean         that a great deal of
                confidence can be placed in the representativeness of their findings. The
                task force has, however, been appropriately cautious in combining find-
                ings from the surveys with those of the focus groups and interviews
                because of their basic methodological differences. Focus group and
                interview findings, therefore, have been used only illustratively, as rein-
                forcements or counterpoints to the survey findings.

                This chapter pulls together the information gathered from all five
                sources, beginning with a description of how technical staff are distrib-
                uted across the divisions and regions of GAO.

                Page 40                      GAO/PEMDM-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
                         chapter 4
                         The Current   Practice of Interdisciplinary
                         Management     at GAO

                         As noted in chapter 3, the experience of other organizations suggests
Distribution of          that the role and status of technical staff depend a great deal on their
Technical Staff Within   relative prevalence in the organization and the diversity or homogeneity
GAO                      among them. It is clear from the evolution of technical staff recruitment
                         at GAO(see chapter 1) that these staff have always made up a fairly
                         small minority of GAO'Sprofessional staff. Nonetheless, the census con-
                         ducted by the task force, together with the responses to the technical
                         staff survey, provide the first systematic assessment of just how large
                         that minority is, how it is distributed throughout the organization, and
                         how technical staff differ among themselves in background and

                         All told, the task force enumerated 481 technical staff at GAOas of
                         December 31, 1988. This represents approximately 11 percent of GAO'S
                         professional staff.’ Nineteen percent of these technical staff are in the
                         regions, with the rest concentrated in the headquarters divisions.
                         Among those, two of the three technical divisions-IMTEC and PEMD-
                         account for 35 percent of the total technical work force, with almost all
                         the rest distributed fairly evenly across HRD,GGD,NSIAD,and RCED.

                         Less than half (45 percent) of the technical staff have as their primary
                         function to provide technical assistance; those who do are usually mem-
                         bers of DMTAGS,EAGS,or regional TAGgroups. The rest work in groups
                         directly responsible for producing GAOreports of various kinds. Those
                         providing technical assistance are relatively more likely to work in the
                         regions than in headquarters, and to have been hired prior to 1981.

                         The diversity of the GAOtechnical work force is evident from the range
                         of job series represented among the 481 persons identified as technical
                         staff, as well as the spectrum of disciplines in which they hold advanced
                         degrees. In addition to several broad job classifications (for example, the
                         46 percent of technical staff who are GAOevaluators of one kind or
                         another and the 12 percent who are social science analysts), GAO'Stech-
                         nical staff may be classified as economists, statisticians, operations
                         research analysts, computer specialists, psychologists, engineers, or
                         physical scientists.

                         About 25 percent of the technical staff have the bachelors as their high-
                         est degree; almost 30 percent have done masters level work; and just
                         over 40 percent have received graduate training at the doctoral level.

                         ‘On March 31,1989, GAOhad a total of 4,315 employees in its professional workforce. See U.S.
                         General Accounting Office, 1989 Midyear Report of Key Performance Indicators, p. 39.

                         Page 41                                   GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 4
The Current   Pra43ice of Interdiscip~
Management     at GAO

Technical staff hired in the last 8 years are much more likely to hold a
doctorate than those recruited prior to that time (43 percent versus 16
percent). The disciplines represented among GAO'Stechnical staff with
advanced degrees include psychology, sociology, economics, political sci-
ence, international relations, education, public health, geography, com-
puter science, mathematics, research methods, statistics, engineering,
geology, physics, and biochemistry, among others. While the computer-
related and social science disciplines tend to be relatively more preva-
lent, no single discipline comes close to characterizing the technical staff
of GAO as a whole. However, certain units are dominated by individual
disciplines, particularly computer science in IMTECas well as in the
regional TAGgroups, and economics in the EAG'S.

In short, most GAOtechnical staff are widely distributed across organiza-
tional units and often work with colleagues who either are not technical
in their backgrounds, were trained at differing levels, or belong to other
disciplines entirely. In practice, GAOhas largely avoided the “separatist”
approach (described in chapter 3 and appendix II) of some organiza-
tions, whose technical staffmembers have been concentrated in distinct
subunits in order to minimize friction and ensure the maintenance of
high-quality technical skills. GAOhas chosen instead to directly involve
its technical staff in GAO'Scentral activity-producing    reports-
whether as line evaluators in technical and program divisions, or as
technical assistance staff. However, as noted in chapter 3, the height-
ened interaction of technical and nontechnical staff (or technical staff
from different disciplines) increases the need for interdisciplinary strat-
egies to facilitate cooperation and avoid misunderstandings among staff
with differing backgrounds, as well as between managers and technical
staff, and to maintain the “leading-edge” expertise possessed by the
technical staff recruited and retained by GAO.

How well, then, is GAOdoing in integrating its technical staff? Chapter 3
developed an analytical framework to characterize the problems expe-
rienced by other organizations that have attempted interdisciplinary
management. In this chapter, the task force looks instead at GAOand
synthesizes what the five studies have found with regard to the three
general themes identified in chapter 3: the ability of technical staff to fit
into the organization, the level of job satisfaction they experience, and
communications within the organization.

Page 42                                  GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
                      Chapter 4
                      The Current   Practice of Interdisciplinary
                      Management     at GAO

                      There are two primary questions of interest relating to this general
“Fitting-In”:         theme: (1) to what extent do GAO'Stechnical staff members actually
Minimizing Tensions   approach their work in ways that diverge notably from those of non-
and Maximizing Work   technical staff?, and (2) if they do, to what extent do the nature and
                      magnitude of such differences in workstyle and values affect the quality
Quality               of the work produced, with respect to both technical quality and adher-
                      ence to GAO'Sestablished practices and procedures? In other words, how
                      is GAOfaring in striking a balance between the integration of its techni-
                      cal staff with the rest of the agency, and its reinforcement of technical
                      staff capabilities to help sustain a high level of technical quality in GAO

                      The evidence on both these broad questions is mixed. Some in the organ-
                      ization see no meaningful differences between nontechnical and techni-
                      cal staff, other than those serving in a technical assistance role. This
                      view was expressed quite strongly in the focus groups conducted with
                      GAO'Supper management (see appendix VII, section II). Many of these
                      managers believe that all of GAO'Sevaluators constitute a pool of indi-
                      viduals with widely divergent talents and backgrounds, and in their
                      view, technical training even at the doctoral level in no way distin-
                      guishes or sets one group of line staff apart from the others in terms of
                      skills, basic orientation, or approach to GAO'Swork. They did, however,
                      distinguish between technical assistance staff and evaluators, not in
                      terms of skills or values or workstyles, but in terms of differences in the
                      work they do. (The task force had discussed using a definition of techni-
                      cal staff based on work or function alone, but decided against it because
                      such a definition would have masked the issue being investigated. That
                      is, if it is assumed that everyone who does the same work is the same,
                      then the question of how well technical staff are being integrated into
                      the organizational mainstream cannot be investigated.)

                      This view that no distinction can or should be made between technical
                      and nontechnical line staff because they perform the same work was,
                      however, limited to senior management. Mid-level GAOmanagers (pri-
                      marily directors for issue areas, associate directors, assistant directors,
                      assistant regional managers, and directors of regional TAGgroups)
                      instead indicated consensus that there are substantial differences
                      between nontechnical and technical staff, both in assistance and line
                      positions, in specific domains. For example, by an overwhelming margin,
                      managers find that technical staff have greater difficulty than nontech-
                      nical staff in adapting to GAOprocedures (71 percent), in adjusting to the
                      degree that work is reviewed at GAO(69 percent), and in accepting the
                      limited recognition accorded to their work products (64 percent). (Senior

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managers in the focus groups agree with this characterization only for
technical assistance staff.)

In addition, almost half (44 percent) of the mid-level managers who
supervise both technical and nontechnical staff recognize great or very
great differences between them in terms of how they assign them to
tasks. Another 36 percent reported a “moderate” difference and only 21
percent found some or no difference between their technical and non-
technical staffmembers on this dimension.

A similarly mixed message emerges from the results of the technical
staff survey and interviews with former GAO employees, both technical
and nontechnical. In some ways, technical staff responses in both
surveys and interviews reveal them to be less different from nontechni-
cal staff than the literature and other organizations’ experience would
lead one to expect, or than most mid-level GAOmanagers perceive them
to be. For example, only 17 percent of technical staff feel that GAO'Sdoc-
umentation requirements, such as indexing and referencing, are unrea-
sonable, while 66 percent say they are reasonable.

Yet despite these points of similarity, GAO'Stechnical staff are conscious
of differences in their backgrounds compared to those of the rest of the
agency’s staff. About one-third (34 percent) of line technical staff indi-
cate that their current supervisor has a background similar to their own,
compared to 43 percent reporting that it is dissimilar. And among the
minority of technical line staff (13 percent) who characterize their
experience with their current supervisor as “more bad than good,” 90
percent attribute this to differences in work philosophies, and 43 per-
cent to differences in professional training.

The key question, as already noted, is whether and how these perceived
similarities and differences between technical and nontechnical staff
affect the production of good quality work. Overall, technical staff and
managers both hold a positive view. Of the surveyed managers, 57 per-
cent believe that technical assistance and line staff make a great or very
great contribution to GAO.(However, those managers who supervise
technical staff have a much more favorable view than those who do
not.) Similarly, 46 percent of technical assistance staff believe that their
advice is “always or almost always” given serious consideration, with
37 percent more saying that this “usually” occurs. Former technical
staffmembers had also found GAOmanagement receptive to their techni-
cal input.

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At the same time, managers surveyed by the task force clearly have
some qualms about the technical staffs capability with respect to orga-
nizational norms. For example, 79 percent of mid-level managers per-
ceive technical staff as less knowledgeable of GAO policies and practices
than nontechnical staff. Similarly, 69 percent of the managers rate tech-
nical staff as less proficient in written communications skills than their
nontechnical colleagues.

Technical staff also expressed some reservations about the extent to
which GAOfaithfully portrays technical work. Only 30 percent of techni-
cal assistance staff report that their work is accurately reflected in GAO
reports “all or almost all” of the time; however, over half (64 percent)
say that “most” reports present their work accurately. On the other
hand, 16 percent state that their work is accurately portrayed in reports
no more than half the time. Moreover, only 23 percent of technical staff
indicate that technical disputes are “always or almost always” settled in
a technically adequate way, while 37 percent report this happens “usu-
ally.” Thus, in the view of its technical staff, GAOcurrently achieves the
technically appropriate result more often than not; on the other hand,
these responses suggest there may be some room for improvement.

As noted in chapter 3, improved adherence to organizational norms and
enhanced technical quality need not be mutually exclusive. For example,
an important finding from both the technical staff survey and inter-
views with former GAOemployees is that deficiencies among technical
staff concerning knowledge of GAOprocedures are more likely to reflect
inadequate training than any unwillingness to comply with established
GAOprocedures. This is in direct contrast to the literature (see appendix
I) in which active opposition by technical staff to organizational norms
and procedures is assumed. Indeed, the technical staff survey suggests
that most (though not all) of the technical staff who stay at GAOdo
accept quality control requirements like indexing and referencing. More-
over, mid-level managers suggest that more and earlier training in this
area would be particularly desirable for technical staff.

With regard to technical staff reservations about the adequacy of the
presentation of their work in GAOreports, this problem can be expected
to diminish with the passage of time. That is, the planned increase in the
proportion of GAOmanagers with technical training should lead to
stronger presentations of technical issues, without losing sight of other
organizational objectives such as clarity to lay audiences. It might also

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                be helpful to expand the use of outside technical consultants. The litera-
                ture on the subject reveals that using external experts informally to aug-
                ment traditional hierarchical reviews can help resolve technical
                disagreements among multidisciplinary staff (see appendix I). This
                device is used routinely in one technical GAOdivision, and some former
                GAOemployees urge the agency to take greater advantage of outside con-
                sultants. However, the mid-level manager survey indicates that only 32
                percent of managers GAO-wide have employed this technique in recent
                years to help settle technical disputes, and it does not appear from other
                sources that outside consultants are used much across GAOin any other
                context either.

                Technical quality also depends on maintaining and expanding the exper-
                tise of the technical staff itself. Both mid-level managers and technical
                staffmembers endorsed an expansion of technical training for technical
                staff. Senior managers also advocate such training for these staff. Tech-
                nical staff would prefer to rely largely on external training mechanisms,
                such as seminars and conferences. Although mid-level managers recog-
                nized that technical staff have a greater need for such training than
                nontechnical staff, many expressed reluctance to expand training oppor-
                tunities for technical line staff much beyond that available to nontechni-
                cal staff. Indeed, the mid-level managers strongly endorsed technical
                training for nontechnical staff.

                A plurality of technical staff (42 percent) is moderately satisfied with
Improving Job   working at GAO.A minority is dissatisfied (9 percent are “very dissatis-
Satisfaction    fied” and 17 percent are “moderately” so), compared to 15 percent
                reporting they are “very satisfied” and 17 percent neutral (“as satisfied
                as dissatisfied”). If the “very satisfied” and “moderately satisfied”
                totals are combined, it is clear that a majority (57 percent) of technical
                staff have a positive view of their work and are reasonably to extremely
                happy at GAO.

                On the other hand, these responses also show that 43 percent of techni-
                cal staff have a somewhat limited personal investment in their work,
                and this has implications not only for the retention of existing staff but
                also for the recruitment of new staff. While 43 percent would recom-
                mend GAOas a place to work for those with similar skills and back-
                grounds, 36 percent would not recommend it. Further, 39 percent of
                technical staff reported they were likely to look seriously for employ-
                ment outside of GAOin the next two years, with another 26 percent indi-
                cating a 60 percent chance they would do so. This suggests that

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    although GAOis integrating a majority of its technical staff very well,
    there may be a need for improvement vis-a-vis the 43 percent who are
    neutral to dissatisfied, and the 36 percent who would not recommend
    GAOto new staff with similar skills and background to their own.

    Despite the size of these proportions, it is difficult to be any more pre-
    scriptive in this area. It is always possible that the group of neutral or
    dissatisfied staff may include individuals whom GAOmanagers do not
    want to retain for various reasons. It is also not clear how much turn-
    over is actually desirable, However, it is important for managers to
    determine whether the turnover they are experiencing is in fact accepta-
    ble to them. Responses from the mid-level managers’ survey would tend
    to show that it is not. Indeed, fully 73 percent of the mid-level managers
    surveyed believe it would be difficult to replace their technical
    staffmembers. Moreover, 61 percent of those managers think that tech-
    nical staff are more likely to leave GAOfor other employment than non-
    technical staff, compared to only 5 percent who think nontechnical staff
    are more likely to leave.2 In addition, mid-level managers reported that
    they would have liked to retain about 70 percent of the technical staff
    whom they lost (the comparable figure for nontechnical staff was 60

    Many senior managers in the focus groups, on the other hand, had a
    different view of technical staff recruitment and retention than did the
    mid-level managers (see appendix VII, section II). They believed GAOhad
    little or no problem with recruitment, making exceptions only for partic-
    ular regions that have high costs of living, or particular staff with
    highly demanded skills (such as computer specialists), and they per-
    ceived no difficulty at all with retention.

    The technical staff and mid-level managers’ surveys explored in some
    detail the factors that influence technical staff morale in GAO.(See
    appendixes VI and VII for the detailed analysis of these responses, and
    appendix VIII for a comparative analysis of the two sets.) Among the
    factors that the technical staff rated most important-the    16 out of 28
    that more than half the technical staff thought were of great or very
    great importance-half     or more of the staff rated GAOas “good” or
    “very good” on seven. These were, in order of importance to technical
    staff: the degree the work is professionally challenging, the ability for

    2These views are borne out by actual attrition rates which now run at about 15 percent annually for
    technical assistance staff and about 6 percent for nontechnical staff.

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staff to match assignments with their own areas of interest, the profes-
sional reputation. of the agency, stability of employment, work in a vari-
ety of subject areas, importance of work outside the organization, and
retirement benefits (see appendix VIII, table 1). The staff rated GAO
most highly on stability of employment and work in a variety of subject
areas, where 96 and 88 percent assessed the agency as good or very
good. Notably, the technical staff also had a positive assessment of GAO
regarding the factor they viewed as the most important of all among the
28-the degree of professional challenge in the work; here 68 percent
considered GAO to be good or very good. Moreover, 69 percent of the
technical staff rated GAO as good or very good in matching assignments
with staff interests, their second most important employment factor.
GAO did still better on the factor ranked fourth in importance, the pro-
fessional reputation of the organization, rated good or very good by 71
percent of technical staff.

Technical staff rated another nine factors as important, but here fewer
than half of them judged GAO'S performance as good or very good. Three
of these-access to personal computers, salary, and autonomy in carry-
ing out the work-stand     out as areas where improvements may be
needed. All three combined relatively high levels of importance to tech-
nical staff (between 72 and 79 percent rating them of great or very great
importance) with relatively low levels of perceived performance by
GAO-Only     31 to 39 percent of staff assessed GAO as good or very good in
these areas.

With respect to the remaining 6 factors, those that came closest in
importance to computer access, salary and autonomy were two areas
where almost half the technical staff respondents rated GAO as good or
very good: interaction with peers within GAO (49 percent) and opportu-
nities to influence public policy (46 percent). However, GAO'S assessed
performance declined sharply for the remaining four factors-financial
support for outside training (only 16 percent rating GAO as good or very
good), career advancement without managing (9 percent), adequacy of
work accommodations (21 percent), and interaction with peers outside
GAO (24 percent). The low level of approval on these factors, along with
the fact that each was still considered of great or very great importance
by more than half the technical staff, means that attention to these
issues could also pay substantial dividends in improved technical staff

The surveyed mid-level managers agreed with and reinforced the judg-
ments of technical staff that salary and access to computers were two

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critical factors affecting technical staff retention. In weighing alterna-
tive measures to enhance the attractiveness of GAO, they gave high pri-
orities to both, with a higher priority going to computers than to salary.
However, few managers (18 percent) suggested giving high or very high
priority to granting staff more influence over their assignments, the
third factor highlighted by technical staff respondents.

One other area of high priority to mid-level managers was that of pro-
viding career rewards for technical as opposed to managerial tasks.
Over half of these managers would support increasing the noncompeti-
tive working grade for technical staff above Gs-12 (or its equivalent),
and two thirds would support nonmanagerial ~~-16s for senior technical
staff. However, many of GAO’S senior managers again disagreed: they
would support nonmanagerial positions at the ~~-15 level only on an
exceptional basis.

The technical staff rated GAO worse on the dimension of nonmanagerial
promotion opportunities than on any other factor, with 91 percent rat-
ing GAO no better than fair. While this factor was not considered by tech-
nical staff to be as important as the other factors cited above, 55 percent
of technical staff nonetheless considered it of great or very great impor-
tance (it was 13th out of 28). Moreover, salary-the     fifth most impor-
tant factor to technical staff-overlaps   with nonmanagerial promotion
to a considerable extent, since the main advantage to technical staff of
career advancement in nonmanagerial positions is the possibility of
increasing their income without changing the type of work that they do.

One reason why technical staff may place less importance on nonmana-
gerial advancement is that, contrary to the conventional wisdom about
how technical staff view their paths of career development, and despite
the dual career ladder literature (see appendixes I and III), many at GAO
do aspire to managerial roles. Even among technical assistance staff,
who typically have less involvement in the type of project management
tasks that lead to larger managerial responsibilities, 33 percent would
prefer to manage research or technical work rather than do it them-
selves, with no change in salary. To advance to a GS-15 position (and
gain higher pay), 70 percent would willingly assume managerial

However, the mid-level managers surveyed by the task force, while sup-
portive of nonmanagerial advancement for technical staff, were notably
skeptical about their suitability for management responsibilities. They
assessed technical assistance staff as less suitable than nontechnical

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staff for assistant director, director, and regional manager positions by a
margin of 73 percent to 8. Technical line staff-whose     experience in
managing jobs (19 percent are currently assistant directors and 60 per-
cent assignment managers or project managers) more closely parallels
that of the nontechnical staff vying for those positions-were     perceived
more favorably. Still, only 14 percent of managers saw an advantage in
having a technical background at managerial levels, while 44 percent
considered nontechnical staff more suitable for management (41 percent
said they were equally suitable). This gives credence to the view held by
many technical staff that their technical backgrounds are not helpful in
terms of promotion, especially at higher levels (see chapter 1).

The focus groups involving GAO'Ssenior managers, on the other hand,
turned up a widespread perception among them that technical assis-
tance staff receive “plenty of promotions,” so many, indeed, as to risk
creating resentment among generalist evaluators (see appendix VII, sec-
tion 11).Their view was that technical assistance staff need management
experience and should “move into evaluator ranks” (i.e., become techni-
cal line staff and then managers), if they want to compete for ~~-16 and

This mosaic of perceptions, preferences, and differential experience
with technical staff at various levels of GAOmanagement makes it diffi-
cult to determine whether the belief among technical staff that there are
not enough promotion opportunities open to them (at least at the ~~-16
level and above) is, on the whole, accurate or not. It may often depend
on who is involved in individual promotion decisions. This uncertainty
makes it harder for technical staff to accurately assess their long-term
career prospects at GAO,and to make informed choices between career
paths focusing on technical assistance or line positions. It also seems
possible that such uncertainty could be having negative effects on

Nevertheless, the survey of technical staff shows that, by and large,
they are willing to assume managerial responsibilities as they advance
to the level of assistant director and beyond. And at least some senior
managers have appeared to welcome technically trained candidates into
management ranks, since they see the GAOwork force as a whole grow-
ing more technical. Indeed, promotions to upper management in GAOin
recent years suggest more openness to qualified candidates with techni-
cal backgrounds than the focus group discussions might suggest. Cur-
rently, about 27 percent of SFSline positions are held by individuals

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                with strong technical qualifications.3 Given these developments, it seems
                reasonable to expect that both supervisors and senior managers will
                increasingly recognize the capabilities of technically trained staff as a
                group, and will see to it that individual technical staff members are not
                inhibited from obtaining the necessary qualifying experience and then
                applying for managerial positions, if they should want them.

                Another important strategy for reinforcing technical staff morale and
                job satisfaction is providing public recognition for a job well done.
                Awards, for example, appear to be particularly important to technical
                 assistance staff, nearly half of whom (49 percent) believe that their
                work has received less visibility than it deserved; similarly, 31 percent
                of technical line staff believe they have gained less recognition for their
                work than is appropriate. In this area, then, GAO'Ssituation parallels
                that experienced by other organizations and discussed in the literature.
                A conscious effort to identify and reward exceptional technical work, as
                IBM does, for example (see appendix II), could help to overcome the his-
                toric (see chapter 1) and still pervasive sense among technical staff at
                GAOthat their work is systematically undervalued compared to that per-
                formed by generalist evaluators. Indeed, 62 percent of mid-level mana-
                gers assigned high or very high priority to providing more recognition
                for a job well done to help GAOretain its technical staff. And among
                those managers who supervise only technical staff, the comparable fig-
                ure was 78 percent, with 46 percent assigning it very high priority.

                As already noted, effective communication means different things to
Assuring Good   GAO'Stechnical staff and to its mid-level managers. These managers (59
Communication   percent) are not only critical of technical staff concerning written com-
                munication, but a third (32 percent) also believe nontechnical staff com-
                municate better orally than technical staff (64 percent judge them
                equal). The same proportion (31 percent) finds that nontechnical staff
                are better able to work well with other people (again with virtually all
                the rest, 67 percent, finding no difference).

                Technical staff, on the other hand, see effective communication of tech-
                nical results differently. To them, the paramount issue is the accuracy
                with which their work is presented in GAOreports (see appendix II), and
                they believe that some work must be described in technical language if it

                “Memorandum to the Assistant Comptroller General for Program Evaluation and Methodology from
                the Regional Manager of Kansas City (October 16,198Q). The task force definition of technical staff
                was again used for this analysis.

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is to be accurate. Yet such language is usually seen as jargon by writers
of good English prose, and by the lay or nontechnical readers who con-
stitute the primary audience for GAOreports. Thus, the ability to com-
municate transparently in clear language is required if those reports are
to be read and used. As a result, technical staff in GAOhave the difficult
task of learning to present their arguments understandably while at the
same time ensuring that the precision and accuracy of what is described
have not been jeopardized through oversimplification.

Mid-level managers believe that one way to deal with these communica-
tion problems is to base hiring decisions for technical staff, at least in
part, on their oral and written communication skills, as well as on their
aptitude for team-oriented work. By the same token, they emphasize the
importance of the recruitment interview. If candidates are asked to
bring samples of their work with them to the interview, written commu-
nication skills can be assessed, oral communication can be observed at
the interview, and candidates’ ability to work well with people can be
queried through reference checks.

It is also important at the recruitment interview to provide potential
new hires with a clear understanding of what they should expect at GAO.
Current and former technical staff (as well as former nontechnical staff)
report that this has not always occurred in the past. For example, only
23 percent of technical staff hired since 1980 indicated in their survey
responses that their first-year experience at GAOgreatly or very greatly
matched their expectations, though 48 percent did report a “moderate”
match. The technical staff whose first-year experience did not closely
match their expectations said they found the work less technical, more
thoroughly reviewed, less challenging, and less visible than they had
anticipated, and they also noted that they had less control over their
work, faced more documentation requirements, and used their special-
ized skills less often than they had thought they would. This problem of
disappointed expectations was apparently not widely observed by mid-
level managers, three quarters of whom (76 percent) reported that their
technical staffmembers were very or generally satisfied with the corre-
spondence of their work assignments to the expectations they had had
when hired.

More extensive training is another needed strategy for improving writ-
ten communication. Only 27 percent of technical staff reported that they
had received adequate training in GAO'Sreporting style in their first 6
months of work. Among former GAOemployees, many technical staff felt

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              they would have benefited from courses in basic auditing techniques as
              well as in GAOprocedures.

              Another possible approach for enhancing both understanding and effec-
              tive communication is to rotate technical assistance staff into line posi-
              tions and vice versa. Senior and mid-level managers favor short-term
              assignments of technical staff into nontechnical positions, but are not
              favorable to rotations of nontechnical staff into DMTAGSor TAGgroups. If
              the rotations were short-term, however, perhaps they could provide a
              way to interest more technical assistance staff in moving into a tempo-
              rary position from which they could determine whether or not they
              were interested in management. (At present, few-8 percent-would
              want to be transferred laterally to an evaluator position.) And nontech-
              nical staff could make good use of a short-term rotation into, say, a
              DMTAGto apply technical skills, newly acquired through GAOtraining,
              under expert direction.

              In sum, the five task force studies make several points clear. First, a
Summary and   majority of technical staff are “moderately” to “very” satisfied with
Conclusions   their work at GAO.Second, GAOis doing better in giving these staff pro-
              fessionally challenging work than in giving them the equipment (espe-
              cially computers) that they need to do it with. Third, a majority of mid-
              level managers believe that technical staff are making a major contribu-
              tion to GAO.Fourth, most managers do not think a technical background
              is helpful in management or that technical staff have much aptitude for
              it, and there is a corresponding view among technical staff that promo-
              tion possibilities at upper levels are rare for staff with technical back-
              grounds. Fifth, there is general consensus among managers surveyed
              about the need for more recognition of technical staff contributions.

              There were at least three surprises: (1) it turned out that technical staff
              were not opposed to GAOprocedures, as had been thought, but rather
              had not always received training in them; (2) senior managers and mid-
              level managers were in substantial disagreement on many points;4 and
              (3) at GAO,most technical staff are not opposed to taking on manage-
              ment responsibilities.

              4Among other things, this could be an artifact of method (e.g., the focus group versus the survey); or
              it could reflect the larger distance that exists between technical staff and senior managers than
              between technical staff and mid-level managers.

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    Compared to some other agencies and private-sector firms that have
    attempted to integrate technical staff into a mainstream organization,
    GAOappears to be doing very well. Particular points of tension have
    arisen, such as what really constitutes an adequate and effective
    description of a study’s analytical approach, but the discussion in chap-
    ter 3 suggests that these tensions may be to some degree desirable, as
    well as inevitable. In order to consciously weigh any tradeoffs between
    aspects of technical quality and other organizational norms, the organi-
    zation needs to have within it individuals who are not so perfectly
    assimilated into the prevailing culture that they are unable and unwill-
    ing to make the case for technically preferred alternatives. The gener-
    ally positive but not uncritical attitudes toward GAOreported by the
    current technical staff (and mid-level GAOmanagers about the technical
    staff) is broadly consistent with this overall objective.

    Nevertheless, in a number of different areas, improvements could be
    made that would reinforce the role and strengthen the contribution of
    technical staff at GAO.The recruitment interview could be used better to
    (1) determine a candidate’s written and oral communication skills; (2)
    examine his or her aptitude for working in teams; and (3) convey a
    clearer comprehension both of the kind of work he or she would be
    doing at GAO,and of opportunities for promotion. Training in GAOprac-
    tices and procedures could be expanded and improved, especially since
    it appears that, at GAO,noncompliance reflects not opposition but igno-
    rance. Resources could be targeted to specific areas that would have the
    greatest impact on technical staff morale, while promoting organiza-
    tional productivity overall-for   example:

9 increased opportunities for external technical training;
. improved access to personal computers;
l improved “verbal feedback” and awareness from managers, including a
  serious search for technical staff input, to the degree possible, into deci-
  sions on the work they will do and how they will do it; and
. increased recognition and rewards.

    Also, it seems important to ensure that technical staff understand
    clearly what their career possibilities are at GAO.Either they need to be
    told that they cannot advance beyond a certain level, as the IG’s office in
    HHSdoes (see appendix II) and outside managers have advised (see
    appendix III); or else they need to know that they can, and under what
    circumstances (e.g., the acquisition of management experience). The per-
    ception that a technical background is not useful for promotion potential
    is not a helpful one to maintain at GAOeither for retaining successful

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technical staff, for keeping their skills honed, or for transferring those
skills to the rest of GAO.

It seems reasonable to expect-given the remarkable agreement in these
areas between the technical staff and mid-level manager surveys-that
changes such as these could benefit not only technical staff but also non-
technical staff, managers, and GAOas a whole. This would come about as
a function of increased understanding, clearer communication, improved
morale, and the better working environment for all GAO-ersthat these
changes could be expected to create.

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Chapter 6

Capitalizing on What Has BeenAchieved:
Eff&g     and Monitoring Improvements in
GAO’s Technical Capabilities
               GAO  has come a long way in simultaneously expanding the technical
               capabilities of its staff and integrating those skills throughout its profes-
               sional work force. Although that process has involved some degree of
               tension and conflict, it is greatly to GAO'S credit that it has openly con-
               fronted these issues on a continuing basis-most recently with the
               establishment of this task force-and consciously sought adjustments in
               personnel practices and other areas that would help its increasingly
               diverse and technically-trained staff to function effectively as a whole.

               The most important question, however, is not where the agency is today,
               but where it is heading. How can GAO organize itself to foster both more
               sophisticated and more widely dispersed technical skills among its staff?
               How can it correct existing difficulties and better foresee potential new

               Some part of the answers to these questions focuses on two major activi-
               ties: training and monitoring. As numerous references in the previous
               chapters have made clear, training is the key to broadening and deepen-
               ing the pool of technical talent in the agency. GAO has done well in giving
               increased attention to technical training for its mainstream professional
               staff and is now beginning to refine its plans to continue and broaden
               such training. But it has given somewhat less emphasis to training staff
               who have already achieved a certain level of technical skill, either to
               expand their technical expertise or to insure that they are well oriented
               to GAO procedures and the logic of audit approaches. The first of these is
               needed to ensure that technical expertise is not blunted over time; the
               second is a requisite for interdisciplinary understanding.

               In a different but related area, GAO has similarly begun to put into place
               personnel information systems that will allow the agency to monitor its
               progress in expanding and strengthening its technical capabilities across
               its entire professional staff. There are, however, important limitations
               in the existing data systems that impede their use for this purpose with
               desirable flexibility, efficiency, and accuracy. These limitations affect
               GAO'S ability to adequately track increases in the technical skills
               acquired by current staff, as distinct from the educational credentials
               they obtained prior to coming to GAO.

               This chapter summarizes information from appendixes IX, X, and XI on
               GAO'S training program and personnel information systems, with a focus
               on areas where incremental improvements could have particularly large
               potential benefits. The task force has attempted to identify, based on
               the information developed for this report, any critical gaps in the mix of

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                          internal and external technical training provided to GAO staff and in the
                          organization of existing data systems for purposes of monitoring staff
                          development. Given the already great emphasis that has been put on
                          technical training for nontechnical managers and staff, this will not be a
                          focus of the present discussion. It is, nonetheless, a critically important
                          part of GAO'S ability to deal with the challenges of interdisciplinary

                          The subject of training for technical staff has come up several times in
Training for Technical    previous chapters, with respect to approaches taken by other organiza-
Staff in Organizational   tions and the needs perceived by GAO managers and technical staff. This
Procedures and            section relates those observations on alternative training objectives and
                          methods to the training program that GAO offers its professional staff.
Technical Skills          The analysis is somewhat complicated by the fact that GAO'S evaluator
                          curriculum is currently undergoing major revisions. Past experience
                          with GAO training may therefore have little relevance for what to expect
                          in the future; at the same time, current plans may or may not be imple-
                          mented as envisioned. Nevertheless, past experience and current plans
                          together provide the best available evidence as to the direction in which
                          GAO'S training program is moving at this time.

                          In the preceding chapters, the discussion of training for technical staff
                          has primarily focused on two types: (1) orientation to the organization
                          and its cultural norms, and (2) technical training to expand existing
                          technical expertise. Since orientation and technical training generally
                          encounter different types of problems, each is examined separately

                          Orientation for staff hired with advanced technical training differs from
                          that given to most entry-level evaluators less in its content than its con-
                          text. Everyone in the organization needs to learn the same practices and
                          procedures-workpaper       preparation, indexing and referencing, etc.
                          However, more than most entry-level hires, technical staff come to GAO
                          with a pre-existing set of norms defining good quality work grounded in
                          their professional training.

                          Every technical staff person at GAO has to integrate these professional
                          norms with GAO'S own standard operating procedures in order to func-
                          tion effectively in the organization. The responses to the technical staff
                          survey indicate that most of GAO'S technical staff have done so, over
                          time. However, it seems clear, given the majority of technical staff who

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find GAO'Sdocumentation requirements reasonable, that effective orien-
tation training given as soon as possible after hiring, could facilitate and
accelerate the process of accommodating the professional norms of tech-
nical staff to those of GAO.

There are two elements to this. The first is to ensure that all staff-
including staff hired with advanced technical skills-receive relevant
training in GAO'Sorganizational procedures immediately after their arri-
val at the agency. This would represent a major change from the last 10
years, when fewer than half of technical staff hired by GAOcould recall
receiving training of this sort within 6 months of their arrival. Second,
decisions need to be made about the extent to which technical staff
would benefit from a specialized orientation program targeted to their
particular need to integrate pre-existing professional norms.

In the past, GAOhas provided minimal formal orientation to the technical
staff it has recruited. In addition, there is a continuing lack of orienta-
tion training for mid- and upper-level hires. The training program has
historically assumed that people came to GAOat the entry level and
worked their way up in the organization. Over time that recruitment
pattern has become less and less dominant, especially for those with
advanced technical training.

The technical staff who in previous years took GAO'Sregular entry-level
orientation, either in whole or in part, gave it mixed reviews. The course
has recently been revamped to reflect the increasingly technical nature
of GAO'Swork. It remains to be seen if these changes were sufficient to
meet the needs of staff with relatively greater prior training in technical
disciplines. GAO'STraining Institute plans to examine this issue in the
near future.

Several initiatives are now under way that may help to rectify past
neglect of formal orientation training for technical staff at GAO.How-
ever, as the various components are designed and put into place, specific
consideration should be given to how well they address the particular
needs of recruits with substantial technical training. For some segments,
additional or revised material specifically designed for technical staff
might help them make a smoother and speedier transition into the GAO
working environment.

In part, that transition can be eased by a better understanding of the
similarities that exist between GAO'Sestablished working procedures and
the professional norms technical staff bring with them. There are, of

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course, important differences that should not be glossed over, such as
the institutional authorship of products and the focus on writing for lay
rather than technically sophisticated audiences. Moreover, GAO'Scurrent
procedures should not be considered immutable; some may need to be
revised or dropped as the range of work conducted by GAOchanges.
Questions raised by technical staff should help this reexamination pro-
cess to occur.

On the other hand, some initial difficulties of newly hired technical staff
may derive as much from the language or vocabulary used to describe
GAOpractices and policies as from their actual content. Most of GAO'S
working procedures have developed from accounting practices and are
labeled accordingly. They need to be explained in ways that make sense
to technical staff trained in a variety of disciplines. The key is to show
how their purposes, such as establishing the empirical support for con-
clusions, relate to the concepts and values underlying technical profes-
sional norms. The match will not be perfect, but to the extent they do
correspond, technical staff can come to understand that most GAOand
professional norms are complementary rather than at odds with each

Formal orientation would also provide a suitable opportunity to intro-
duce new technical-as well as nontechnical-staff     to a glossary of
technical terms and concepts whose usage varies across disciplines. As
mentioned in chapter 3, this quite simple device can forestall a good deal
of confusion and miscommunication in daily interactions among staff
with different professional backgrounds. That alone could greatly facili-
tate the assimilation of technical staff at GAO.

The acculturation of technical staff can be launched by a well-developed
orientation course, but it will take time to progress fully. Some will
occur naturally through on-the-job experiences and interaction with
other GAOstaff. However, additional course work may also facilitate the
process. In particular, numerous former GAOtechnical staff noted the
value to people like themselves of courses in auditing and accounting.
Similar comments were received from managers in other federal agen-
cies. The point here is not to teach technical staff to do accounting, but
to provide them a better understanding of the intellectual perspective of
their auditor colleagues, which is also the basis for GAO'Sworking proce-
dures. For the same reason, technical assistance staff could benefit from
some of the core courses required of line evaluators. (See appendix IX
for a list of possible courses.) This should help the assistance staff to

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more fully appreciate the situation and point of view of the evaluators
they are advising.

The second major need for training by technical staff is for courses, con-
ferences, and related activities to reinforce and expand their technical
capabilities. This takes on added importance as a means for GAOto
counteract the tendency, noted in chapter 3, of organizations which
stressed the integration of technical and nontechnical staff to have
greater difficulty maintaining a “leading edge” technical capability. The
task force found a solid consensus among technical staff and both mid-
level and senior managers regarding the importance of providing a sub-
stantial amount of technical training to the technical staff.

GAO'Scapacity to meet these needs through internal training may grow
in future years, but currently it is quite limited and any expansion will
probably occur slowly. Still, the demand for advanced training in quan-
titative techniques is likely to increase substantially as GAOimplements
a proposal to train all generalist evaluators in applied statistics to a
level equivalent to one year of graduate work. Currently, there are plans
to contract for courses in multivariate analysis, categorical data analy-
sis, time series analysis, and causal modeling.

Nonetheless, technical staff and both mid-level and senior managers all
agree that most of the advanced technical training needed by technical
staff will have to be obtained through external sources. The needs of
different staffmembers are so diverse that it is scarcely practical for GAO
to attempt to provide this training in-house.

However, strong support in the abstract for external training of techni-
cal staff tends to diminish in the face of financial constraints and con-
cerns over the equity of providing more resources to technical than
nontechnical staff. On one hand, managers see the current level of sup-
port to technical staff as extremely expensive. On the other, only 16 per-
cent of technical staff rate the availability of financial support for
external training as good or very good at GAO.This is even lower than
the proportion of technical staff (19 percent) who rate GAO'Sin-house
technical training as good or very good. The situation may be worst for
the TAGgroups in the regions, where limited travel budgets impede
access to internal as well as external training. Many, but not all, senior
managers agree that GAOprobably does not provide as much technical
training for its technical staff as it should.

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                  Perhaps the greatest difficulty in meeting this large unmet demand for
                  technical training is the perceived inequity of spending a disproportion-
                  ate share of training funds for line staff who already have relatively
                  advanced technical skills compared to most mainstream evaluators.
                  Almost half the mid-level managers surveyed (46 percent) indicated
                  that technical line staff should not receive any greater training
                  resources than nontechnical line staff. However, only 36 percent felt the
                  same about greater training resources for technical assistance staff. In
                  the same vein, the instructions for external budget justifications were
                  revised this year to explicitly recognize the potentially greater needs of
                  technical assistance staff for such training. Thus, some differential in
                  training allocations may be acceptable at least for some technical staff.

                  Ultimately, scarce training funds should be distributed on the basis of
                  organizational needs for specific skills. Unit heads are responsible for
                  identifying these needs and for allocating training resources accord-
                  ingly. Once the skills are identified, all those qualified to obtain such
                  training should be able to compete for funding on an equitable basis.
                  This is already occurring in the certificate program in information man-
                  agement science developed jointly by IMTEC,the Training Institute, and
                  George Washington University.

                  One last area where specialized training might be appropriate is in the
Training in the   management of technical staff, for both managers with technical train-
Management of     ing and those without. Just as technical staff should benefit from train-
Technical Staff   ing that relates GAOorganizational procedures to their professional
                  norms, nontechnical managers can probably function more effectively to
                  the extent that they understand the perspectives and concerns of their
                  technical staff. Technically trained managers may have different needs.
                  They should already share, at least in broad terms, the professional ori-
                  entation of their staff. However, many may find themselves assuming
                  managerial responsibilities with less experience to draw on in working
                  within the GAOenvironment than nontechnical managers, most of whom
                  typically have worked longer at GAObecause they came to the agency
                  earlier in their careers.

                  The Training Institute is currently revising GAO'Straditional sequence of
                  courses on supervision, taking into account the increasingly technical
                  nature of GAO'Swork. It is possible that these adjustments will take care
                  of the particular needs of managers of technical staff. If not, additional
                  material targeted to this group of managers could be presented through
                  supplementary courses, either in-house or through external training.

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                       GAO’s Technical Capabilities

                       Before the task force undertook its census of technical staff, there had
Monitoring the         been no systematic effort to identify staff with technical skills across
Technical Capability   GAO as a whole, using a consistent definition. However, that census by

of GAO Staff           itself only provides data on the number and distribution of technical
                       staff at one point in time. The task force believes that effective monitor-
                       ing of the technical capabilities of GAO staffmembers requires systematic
                       longitudinal data on changes in the technical skills of all professional
                       staff over time, as well as on the number, distribution, and career paths
                       of staff with various types and levels of technical training. This implies
                       the existence of an ongoing data collection effort that is tied in some
                       fashion to routine personnel procedures and management information

                       Information of this sort could guide a range of personnel policy deci-
                       sions at GAO. Where within the organization are the numbers of staff
                       with specified levels of technical training growing? Where are they
                       shrinking? How much do these changes reflect hiring new employees,
                       attrition, or transfers from one unit to another? To what extent are non-
                       technical staff developing into technical staff through internal and
                       external training? To what degree are managers acquiring technical
                       skills, particularly those supervising technical staff‘? How are the quali-
                       fications of technical staff at hire changing? To what extent are techni-
                       cal staff enhancing their technical qualifications once hired? How do the
                       staff that leave GAO within a certain number of years compare to those
                       who stay in terms of technical training? What types tend to be promoted
                       faster and gain larger bonuses than others? What patterns seem to
                       emerge among such factors as initial qualifications, location in GAO, line
                       versus assistance roles, internal and external training, technical back-
                       ground of supervisors, promotions, bonuses, transfers, and attrition
                       from GAO?

                       The kinds of data that would be needed to address questions of this sort
                       include: name (or other personal identifier), demographics (age, race,
                       sex, etc.), position series, date of hire by GAO and departure (if any),
                       dates and organizational location of any internal transfers, educational
                       attainments before and after hiring (including degree, date obtained, dis-
                       cipline, and institution), other internal and external training (by subject
                       matter or skill and extent), and bonuses and salary increases received.
                       As long as these data are collected and stored at the level of individuals,
                       they can be aggregated in any way desired for a given analysis. It is also
                       important to have some assurance that the data are relatively accurate,
                       complete, and up-to-date. Any systematic differences among subgroups

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Chpitalhhg   on What Has Been Achieved:
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GAO’s Technical Capabilities

of staff in the quality of these data could lead to biased or misleading
conclusions involving comparisons across these groups.

The task force examined in some detail GAO’S existing personnel-related
management information systems in order to assess possible changes to
enhance management’s ability to monitor trends in GAO’S technical capa-
bilities. This review covered seven separate systems maintained by Per-
sonnel, the Office of Information Resource Management, the Training
Institute, and the Office of Recruitment (identified and described in
appendixes X and XI), with the single most important source being the
Personnel/Payroll System operated by the National Finance Center. The
task force found that most of the relevant data are currently collected in
some form for some technical staff in at least one of these systems.

However, analyses of these data are seriously hampered by three fac-
tors. First, different data elements are dispersed among different man-
agement information systems, sometimes requiring cumbersome
mechanisms to transfer data matched to specific individuals from one to
the next. Second, many of these systems are designed to encompass only
a subset of GAO employees. For example, the Applicant Tracking System
of the Office of Recruitment includes only individuals recruited to GAO
through the National Recruitment Program. It therefore excludes upper-
level hires, a group that is likely to include a substantial proportion of
technically-trained recruits.

Third, some data elements in these systems are not systematically
updated. Thus, information on academic degrees and professional certi-
fication frequently reflects an employee’s status when hired, unless the
employee has taken the initiative to inform the personnel office of sub-
sequent educational attainments. This means that analyses relying on
these data are likely to underestimate the technical skills currently
available in the GAO work force, especially those skills acquired after
coming to the agency and not obtained through training provided by

The redundancies and gaps inherent in this decentralized approach to
collecting and storing personnel data necessarily constrain the analyses
that can be done. In addition, there are certain types of information
where incremental improvements in the scope and quality of available
data would be especially useful from the perspective of tracking techni-
cal capabilities at GAO. In particular, it would seem that capturing accu-
rate, complete, and up-to-date data for all GAO employees concerning
training and skills should be of high pri%ty. Such information on a

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          CapitaUzlng on What Haa Been Achieved:
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          GAO’s TechnIcaJ CapabUStiee

          wide array of educational activities and attainments is critical to moni-
          toring changes over time in the composition and quality of GAO'Stechni-
          cal staff. It is especially important for monitoring the status of staff
          who did not arrive at GAOwith a graduate degree in a technical disci-
          pline, but who incrementally develop technical competencies through
          some combination of internal and external training.

          Already, good quality data are being collected on current internal train-
          ing as well as external training paid for by GAO.However, the existing
          system depends on staff initiative to report other external training,
          especially when a staffmember does not need the course work to satisfy
          GAO'S80-hour training requirement. The agency may therefore need to
          develop procedures to identify and correct on an ongoing basis inaccu-
          rate or incomplete data on education and skills acquisition by GAOstaff.

          In order to further the broadening and deepening of technical skills
Summary   throughout GAO,the agency will need to rely on a combination of inter-
          nal and external technical training directed at all its professional staff.
          Besides continuing its expansion of technical training to nontechnical
          staff, increased attention to orientation courses for technical staff could
          facilitate their assimilation within GAO'Sorganizational procedures and
          culture. Moreover, in implementing any of the initiatives proposed by
          the task force (or others) to improve interdisciplinary management at
          GAO,and to evaluate their effectiveness, GAOneeds the means to monitor
          changes in the status of staff with varying levels of technical skills on
          an ongoing basis.

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Chapter 6

Task Force Conclusionsand Recommendations

             Over the past 20 years, GAOhas evolved into an increasingly multidis-
             ciplinary and technical organization. Its recruiting emphasis has
             changed from one that drew almost entirely on staff with accounting
             and business backgrounds to one that now includes staff with back-
             grounds in economics, sociology, operations research, computer science,
             engineering, psychology, and many others. That trend will almost cer-
             tainly continue and accelerate as GAOadapts to the needs of the Con-
             gress and the Congress confronts ever more complicated issues and
             decisions. At the same time, the technical skills represented in the GAO
             workforce will grow increasingly sophisticated and diverse. Thus, GAO
             must position itself to manage and integrate a workforce with the kinds
             of varied skills that can respond adequately to the increasingly complex
             analyses the Congress needs in dealing with the nation’s problems.

             But managing and integrating such a diverse workforce so that it
             becomes a truly interdisciplinary one-people working together in close
             harmony to produce GAO'Swork-is a task that will challenge the skills
             of all GAO'Smanagers. Ultimately, the charge of the Task Force on Inter-
             disciplinary Management was to consider ways of managing this transi-
             tion that would enable the growing proportion of GAOstaff with
             advanced technical skills to make the greatest possible contribution to
             fulfilling the agency’s mission. In so doing, the purpose was to help GAO
             make its necessary adaptations more rapidly-and        at lower human and
             financial cost-than would otherwise be the case.

             Based on a wide range of information and insights drawn from many
             different viewpoints, from outside as well as within GAO,the task force
             has arrived at several observations that help to clarify the spectrum of
             choices open to the agency and the likely consequences of those deci-
             sions. First, the tensions that GAOhas experienced in attempting to inte-
             grate technical and nontechnical staff are not peculiar to this agency.
             Rather, the effort at integration is an old problem, shared by many other
             organizations that have tried to diversify their workforces. Most likely it
             derives from the differing value systems of technical disciplines and any
             large organization. The experience of other organizations also shows
             that these tensions can be managed successfully by carefully devising
             strategies that bridge barriers in communication and create incentives
             for constructive interactions among technical and nontechnical staff.

             From the surveys of technical staff and mid-level managers conducted
             by the task force, it appears that GAOhas largely succeeded in establish-
             ing this balance. Technical staff are generally satisfied with their work
             at GAO,but still see room for improvement in a number of areas related

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Task Force Conclusions
and Recommendations

to technical quality (e.g., the extent to which disagreements among staff
are resolved in a technically adequate way). At the same time, most
technical staff members accept the legitimacy of organizationally-
defined aspects of quality, such as GAO'Sdocumentation requirements.
Mid-level managers, on the other hand, credit technical staff with mak-
ing major contributions to the agency, yet find that they have certain
distinct limitations relative to nontechnical staff, primarily in their abil-
ity to communicate complex issues in layman’s terms and their knowl-
edge of GAOprocedures.

One reason that technical staff function as well as they do at GAOis that
the agency offers them a variety of roles and situations to choose
among-providing       technical assistance, carrying out assignments in
technical divisions where most colleagues have advanced degrees, and
working side-by-side with auditors. This allows individual technical
staff to find an organizational niche that suits their interests and per-
sonal characteristics. In effect, they can- within limits-establish    their
own balance between integration with GAO'Sprofessional mainstream
and maintenance of a separate technical identity.

This pluralistic approach has the added advantage of facilitating an
expansion of the agency’s technical capabilities through training of
GAO'Sexisting professional staff, as well as hiring of new staff with edu-
cational credentials in technical disciplines. The day-to-day interaction
between technically trained staff and mainstream auditors in a variety
of contexts should help the latter identify specific areas where addi-
tional technical training would be helpful to them. At the same time, the
existence of groups with a preponderance of technically-trained staff
should assist in recruiting and retaining technical staff members for
whom contact with peers in their discipline is an important

While the basic approach that GAOhas adopted to incorporate techni-
cally trained staff into its workforce is fundamentally sound, the task
force has identified a number of areas where incremental improvements
are possible and desirable. The recommendations that follow were all
assessed in terms of four overall goals: to widen, deepen, and modernize
GAO'Stechnical expertise; to preserve GAO'Sinstitutional values of inde-
pendence, objectivity, and accuracy; to optimize the application of tech-
nical skills in GAOprojects; and to help technical staff expand their
skills, adapt to the GAOworking environment, and maximize the satisfac-
tion they derive from their work. More generally, all recommendations
seek to enhance morale and promote organizational productivity. Some

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                    Task Force Conclusions
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                    address the behavior of individual managers at GAO,some concern tech-
                    nical staff, and some relate to GAOas a whole. In recognition of the criti-
                    cal role played by managers in guiding the integration of technical staff
                    into the organization, the recommendations addressed to them are pre-
                    sented first.

                    1. Managers should trv to enhance their use of recruitment interviews to
Task Force
GAO Managers

                    Although in their survey responses, mid-level managers largely sub-
                    scribed to these goals, their assessment of technical staff characteristics,
                    as well as the technical staff’s description of how their actual experi-
                    ence at GAOdiffered from what they had been led to expect, both sug-
                    gest that in the past these goals may not have been fully realized.
                    Renewed emphasis on both extracting and conveying information at the
                    recruitment interview could help GAOto select those most likely to adapt
                    successfully to GAO'Sworking environment. Moreover, those that are
                    hired will adapt more quickly and easily to the agency to the extent that
                    their experience matches what they were led to expect.

                    2. Managers should consider carefully their interactions with technical
                    staff and foster, wherever possible, their job satisfaction by consulting
                    with them on the work they will do and how they will do it. Equally
                    important is providing extensive “verbal feedback” and public recogni-
                    tion (such as awards) to explicitly acknowledge their contributions, both
                    internal and external, to the organization.

                    Due perhaps to their sense of not being a part of GAO'Sprofessional
                    mainstream, or for whatever reason, technical staff often feel their
                    skills are undervalued and their contributions underappreciated. More-
                    over, the constraints imposed by a large, hierarchical organization rep-
                    resent one of the more difficult aspects of the GAOworking environment
                    for them. Individual managers have perhaps the greatest opportunity to
                    ameliorate these conditions by making special efforts to be responsive,
                    where possible, to technical staff preferences in the way they approach
                    their work, and by recognizing their contributions both publicly as well
                    as informally. Technical staff should be encouraged, where possible, in
                    their pursuit of outside professional achievements. These are not only

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important to technical staff, they confer a reputation for expertise both
on the individual and on his or her institution, Unit heads and senior
managers generally can also help by making clear that they value tech-
nical work at GAOand support technical staff efforts. (This is not to sug-
gest that technical staff deserve greater consideration than nontechnical
staff, but rather that they do not deserve any less.)

3. Where appropriate, managers should expand their informal use of
outside technical experts as a way to ensure that all the relevant techni-
cal issues are raised and considered when thev make kev substantive
decisions about jobs and review draft produc&.           ”

Technical experts can be very helpful in raising questions about job
designs and reviewing draft products. When and how to draw on such
resources are matters of judgment by GAO'Smanagers. But when pro-
vided on an advisory basis and used with discretion, outside technical
advice can help to protect GAOfrom technical error or from ignoring
important methodological issues. In addition, the credibility and legiti-
macy of many decisions will be enhanced by such consultation, which is
a standard quality assurance procedure in most technical disciplines.
This also has the integrational advantage of combining a tool familiar to
technical staff with the organizational tools already in place at GAO.

4. Unit heads should ensure that channels exist for technical issues to be
raised at the appropriate level.

Most technical staff are generally satisfied with the way their work is
used by GAO.However, some indicate they have problems in getting their
work reported accurately in GAOproducts and in achieving technically
adequate resolutions to disagreements over jobs with other GAOstaff.
While the decisions that these staff object to may in fact have been justi-
fied-technical    issues are not the only issues in reporting-it is impor-
tant to assure that staff have a real opportunity to appeal decisions at a
high enough level within the unit if they believe that a choice has been
made that could have serious consequences for the quality of a GAO
product. This serves two functions: reducing the probability of making
the wrong decision on a technical issue, and reinforcing the morale of
technical staff-even if they lose the argument, staff will have had the
opportunity to make their case. While these channels already exist in
some units, they may not be sufficiently well known to technical staff,
or their use may be implicitly discouraged.

Page 68                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
                    Chapter 6
                    Task Force Conclusions
                    and Recommendations

                    1. Technical staff should make a concerted effort to learn the organiza-
Task Force          tional practices of GAO,as well as the norms of the agency’s mainstream
Recommendationsto   professional culture, and to make contact with seasoned GAOstaff both
Technical Staff     within and outside their technical discipline.

                    Some individuals with extensive technical skills thrive at GAO;others
                    languish. One factor that seems to distinguish the first group from the
                    second is a conscious decision on the part of the individual to under-
                    stand how GAOworks as an organization on its own terms. This involves
                    not only a knowledge of the formal procedures described in official
                    manuals, but also an understanding of the conceptual basis for those
                    procedures, a sense of how work gets done in practice, and a feel for the
                    language and style of interaction employed by GAO'Smainstream audi-
                    tors. These technical staff recognize the value of establishing a broad
                    range of relationships with colleagues of different types across the
                    agency, not least as a critical source of information about how the
                    organization operates. They also grasp that technical staff, in some
                    ways, are still pioneers: hence the importance of continuing to demon-
                    strate, rather than simply asserting or assuming, the contribution that
                    technical skills make to GAO'Swork.

                    Together, these actions and attitudes allow technical staff to accomplish
                    more of what they want to do by working-or        networking-“within    the
                    system.” They also enable staffmembers to appreciate how what may
                    seem to them the more frustrating aspects of the organization-hierar-
                    chical controls, multiple layers of review, etc.-serve to reinforce the
                    organization’s strengths: its commitment to independent and thorough
                    analysis whose conclusions are based on empirical findings rather than
                    predetermined policy positions; its willingness to stand behind those
                    conclusions once its evidentiary standards have been met; and the
                    resulting impact of GAOreports on policy decisions.

                    2. Technical staff should take advantage of available GAOcourses to
                    improve their written and oral communication skills.

                    Several areas where managers perceive that technical staff perform less
                    well than nontechnical staff, most notably written and-to a lesser
                    extent-oral    communication skills, have great relevance for the ability
                    of technical staff to contribute to GAO'Swork. The Training Institute has
                    developed a series of courses on writing, plus another on oral communi-
                    cation that makes effective use of exercises employing video recording
                    of presentations. Technical staff with limitations in these areas will

                    Page 69                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
                    Chapter 6
                    Task Force Conclusions
                    and Recommendations

                    serve their own personal interests, as well as GAO'S,if they take advan-
                    tage of these currently available courses.

                    1. The task force proposes that a larger number of nonmanagerial Band
Task Force          III positions be created that senior technical staff could compete for,
Recommendationsto   while preserving the managerial focus of the Senior Executive Service.
the Comptroller     Technical staff and mid-level managers agree that many technical staff
General             leave GAOin order to earn a higher salary. They find the work profes-
                    sionally challenging and rewarding, but their compensation fails to keep
                    pace with available alternatives. One way to address this problem with-
                    out revamping GAO'Ssalary structure is to recognize an increased role
                    for senior technical staff that does not involve a shift into management.
                    The vast majority of Band III positions are currently reserved for mana-
                    gers, and only a handful of those involve supervision of primarily tech-
                    nical groups. While the recently instituted broad-banding structure
                    permits nonmanagerial Band III’s, this potential has yet to be realized to
                    any substantial extent. For example, there were only three nonsupervi-
                    sory Band III openings listed for the 1989 promotion cycle. All were in
                    staff offices, and all were for generalist evaluators without quality
                    ranking factors. Thus, for many technical staff, an aspiration to more
                    than a Band II position requires them to reorient their career goals sub-
                    stantially. While the task force supports the existing trend of promoting
                    staff with technical training to management roles, it is not in the
                    agency’s interest to have this be the sole route for advancement open to
                    highly qualified technical staff.

                    The Senior Executive Service, on the other hand, is fundamentally
                    organized to serve a management function. Its centralized selection pro-
                    cedures and provisions for assigning SESmembers with great flexibility
                    across GAOare designed to create a cohesive leadership corps for the
                    agency. While it turns out that a substantial proportion of SES line mana-
                    gers-27 percent-do have technical training, that training has been
                    combined with managerial experience. The task force does not want to
                    foreclose promoting a highly skilled technical staffmember to an SES-
                    level position as the occasion warrants or requires, but does believe the
                    SESshould remain essentially a managerial corps.

                    The task force considered but rejected a recommendation that GAOcre-
                    ate a dual career ladder in GAO,one that would provide technical staff
                    with a completely different, but parallel, career path based on technical
                    merit rather than managerial expertise. After assessing the operation of

                    Page 70                     GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Techuical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 6
Tack Force Conclusions
and Recommendations

dual career ladders in five private corporations and one federal agency
and examining the literature, the task force concluded that these pro-
grams generally failed to provide equivalent promotion opportunities to
those selecting the technical career path. At the same time, they tended
to accentuate divisions between technical and nontechnical staff,
between technical staff and managers, and between mainstream and
non-mainstream professions. The task force views this as a hindrance
rather than a help in establishing an integrated, interdisciplinary work-
place. Nor-managerial Band III positions should provide much of the
benefit desired of a dual career track without the divisiveness of a sepa-
rate system.

2. The task force supports expansion of training in technical subjects for
all professional staff in GAO.

GAOneeds to increase both the number of staff with technical skills and
the depth of knowledge possessed by its most technically sophisticated
staff. Thus, all professional staff should receive some technical training
at whatever level is appropriate given their existing knowledge base and
the requirements of the assignments they are working on. Travel as well
as training funds should be provided, so that no staff-including    those
assigned to regional TAGgroups- are hindered from obtaining an equita-
ble share of this training. Unit heads should make the determination of
how to apportion this instruction between internal and external train-
ing, in coordination with the Training Institute.

3. The task force urges the agency to obtain an adequate supply of per-
sonal computers as quickly as possible.

Managers and technical staff agree that limited access to personal com-
puters seriously detracts from the working environment of technical
staff (and, no doubt, nontechnical staff as well). High priority should be
placed on seeking to eliminate this major constraint on agency produc-
tivity in the very near future.

4. The task force proposes that steps be taken to ensure that all techni-
cal staff receive training in GAO'Sorganizational procedures immediately
after their arrival at the agency. The instruction should include, where
appropriate, materials designed to explain GAOpractices and procedures
in terms of the professional norms of major technical disciplines.

GAOshould quickly take action to make sure that technical staff no
longer attempt to adapt to the GAOworking environment without the

Page 71                     GAO/PEMIMO-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
Chapter 6
Task Force Conclusions
and Recommendations

benefit of formal orientation training. Given that most technical staff do
not in fact-as was generally believed-reject such organizational
norms as GAO'Sdocumentation requirements, much of the perceived gap
in their knowledge of GAOprocedures should be readily remediable
through appropriately structured coursework. However, it is important
to make the effort not only to state what those procedures are, but also
to explain them in terms that make sense from the perspective of the
technical disciplines involved.

6. The task force recommends that a glossary be published which identi-
fies commonly used terms that differ in meaning or connotation across
several disciplines and describes the nature of those differences.

Various disciplines and professions employ the same or similar terms in
dissimilar ways. For example, accountants and economists define
“costs” quite differently; similarly, “significance,” “validity,” “reliabil-
ity,” and “materiality” are not understood by everyone to mean the
same thing. However, many people are unaware that the definitions of
these terms vary as they do, since most professionals are trained within
a particular discipline. This can cause substantial confusion or disagree-
ment and lead to continuing misunderstanding. Two divisions have
already begun to collaborate on a draft for such a glossary as part of the
Operations Improvement Program, with the Training Institute as an end-
user. The task force recommends that this work go forward and the
glossary, once finished, receive appropriate distribution within GAO.

6. The task force supports the recommendation of GAO'SHuman
Resource Management Information Working Group that a common GAO-
wide personnel information system be developed to maintain complete,
accurate. and up-to-date information on the educational attainments and
training of all staff.

Information on the training of all staff is essential for purposes of moni-
toring the progress of GAO'Stechnical capabilities and employees’ prog-
ress with regard to continuing education requirements. This system
would retain information on both GAO-sponsored training and on contin-
uing education GAOemployees have obtained at their own expense.

In addition to the preceding specific recommendations, the task force
suggests that the Comptroller General give further consideration to the
following initiatives:

Page 72                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
    Chapter 0
    Task Force Conclusions
    and Recommendatloue

    1. Make courses on auditing and accounting available to technical staff
    on a voluntary basis.

    Such courses could supplement basic orientation courses for those tech-
    nical staff desiring to take them. They would provide technical staff
    with a way to deepen their understanding of GAOby learning the logic
    behind agency norms and working procedures. The Training Institute
    can best determine whether existing courses would fulfill this purpose
    and how best to make them available to technical staff.

    2. In developing courses focusing on supervision skills, emphasize issues
    in the management of technical staff.

    The Training Institute currently is planning a revision of GAO'Sgeneral
    courses on supervision and management. As part of this process, it
    would be useful to prepare segments focusing on issues specifically
    related to the management of technically-trained staff. For example, one
    could describe strategies for setting and applying performance expecta-
    tions in situations where the assignment included development of the
    methodological approach to be employed.

    These conclusions and recommendations have emerged from a system-
    atic examination of GAO'Smanagement, training, and utilization of tech-
    nically-trained staff, This effort did not derive from a perception of
    critical problems demanding immediate action. Rather, it was motivated
    by an understanding of the importance of the evolutionary but funda-
    mental changes that have been taking place in the agency, signified by
    its increasing reliance on technically trained staff to bring sophisticated
    methods to bear on complex questions. Even without indications of
    major problems, the task force worked from the presumption that cur-
    rent improvements in the recruitment and use of technically-trained
    staff could substantially enhance GAO'Sfuture effectiveness in providing
    information and analysis to the Congress.

    Therefore, the relevance of these analyses goes far beyond the not quite
    600 individuals identified as technical staff at this specific point in time.
    The task force recommendations aim at expanding the technical capabil-
    ities-broadly   defined-of GAO'Sentire professional work force. Much
    of GAO'Sfuture success will depend on providing all its employees equal
    opportunities to develop and use such skills, and on providing equitable
    recognition and rewards to those who do so.

    Page 73                      GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Techuical   Skills Task Force Report

Chapter 6
Task Force Cbnclusio~
and Recommendations

There will always be concerns to raise and improvements to be made in
the area of human resource management. Some have to be dealt with
hastily, under duress. In this case, the task force had the rare opportu-
nity to study an important management issue of the future without the
pressure of an immediate burning problem to address. Thus, it should be
borne in mind that the concerns uncovered by the task force are almost
all products of GAO'Ssuccess in adjusting and diversifying its staff
resources to meet changing congressional mandates. However, no agency
can afford to become complacent. By recommending that GAO move for-
ward in optimizing the management of its staff’s technical skills, the
task force recognizes both the advantages of GAO’S current situation and
the areas where improvements are needed.

Eleanor Chelimsky
Assistant Comptroller General
Program Evaluation and
  Methodology Division

Felix R. Brandon
Director, Personnel

Ralph V. Carlone
Assistant Comptroller General
Information Management and
   Technology Division

Page 74                     GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
chapter 6
Task Force Conclusions
and Recommendations

Gene L. Dodaro
Director of Operations
Accounting and Financial
  Management Division

Mary R. Hamilton
Regional Manager, New York

Terry Hedrick
Director, Training Institute

David L. Jones
Regional Manager, Kansas City

J. Dexter Peach
Assistant Comptroller General
Resources, Community, and
   Economic Development Division

Page 76                        GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
     Chapter 6
     Task Force cOnclusions
     and Recommendations

     Craig A. Simmons
     Director, Financial Institutions
       and Markets Issues
     General Government Division

     Bill W. Thurman*
     Director of Planning and Reporting
     National Security and International
        Affairs Division

     Assistant Director-in-Charge
     Design and Data Analysis
     Human Resources Division

     *Mr. Thurman passed away on September 26,1989, during the drafting
     of our report. He had done important work for this task force, leading
     the effort to develop an operational definition of technical staff and
     directing the implementation of the census.

     Page 76                        GAO/PEMD-90-18   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report
chapter f3
Teak Force Conclusions
and Recommendations

The task force members are grateful to all the people from across GAO
who helped in various ways to produce this report, in particular:

Irma Arispe
Timothy Bowling
Richard Burger
Gerard Burke
Lois-ellin Datta
Sara Denmon
Janet Dolen
Fran Featherston
Will Holloway
William Hunt
Richard Jannace
Stephen Kenealy
Anne Klein
Ann Kornblum
Robert McArter
Frank Minore
Michael O’Dell
Eric Peterson
Don Phillips
Eileen Reilly
Karlin Richardson
Theresa Roberson
Allan Rogers
Pat Seeley
Gokaran Singh
David Tarosky
Rebecca Taylor
Carol Webb
Carl Wisler

Page 77                    GAO/PEMD-W-18   GAO Technical   Skilla Task Force Report
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                    Appendixes of the Report of the
                    Comptroller General’s Task .Force on
                    Interdisciplinary Management

 m   1990

                    and Expanding
                    Technical Skills
                    at G&O

                               -.---. ._.._,.,.
:HXC/PEMD-$0.18s   Volume 2

         This report is published in two volumes. Volume 1 contains the analyses
         and recommendations of the task force. Volume 2 provides more
         detailed descriptions of the various data collection efforts conducted by
         the task force. The appendixes in volume 2 were written by different
         authors at different times during the course of the task force’s work,
         and thus exhibit variations in style and usage.

         Page 1           GAO/PEMD-90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes

Appendix I                                                                                                       8
Literature Review       Introduction
                        Conflict and Tension Between Professional/ Technical
                              and Organizational Value Systems
                        Job Satisfaction: Motivating Professionals and Technical                             11
                        Dual Ladder Concept                                                                  12
                        Interdisciplinary Team Dynamics                                                      15
                        Bibliography                                                                         16

Appendix II                                                                                                  22
Interviews With         How We Did Our Work
                        Who We Interviewed
Experts on              Organizational Contexts                                                              23
Interdisciplinary       Problems Identified and Strategies Adopted or Suggested                              31
Appendix III                                                                                                 48
Interviews With         Problems in Hiring and Retaining Technical Staff
                        Problems in Interpersonal Relations and Communications
Outside Managers        Conflicting Goals and Work Styles                                                    50
                        Role of Training in Interdisciplinary Staff Management                               51
                        The Dual Career Ladder                                                               52

Appendix IV                                                                                                  59
A Censusof GAO’s        Developing the Census
                        Characteristics of Technical Staff
Technical Staff
Appendix V                                                                                                   64
Interviews With Staff   Introduction                                                                         64
                        Entry to GAO
Who Have Left GAO       Integration of Staff Into the GAO Work Process                                       67
                        Interpersonal Relationships                                                          69
                        Decision to Leave GAO                                                                71

Appendix VI
Survey of GAO           Background
                        The Survey
Technical Staff         Technical Staff

                        Page 2            GAO/PEMD80-19s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes

Appendix VII                                                                                                     113
Survey of Mid-Level     I. Survey of Mid-Level Managers                                                          113
                        II. Focus Groups of Senior Managers                                                      120
Managers and Focus
Groups of Senior
Appendix VIII                                                                                                    129
Comparison of           Starting Out                                                                             129
                        Doing the Job                                                                            131
Technical Staff and     Staying at GAO                                                                           136
GAO Manager Surveys     Implications for Improving Interdisciplinary            Management                       142
                             at GAO

Appendix IX                                                                                                      143
Review of Available     Introduction                                                                             143
                        Training Needs of Technical Staff                                                        143
Orientation and         Current and Proposed Training Activities                                                 145
Training Programs       Summary                                                                                  149

Appendix X                                                                                                      160
Review of Systems for   Introduction                                                                            160
Identifying and         Findings                                                                                151
Tracking the
Retention, and
Rewarding of
Technical Staff
Appendix XI                                                                                                     166
MIS Summaries
Tables                  Table      IV. 1: Location of Technical Staff                                             60
                        Table      IV.2: Grade Structure of Technical Staff                                       60
                        Table      IV.3: Technical Staff With Ph.D.‘s, by Grade                                   60
                        Table      IV.4: Technical Staff by Organization                                          61

                        Page 3                GAO/PEMD-90-1SS   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes

          Table IV.6: Technical Staff by Grade Level                                           62
          Table IV.6: Technical Staff by Job Series                                            62
          Table VII.l: Reasons for Staff Leaving and Retention                                119
              Strategy Priorities
          Table VIII. 1: GAO Performance on Employment Factors in                             139
              Relation to Their Importance to Technical Staff

Figures   Figure III. 1: Dual Career Ladder                                                    64
          Figure VI.l: Role of Technical Staff at Headquarters and                             76
               in Regional Offices
          Figure VI.2: Types of Technical Assistance Provided                                  77
          Figure VI.3: Highest Academic Degree Held                                            78
          Figure VI.4: Years of Service                                                        79
          Figure VI.6: Highest Academic Degree Held, by Length of                              80
               Service at GAO
          Figure VI.6: Frequency With Which Assistance Is Used in                              81
          Figure VI.7: Views on Management Support                                             83
          Figure VI.& Reasonableness of GAO Documentation                                      85
          Figure VI.9: Receptivity of Evaluators to New Ways of                                86
               Doing Work
          Figure VI.10: Ways GAO Work Differed From New Staff                                  89
          Figure VI. 11: New Staff’s Understanding of GAO                                      91
          Figure VI.12: Match Between GAO Training and Staff                                   92
          Figure VI.13: Additional Training Desired                                            93
          Figure VI. 14: Method of Training Preferred                                          94
          Figure VI. 16: Ten Most Important Work Factors Desired                               96
               in an Employer
          Figure VI.16: Ten Highest Rated GAO Work Factors                                    99
          Figure VI.17: Ten Lowest Rated GAO Work Factors                                    100
          Figure VI.18: Technical Staff’s Rating of GAO on Ten                               101
               Most Important Work Factors
          Figure VI.19: Distribution of Staff’s Combined Ratings of                           102
               GAO’s Work Environment
          Figure VI.20: Average Combined Ratings of GAO by GAO                               103
               Staff Education Level, Role, Location, and Years of

          Page 4           GAO/PEMD-90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes

Figure VI.21: Importance to Staff of 10 Lowest Rated                               104
     GAO Work Factors
Figure VI.22: Level of Satisfaction With GAO                                       109
Figure VI.23: Degree of Challenge Offered by GAO Work                              110
Figure VI.24: Staff Opinion on Recommending GAO to                                 111
     Others and Rejoining GAO


Au3        Assistant Comptroller General
ADP        Automated Data Processing
AFMD       Accounting and Financial Management Division
ARC0       Atlantic Richfield Company
ARM        Assistant Regional Manager
BARS       Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scales
BOB        Bureau of the Budget
CAPS       Central Assignment and Payables System
CEO        Chief Executive Officer
CPA        Certified Public Accountant
CTC        Corporate Technical Committee
DELTA      Database for Entry-level Tracking
DMTAG      Design and Methodology Technical Assistance Group
FAG        Economic Analysis Group
EEO        Equal Employment Opportunity
GAO        General Accounting Office
GGD        General Government Division
GPA        Grade Point Average
GS         General Schedule
GWIJ       George Washington University
HIIS/IG    Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General
HIS        House Information System
HRD        Human Resources Division
IBM        International Business Machines
ICI        Imperial Chemical Industries
IMTEC      Information Management and Technology Division
MIS        Management Information System
MIT        Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Page 5            GAO/PEMDSO-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes


NF-C       National Finance Center
NIB        National Institutes of Health
NIST       National Institute for Standards and Technology
NSIAD      National Security and International Affairs Division
OCE        Office of the Chief Economist
OIRM       Office of Information Resources Management
OJT        On-The-Job Training
OPM        Office of Personnel Management
OR         Office of Recruitment
PAES       Personnel Awards/Education System
PC         Personal Computer
PEMD       Program Evaluation and Methodology Division
PFP        Pay for Performance
RCED       Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division
RFF        Resources for the Future
SIB        Senior Executive Service
SMIS       Staff Management Information System
TAG        Technical Assistance Group
TI         Training Institute
TRS        Training Registration System

Page 0            GAO/PEMD-!KblIS   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Page 7   GAO/PEMD-90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix I

Literature Review

               Professional/technical employees are better trained and educated than
Introduction   ever before and are entering organizations at higher levels than they
               have in the past. When they arrive, they bring professional affiliations
               and values that may reach far beyond the organizations they work for.

               Private and public sector demand for professional/technical workers
               and their expertise has grown and continues to grow at a phenomenal
               rate. As more and more professional/technical specialists enter organi-
               zations, stress is created between the organization’s values and those of
               the professional/technical community. Private sector organizations,
               such as IBM, ARCO,Cray, and Honeywell, have been dealing with these
               issues for many years.

               The Task Force on Interdisciplinary Management established a subgroup
               to conduct a literature review on interdisciplinary management and
               related issues. The purpose of this review was to determine what is
               known about successfully managing an interdisciplinary workforce.

               In conducting the literature review, we used keywords to search through
               several bibliographic files available in GAO'Slibrary. We screened more
               than 150 titles and identified about 70 we felt were most germane to
               GAO'Sinterest. The articles were reviewed and summarized by four
               teams of GA0 evaluators.

               Our review confirms that the task force has identified the key interdisci-
               plinary management issues and is focusing on the most critical areas. We
               did not find a “critical mass” of knowledge on the subject nor a defini-
               tive approach for managing successfully in an interdisciplinary environ-
               ment. The literature we reviewed was primarily descriptive in nature
               and generally lacked hard data or strong methods that could support
               drawing firm conclusions, However, we believe the literature does pro-
               vide helpful insights into how one might approach improving interdisci-
               plinary management.

               This appendix presents a summary of our analysis. First, we discuss the
               conflict and tension that exist between professional/technical and orga-
               nizational value systems, especially in large and highly structured orga-
               nizations. Second, we examine issues related to the job satisfaction and
               motivation of professionals and technical specialists. Third, we describe
               the literature on the dual career ladder concept. (This approach has
               been used by a number of organizations.) Finally, we review issues relat-
               ing to interdisciplinary management team dynamics that have relevance

               Page 8           GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                             Appendix     I
                             Literature       Review

                             for the management of teams of evaluators and technical specialists at

                             At the end of this appendix is our bibliography of documents reviewed.

Conflict and Tension
Between Professional/
Technical and
Organizational Value

Professional/Technical       Professional and technical employees receive extensive training and
                             socialization in their fields of expertise, inculcating a set of values that
Values                       predate organizational experiences. These values include

                         l  autonomy in decisionmaking and task operations, or the habit of exer-
                           cising individual professional judgment about what should be done and
                            how it should be done;
                         l conformity to professional standards and practices;
                         . emphasis on peer review, that is, a preference for having performance
                           judged by individuals possessing appropriate expertise and professional
                            competence; and
                         l  assumption of personal responsibility for performance, exercising pro-
                            fessional judgment, and maintaining ethical standards and professional

Organizational Values        Upon entering the workforce, professionals and technical specialists
                             must integrate their professional values with those of the organization/
                             workplace. Much of the literature focuses on the dynamics of this criti-
                             cal interaction in bureaucratic organizations. Bureaucratic values most
                             often cited include

                         l   organizational loyalty;
                         l   hierarchical control and authority; and
                         l   adherence to internal management processes and procedures.

                             Page 9                    GAO/PEMD80-19S   GAO Tecknical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                            Appendix     I
                            Literature       Review

                            Much of the literature suggests that when faced with organizational and
                            professional value conflicts, professional/technical employees tend to
                            choose professional over organizational values. But hierarchical control
                            and authority are common characteristics of large, highly structured,
                            and complex organizations. These two facts, taken together, create
                            opportunities for conflict between management practices and profes-
                            sional and technical values (especially in the areas of autonomy in deci-
                            sionmaking and the preference for peer review over hierarchical review
                            in measuring performance). To help resolve these conflicts, the litera-
                            ture suggests using peer evaluations to augment traditional hierarchical

                            Large organizations, by necessity, have a myriad of internal manage-
                            ment processes and procedures. Multiple operating rules and regula-
                            tions, competing organizational priorities, resource limitations, and
                            organizational boundaries frequently conflict with professional/techni-
                            cal values, creating individual and organizational tension. Organizations
                            need to pay close attention to this environmental condition and develop
                            appropriate strategies to reduce its negative effects.

Achieving a Balance         Value conflicts cause dilemmas for professional/technical employees
Between Professional/       and create counterproductive levels of personal and organizational ten-
                            sion. Over time, these can result in serious problems for both the organi-
Technical and               zation and the employee. Examples include
Organizational Values
                        l increased levels of employee job dissatisfaction, anxiety, and turnover;
                        . increased use of sanctions against employees; and
                        . reduced organizational productivity and competitiveness.

                            The literature documents that the integration of the professional/techni-
                            cal and organizational value systems is not always successfully or pain-
                            lessly achieved. The argument is often made that the increasing
                            numbers of professional and technical employees in the workforce
                            require all organizations to recognize and be more sensitive to the exis-
                            tence of these different value systems and their inherent conflict. Orga-
                            nizations are encouraged to be proactive so as to anticipate, avoid
                            wherever possible, and generally minimize situations where professional
                            and technical employees are forced to choose between organizational
                            and professional/technical values.

                            Page LO                   GAO/PEMDSO-MS   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                            Appendix     I
                            Literature       Review

                            The management techniques and practices identified in the literature to
Job Satisfaction:           improve professional/technical employee job satisfaction and motiva-
Motivating                  tion are not unique to this group of employees. For the most part, they
Professionals and           represent the range of methods advocated in contemporary human
                            resource management for motivating all employees. However, a number
Technical Specialists       of articles emphasized that applying these management practices to the
                            professional and technical specialist workforce is particularly important
                            because of their capacity to contribute to the success of the organiza-
                            tion. Three themes were emphasized:

                            giving these employees greater participation in job planning and organi-
                            zational goal setting;
                            maximizing their autonomy and the feedback they receive; and
                            investing in their professional/technical development.

Job Planning and            Expanding opportunities for professionals and technical specialists to
Organizational Goal         participate in job planning and organizational goal setting was thought
                            to significantly improve their job satisfaction and organizational per-
Setting                     formance. Management and professional/technical employees are
                            encouraged to work together to identify projects and determine how
                            resources can best be used to benefit the organization and meet mission

                            Suggested management actions include the following:

                        l Professional and technical specialist representation on the organiza-
                          tion’s policymaking groups was advocated as a constructive way to
                          improve communications and elicit professional and technical employee
                          input in making critical management decisions.
                        . Take greater care in identifying and developing project assignments.
                          Consult with professional/technical employees regarding their desires,
                          interests, and priorities before making job assignments.
                        . Expand professional/technical employee organizational involvement by
                          providing opportunities for temporary management assignments. It is
                          argued that such temporary assignments provide the participant with
                          an opportunity to gain additional organizational insights and perspec-
                          tives and, under certain circumstances, may relieve professional stagna-
                          tion and provide an opportunity for professional renewal. In addition,
                          temporary assignments provide a form of recognition and allow contin-
                          ued testing and development of skills in different work situations. Such
                          assignments also afford the opportunity to test an individual’s interest
                          and performance in a management position. This can work to the benefit

                            Page 11                   GAO/PEMDBO-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                            Appemdix I
                            JAterature Revlew

                            of both the individual and the organization in making future career

Maximizing Autonomy and     Professionals and technical specialists place great value on autonomy.
                            They desire maximum flexibility to exercise professional judgment. In
Feedback                    large organizations, the necessary constriction of professional autonomy
                            can reduce the meaning and significance of work, leading to reduced
                            commitment and productivity.

                            Feedback is a strong motivator for professionals and technical special-
                            ists. Some studies suggest that feedback/recognition is a more effective
                            motivator for these staff than financial rewards. Professional and tech-
                            nical employees need frequent feedback on the quality of their work and
                            assurances that their work is recognized and appreciated.

Investing in Professional   Professionals and technical specialists are particularly sensitive to the
Technical Development       need to maintain and expand their skills. Management must provide the
                            time and funds for training and other professional development activi-
                            ties. Failure to do so will contribute to employee dissatisfaction and will
                            ultimately reduce the organization’s effectiveness due to static or declin-
                            ing professional/technical skills.

                            Professional activities and peer recognition are important to profession-
                            als and technical specialists, and organizations should encourage pub-
                            lishing and other outside professional involvement. Organizations are
                            also encouraged to avoid creating a work environment with an undue
                            emphasis on secrecy, which interferes with the professional’s desire to
                            communicate with outside colleagues.

                            Finally, giving professional and technical employees access to the full
                            range of state-of-the-art tools to do a professional job is recognized as an
                            important determinant of employee job satisfaction.

Dual Ladder Concept         staff that has been tried by a variety of public and private sector firms
                            is the dual ladder concept. The concept is approximately 25-30 years old
                            and has been tried both in the U.S. and Europe; however, the research
              *             literature on the topic is sparse.

                            Page 12             GAO/PEMD-90-1!3S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                             Appendix     I
                             Literature       Review

                             In this section, we will cover three points concerning the dual ladder
                             concept. First, we describe what the concept is and its purpose. Second,
                             we examine its system components. Finally, we discuss what the litera-
                             ture has to say about its effectiveness.

What Is a Dual Ladder?       The dual ladder is an umbrella term that generally describes an organi-
                             zational structure allowing professional/technical staff to advance on a
                             separate career path from that of management. Generally speaking,
                             staff are not prevented from pursuing management positions but are
                             provided an opportunity to advance while continuing to pursue their
                             technical specialties. For example, Imperial Chemical Industries, Inc.
                             (ICI), (Moore and Davies, 1977) stated that its scientific ladder was

                             “in order that really able scientists could see a stable scientific career open to them,
                             leading to jobs that are valued in terms of status and financial reward as are those
                             in senior administration and managerial jobs in research and other functions, and in
                             order that ICI could attract and then keep such able people on purely scientific work
                             . *. .

                             In Roth (1982), the dual ladder concept is defined using a quote from
                             Golder and Ritti (1967, p. 489):

                             “The dual ladder refers to the side-by-side existence of the usual ladder of manage-
                             rial positions leading to authority over greater and greater numbers of employees
                             and another ladder consisting of titles carrying successively higher salaries, higher
                             status, and sometimes greater autonomy or more responsible assignments.”

                             In establishing dual ladders, many organizations (such as IBM, ARCC, ICI)
                             employ panels of experts to review appointments to the technical lad-
                             der. These experts can include persons from inside the organization as
                             well as renowned outsiders from academia or elsewhere. The criteria
                             used to make promotion decisions vary depending on the organization
                             and its mission. However, the six criteria used by ICI for its “scientific
                             ladder” provide an example of what such criteria might look like.

                             ICI criteria:

                         l both the company’s and the individual’s best interest must be served;
                         . evidence that exceptional technical ability is being brought to bear suc-
                           cessfully on the organization’s problems;
                         . potential of the individual to continue contributing to the organization in
                           the future;

                             Page 13                   GAO/PEMD-90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                Appendix    I
                                Litemture       Revkw

                            9 special expertise in a subject of vital interest to the organization;
                            . evidence of an international, national, or organizational reputation;
                            . evidence of publication in scientific journals.

Designing a Dual Ladder         While the concept of a dual ladder system appears relatively clear, its
System                          implementation in a manner consistent with its theoretical underpin-
                                nings seems to be quite difficult. A few of the problems identified in the
                                literature include a failure to define and document (Roth, 1982)

                            . performance standards;
                            . qualification criteria; and
                            l accountability standards.

                                In addition to these definitional problems, it was not uncommon to find
                                that the technical ladder was not equal to the management ladder in
                                terms of status, recognition, or reward.

                                Although the literature presents few examples of dual ladder systems
                                that appear to work well, the following are given as minimal require-
                                ments for any dual ladder system to be successful:

                            9 perceived equality of status, recognition, and reward between technical
                              and managerial ladders;
                            . clear relationship between technical performance and promotion on the
                              technical ladder;
                            l involvement of the top rungs of the technical ladder membership in top-
                              level strategic management decisions;
                            l increasing opportunities for independence, autonomy, and outside pro-
                              fessional contact up the technical ladder;
                            . peer review as a vital part of the evaluation process.

Effectiveness of the Dual       The dual ladder system has allowed professional/technical employees to
Ladder System                   advance in an organization, without moving to a management role.
                                Levels of financial reward and titles which were only achievable
                                through management roles have now been made available to technical
                                staff in some organizations. However, literature on effectiveness is
                                sparse, and we could find no data showing whether these enhanced
                                opportunities have in fact served to retain key scientists and other pro-
                                fessional people at these organizations. Further, there is little informa-
                                tion on employee reactions to the system or on whether it creates
                                divisive effects within an organization.

                                Page 14                 GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                         Roth (1982) has reviewed literature critical of the dual ladder and cites
                          authors who have described the concept as: a dubious reward system
                         that suffers from flaws in its logic and application (Kaufman, 1974); a
                         system based on incorrect assumptions concerning the career orienta-
                         tions of most professional groups (Goldner and Ritti, 1967); a poorly
                         operationalized system that fails to accomplish its intended goals of pro-
                         viding increased status and compensation as well as more freedom for
                         individual participants (Daly, Thompson, and Price, 1977). Perhaps the
                         strongest of these criticisms suggests that the dual ladder is a solution
                         looking for a problem since most professional/technical staff are really
                         interested in progressing up the managerial ladder. Professional/techni-
                         cal staff feel this way, the authors say, because they understand that
                         managerial ranks have the greatest influence on the work of an organi-
                         zation. Since professional/technical staff desire to participate in deci-
                         sions affecting their work, advancement along a dual ladder works
                         against them because they become progressively more isolated from the
                         decision-making structure. Technical ladders are seen as inferior in sta-
                         tus because they do not “provide the power to allocate limited resources
                         or to pursue alternative goals. . .” (Goldner and Ritti).

                         The literature makes clear that achieving true interdisciplinary team-
Interdisciplinary Team   work is difficult. Typically, a team of individuals from different back-
Dynamics                 grounds brought together to work on a specific project is much more
                         likely to arrive at a multidisciplinary approach (where individuals work
                         side-by-side without interacting) than an interdisciplinary one (which
                         involves an integrated group). The reasons given for this in the litera-
                         ture include the following:

                     . individual team members have difficulty agreeing on the group’s collec-
                       tive purpose or objective;
                       respective roles and responsibilities are not well delineated;
                       differing, unshared values inhibit team cohesion;
                       issues of authority and leadership are difficult to resolve: e.g., should
                       hierarchical modes dominate or should expertise be the guiding factor?
                     . intra-team communication is hindered by lack of agreement on defini-
                       tions and an unwillingness to accept the positions of others as being
                     . prior experiences of failure weaken members’ commitment to major

                         Page 15           GAO/PEMDBO-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
               Llteratnre Review

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                                                ,   A!”/i,   .‘“‘.e,                 _
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Page 21                   GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix II

Interviews With Experts on
Interdisciplinary Management

                        GAOis not alone in seeking to confront issues of interdisciplinary man-
                        agement. The task force’s literature review (appendix I) showed that
                        many public and private organizations have attempted to integrate tech-
                        nical staff from various disciplines into their workplaces. In some cases,
                        these staff work together with nontechnical personnel; in others, they
                        collaborate with technical personnel from quite different disciplinary
                        backgrounds. The task force’s objective in this study was to cull, from
                        the experience of managers in organizations that have dealt with these
                        issues, those formal or informal lessons that could prove useful to GAOin
                        strengthening its own interdisciplinary management.

                        We selected seven experts to interview, based on their personal involve-
How We Did Our Work     ment with issues of interdisciplinary management and the types of orga-
                        nizations they had worked in. Each interview covered a set of standard
                        questions, sent to the interviewee in advance. These questions focused
                        on the particular context in which issues of interdisciplinary manage-
                        ment arose for the organization, the identification of specific problems
                        associated with such management, and the assessment of any strategies
                        or solutions that had been tried.

                        The seven people we interviewed were:
Who We Interviewed
                        John Ahearne (Vice President, Resources for the Future),
                        Charles A. Bowsher (Comptroller General of the United States, formerly
                        a partner at Arthur Andersen and Co.),
                        Lewis M. Branscomb (Director, Science, Technology and Public Policy
                        Program at the Kennedy School of Government, former Chief Scientist
                        at IBM),
                      . William D. Carey (former Assistant Director of the Bureau of the
                        Budget, former Vice President of Arthur D. Little, and former Executive
                        Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science),
                        Richard P. Kusserow (Inspector General for the Department of Health
                        and Human Services),
                        Gustave II. Shubert (Senior Fellow and Corporate Advisor, former
                        Senior Vice President of The RANDCorporation), and
                        Suzanne Woolsey (Partner at Coopers and Lybrand, former Associate
                        Director at the Office of Management and Budget).

                        Collectively, the experience of these managers spans four government
                        agencies, four private for-profit firms, and two nonprofit research orga-
                        nizations. Some of these workplaces resemble GAO'Sin that they are

                        Page 22           GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                     Appendix II
                     Interviews     With Experts on
                     InterdIsciplinary    Management

                     staffed predominantly by members of a particular “mainstream” profes-
                     sion, such as auditors or budget examiners, whose “generalist” orienta-
                     tion strongly influences the culture of the organization as a whole. The
                     HHS Inspector General’s office (HHSIIG), Arthur Andersen, Coopers and
                     Lybrand, and the Bureau of the Budget (BOB, now the Office of Manage-
                     ment and Budget) exemplify this pattern. Another type of situation is
                     represented by an organization which is dominated by a single technical
                     group. Here, the example is that of economists at Resources for the
                     Future (RFF). Finally, other organizations (e.g., RAND and IBM) have
                     recruited staff coming from a wide range of disparate technical

                     It appears both from the literature (see appendix I) and from our seven
Organizational       interviews that the issues of integration we are confronting at GAO rep-
Contexts             resent a classical problem in organization that is neither new nor unique
                     to us. The Bureau of the Budget, for example, possessed what it called
                     four technical centers just after World War II. These centers were
                     devoted to statistical policy and methods, accounting principles and
                     standards, fiscal policy and economics, and administrative management.
                     However, all of these activities were considered peripheral to the budget
                     function-including     program analysis and review-which     dominated
                     BOB’S work program. Separating the technical centers from the budget
                     divisions and making them staff (rather than line) functions reinforced
                     this distinction and made it an organizational fact of life.

                     In our interview with Mr. William Carey, he told us he viewed this sepa-
                     ration as having had two important advantages:

                 l it built a kind of “concentrated quality” in the technical centers, and
                 . it successfully accumulated a critical mass of top-flight specialists.

                     But he thought the separation also brought a major disadvantage. It led
                     to an organization in which communication became much more difficult
                     and technical staff felt excluded. As Carey put it,

                      “The budget people sat at the table during the Director’s reviews, but the technical
                      people had only backbench chairs and very limited possibility to participate in the
                      discussions. When they did speak, their comments were considered intrusive. Pro-
                      motions and supergrades went to line, not staff, personnel. BOB Directors had little
                     time or interest in the technical work, and technical staff had little or no access to
                      them. On their side, technical people tended to look down on budget examiners as
                     journeymen of very average capabilities.”

                     Page 23                  GAO/PEMDBO-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix II
Interviews   With Jhperta on
Interdk3cipUnary   Management

To remedy this developing rift within the organization, J3OBmoved in the
early fifties to dissolve two of the technical centers and scatter their
personnel across the program divisions. In this way it was hoped that
organizational cohesion and communication could be improved and that
the work of the program divisions would be enriched by the closer prox-
imity of the technical staff’s expertise.

In Carey’s view, this move was a mistake, and its results unfortunate,
for three reasons:

1. The same problems reappeared, but at the lower, divisional level. The
scattered technical staff continued to feel they were second-class citi-
zens, and now the situation was worse in that they had no organiza-
tional voice; their sense was that they had to keep proving their worth
(as technical people in a budget division) and that they were no better
off in terms of having direct inputs into organizational decisions and

2. The professional quality of the technical staff weakened over time
because the technical centers which had attracted some of the brightest
people in their respective fields were no longer there and the technical
people were now dealing with budget, not technical, problems.

3. Finally, the dispersed technical personnel did not appear to have any
visible effect on the work of the budget divisions.

At Arthur Andersen, the perceived need for integration of technical peo-
ple in the workplace arose from an effort by the auditing firm to move
to a broader range of services. In our interview with Mr. Charles Bow-
sher (now the U.S. Comptroller General), he noted that Arthur Andersen
was aware early on of the need to focus on “systems’‘-first      using man-
ual machines and then automated computer systems-and that the com-
pany had moved into this area by helping to develop an accounting
system for General Electric in the early fifties that used modern techni-
cal equipment. The system once completed, Arthur Andersen proceeded
to familiarize its accountants with the new techniques and to set up
teams in various U.S. cities and overseas. Then the firm took on the gen-
eralized task of training all its new consulting business recruits in the
methods it had developed.

In expanding its business overseas, Arthur Andersen found it was
unable to find business school graduates there of the type it had been
recruiting in the United States, and so it turned instead to training staff

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    Interviews    With Experb on
    Int4+rdiscipUnary   Management

    from widely differing educational backgrounds in auditing methods.
    Since this proved successful, the firm decided to hire liberal arts and
    engineering graduates in the United States as well, and provided basic
    auditing and systems training for all new staff as a way to integrate its
    workplace. The advantage of this approach was homogeneity: no rift
    developed in the organization since all members of future teams were
    trained in the same way, and teams could be formed very quickly from
    any of the firm’s offices anywhere in the world, because everyone
    approached jobs using the same methods.

    Thus, instead of bringing in technical experts and setting them apart
    from the mainstream of the organization, Arthur Andersen did three

l trained new staff at one location, so that people got to know each other
  early in their careers;
l standardized and streamlined its audit methods and procedures to
  achieve greater efficiency; and
. put heavy emphasis on mutual commitment: that is, the firm’s personnel
  were indoctrinated with the idea that once the firm’s name was signed
  to a document everyone in the organization was accountable.

    No technical centers or technical assistance groups developed; instead,
    operations research and other technical or quantitative personnel
    “faded into the overall organization” within a few years. The Comptrol-
    ler General gave us four reasons for this:

l many mainstream auditors developed quantitative capabilities;
. new staff came into the firm with the same technical background and
. technical staff tended to want to run jobs rather than be advisors; and
. people who wanted to do more advanced technical work ended by leav-
  ing the firm.

    According to the Comptroller General, this thoroughgoing approach to
    the integration of technical and nontechnical skills worked very well for
    a long time in integrating personnel from widely varying backgrounds
    within the Arthur Andersen workplace. However, the approach was not
    intended to result in the development of a critical mass of first-rate tech-
    nical expertise and did not do so. Indeed, Arthur Andersen lost about
    one-third of the technical people it recruited. Thus, the approach-

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Appendix II
IntervIews With Experts on
Interdisciplinary Management

whose key advantage is the maintenance of strong organizational cohe-
sion-is not readily generalizable to organizations like the RAND Corpo-
ration or IBM, whose chief goal is to optimize their leading-edge technical
capabilities in support of a tremendously diverse and complex mix of

The RAND Corporation, for example, has adopted a matrix organization
to provide a framework for its multidisciplinary, highly technical per-
sonnel, in an approach that is radically different from that of BOB or
Arthur Andersen. A new recruit at RAND is brought in as a professional
with advanced training in a specific discipline. That gives him or her a
home in a specific department which is headed by someone who is at
least the recruit’s peer in terms of academic qualifications. In our inter-
view with Mr. Gustave Shubert, he told us that all department heads
continue to engage in research for at least half their time. The depart-
ment head thus serves as a role model for new staff, doing basically the
same kinds of things that the recruit was hired to do.

The other side of the RAND matrix is made up of programs (health care
delivery, or defense programs, for example) which are organized into
divisions. Each division is headed by a vice president.

Shubcrt told us there is constant tension between departments and divi-
sions. Although the departments are supposed to broker staff assign-
ments, the individual also has a great deal to say about what he or she
does, and it is the divisions which are accountable for producing high
quality research. According to Shubert, this tension has caused the
matrix system to go through some wild swings, from one extreme to the
other, over the years. Prior to 1959 there had been four “divisions” that
were actually disciplinary in nature-engineering,      social science, etc-
with sub-departments within them. But these were viewed as having
developed into baronies: all the existing incentives pushed people to
stay within their own fields; merit reviews took place entirely within
divisions/departments and there were few incentives-financial         or
other-to lead staff to participate in interdisciplinary projects. These
were, for all practical purposes, non-existent. (It is, however, important
to note that despite these organizational and bureaucratic obstacles, a
number of successful interdisciplinary research projects were conducted
and completed at RAND during this period.)

The four divisions were then broken up into 11 departments. These
largely perpetuated the insularity of the divisions, but KAND did experi-
ment in 1959 with one new organizational mechanism-the Office of the

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     Interviews      With Experts on
     Interdisciplinary     Management

     Director of Projects-that    was intended to facilitate interdisciplinary
     research. This was the first formal organizational attempt to reinforce
     the other side of the matrix. But after successfully completing one major
     interdisciplinary project, and following an unsuccessful attempt to do
     another, the Office was disbanded and the research departments
     regained their former dominance.

     In 1968-69, RANDmade a conscious decision to create a domestic division
     to diversify from its heretofore largely defense-oriented work. This had
     an unanticipated effect on the management structure, swinging the bal-
     ance in the matrix from disciplinary departments to functionally-ori-
     ented programs and project managers. This occurred because the
     diversification into domestic work was not readily accepted by all
     existing RANDStaff.To get things moving, Shubert said, JUND’Stop man-
     agement had, in many cases, to work around the preferences of the
     department heads. There were serious disagreements over hiring, and
     some domestic division heads began to do some of their own recruiting.
     In this way, RANDbegan to bring in new types of researchers (e.g.,
     experts in social experimentation).

     Ten years later, Shubert told us, the matrix on the domestic side of RAND
     had swung completely around to the divisional dimension and the same
     trend began to take hold on the national security side. Every member of
     the domestic division was housed in the “new building,” that is, physi-
     cally separated from the staff doing military or national security work.
     At that point, Donald Rice came in as president of RANDand rebuilt the
     department cores. He relocated everyone so that all individual disci-
     plines were housed together. He rented “the biggest tent available” so
     that they could reshuffle all of the office assignments between the two
     buildings. As a result, all the buildings and all the departments now
     have secure and non-secure areas (for military and domestic work) that
     adjoin each other. All this was done to promote intra- and inter-discipli-
     nary exchange, and to reduce friction between the domestic and defense
     divisions. (The main RANDbuilding had itself been designed years earlier
     by a mathematician so that there were a maximum number of corridor
     intersections, with the explicit purpose of promoting informal exchanges
     among researchers.)

     Shubert believes that RANDnow has a reasonable balance between
     departments and divisions. Nonetheless, the resources go through the
     divisions. This makes it hard for department heads to intervene on
     resource allocations. In principle, though, the intent is to have both sides
     of the matrix participate in these decisions.

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Inlmvlews       With Experts on
Interdisciplinary     Management

RAND has, from the beginning, tried to create an interdisciplinary   work-
place. At first, the idea was to bring together scientists and engineers. In
1948, economists and political scientists were brought in. The expansion
into domestic work in the late sixties brought in sociology, psychology,
law, medicine, etc. Now RAND has at least “one of almost everything.”
About 58 percent of the staff are technical, compared to 42 percent

Although the matrix system is not easy to manage-it can be argued
that it is both cumbersome and volatile-Shubert      thinks it has worked
quite well in safeguarding the quality of RAND's work over the years by
attracting prestigious researchers and retaining them to do the work of
the corporation. The effort here was not so much to promote efficiency,
as with Arthur Andersen, but rather to optimize creativity and original-
ity among staff. This involved recognizing that a key function of man-
agement is to develop and sustain an environment that can attract and
retain such people, while at the same time exercising responsible man-
agement control. On the other hand, both RAND and Arthur Andersen
stress the commitment and responsibility of all their professional people
for every corporation product. Again, as with Arthur Andersen, the
RAND effort at integration appears generalizable mainly to organizations
like itself: that is, organizations that have very varied work programs,
and personnel with advanced training and expert skills in many differ-
ent disciplines.

In the Inspector General’s office at the Health and Human Services
Department (HI-IS), and at Coopers and Lybrand, auditing and evalua-
tion staff have not been integrated, but work in separate units. Mr. Rich-
ard Kusserow, the HHS Inspector General, told us his essential concern
is to ensure the availability of the skills needed for the work of his
office. He believes, however, that organizational integration of auditing
and evaluation personnel is unwise for two reasons. First, each group’s
special professional proficiencies and different approaches to work need
to be preserved through separation. Second, Kusserow thinks evaluators
would be “consumed” by auditors if they were merged and required to
use the “yellow book” standards and audit process. He feels it would be
only a matter of time, given such integration, before evaluators would
depart from an organization, “leaving those who remained to be assimi-
lated as less than qualified auditors.” Thus he has tried to develop the
needed pools of evaluators and technical “specialists” while minimizing
or allaying conflict with auditors to the extent possible. Evaluators and
auditors do not work together on jobs; instead, all evaluators work out
of one specialized unit. However, other technical staff (e.g., computer

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Interviews      With Experts on
IrU.erdisciplinary    Management

programmers, statistical samplers, economists, etc.) do work with audi-
tors, but on an advisory basis: the auditors run the jobs and the techni-
cal staff function largely as technical assistants.

At Coopers and Lybrand, Ms. Suzanne Woolsey directs a consulting
group which reports to a different set of managing partners than do the
auditing and tax groups. There is a separate (dual track) career path for
technical people. Woolsey believes this has pluses and minuses:

“The pluses are that your appraisal is done by people who           are doing the same kind
of work you do. So for individual mobility, I think it helps.       The problem is that, it’s
difficult with the dual track to manufacture incentives for         people to work together
and therefore to break down problems of misunderstanding             and communication in
the organization as a whole.”

The dual career path carries separation (i.e., non-integration) one step
further, but it is a way for Coopers and Lybrand to attract and retain
strong technical staff. It also distinguishes Coopers and Lybrand from
the Inspector General’s office, where the expectation appears to be that
technical people may stay only 2 or 3 years, and where there is conse-
quently little or no investment in their long-term careers.

At Resources for the Future (RFF) the approach is different once again.
There is a mainstream at RFF, but it is a technical mainstream: 80 to 90
percent of the staff have the Ph.D. in economics. In our interview with
Mr. John Ahearne, he told us that the need to integrate technical and
nontechnical staff occurred largely as a result of changes in the funding
and sponsorship of the organization. The Ford Foundation had founded
RPF some 25 years ago, and funded the organization’s work in 5-year
increments, with renewal based on a review of the previous 5 years’
work. The organization’s main preoccupation was therefore with the
quality of its product, rather than with its use or impact, and the audi-
ence targeted by staff was essentially other economists. But in the last
10 years, Ford cut back its support and RFF turned to other funding
sources whose officials are concerned not only with the quality of RFF’S
product, but also with its impact on public policy decisions.

As Ahearne put it,

“this meant we had to think about a new kind of audience-that    is, policymakers-
and about how to make our products sufficiently readable and understandable to
them that they would be likely to use them in policymaking. We decided to bring in
non-economists, for example, people with degrees in public policy and people from

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    Interviews     With Experts on
    Interdisciplinary    Management

    the publishing world, to produce tiaterial     that would translate RFF work for a wider

    It was at this point, then, that RFF first confronted an integration issue
    which is different from every other one we heard about during our
    interviews. Ahearne sees it as the mirror image of GAO’S, “where the ten-
    sions are along the lines of experts defending themselves against non-
    experts. RFF’S problem has been in getting technical staff to accept and
    adjust to non-technical staff.”

    At IBM, the organizational context is again different. In our interview
    with Mr. Lewis Branscomb, he explained that the particular tension IBM
    faces is how to keep attracting, recruiting, integrating, and retaining
    leading-edge technologists and researchers when the IBM workplace is
    optimized for current business and current development. Although disci-
    plines are multiple and disparate at IBM, and although there are both
    technical and nontechnical staff, it seems clear that the most important
    interdisciplinary issue there is the integration of extremely advanced
    researchers and engineers into the life of the corporation.

    Branscomb told us that it was an IBM Chief Executive Officer (Tom Wat-
    son, Jr.) who had first explicitly pointed out the need to enable top
    researchers and technologists within the company to react against the
    very business pressures that he himself, as CEO, was exerting on them.
    That is, his concern was that a management system which optimizes
    current competitive strength may prevent an organization from doing
    the things it should do for the sake of its own future. The integration
    need at IBM was thus essentially that of making sure that integration
    was not so successful, or so complete, that leading-edge dissenters could
    not beheard. This meant giving technical people a voice powerful
    enough to be picked up by top management, if the company was to bene-
    fit from their best research or technological contributions.

    GAO’S own context is one in which more and more complex public policy
    questions posed by the Congress are moving the organization toward a
    workplace that includes multidisciplinary personnel. The situation is the
    same as that of BOB, HHS/IG, Coopers and Lybrand, and RFF, where a
    mainstream group of professionals-in     this case, auditors-has long
    dominated the culture of the organization.

    Since 1984, GAO’S approach has been to make use of three simultaneous
    ways to integrate technical staff. First, three separate technical divi-
    sions seek to build a critical mass of top-rated high-quality staff, some of

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Interviews    With Experts on
Interdbciplhary     Management

mainstream staff in divisions. This allows technical staff to receive the
same promotions and perquisites as mainstream staff, while drawing
upon their technical training to enrich the product of the mainstream
activity. The idea here is to have your cake and eat it: the dual thrust
allows the separate centers to continue to attract and maintain quality,
while the organization as a whole moves toward more equal treatment
for technical staff over the longer term.

At BOB, the integration problem that arose because of the creation of
technical centers was accompanied by a problem of technical staff
access to top management. Branscomb told us this was true as well at
IBM: technical people there felt they needed “to have more of a voice,” to
be able to state their concerns to the CEO. But in contrast to non’s Budget
Directors, IBM'S CEOwas as concerned as his technical staff that they
should feel free to raise their concerns with him, especially on what
might be unpopular but important issues. The IBM solution was to do two
things. First, they set up a group called the Corporate Technical Com-
mittee (cTC), which Branscomb chaired. It had no formal corporate
responsibility, no obligation, for example, to track the execution of the
current business plan. Instead, the CTC'S purpose was to guide the long-
term science and technology strategy of the company. To do this, the
committee became involved with technical people across the divisions
and served as a conduit between them and top management. Branscomb
told us that the CTC worked directly with IBM line managers on the han-
dling of their overall technical responsibilities: “If they were recruiting
the wrong people, mismanaging them, not talking to each other, all of
those things were legitimate interests of ours.” The access purpose was
accomplished by locating the CTC in the office of the CFX).As Branscomb
said, “it was the virtual power to meet with the CEO about technical con-
cerns that gave the Committee its influence at IBM and, by the same
token, opened up technical staff access to top management.”

Second, IBM set up a “Fellows” program which rewarded technical peo-
ple who had made exceptional intellectual contributions to the business.
IHM Fellows are chosen from among technical staff who not only have
had important ideas- ones which have clearly served IBM'S business
interests-but    also have developed to the point of impact that is mea-
surable (in terms of market effect, company reputation, etc.). Among the
most important privileges extended to Fellows (there are now 53 at IRM
who have been selected at the rate of 2 to 3 a year) is that of being able
to raise technical concerns with top management whenever they feel the
need to do so. “There has never been a time,” said Branscomb, “when an
IBM Fellow asked for an appointment with the CEOthat he didn’t get it.”

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                                                 Appendix   IV
                                                 A Censw    of GAO’s Technical    Staff

Table IV.l: Location of Technical Staff
                                                 -.--                                            Total number      Percent of total population
                                                 DMTAG/TAG        -                                         141                              - 29
                                                 _--____---..-                                               28                                 6
                                                 OCE                                                         11                                 2
                                                 PEMD                                                        78                                16
                                                 --.____                                                     90                                19
                                                 AFMD                                                        14                      -          3
                                                 -~-                                                        119                               25
                                                 Total                                                      481                              100

                                                 The staff are spread from GS-9 through GS-15, with about 90 percent in
                                                 GS-12 and above.

Table IV.2: Grade Structure of Technical
Staff                                            Grade                                                 Number                            Percent
                                                 -_____                                                      a3                                17
                                                 GS-14                                                      135                               28
                                                 -___                                                       127                               26
                                                 GS-12                                                       93                                19
                                                 .-   1                                                      22        ~.                       5
                                                 GS-9                                                        21                                 4
                                                 Total                                                      481                               9ga
                                                 aPercentages are rounded

                                                 There are 153 people, or about 32 percent, with Ph.D.‘s in this group, as
                                                 shown in table IV.3.

Table IV.3: Technical Staff With Ph.D.‘s,
by Grade                                         Grade                                    Number with Ph.D.‘s         Percent of total-__Ph.D.‘s
                                                 GS-15                                                       35                                  23
                                                 GS-14                                                       46                                  30
                                                 GS-13                           .__                         39             ..-___               25
                                                 GS-12                                                       29                                  19
                                                 is-1 1                                                        4                                  3
                                                 GS-9                                                         -0                                  0
                                                 Total                                                      153                              100

                                                 There are 21 job series represented in the census. Job series 347, Super-
                                                 visory GAO Evaluator/GAO Evaluator, has 219, or 45 percent of the popu-
                                                 lation in the universe. Job series 110, Supervisory Economist, job series
                                                 334, Computer Systems Analyst/Specialist/Programmer,       and job series

                                                 Page 60                 GAO/PEMDBO-19S    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                                        Appendix IV
                                                        A Census of GAO’s Technical     Staff

Table IV.!? Technical Staff by Grade Level (including Number of Staff With Ph.D.‘s)
Series                                  AFMD GOD HRD IMTEC
                                       _____.                              NSIAD                         PEMD            RCED      Other      Regions -~-       Total
Total # GS 15%                              3       10       11        20      10                           16              6           5                            83
Number wtth Ph.D.                 .~ _~~~.-...__-_____5       7         3        6                           5              6          3
                                                                                                                                  -____-____-~                       35.-
Total # OS 14’s                             6         9      18        30      18                           13             18          6             17             135
Number wrth Ph.D.                           1         3       9         2        9                           4             12          5              1              46
Total # OS 13’s                             3       , 7 ..19---...-ls          12                           13              8          3             36             127
Number with Ph.D.                                     4       8         2        7                           8              6          2              2              39
Total # OS 12’s                             1         8       7         7        4                          24              5          2             35              93
Number with Ph.D.                                     3       2
                                                            -~-.___-~-           3                          15              2           1             3              29
Total # OS 11’s                                       4       1         8                                    8                                        1              22
Number with Ph.D.
                                           _...~~~.                                                          4                                                        4
Total # OS 9’s                                   1            4                    9                         4                                         3             21
Number with Ph.D.                                                                                                                                                      0
Total                                              14        52      56           90            44            78           39          16            92             481
Number with Ph.D.                                   1        15      26            7            25            36           26          11             6             153

Table IV.8: Technical Staff bv Job Series
Series                                 AFMD               GGD      HRD
                                                                   ~.. __--- IMTEC
                                                                                 ___- NSIAD              PEMD            RCED      Other      Regions           Total
GS-101 Social Science Analyst/
  Program Specralist                               0          5        9           0
                                                                                   ~~-__.         4               34        6 -__-      2              0             60
GS-110 Supervrsory Economist/
  Economist                                        0         12       13            0            11 --            1        13           11          -~ 0 -.-__       61
GS-180 Personnel Psychologrst                      0          0        0            0             0               0         0        -1
                                                                                                                                     ____..-----.      0               1
GS.301 TAG Manager (and one SES
  Candidate)                                        0         0        0            0             0               0 .-       1          0             11    i_..-    12
GS-334 Computer Systems Analyst/
  Specialist/Programmer                             7         5        3            9             1
                                                                                                  ___-             1         1          2             34             63
GS-343 Mgmt Analysis Officer/ Supvy
  Mgmt Analyst                                      0          1 _~_ ~~~~__
                                                                                0                 0
                                                                                                                  0         0           0              0               1
GS.347 Supervisory GAO Evaluator/     --
  GAO Evaluator                                     6        25       28         ~.65
                                                                                    .-__.._      17               28        8           0            42
                                                                                                                                                      -___-         219
GS.501 Frnancial Specialist Admin/
  CostAnalyst                                       0          0        0           0             1               0          0         0             0             1
GS.510 Systems Accountant                           1        ..~..~-. -ho   ~~~-...o-.-~~        ~-.              0          0         0
                                                                                                                                   _________-.-___-.-0             1
GS-801 Transportation                               0          0        0           0             0               0          1
                                                                                                                            ___-.____  0             0             1
GS-855 Electronic Engineer
                                           ..~ -    0
                                                   -~~         0        0           0             2      -        0         0
                                                                                                                                        0              0           2
GS-861 Aerospace Engineer                           0          0        0           0             1               0          0          0_____~..    0             1
GS-880 Natural Resources Manager                    0          0        0           0             0               0          1          0
                                                                                                                                      ____.____-..-. 0          -_ 1
GS-1080 Psychologist                                0          0        1           0             0          -0           -0            0            0             1
                     ”                                                                                                                                (continued)

                                                        Page 62                  GAO/PEMD-90-18s         GAO Technical      Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Aonendix V

Interviews With Staff Who Have Left GAO

                         We interviewed technical and nontechnical staff who left GAOin order to
Introduction             address in part the second of the task force’s three questions: What is
                         the present status of interdisciplinary management at GAO?We explored
                         the reasons technical and nontechnical staff left GAO;what the first year
                         at GAOwas like for technical and nontechnical employees; their perspec-
                         tives on how technical work and technical staff have been integrated
                         into GAO;what communication problems they encountered; how the
                         career path worked for each of them and their perspectives on their
                         career opportunities; and the kinds of training they received.

                         As described in chapter 2, in volume 1 of this study, these interviews
                         had two purposes in addition to helping explain departures: to distin-
                         guish experiences common to most GAOstaff from those unique to tech-
                         nically trained staff; and to refine the focus of the two comprehensive
                         technical staff and middle-manager surveys.

Objectives, Scope1,and   We selected all of our interviewees from staff who left GAOduring fiscal
Methodology              years 1986, 1987, and 1988. We obtained from the Office of Personnel
                         lists of all staff who left GAOduring that period, by unit. Among the
                         included units were: all divisions; all regions, overseas offices and the
                         Washington Regional Office; and three staff offices-the Office of the
                         Chief Economist, the Office of Information Resources Management, and
                         the Office of Organization and Human Development.

                         To develop our universes of technical and nontechnical staff, we pro-
                         vided the list for each unit to a member of unit management (i.e.,
                         Regional Manager, Division Deputy for Operations, Assistant Regional
                         Manager (ARM) for Operations, or office head) and asked them to iden-
                         tify those persons they considered technical according to the task force’s
                         definition (see chapter 2). We then asked them to identify all nontechni-
                         cal staff. Once they had, we eliminated all staff who had retired (with
                         two exceptions), or who had died. Then we asked each manager to desig-
                         nate which of the staff-both     technical and nontechnical-they   would
                         have preferred to retain. (The purpose here was to exclude staff who
                         had not performed well at GAO.) Our final list for each unit included only
                         those technical and nontechnical staff that unit management said they
                         would like to have retained.

                         In the course of these conversations with unit management, we discov-
                         ered that four of the technical staff who had left GAOduring our sample
                         period had subsequently returned, so we decided to interview them as

                         Page 64           GAO/PEMD-90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes

                         Concerning GAO'Sapproach to work, one technical person told us that
                         upon joining GAO,she found that her training and experience in ques-
                         tionnaire design and writing differed from the way GAOdoes these
                         things. A nontechnical staffmember said that he became really frus-
                         trated when substantive sections, recommendations, and conclusions
                         were deleted or “watered down” in his report drafts. Another nontech-
                         nical person told us that GAO'S“obsession” with “form over substance”
                         surprised her. She said that GAOis overconcerned with workpapers,
                         referencing, and findings. As a result, she stated, GAOneither probes
                         deeply into the subject under review nor uses a “big picture” approach.

                         Three of the nontechnical staff interviewed said they had been mis-
                         informed or misled when they were recruited. They were given assign-
                         ments that did not match their interests and backgrounds. For example,
                         one nontechnical person was told that in order to obtain the types of
                         assignments she preferred, she would have to relocate to a specific
                         region. When she did relocate and joined GAO,she was told that the work
                         of her choice was not as plentiful as she had been told, and that she
                         could not be guaranteed those assignments.

First-Year Experiences   We asked the respondents whether there were any specific incidents or
                         experiences in their first year that shaped their perceptions of GAO
                         thereafter. Technical and nontechnical staff recalled both negative and
                         positive experiences with supervisors and assignments. For example, a
                         technical person said she had a disagreement with her supervisor
                         because he did not want her to discuss the job with people who were not
                         working on it. A nontechnical staffmember said that his first supervisor
                         “watered down” his findings and conclusions. Another nontechnical
                         staffmember expressed surprise at how little actual supervision he
                         received from his supervisor in his first year. He believed he was too
                         “green” to be left alone and, as a result, had made mistakes, On the posi-
                         tive side, one technical person said he received positive reinforcement
                         on one of his projects which had encouraged him to stay with GAO.
                         Another technical person said her supervisor was her mentor and sup-
                         ported outside training for her; she received an award. A nontechnical
                         staffmember told us that her supervisor provided opportunities to make
                         her work interesting. Another nontechnical person said that her supervi-
                         sors during her first year were excellent.

                         Regarding assignments, a technical person complained that GAOdid not
                         keep a commitment to rotate Presidential Management Interns. Another
                         technical person said that when she was hired she was told that she

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                     Appendix     V
                     Interviews    With Staff Who Have Left GAO

                     their technical counterparts in saying that                  GAO   could improve its appli-
                     cation of computer technology.

                     Four technical and four nontechnical respondents mentioned time con-
                     straints as impeding their ability to do high-quality work.

                     Most of the respondents in both groups said they were compelled to
                     change the way they worked to satisfy GAO requirements. However,
                     most said the changes had either little or no effect on the quality of their
                     work. Some believed the quality of their work improved.

                     Most respondents-both    technical and nontechnical staff-were    gener-
                     ally satisfied with management’s receptiveness to their technical input
                     and with their own involvement in the work. A majority of both groups
                     said that managers rarely overruled their professional judgment on job-
                     related issues. When managers did overrule them, most respondents
                     indicated that the consequences were not serious. They also said that
                     their work assignments permitted them to take advantage of their train-
                     ing and background at least to some extent.

                     About half of both groups said that GAO managerial review is much more
                     intense than what exists outside of GAO. They believed that managers
                     focused on important issues and conveyed consistent messages (non-
                     technical people said they did this most of the time; technical people
                     believed it was at least half the time). A majority of both groups said
                     they received the material support they needed to conduct high quality
                     work, and that tools were available (e.g., computers, books, journals,
                     and consultants) at least to a moderate extent.

Reactions to GAO’s   We asked respondents to cite any aspects of GAO’S work that they found
Approach to Work     either strange or unreasonable and aspects that they found made the
                     most sense. Responses varied so widely that no point stood out for
                     either group. Referencing was cited by members of both groups as being
                     strange and unreasonable at first, but also was considered by many in
                     each group to be the thing that made the most sense after they had been
                     at GAO awhile. Items cited as strange and unreasonable included multiple
                     layers of report review and the length of assignments. Making the most
                     sense were documenting and verifying evidence and providing balance
                     in reports.

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                             Appendix    V
                             Intmvlews    With Staff Who Have Left GAO

Performance Appraisals       Most respondents from both groups said they generally received accu-
                             rate and well-justified performance appraisals. Some technical respon-
                             dents however, said that the BARSsystem applied more to generalists
                             and did not adequately measure technical performance.

                             Technical staff comments on BARSincluded:

                         . The BARSsystem criteria are inadequate for measuring technical
                         l As an auditor, one is rated by BARS;as a computer specialist, one is rated
                           by BARSas well as by a different set of rules and circumstances. The
                           BARSsystem is inequitable because it requires technical staff to perform
                           at a higher level than evaluators.
                         . Technical staff are at a disadvantage when rated by BARSbecause they
                           do not get as much opportunity to write as evaliii%Wi%

                             Some nontechnical staff who cited BARSas a problem in getting accurate
                             appraisals contended that it was the application of the BARSsystem that
                             caused problems, not the BARSsystem itself. One nontechnical respon-
                             dent said that time constraints and insufficient priority given ratings
                             affect the BARSappraisal process and that GAOneeds to give supervisors
                             more time to prepare ratings. Another nontechnical person said “BARS is
                             a wonderful tool.” The problem, he said, is supervisors’ reluctance to
                             apply BARSconsistently. He said he had observed people getting the
                             same ratings despite differences in performance. And he said he was
                             aware of staff who were getting fully successful ratings when they
                             deserved less. He believed supervisors did not want to do negative rat-
                             ings because they would have to justify them to management.

Rewards                      Most of the respondents in both groups said that the rewards they
                             received (bonuses, verbal recognition and reinforcement from supervi-
                             sors, etc.) affected their morale to a moderate or great extent. Four of
                             the technical staff and one nontechnical staff said their morale was neg-
                             atively affected by the awards they received. One technical respondent
                             said the amount of money was too small. Another technical respondent
                             said she received awards as an evaluator but not as a TAGmember. She
                             said that auditing assignments lend themselves to more job recognition.
                             Another technical person said that GAOnever recognized him with cash,
                             only certificates. He said others in his profession outside GAOappreci-
                             ated his talents more. The fourth technical person felt that the awards
                             system could be improved, but did not say how.

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                                 Interviews    With Staff Who Have Left   GAO

                                 GAOlacked the in-house expertise, especially at the management level, to
                                 conduct technical work. Some said the appraisal system should be
                                 changed to better measure technical staff performance.

                                 In addition to better promotional opportunities, three nontechnical staff
                                 would have liked a better matching of their interests to their assign-
                                 ments. Three regional people (two nontechnical, one technical) would
                                 have liked less travel.

RecommendGAO to Others           We asked people if they would recommend GAOto someone with compar-
                                 able skills and experience. Of the technical respondents, 6 said yes, and
                                 13 either said no (6) or provided conditional responses (7). Of the non-
                                 technical staff, 11 said yes, and 10 either said no (7) or provided condi-
                                 tional responses (3). Thus, 52 percent of nontechnical staff were willing
                                 to recommend GAOto others with comparable skills and experience but
                                 only 28 percent of technical staff were willing to do so.

                                 Of the six technical respondents who said they would not recommend
                                 GAOto someone with comparable experience, three of them said techni-
                                 cal people would become frustrated with GAO'Smanagement of technical
                                 issues. The following other reasons were cited by individual technical
                                 people: no TAGSin certain regions; limited promotions for technical staff;
                                 and a feeling that someone with a social science research background
                                 who is interested in federal employment should go to another agency.

                                 Of the seven nontechnical staff who also said they would not recom-
                                 mend GAO,some individual reasons given were as follows:

                             . GAOmanagement does not consider employee interests when making
                             . GAOdoes not take risks. Hard work on a report is often negated or
                             . GAOdoes not have seasoned supervisors who can train new people prop-
                               erly and establish role models.

Attractive Characteristics       Technical and nontechnical respondents generally agreed on what char-
of GAO                           acteristics of GAOwere attractive to them. Most often cited were the
                             l   Varied work experience with a broad exposure to government opera-
                                 tions (20 of 39 people).

                                 Page 72                 GAO/PEMD-90-l@     GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
 Ppe   *

b=y          of GAO TechnicailStaff

                     As part of the work of the task force on interdisciplinary management,
Background           we conducted a mail survey of the members of the GAOstaff identified
                     by the census (see appendix IV) as meeting at least one of the criteria
                     established by the task force for being considered “technical staff.” We
                     sought to learn of the experiences of these staffmembers in GAO,as well
                     as their views on the quality of their work lives in GAO.

                     The areas to be explored in the survey were developed from the issues
The Survey           identified in the task force’s study plan and from discussions held dur-
                     ing meetings of the task force. After deciding upon a first draft of the
                     questionnaire to be used in the survey, we pretested it with six members
                     of the technical staff. After the pretests, we revised the questionnaire to
                     eliminate some ambiguities that we encountered during the pretests. We
                     mailed the questionnaire to staffmembers at their office locations in
                     April 1989 and sent out a follow-up letter in May.

                     Managers of GAOunits had identified a total of 481 staffmembers as fit-
                     ting the task force’s definition of “technical.” Of these 481, seven
                     responded to our initial mailing by informing us that they did not con-
                     sider themselves part of GAO'Stechnical staff, but rather were GAO
                     evaluators. In addition, we learned that six of the identified
                     staffmembers were no longer employed by GAO.On the other hand, we
                     also discovered that two DMTAGstaffmembers had been overlooked by
                     their divisions when completing the technical staff census, After adjust-
                     ing our population total in response to these developments, we arrived
                     at a final population size for the technical staff of 470, rather than the
                     original figure of 481.

                     In total, we received 431 completed questionnaires, for a response rate
                     of 92 percent. The response rate was high in every one of the GAOunits
                     having technical staffmembers. Thus, in general, we believe that our
                     survey results are representative of the views of the population of GAO'S
                     technical staff.

                     The GAOtechnical staff is a heterogenous group in terms of education
Technical Staff      level, professional specialty, role, and organizational location within the
                     agency. In view of these differences in background and possible perspec-
                     tive, it seemed likely to us that the issues being addressed by the task
                     force might be of varying levels of significance to different segments of
                     the technical staff population. Throughout this

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                                          Survey of GAO Teehieal        Staff

Figure Vl.1: Role of Technical Staff at
H~adquatters and in Regional Offices
                                          100   Portent of Technical Staff

                                                I        Provide Assistance to Evaluators
                                                         Act as Evaluators

                                           Apart from the roles they perform, members of the technical staff differ
                                          in professional specialty. The predominant job title among them is the
                                          job title “evaluator,” with 44 percent of the technical staff being so des-
                                           ignated. Other job titles present in some numbers are social science ana-
                                           lyst, economist, statistician, operations research analyst, and a variety
                                          of titles that could be grouped under the general category of computer
                                          science specialist. Nearly three-fourths of the assistance staffmembers
                                           are in one of the series other than evaluator, while the majority of those
                                          performing evaluator functions carry the evaluator job title.

                                          The staff providing assistance are predominantly those with computer
                                          science training. This is especially true in the regional offices, where 61
                                          percent of those providing assistance indicated that they provide pri-
                                          marily computer-related assistance. In headquarters, although many
                                          assistance staff see their role as that of providing computer-related
                                          assistance, these staff encompass a wider variety of technical and meth-
                                          odological specialties, with 22 percent of the respondents citing econom-
                                          ics as the primary area in which they provide assistance. Thus, a

                                          Page 76                   GAO/PEMD-90-18s         GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes

                                      master’s, and doctoral degrees. We believed that a group that, in partic-
                                      ular, might be likely to encounter problems would be those holding doc-
                                      torates. We hypothesized that, in view of the extent of their professional
                                      training, those with doctorates might have particular difficulty in
                                      adjusting to GAO'S policies and practices regarding documentation, and
                                      other aspects of work, and thus might be among the least satisfied with
                                      GAO as an employer. Therefore, we examined the responses of Ph.D.‘s

Figure VI.3 Highest Academic Degree
                                      50   Percent of Teehnlcal Staff


                                      Finally, a distinction that seemed useful in examining survey responses
                                      is that of length of time in GAO. Presumably, staff who have been here
                                      for a long time would have accepted GAO'S work requirements and cul-
                                      tural norms, whereas it might be less likely that newer staff would have
                                      reached that same level of accommodation.

                                      The median length of time technical staffmembers had been with GAO
                                      when we conducted the survey was 8 years (see figure VI.4). Six percent
                                      of our survey respondents were in their first year with the agency.

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                                       Survey of GAO Technical             Staff

Figure Vl.5: Highest Academic Degree
Held, by Length of Service at GAO
                                           Percent      of Newer or Older Technical         Staff

                                           Bachalor’a                 Master’s     degree           DOCtOrat

                                           I             8 years or less
                                                        9 years or more

Use of the Work of                     To help assess GAO'Sprogress in integrating a variety of disciplines into
Assistance Staff                       its work, the survey asked assistance staff the extent to which, in their
                                       own view, the work of the various assistance groups is used by the
                                       evaluator staffmembers that they support. In so doing, we believed we
                                       would be obtaining, also, an indication of the degree of professional sat-
                                       isfaction felt by the assistance staff regarding their contributions to GAO.
                                       In general, the assistance staffmembers seem to believe that their work
                                       has been accepted and used extensively by the evaluator staff. There
                                       are indications, however, of considerable ambivalence in the staff’s view
                                       of how strongly top management is committed to the role of assistance

                                       In questioning the assistance people in our survey, we asked about the
                                       consideration given their job advice by the evaluator staff, the use of
                                       their work in report products, and the settlement of disagreements
                                       between the evaluator staffmembers and themselves. A large majority
                                       of the assistance people, particularly those in regional offices, reported
                                       that their advice is usually given serious consideration by the evaluator

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                           Survey of GAO Teehnicd   Staff

                           percent reported that such disputes are usually settled in what they
                           would consider to be a technically adequate way.

Resolution of              Although the resolution of differences may, in most instances, be satis-
Disagreements              factory, there are indications that sometimes it is not reached easily.
                           Four assistance staffmembers commented in their questionnaire that
                           their interactions with evaluator staff have on occasion caused them
                           what they consider to be an unacceptable level of stress.

                           On this same subject of professional disagreements, the members of the
                           assistance community were about equally divided on the question of
                           whether there is a need, within their units, for a formal mechanism for
                           settling substantive disagreements. They were much less noncommittal
                           about the preferred nature of such a mechanism, if one were to be estab-
                           lished, however. By a margin of 2-l/2 to 1, they favored relying on
                           someone in GAO,rather than an outside authority, to settle such

Acceptance of Assistance   When we asked assistance staff about the situation regarding the degree
Groups                     of acceptance of their group as a whole, rather than of their own indi-
                           vidual work, the responses were not quite as positive. We asked their
                           opinion concerning the degree of authority accorded the views of the
                           assistance group of which they are a member. Overall, nearly half felt
                           that the views of their group are typically accorded great authority by
                           the evaluator staff. A higher proportion of regional staff (64 percent)
                           felt this way than headquarters staff (41 percent). The assistance staff’s
                           assessment of the degree to which it is supported by top management of
                           its unit matches, to some extent, its assessment of the degree of author-
                           ity accorded group views. Slightly over half felt that top management
                           was noticeably supportive of their group, but a larger proportion of
                           regional than headquarters staff had that opinion.

                           The distribution of the assistance staff’s views of the degree to which its
                           unit’s management is supportive of their group is presented in figure

                           Page 82              GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
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                    Survey of GAO Technical   Staff

                l experience with immediate supervisor,
                . GAOdocumentation requirements,
                l receptivity of GAOevaluator staff to new ways of doing work, and
                l professional isolation.

                    The responses to our questions on these topics did not indicate that seri-
                    ous difficulties in this regard have been encountered by large numbers
                    of staff.

                    Our survey found that although many technical staffmembers perform-
                    ing evaluator functions have immediate supervisors with backgrounds
                    and training different from their own, these differences do not seem to
                    be causing widespread problems. A large majority of the staffmembers
                    characterized their experience with their current supervisor as more
                    good than bad. Only 13 percent reported that, on balance, their experi-
                    ence with their immediate supervisor has been negative.

Documentation       An area that has often been mentioned as being troublesome to technical
Requirements        staff in GAOis that of the agency’s documentation requirements. Given
                    that the members of the technical staff who perform evaluator func-
                    tions are likely to be confronted directly with those requirements in try-
                    ing to complete their jobs and publish their reports, we believed that
                    their view of the reasonableness of those requirements would provide
                    another useful indicator of the extent to which technical staff have
                    become integrated into GAOand have accepted its cultural norms. We
                    found that most of those staffmembers were not significantly upset by
                    the documentation requirements. Of the technical staffmembers whose
                    role is to manage or work on jobs for which their group has reporting
                    responsibility, only 20 percent characterized the documentation require-
                    ments as unreasonable. On the other hand, 52 percent viewed them as
                    either very reasonable or reasonable. Staff performing evaluator func-
                    tions in IMTECand PEMDwere somewhat more tolerant of GAO'Sdocumen-
                    tation requirements than were those in the program divisions. Figure
                    VI.8 compares the responses of staff performing evaluator functions in
                    the two technical divisions to those of similarly functioning staff in the
                    program divisions.

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                                             Survey       of GAO Technical         Staff

Receptivity to New                           On the question of the receptivity of GAOevaluators to new or different
Methodologies                                ways of doing their work, the responses were mixed. About 44 percent
                                             of the technical staffmembers who perform evaluator functions felt that
                                             evaluator staffs are receptive, but nearly as many, 37 percent, charac-
                                             terized them as being “as receptive as unreceptive,” hardly a ringing
                                             endorsement. Since many staff in the technical divisions might work on
                                             a day-to-day basis only with other “technical” evaluators, we thought
                                             that, to some degree, they might have used other members of the techni-
                                             cal staff as the frame of reference for their response. We were, there-
                                             fore, particularly interested in the responses of the technical
                                             staffmembers performing evaluator functions in the program divisions.
                                             We found that the assessments made by that group were quite similar to
                                             those made by staffmembers in the technical divisions. Figure VI.9 pro-
                                             vides the details on the two sets of responses.

Figure Vl.9: Receptivity of Evaluators to
New Way8 of Doing Work                       50       Percent   of Technical   Steff Who Act as Evaluator




                                            Degree of Receptivity

                                                      I          PEMD and IMTEC
                                                                 All Other Units

                                             Page 86                           GAO/PEMD-90-18S        GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendiies
    Appendix VI
    Survey of GAO Technical   Staff

    expected. In posing this question, we presented the respondents with a
    pair of opposing statements about each of several aspects of work. For
    example, concerning the question of how extensively their work was
    reviewed, the questionnaire contained the two statements, “work was
    more thoroughly reviewed” and “work was less thoroughly reviewed.”
    We asked the staffmember to check all statements that applied to his or
    her first-year experience. The aspects of work about which we pre-
    sented statements were:

.   the degree to which the work was technical,
.   the degree of control the staffmember had over how to do his or her
.   the extent of review of the staffmember’s work,
.   documentation requirements,
.   frequency of use of the staffmember’s specialized skills,
.   degree to which the work was challenging to the staffmember, and
.   the amount of visibility afforded his or her work.

    In general, among those staffmembers who did not perceive a great
    match between their first year in GAOand what they had anticipated,
    the feeling was that, as compared with what they had expected,

.   the work was less technical,
.   they had less control over how to do their work,
.   their work was more thoroughly reviewed,
.   there were more documentation requirements,
.   they used their specialized skills less often,
.   they found their work less challenging, and
.   their work had less visibility.

    As can be seen quite clearly in figure VI.10, for each of the aspects on
    which the staffmembers had an opportunity to comment, an overwhelm-
    ing majority were surprised in the same way. For example, 59 percent of
    the respondents indicated that they experienced less control over how to
    do their work than they had expected, while only 12 percent reported
    experiencing more control than they had anticipated. The remaining 29
    percent did not cite the control area as one in which they were surprised
    in either direction. Thus, 71 percent were surprised in one way or the
    other by the degree to which they had control over how to do their
    work. The fact that 59 percent reported that they experienced less con-
    trol than they had expected means that of those who were surprised in
    the area of extent of control over how to do their work, 83 percent (59
    percent of the 71 percent) said that the mismatch between expectation

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                       Survey of GAO Technical     Staff

First Supervisor       The second aspect of their introduction to GAOabout which we ques-
                       tioned technical staff hired during the 1980’s was that of their experi-
                       ence with their first supervisor. Although nearly half of the respondents
                       reported that their first supervisor in GAOwas dissimilar in background
                       and training to themselves, 65 percent assessed their experience, over-
                       all, with that supervisor as positive, while only 17 percent characterized
                       it as negative.

GAO Procedures         We next inquired into the degree to which in the 1980’s new
                       staffmembers had been trained in GAOprocedures. We began by asking if
                       during their first 6 months with the agency they received 24 hours or
                       more of classroom training on GAO'Smethods of carrying out its audit/
                       evaluation work. Forty-three percent said they had, 9 percent did not
                       remember whether they had or had not, and the remaining 48 percent
                       said they had not received such training. We then asked whether during
                       their first 6 months with the agency they had received, through either
                       classroom or on-the-job training, an adequate understanding of each of
                       the following:

                   . workpaper preparation,
                   l indexing,
                   . referencing, and
                   l reporting style.

                       Over 40 percent of the respondents felt that they had not received an
                       adequate understanding of any of the topics, and, as figure VI.1 1 shows,
                       for none of the topics did a large proportion feel that they had received
                       an adequate understanding.

                       Page 90                   GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                  Appenti   Vl
                                  Survey of GAO Technical         Staff

Figure Vl.12: Match Between QAO
Training and Staff Needs
                                  50   Percent   of Technical   Staff


                                   Degree of Match With Needs

                                  Next, we listed four possible training areas and asked the staffmembers
                                  to indicate any of those in which they wished to receive training within
                                  the next 12 months. As can be seen in figure VI.13, there was considera-
                                  ble interest in each of the four areas.

                                  Page 92                       GAO/PEMDBO-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
            Appendix VI
            Survey of GAO Technical          Staff

            100   Percent   of Technlcal    Staff


            There was some disparity between the preferences of assistance staff
            and those of staff performing evaluator functions. A considerably
            higher proportion of those performing evaluator functions than those
            providing assistance preferred temporary assignment to an external
            organization, while a higher proportion of assistance staff than others
            preferred in-house training and college course work.

            Because there has been some concern that technical staffmembers had
            particular difficulty in obtaining needed training, we asked about con-
            straints on training that have been encountered, and the degree to which
            technical staff are more constrained in obtaining training than are mem-
            bers of the evaluator staff. Nearly three-fourths of the technical staff
            reported that on at least one occasion within the past 3 years they have
            missed attending a desired training course, seminar, or meeting. GAO
            time/work constraints was the category most frequently cited as pre-
            cluding attendance. When asked to compare the extent to which their
            ability to obtain training has been constrained with the extent to which
            a typical evaluator’s has, 77 percent of the survey participants replied
            that the typical evaluator had been constrained just as much or more.

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                              Survey of GAO Technical   Staff

                              Training was the subject of narrative comments from 14 staffmembers.
                              Several expressed the definite opinion that the current selection of in-
                              house courses does not meet the needs of technical staff, while a few
                              expressed concern that GAOmight not provide adequate financial sup-
                              port for external activities of a professional development nature.

                              The survey responses to the questions related to training seem to com-
                              municate the following messages:

                          . Current in-house courses do not meet needs.
                          l Other methods are preferred by most of the staff.

                              These views seem to suggest that in the future GAOmight wish to
                              emphasize the assurance of sufficient funding for external training for
                              technical staff rather than seeking to develop in-house courses for that

Quality of the GAO Work       To learn of the general feelings of technical staff toward their experi-
Environment                   ence at GAOas well as to better understand the reasons for those feel-
                              ings, the survey inquired into the question of what is important to staff
                              in choosing an employer and how they would assess GAOon various
                              aspects of employment. The responses establish that, as might have
                              been expected, the members of the technical staff want work that is
                              challenging, in an area of interest to them, and for which they are well
                              compensated. They rate GAOas an employer most favorably in providing

                          l   stable employment,
                          l   a variety of areas in which to work, and
                          l   employment in an organization with an excellent reputation,

                              On the negative side, they give GAOthe lowest ratings in providing

                          l an opportunity for advancement without going into management,
                          . individual authorship of products,
                          l an adequate level of administrative support, and
                          . an adequate level of research assistance support

                              To carry out this inquiry, we listed 28 employment-related factors and
                              asked the survey participants to indicate, for each, how important that
                              factor is to them in choosing a place of employment.

                              In general, the technical staff tended to view a large number of factors
                              as being of considerable importance in assessing the desirability of an

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                                        Survey of GAO Technical        Staff

                                        organization as an employer. Of the 28 factors we listed in the question-
                                        naire, six were considered by 70 percent or more of the respondents to
                                        be of great or very great importance, and an additional 10 were so con-
                                        sidered by at least half of the survey participants. With so many areas
                                        being of great importance, we ranked them so as to permit a determina-
                                        tion of the relative importance of each. We ranked the factors on the
                                        basis of their average score on a response scale of 1, for the lowest point
                                        on the scale, “of little or no importance,” to 5, for the highest point, “of
                                        very great importance.” Figure VI.15 shows the average importance
                                        scores of the 10 factors ranking highest in importance.

Figure Vl.15: Ten Most Important Work
Factors Desired in an Employer
                                        5   Average   Importance   Score

                                        Consistent, but with some notable differences, were the importance
                                        rankings of the factors among various subgroups of the technical staff
                                        population. For example, when comparing the “importance” rankings of
                                        technical staff providing advice and assistance with those of other tech-
                                        nical staffmembers, we found that the rankings of the two groups were
                                        identical through the first three positions. After that, there continued to
                                        be a high degree of consistency, except for the ranking of five factors.

                                        Page 96                     GAO/PEMD-96-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
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        Survey of GAO Tehnicd     Staff

        Of noticeably greater comparative importance to assistance
        staffmembers than to other members of the technical staff are:

. ease of access to a mainframe computer,
  availability of financial support for outside training, and

  the ability to advance in a career without going into management.

        Ranked noticeably higher by staff performing evaluator functions than
        by assistance staff are:

l the ability to play a role in influencing public policy, and
. the degree to which the work is of importance outside of the

        There was almost the same degree of consistency on importance assess-
        ments between headquarters staff and field staff. In that comparison,
        we found that the two groups were in agreement on the first, second,
        and third most important factors, and were quite consistent on most
        others. Where they differed was on the relative importance accorded
        four factors. Considered relatively more important by headquarters
        staff are:

l       the importance of the work outside of the organization, and
l       the ability to play a role in influencing public policy.

        Ranking higher in importance among field staff than among headquar-
        ters staff are:

l ease of access to a mainframe computer, and
. the opportunity to work in a variety of subject areas.

        Neither of these two sets of differences in priorities among groups
        within the technical staff is surprising. The assistance staff is to a great
        degree made up of staff with computer-related specialties, especially so
        in the regions, and has been so since before the advent of the microcom-
        puter. Thus, access to a mainframe computer would logically be of
        importance to the assistance and regional office groups.

        With regard to the difference in degree of importance accorded the
        availability of financial support for outside training, assistance staff are
        considerably less well represented at the doctoral level than are those
        performing evaluator functions. Therefore, additional training would be
        expected to be an item of greater interest to them. In addition, because

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                 Survey of GAO Technical    Staff

                 such a large portion of the assistance staff specialize in fields related to
                 computers, there would seem to be a greater need in that group than in
                 the evaluator function group for continuing education of a classroom
                 nature in view of the rapidly changing technology in the computer field.

                 By definition, regional office staff work in a variety of subject areas.
                 Although there is some opportunity for subject matter specialization in
                 regional offices, in general, the tradition of the subject matter generalist
                 has always been strong there. Thus, the great degree of importance
                 afforded the variety factor by regional staff is not surprising.

                 Assistance staff place a greater relative importance upon the ability to
                 advance in their careers without going into management than do techni-
                 cal staffmembers performing evaluator functions. For the assistance
                 staff, the factor is the 12th most important, while those technical
                 staffmembers performing evaluator functions rank it only 19th in
                 importance. Members of the latter group are presumably on the path
                 that leads to management positions or are already managers. Thus, it
                 can be assumed that they do not have a strong aversion to management.

Ratings of GAO   When asked to rate GAO on each of the employment-related factors listed
                 in the questionnaire, on nine of the factors, led by “overall stability of
                 employment” and “opportunity to work in a variety of subject areas,”
                 the agency was rated as good or very good by more than half the techni-
                 cal staff, while on four of the factors more than half the staff rated GAO
                 as poor or very poor, with “ability to advance in career without going
                 into management” the lowest rated. Figures VI. 16 and VI. 17 list these
                 two sets of factors and show the average rating score (on a scale of 1 for
                 “very poor” to 5 for “very good”) for each factor.

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                                      Survey of GAO Technical            Staff

Figure Vl.16: Ten Highest Rated GAO
Work Factors
                                      6        Averago   Rating Score


                                                                                   L      I                    I
                                                         B-B-                                 -l-LLIIL

                                          Page 99                       GAO/PEMD90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                     Survey  of GAO Technical       Staff

Figure Vl.17: Ten Lowest Rated GAO
Work Factors
                                     5   Averaga   Rating Score


                                     Two of the factors on which GAO was rated lowest, those concerning
                                     level of administrative support and research assistance support, were
                                     the subject of narrative comments by 18 staffmembers on their ques-
                                     tionnaires. One suggested that there is a need for a new job series at GAO,
                                     with duties that lie somewhere between those of a secretary and those
                                     of a junior-level evaluator.

                                     Although the agency may be rated highly on some aspects and low on
                                     others, a critical question would seem to be how well it is rated on the
                                     factors considered important by the technical staff. Looking first at the
                                     10 factors that were viewed as the most important by the technical staff
                                     as a whole, we found that the ratings of GAO on those factors were
                                     among the more positive of all the ratings given. Eight of the top 10 in
                                     importance were in the top half in terms of the ratings given to GAO.

                                     On the factor “degree to which the work is professionally challenging,”
                                     which ranked as the most important factor, 58 percent of the technical
                                     staff rated GAO as good or very good, while only 12 percent rated it poor
                                     or very poor. In the case of the second most important factor, that

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                                 Survey oP GAO Technical        Staff

                                 related to the work being in a skill or subject area of interest, 69 percent
                                 rated GAOas good or very good while only 7 percent rated the agency on
                                 the poor side. There were exceptions to the rule of the most important
                                 factors being among those for which GAOreceived its more positive rat-
                                 ings, however. For example, for both “access to a personal computer,”
                                 and “degree of autonomy in deciding how work will be done,” a third of
                                 the technical staff rated GAOpoor or very poor. Figure VI.18 shows the
                                 average rating score accorded GAOon each of the 10 most important fac-
                                 tors. The median average rating score for all 28 employment-related fac-
                                 tors was 3.11.

GAO on Ten Most Important Work
                                 5   Average   Ratlng Score


                                 Changing our focus from the employment factors to the staffmembers,
                                 we again sought a picture of the ratings given to GAOon factors consid-
                                 ered important. In this case we confined our analysis to those instances
                                 in which a staffmember had assessed a factor as being of great or very
                                 great importance. This time, however, we computed for each
                                 staffmember the average rating score, again on a 5-point scale, that the
                                 staffmember had given to GAOon all of the factors the staffmember con-
                                 sidered important. That average score we viewed as an indicator,

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                                        Survey oP GAO Technical            Staff

                                        although admittedly imprecise, of the staffmember’s overall view of his
                                        or her employment situation at GAO. Figure VI. 19 portrays the distribu-
                                        tion of the average rating scores among all members of the technical

Figure Vl.19: Distribution of Staff’s
Comblned Ratings of GAO’s Work          40    Percent   of Technical   Staff



                                         Average   Comblned     Rating Score

                                        Assistance staffmembers’ scores were somewhat higher than those of
                                        staff performing evaluator functions. The mean score for assistance
                                        staff was 3.38, while that of the other group was 3.28. By a larger mar-
                                        gin, the scores of regional staff were higher than those of staff at head-
                                        quarters, with the regional average being 3.49, and that of headquarters
                                        being 3.28. More dramatic, however, is the difference we found when we
                                        compared the scores of staff with differing educational levels. The aver-
                                        age score for those without doctorates was about 3.4, while those with
                                        doctorates had an average score of 3.13. Figure VI.20 shows the average
                                        rating scores of various groups within the technical staff population.

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                                         Survey oP GAO Technical       Staff

Figure Vl.20: Average Combined Ratings
of GAO by QAO Staff Education Level,
                                         5   Average   Combined   Rating
Role, Location, and Years of Service


                                         Consistent with the finding that on important factors the ratings of GAO
                                         tended to be among the more positive is our finding that the 10 factors
                                         on which GAOwas rated the lowest tended to be among those considered
                                         of lesser importance.

                                         Although for several of the 10 factors there was a large number of
                                         respondents who considered the factor to be of great importance, when
                                         compared with the importance assessments of the other factors, those
                                         on which GAOreceived the lowest ratings were not among the most
                                         important. Of the 10 lowest rated factors, only two, “adequacy of per-
                                         sonal work accommodations,” and “availability of financial support for
                                         outside training,” were in the top half of the importance ratings. Each
                                         was deemed to be of great or very great importance by about 56 percent
                                         of the respondents. Figure VI.21 shows the average importance rating of
                                         each of the 10 factors on which GAOwas rated the lowest by the techni-
                                         cal staff. The median average importance rating for all 28 employment-
                                         related factors was 3.51.

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                                          Survey of GAO Technical        Staff

Figure Vl.21: Importance to Staff of 10
Lowest Rated GAO Work Factors
                                          6   Average   Importance   Rating


                                          The results cited above seem to indicate that, in general, although in the
                                          view of members of the technical staff GAOhas considerable need for
                                          improvement, the areas in which the greatest improvement is needed
                                          are not among those that are considered the most important, while the
                                          areas considered the most important, are among those in which GAO
                                          rates the highest.

General Views and Specific                In the final section of the questionnaire, our questions concerned the
                                          overall opinions of the technical staff on various aspects of their expe-
Problems of Technical                     riences at GAOand their general views of GAO.Among the topics covered
Staffmembers                              were the staffmembers’ general level of satisfaction with their GAO
                                          employment, the degree to which they felt they had been given challeng-
                                          ing work, the visibility afforded their work, whether they would recom-
                                          mend GAOto others, and whether they thought they would remain at
                                          GAO.At the end of the questionnaire, we invited the staffmembers to
                                          make additional comments if they wished to do so. In total, 157 mem-
                                          bers of the technical staff took advantage of that opportunity.

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                 Survey of GAO Technical   Staff

Staff Comments   Some staffmembers seemed hesitant to recommend GAO to others, and
                 some appeared ambivalent about whether they would remain at GAO. A
                 majority, however, responded favorably when asked about their satis-
                 faction with their current employment at GAO. In their narrative com-
                 ments, however, staffmembers raised a number of concerns about the

                 Concerns most frequently expressed in narrative comments by both
                 assistance staff and those performing evaluator functions related to a
                 shortage of resources, such as personal computers, support staff, and
                 training resources, and to the physical accommodations in the GAO build-
                 ing. On the subject of personal computers, comments were made about
                 how difficult it is to complete work with insufficient computer
                 resources. Typical of the comments staffmembers made was that the
                 lack of computer equipment was “absurd” and “pathetic.” Similarly, in
                 their narrative comments relating to the physical accommodations in the
                 headquarters building, respondents remarked that uncomfortable condi-
                 tions made it difficult to be productive. One respondent, whose office is
                 in the GAO building, wrote:

                 “Inadequate ventilation, excessively hot and cold temperatures, mediocre air qual-
                 ity and lack of natural light, in combination, significantly reduce productivity by
                 some staff. Conditions in the building are particularly discouraging to any attempts
                 to complete tasks outside of normal working hours ....”

                 Respondents indicated that the resource for which the agency has the
                 greatest need is an adequate supply of high-quality support staff. Eigh-
                 teen individuals expressed this concern and seven of those suggested
                 that GAO develop research-assistant or junior-specialist positions to
                 assist with technical work.

                 The second most frequently voiced concern in the narrative comments
                 related to how others in the agency view technical staff. Twelve of the
                 respondents who provide technical assistance and 17 of those perform-
                 ing evaluator functions indicated in their narrative comments that they
                 felt their technical skills were not appreciated by the agency. Included in
                 these responses was the perception on the part of some technical staff
                 that their technical advice and suggestions about innovations in design
                 and methodology were not accepted by evaluators or management.
                 Three assistance staffmembers commented that they felt unnecessary
                 stress in trying to persuade evaluators of the merits of their approach,
                 while two regional computer specialists tied stress to the challenge of

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                            AppendLr   VI
                            Survey of GAO Technical Staff

                            working on several complex jobs simultaneously, and under unrealistic
                            time constraints.

                            Closely related to the perception that their work was not sufficiently
                            appreciated was a concern about possibilities for promotion. Among the
                            157 respondents who provided narrative comments, concerns about pro-
                            motion opportunities were raised 63 times-28 times among technical
                            staff in evaluator roles and 36 times among staff providing assistance.
                            Twelve staffmembers in evaluator roles and 14 of those with assistance
                            roles wrote that they felt traditional evaluators were more highly val-
                            ued in the agency and more likely to be promoted. Seven technical staff
                            with evaluator roles and 15 assistance staff suggested that GAO establish
                            a promotion track specifically for technical staff. In total, 15 respon-
                            dents (9 with evaluator roles and 6 with assistance roles) felt that GAO
                            did not provide sufficient pay to retain technical staff.

                            A subject of considerable comment was pay-for-performance (PFP). Ten
                            individuals commented on PFP and all comments were negative. All 10
                            indicated that it is difficult, if not impossible, to directly compare the
                            work of evaluators with that of technical staff. One respondent sug-
                            gested that GAO develop a

                            “subset of RARS that recognizes the uniqueness of the professional specialist.
                            Development of this subset requires major input from the specialists themselves.
                            They are the only ones that are knowledgeable enough to develop a BARS that fits
                            their unique role in GAO.”

                            A total of 19 staffmembers indicated in their narrative comments a con-
                            cern that GAO stressed the quantity of products and the speed at which
                            those products are completed to the detriment of the quality of the prod-
                            ucts. Four staffmembers indicated that the analysis on some jobs was
                            simplistic given the complex nature of the issue being examined.

Level of Job Satisfaction   Although the narrative comments of survey respondents indicate some
                            concerns with GAO’S resources for technical staff and opportunities for
                            recognition and promotion, in their responses to the structured portion
                            of the questionnaire, technical staffmembers were not so dissatisfied
                            that they wished to change their role in GAO. We asked respondents
                            about the conditions under which they might consider such a role
                            change. Specifically, we asked the assistance staffmembers if they had
                            ever applied for, and if they would now be interested in, a lateral trans-
                            fer to an evaluator position, and we asked the staff in evaluator roles

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Survey of GAO Technical   Staff

the same questions regarding a position in a group that provides assis-
tance. Neither group expressed great interest in changing from one tech-
nical role to the other.

Among technical staff with assistance functions, 85 percent reported
that they have never requested a lateral transfer to an evaluator posi-
tion, and slightly more than three-fourths said they are not interested in
such a move at the present time. Likewise, technical staff with evalu-
ator roles preferred to continue in that role rather than moving to the
assistance area. Only 8 percent have ever applied for a lateral transfer
to a technical assistance position, and about two-thirds are not inter-
ested in such a transfer now.

Next, we asked members of both the assistance and evaluator function
groups if they would want to make the switch if a promotion were
involved. About 39 percent of the assistance staff and 43 percent of
those in evaluator roles said they would make such a switch, while 45
percent of assistance staff and 37 percent of technical staff in evaluator
roles indicated that they would not. Assistance staff alone were then
asked a question with longer term implications. We asked if they would
want to be promoted to an SESposition that required them to manage
work of the evaluator staff that, at least in part, might be less technical
or less methodologically rigorous than their current work. About 56 per-
cent responded yes, about 29 percent responded no, and 15 percent were

Apart from their opinions regarding movement within the technical
staff, we were interested in the behavior staffmembers had exhibited in
the past regarding promotion to positions in the other functional group.
About 70 percent of assistance staff reported that they had never
requested to be assessed as evaluators for promotion, Among technical
staff performing evaluator functions, the picture was slightly different.
Eighty-six percent of headquarters staff reported that they had not
applied for promotion to a technical assistance role, and no regional
staff performing evaluator functions reported applying for such a

We also asked the staffmembers their assessment of the likelihood that
they would be selected for a promotion to a position in the other func-
tional group. Only 9 percent of the assistance staffmembers believed it
likely that they would be selected for promotion to an evaluator posi-
tion, and 16 percent of the technical staff performing evaluator func-
tions believed that if the GS system were to continue (i.e., no banding) it

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Snrvey of GAO Technical   Staff

would be likely that they would be promoted to a technical assistance
position if they were to apply.

Thus, the majority of technical staff in both assistance and evaluator
roles reported a desire to remain in their present roles. While in the nar-
rative comments some technical staff expressed dissatisfaction with
their present jobs or with GAO, others reported positive aspects of life at
GAO. One respondent wrote:

“I love GAO’s mission and its employees are outstanding in their level of competence
and dedication.”

In order to summarize their general views and opinions about the
agency, we asked members of the technical staff about their overall sat-
isfaction with their current employment at GAO. As figure VI.22 shows,
there was a high degree of satisfaction expressed. There were no sub-
stantial differences among any subgroups in response to this question,
except within the technical assistance community. Whereas nearly two-
thirds of those staffmembers providing computer related assistance or
economic analysis assistance said that they were moderately or very
satisfied, only about half of those providing other kinds of assistance
felt that way.

Page 108              GAO/PEMD-9O-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
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                                           Survey of GAO Technical        Staff

Figure Vl.22: Level of Satisfaction With
GAO Employment
                                           50   Pwoonl   0fTochnical   Staff

                                           Lavel of SatMactlon

                                           Apparently, GAO'Stechnical staff feel adequately challenged by their
                                           work. Fifty-three percent said that their GAOwork has been moderately
                                           challenging, and an additional 22 percent said that it has been very chal-
                                           lenging. Assistance staff were somewhat more likely to report being
                                           challenged than were those performing evaluator functions, and a
                                           greater proportion of regional office staff than headquarters staff
                                           reported being challenged by their work. The full range of responses to
                                           this question is shown in figure VI.23.

                                           Page 109                    GAO/PEMD-90-19S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
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                                   Survey of GAO Technical           Staff

Figure VI.23 Degree of Challenge
Offered by GAO Work                80    Percent   of Technical   Staff









                                   Degree of Challenge

                                                       Provide Assistance to Evaluators
                                                       Act as Evaluators

                                   On the subject of the visibility afforded their work in GAO,61 percent of
                                   the technical staff responded favorably, indicating that their work has
                                   received at least as much visibility as it deserved. As might have been
                                   expected, assistance staff were less positive on this point than were
                                   those serving in evaluator roles. Fifty percent of the assistance staff
                                   said that their work had been given less visibility than it deserved,
                                   while 3 1 percent of those performing evaluator functions felt that way.

                                   Near the end of the survey questionnaire we confronted the members of
                                   the technical staff with two “bottom line” questions. First, we asked
                                   whether they would recommend GAOas an employer to others with skills
                                   and backgrounds similar to their own. Then we asked them whether,
                                   knowing what they know now, they would again seek employment with
                                   GAO.The staffmembers were somewhat more disposed to again join GAO

                                   Page 110                       GAO/PEMD-90-1SS         GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                 Appendix YI
                                 Survey of GAO Technical         Staff

                                 themselves than to recommend it to others. Overall, 66 percent said that
                                 they would “do it again,” while 43 percent would recommend that some-
                                 one else do it. There were no appreciable differences in the responses to
                                 these questions between assistance staff and those performing evaluator
                                 functions. The response patterns on these two questions are shown in
                                 figure VI.24.

Figure Vl.24: Staff Opinion on
Recommending GAO to Others and
Reioininn                        60   Percent of Technical   Staff
   -     - GAO







                                                              Undecided        No

                                      1       ] Recommend GAO to others
                                                Join GAO again

                                 As a final indicator of the extent to which technical staff feel comforta-
                                 ble in the GAO environment, we asked for their assessment of the likeli-
                                 hood they would actively seek employment elsewhere within the next 2
                                 years. About 39 percent thought it likely or very likely that they would
                                 do so, while about 35 percent thought it unlikely or very unlikely. The
                                 remaining 26 percent thought that there was about a 50-percent chance
                                 that they would do so. By a margin of 43 percent to 32 percent, technical
                                 staffmembers performing evaluator functions were more inclined than
                                 were assistance staff to think it likely that they will look elsewhere. A
                                 much larger proportion of assistance people in headquarters, 41 percent,
                                 than in the field, 21 percent, said that they would be likely to seek other
                                 employment. Part of this difference in reported likelihood of looking
                                 elsewhere might be attributable to differences in age and stage in career

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Survey of GAO Tech&d     Staff

between the majority of assistance staff and the majority of those per-
forming evaluator functions.

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Appendix VII

Survey of Mid-Level Managersand Focus
Groups of SeniorManagers

                            A subgroup of the task force was formed to examine the attitudes and
I. Survey of Mid-Level      experiences of GAOmanagers concerning technical staff. Two
Managers                    approaches were used with two different groups of managers. In the
                            first approach, GAOmanagers responded to mail questionnaires. (The
                            second approach is described in section II of this appendix.) In particu-
                            lar, GAOmanagers’ opinions were sought on the issues of recruitment,
                            training, integration, communication, and retention of technical staff.

Methodology                 In order to look at GAOmanagement attitudes toward technical staff, a
                            survey was conducted of the group of GAOmanagers most involved in
                            work on GAOjobs. This group was defined to include directors of issue
                            areas, associate directors, assistant directors, assistant regional mana-
                            gers, and managers of regional technical assistance groups (TAGS). These
                            managers were designated by their units as supervisors of staff who
                            work on GAOjobs in the seven program divisions, the 15 regions, and the
                            Office of the Chief Economist. Only the assistant director-in-charge was
                            included for technical assistance units at GAOheadquarters. In this
                            report, we refer to this group as GAOmanagers or, simply, managers.

                            To obtain the views of these GAOmanagers, a survey was developed and
                            mailed to 375 managers who met the definition above. The survey
                            instrument was designed to obtain the opinions of four types of mana-
                            gers: (1) those who supervise only technical staff (according to the task
                            force definition of technical staff), (2) those who supervise both techni-
                            cal and nontechnical professional staff, 3) those who do not supervise
                            technical staff but do work regularly with technical assistance staff, and
                            4) those who do not work regularly with or supervise technical staff.
                            The GAOmanager survey was conducted between May 26 and July 10,
                            1989. Out of the 375 questionnaires mailed, 335 were used in the analy-
                            sis for a response rate of 89 percent.

Recruiting and First-Year   We asked GAOmanagers to indicate which practices are most important
Experiences                 to follow when hiring technical staff. Over 80 percent of the managers
                            indicate that explaining how GAOworks to the candidate is very impor-
                            tant. A majority of managers also agree that it is very important to base
                            hiring decisions on the likelihood of adjusting to a team oriented envi-
                            ronment (63 percent), as well as considering the candidate’s oral (55
                            percent) and written communications skills (54 percent).

                            Page 113          GAO/PEMlHO-1SS   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
               Groupa of Senior Managers

               Having the immediate supervisor interview the prospective employee
               may be critical when hiring so that technical employees will not be dis-
               appointed with the subject area or skills required to perform the job. A
               majority (62 percent) of those who manage only technical staff agree
               that this is a very important hiring practice. Only 44 percent of all man-
               agers hold this opinion, however.

               Those managers who have had experience in actually trying to replace
               technical staff report mixed success. A third of these managers indicate
               that they are only partially or not very successful in locating and hiring
               qualified staff to replace those who left. Another 31 percent state they
               are only moderately successful, and the remaining 36 percent feel they
               are very or extremely successful.

               GAOmanagers specify three areas in which technical staff in their first
               year at GAOhave more difficulty than nontechnical staff in adjusting to
               GAO.These areas are: adapting to the GAOway of doing work (71 per-
               cent), adjusting to the degree to which GAOwork is reviewed (69 per-
               cent), and disappointment with the degree of recognition accorded to
               their work products (64 percent). Managers feel that technical and non-
               technical staff are similar in their need for supervision, their need for
               orientation training, and their disappointment with the amount of rou-
               tine tasks assigned.

               Three-quarters of the managers of technical staff report that their staff
               are generally or very satisfied with the degree to which their work
               assignments match the expectations they had when hired. In addition,
               about half of these managers believe their staff are generally or very
               satisfied with the degree to which they can display their technical profi-
               ciency in their first year at GAO.Another third say that, overall, their
               staff are both satisfied and dissatisfied. Those who manage only techni-
               cal staff are somewhat more likely to see their staff as generally or very
               satisfied in this area (61 percent), with another 25 percent feeling their
               staff are both satisfied and dissatisfied. Just under half the managers of
               both technical and nontechnical staff report that their staff are gener-
               ally or very satisfied (47 percent), with another third reporting they are
               both satisfied and dissatisfied.

Training       We asked all GAOmanagers about the need for external training to
           Y   advance the skills of technical staff and the need for expanding external
               training. Those who manage technical staff were also asked about the

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                    Appendix VII
                    Survey of Mid-Level Managers   aud Focus
                    Groups OP!huior Managers

                    need for more GAOcourses for their staff and whether GAOshould pro-
                    vide funding to attend conferences.

                    Three-fourths of all GAOmanagers believe that technical staff need more
                    external training than nontechnical staff to advance their skills. Ninety-
                    two percent of those who manage only technical staff believe that more
                    external training is required for their technical staff. Both types of GAO
                    managers with technical staff believe that training funds should be pro-
                    vided for technical staff to attend conferences (94 percent). Of those
                    who have an opinion on how frequent this type of training should be, 84
                    percent state that such training should be provided at least once a year.

                    It is easy to say that more money should be spent on external training if
                    the issue of limited resources is not raised. Therefore, we asked mana-
                    gers to consider expanding training opportunities for (1) technical line
                    and (2) technical assistance staff even if equal resources could not be
                    provided to the nontechnical staff as well. These two questions were
                    asked of the managers who either manage or work with technical staff
                    on a regular basis. Overall, these managers feel that training opportuni-
                    ties should be expanded for technical staff even if fewer resources are
                    provided for the nontechnical staff. The managers favor devoting scarce
                    resources to the technical assistance staff (59 percent) over the techni-
                    cal line staff (49 percent). But this differs depending on the type of man-
                    ager. Most of those who manage only technical staff believe that more
                    resources should be devoted to expanding training for technical assis-
                    tance staff (89 percent). Comparable numbers are 56 percent for those
                    who manage both technical and nontechnical staff and 51 percent for
                    those who work regularly with technical assistance staff.

                    GAOmanagers strongly believe that orientation training is necessary for
                    technical staff. Further, most managers also believe that both technical
                    staff and nontechnical staff need such training.

                    GAOmanagers as a whole do not see a need for additional GAOcourses
                    for technical staff when asked about five technical areas. Those who
                    manage only technical staff, however, do show a strong preference for
                    additional courses in statistics (83 percent) and research design (74

Integration and y   One section of the survey examined the integration of GAOtechnical
Communication       staff into the agency and the quality of the communication between
                    technical and nontechnical staff. All managers were asked about ways

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Appendix VII
Survey of Ml&Level Managers   and Focus
Groups of Senior Managers

to promote communications between these two groups. They were also
asked about the ways that technical and nontechnical staff might differ.
Those who work regularly with technical staff were asked about the
types of technical issues that must be resolved.

GAOmanagers believe that the technical staff have made contributions
to the work of GAOas a whole. Fifty-seven percent of the managers
believe this has been a great or very great contribution to GAO'Swork.
Those who manage technical staff are more likely to rate the contribu-
tions of technical staff highly. Three quarters of the managers of techni-
cal staff see great or very great contributions compared to less than half
(46 percent) of the managers who have no technical staff.

Among those managers who have used technical assistance staff on
their jobs, 58 percent rate their contributions as great or very great.
Managers of both technical and nontechnical staff are the most positive
about the contributions of technical staff to jobs under their supervision
(7 1 percent rate the contributions as great or very great).

Managers who use technical assistance were asked about the types of
assistance that are used on their jobs. The most frequently used types of
assistance are for sample design (86 percent) and for questionnaire
design (86 percent). Other types of assistance used by three quarters or
more of the managers include research design and methodology, statis-
tics, and analysis of survey data. Two-thirds of the managers had used
economics assistance. Assistance for engineering and actuarial tech-
niques have been used by less than a third of the managers.

Among managers who supervise both technical and nontechnical staff,
three-quarters rate the contributions of their technical line staff as great
or very great.

GAOmanagers were asked how frequently they personally become
involved in resolving disputes over technical issues. Depending upon the
type of technical issue, only 15 to 23 percent of the managers report
that they often or very often spend time resolving such differences of
opinion. The three most frequently cited issues are adequacy of evi-
dence to support a proposed finding (23 percent), placement of technical
work in the report (22 percent), and presentation of technical work in
the report (21 percent). Just under one third of the managers who have
used technical assistance on a regular basis report that they have con-
sulted with experts outside of GAOon issues raised by the technical

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                           assistance staff. Managers of technical staff report that they are gener-
                           ally satisfied or very satisfied (75 percent) with the way in which their
                           staff’s work is used in the final product.

                           GAOmanagers were asked about ways in which communications between
                           the technical and nontechnical staff could be enhanced. From a list of
                           five ways to promote communications, three methods are favored by a
                           large majority of managers. Three-quarters of the managers would like
                           to see courses specifically for technical staff on GAOpolicies and prac-
                           tices. About two-thirds favor technical courses for nontechnical staff
                           and short-term rotations of technical staff to nontechnical positions. (It
                           should be noted that the rotation of technical staff is not favored by a
                           majority of those who manage only technical staff. Instead, they favor
                           short-term rotations of the evaluators through specialist groups.)

                           With regard to written communications, most managers believe that
                           technical staff are less capable than nontechnical staff. However, about
                           two-thirds of GAOmanagers feel that technical staff do not differ from
                           nontechnical staff in their ability to work well with other people and to
                           communicate well orally.

Managing Technical Staff   We asked GAOmanagers about three specific aspects of managing techni-
                           cal staff. These included staffing, use of BARSfor technical staff, and
                           differences in supervising technical and nontechnical line staff.

                           GAOmanagers were asked about the skill mix of their current staff and
                           the number of staff they supervise. Just over half of those who manage
                           technical staff (54 percent) are satisfied with the skill mix in their unit.
                           A larger number, however, say they do not have enough technical staff
                           for the group’s current needs (64 percent).

                           When asked about the appropriateness of the BARSrating system, more
                           than half (56 percent) of the managers who have had experience with
                           preparing or reviewing performance appraisals for technical staff
                           believe that the system is not very appropriate for technical assistance
                           staff. Among those who manage both technical and nontechnical staff,
                           53 percent feel that BARSis “moderately” or “very” appropriate for
                           technical staff and 47 percent feel that it is “somewhat” or “not very”

                           Managers who supervise both technical and nontechnical line staff must
                           attend to the needs of two types of staff. One strategy for this is to treat

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            technical staff the same as nontechnical staff in terms of task assign-
            ments Therefore, we asked these managers how much difference, if
            any, they saw between the technical and nontechnical staff under their
            supervision in assigning staff to tasks. The largest number (44 percent)
            see great or very great differences between their technical and nontech-
            nical staff. A third (35 percent) see moderate differences, and a fifth (21
            percent) see little or no difference.

Retention   This section of the survey addressed the reasons why technical staff
            have left GAOand the priorities that managers feel should be given to
            various strategies for trying to retain such staff.

            When asked why technical staff under their supervision actually left,
            GAOmanagers most often cite (major or minor reason) higher salaries
            (81 percent) and a desire for a better match of assignments to skills or
            subject areas of interest (71 percent). The next most frequently cited
            reasons are: better acceptance of the technical role by management (66
            percent), career rewards for technical tasks as opposed to managerial
            tasks (64 percent), more computers and equipment (64 percent), more
            recognition for a job well done (62 percent), and more influence over
            assignments (59 percent).

            All of the GAOmanagers were asked about the priorities that should be
            placed on various factors that might influence technical staff in their
            decision to leave (see table VII. 1). The three items given the highest pri-
            ority (high or very high) by managers are: giving more recognition for a
            job well done (62 percent), career rewards for technical tasks as opposed
            to managerial tasks (65 percent), and more computers and equipment
            (66 percent). In addition, 50 percent of the managers say a high or very
            high priority should be placed on better matching of skills or subject
            areas of interest to staff and on better acceptance of a technical role by
            management. There are some differences between those managers who
            have lost technical staff and other managers. Managers who have actu-
             ally lost technical staff are more likely than other managers to feel that
            salary should be a high priority (56 percent) and are slightly less con-
            cerned about skills match (46 percent).

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Table Vll.1: Reasons for Staff Leavlng
and Retention Strategy Prioritles                                                                      Priority (% high or very high)
                                                                                     Major/minor              All   Managers who had
                                         Reasons                                      reason (%)      managers              staff leave8
                                         Higher salary                                           81             43                          56
                                         Better   skills match                                   71             50                          46
                                         Acceptance of technical role                       -    66             50                          57
                                         Career rewards                                          64             65                          73
                                         Computers/equipment                                    64              66                          72
                                         More job recognition                                   62              62                          56
                                         .More assignment influence                             59              18                          36
                                         This includes both managers of technical staff only and those who manage both technical and non-
                                         technical staff.

                                         GAOmanagers favor improving technical resources such as textbooks,
                                         journals, and special computer software for GAO'Stechnical staff. They
                                         support these additional resources even if fewer resources are added for
                                         nontechnical staff. Percentages range from 71 to 92 percent for techni-
                                         cal assistance staff and 61 to 77 percent for technical line staff.

                                         GAOmanagers were asked for their opinions on three methods of enhanc-
                                         ing the careers of technical staff. Only 24 percent of the managers think
                                         that technical staff should receive faster promotions in order to retain
                                         talented staff. Fifty-seven percent of all managers say that the top of
                                         the career ladder for technical staff should be the Band II level or
                                         higher. Finally, when asked about nonmanagerial Band III positions for
                                         technical staff, 66 percent of all managers support the concept.

                                         One option for aiding the retention of technical staff is to give them pro-
                                         motions to managerial line positions. When asked about the suitability
                                         of technical line staff to be promoted to managerial line positions, GAO
                                         managers are divided in their sentiments. About 40 percent feel that
                                         technical and nontechnical line staff are equally suited to be promoted
                                         to such positions. However, a similar number feel that nontechnical staff
                                         are somewhat more or much more suitable for these promotions.

                                         However, attitudes toward the promotion of technical assistance staff to
                                         managerial line positions are very negative. Almost three-quarters of all
                                         managers feel that nontechnical staff are more suitable than technical
                                         assistance staff for such promotions.

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                          The second component of this study again examines the recruitment,
II. Focus Groups of       management, training, and utilization of the technical staff at GAO, but
Senior Managers           this time from the perspective of the agency’s senior management and
                          based on a focus group technique rather than a mail survey.

Methodology               To study this issue, five groups of senior managers were interviewed
                          using the focus group technique. The managers included in this study
                          are Resource Managers, Directors of Planning and Reporting, Directors
                          of Operations, Regional Managers and Assistant Comptrollers General
                          (unit heads only). Six focus groups (two for the Regional Managers)
                          were conducted between April 7th and April 2&h, 1989. Overall, 38
                          managers took part in these six groups.

                          The focus group technique was selected as the method for this segment
                          of the study because of a desire to ascertain the managers’ perspectives
                          and attitudes in qualitative rather than in quantitative terms. While this
                          technique has some methodological limitations-for       example, findings
                          for each group cannot be generalized beyond that group-we chose it
                          because it encourages discussion and candor among managers in the
                          individual groups, and because it provides rich, in-depth detail which we
                          could use to illuminate the quantitative survey results. The information
                          below discusses the results of all six focus groups.

Differences Among         Throughout many of the group discussions, the difference between the
Divisions                 technical and operating divisions was brought up as a point of discus-
                          sion. Some participants believed that PEMDand IMTEChave had very dif-
                          ferent experiences from the rest of the divisions, especially with regard
                          to technical staff. As one manager said:

                          “I think you’ve got two groups here. You’ve got the technical divisions and the non-
                          technical divisions. And our issues are quite different. There’s probably more differ-
                          ences between our unit and PEMD than there is between specialists and generalists
                          in our division.”

Definition of Technical   Most of the 38 senior managers felt that those who are currently doing
                          technical work, generally in an assistance capacity, are the only staff
Staff                     who can be readily identified as technical staff. Those staff operating as
                          evaluators “on the line” should not be considered technical staff, they
              Y           said, even if they have had technical training or if they have come from
                          a technical position or division. In other words, these senior managers

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                           seemed most comfortable with a very narrow definition of technical
                           staff relying on “how the staff are used” (i.e., the type of work the staff
                           do or are willing to do, rather than on training or past work experience).
                           In the words of one senior manager:

                           “If they are on line as an evaluator, that’s what they are, and background may or
                           may not be that important in terms of the assignment they’re going to be on. I was
                           very comfortable with [technical staff including] people in the TAGS and the
                           DMTAGs-[those] that are actually off line performing off line functions in terms of
                           how we assign their work.”

                           Many senior managers noted that GAO as a whole is becoming a more
                           technically oriented organization and that technical distinctions among
                           the evaluators are sometimes difficult to make. They felt that the cur-
                           rent cadre of evaluators is becoming more technically proficient and
                           that new evaluator staff arrive with more technical credentials than
                           they have had in the past. In some cases, they said, evaluators are get-
                           ting technical experience and training because of rotations into the TAGS
                           and DMTAGS. Many senior managers perceived that when the technical
                           staff move into line positions they quickly become integrated, lose their
                           specialized skills and “aura,” become just like any other evaluator, and
                           do not retain a unique “way of looking at things” that sets them apart
                           from other staff:

                           “With people coming from so many different backgrounds and disciplines and expe-
                           riences, just the fact tha.t [a person has] been in a DMTAG [isn’t] the most significant
                           factor [in having a unique, technical perspective].”

                           Senior managers from PEMD and IMTEC saw the definition of technical
                           staff differently, however, considering virtually all of their non-adminis-
                           trative line staff as technical, based on their background, training, and

Managing Technical Staff   Many senior managers felt that technical staff are more likely than non-
                           technical staff to have some difficulty adjusting to “the GAO way of
                           doing things.” They said the technical staff perceive that a review of
                           their work indicates a “competency problem” and they feel “dis-
                           empowered,” rather than just accepting that GAO reviews all of its docu-
                           ments with a particular level of detail. Some senior managers also noted

                           ‘The AssistantComptrollerGeneralfor ProgramEvaluation and Methodology, while present at one
                           of the focus groups, was requested by the moderator not to join in the discussion because of her
                           position a.. chair of the Interdisciplinary Task Force. Her views, therefore, are not incorporated or
                           represented in this discussion of the focus group findings.

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differences in attitudes about work between technical and nontechnical
staff which one of them characterized as follows:

“[Technical staff say] I’m not going to do a J-1. I just want to do my work. I don’t
want to do vouchers. I don’t want to do any of that kind of stuff. Whereas the gener-
alist has done all those things recognizing it’s not the greatest thing to do but you’ve
got to follow the procedures.”

Technical staff were also perceived by many senior managers as having
trouble with the elaborate GAO review and referencing procedures and to
reject a “detailed facts and figures, word-for-word kind of referencing”
in favor of peer review. As one senior manager expressed it:

“GAO is so concerned about accuracy, credibility, support and evidence that we go
through a very, very elaborate report review and processing situation. People who
have done writing on the outside, who pretty much expect to have what they say
accepted and published and everybody agree with it, can be in for a rude awakening
when it comes to putting the product through the GAO review process.”

Technical staff were viewed by many senior managers as being most
comfortable operating within an academic model in which they are “in
control,” have “hands-on experience,” and are the managers. In con-
trast, at GAO they are required to assist, be managed, give advice, and
“analyze what someone else is doing.” In addition, they were viewed by
some senior managers as having difficulty adjusting to writing for a lay
audience rather than for an academic or professional audience. They
were also perceived by some to “get wrapped up in the technique proba-
bly more so than with the objective of the assignment.”

Many senior managers believed that certain aspects of the screening and
recruitment of technical staff should be slightly different than for non-
technical staff, and that it is important to screen not only for technical
skills but for adaptability to the GAO culture, flexibility, communication
skills, and interpersonal skills. Interpersonal and communication skills
were perceived to be particularly important because the technical staff
interact with so many evaluators and have an impact on so many differ-
ent jobs. Furthermore, to minimize some of the problems discussed
above some senior managers felt that they should go out of their way
“to be very up-front” about the special role that a GAO technical staff
person plays and the need for him or her to adapt to GAO’S procedures.
In the words of one senior manager:

“When folks go into [a technical assistance unit] the frequency [of dealing with other
people] probably heightens the need for interpersonal skills along with the technical

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           skills, and they don’t get to use those technical skills if they aren’t very keen in
           terms of [interpersonal skills].”

           Finally, many senior managers believed that technical staff want to
           work only in their area of specialization. However, because of the varied
           demands of GAO jobs, they pointed out that it is not always possible to
           provide a satisfactory match between the staff person’s skills and the
           content area of the job. As discussed earlier, the senior managers felt
           that to avoid serious dissatisfaction among the staff it is very important
           to alert prospective technical staff to these requirements. In addition,
           one senior manager commented that a management issue is created by
           the fact that managers try, to the extent possible, to honor technical
           staffs’ requests for working in a particular specialty area:

           “We can’t always give those people exactly the neat kinds of experience exactly in
           the areas in which they’re interested [and] which they thought they were going to
           get when they came in. Some of their work is very satisfying to them and other
           times they are not as happy and it’s always that battle to use them the best you can
           but to fight fires at the same time.”

Training   Many senior managers noted that the training needs of technical staff
           are different from those of nontechnical staff. That is, they thought that
           the majority of training needed by technical staff is available only
           outside of GAO at conferences, in college courses, and at professional
           meetings. Technical staff were generally perceived to need the basic pro-
           cedural training available from the GAO orientation courses, and some
           senior managers believed that technical staff can benefit from manage-
           rial courses as well, but felt that these courses do not need to be as
           extensive or as detailed as they would be for nontechnical staff. As one
           senior manager noted:

           “There are some commonalities. Training about the way GAO does its work in terms
           of procedures and so forth, everyone needs that sort of thing. But I think most tech-
           nical people feel that in terms of the in-house courses, there isn’t much there for
           them. They have to go outside to improve the level of their skills.”

           Many senior managers perceived that technical fields are changing more
           rapidly than nontechnical fields and require that technical staff get fre-
           quent skill training to keep them “on the cutting edge” and to maintain
           their “state of the art” skills. Some senior managers found this impor-
           tant as they think of their technical staff as an “investment” that would
           have to be replaced if the staff person were to leave or if their skills
           were to become “dated.”

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Some senior managers pointed out that training for technical staff is
considerably more expensive than that required for nontechnical staff.
Because their training is often at a fairly high level, that makes it a “big
ticket item,” and managers indicated that technical staff may have to
“trade off” in terms of who gets training in any given year. In addition,
the senior managers felt pressed to provide the needed training for tech-
nical staff without neglecting the needs of the nontechnical staff, who
make up the majority of GAO’S professional employees. As one of them
put it:

“If you’re going to support somebody to take a semester course at college, that’s a
large hunk of your training money.”

The technical staff were perceived by most senior managers to be very
attentive to their own professional development needs. They saw this
interest manifesting itself in an adeptness at identifying training oppor-
tunities, a “tendency to fight their way through the system to get a big-
ger share of the budget,” a willingness to contribute funds for their own
training, an eagerness to be active in their professional communities,
and a concern about keeping “current” in their technical field so as not
to embarrass themselves among their peers. As one senior manager said:

“When microtechnology became available, they went at that with a zeal and enthu-
siasm that you don’t find as some new operational auditing technique becomes
available for evaluators.”

There was some disagreement among the senior managers regarding
whether GAO is meeting the training needs of the technical staff. Some
managers believed that GAO is doing a good job of accommodating to the
technical staffs’ external training needs. Others, however, believed that
even though the technical staff may get more training than the nontech-
nical staff, “it is still probably not adequate for people of their caliber
and their background.” One manager noted that “there is a general feel-
ing of deprivation among all our staff in terms of getting issue area or
subject matter training.” Many managers lamented their “little training
budgets” that prevent them from providing training to all the staff who
request it. As one senior manager stated:

“I don’t think that we’re funding enough. I think about our DMTAGers and I know I
have heard many of them say that they would like to take courses on this or that or
some new technique, but we can’t afford to send them all and many times we can’t
afford to send one.”

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                  Appendix. M
                  Survey of Mid-Level Managers   and Focus
                  Gmups of Senior Managers

Integration and   Senior managers believed generally that there are currently no major
Communication     communication or integration problems between the technical staff and
                  other groups within the GAO organization. Furthermore, senior managers
                  emphasized that issues of communication or integration most often arise
                  because of individual problems that do not exist for the technical staff
                  any differently or more frequently than for the nontechnical staff.
                  There was some discussion of difficulties in the past, but there was gen-
                  eral agreement that respect for the technical groups has developed over
                  time and that “the working relationships” between technical and non-
                  technical staff currently “are very, very good.” In the words of one
                  senior manager:

                  “[The technical staff] understand that their responsibility is to work with the issue
                  area directors and associate directors and the staffs and try to work in a coopera-
                  tive way to make the staffs understand what they are there for and how they work.
                  I feel like the team part has come together very well.”

                  Many senior managers indicated that when communication problems did
                  occur they were just as likely to be between functional and service staff
                  or between technical staff who have adapted to the GAO way and those
                  who have not, as between technical and nontechnical staff. The senior
                  managers have not generally been directly involved in these communica-
                  tion issues. They have had some contact when methodological or job
                  issues were raised to their level for discussion, in which case these man-
                  agers saw their role as “facilitating a lot of discussion” until “both sides
                  understand each other’s position fully.”

                  Many senior managers did comment that in the early days of introduc-
                  ing the DMTAGS and using more technical staff, there were two areas of
                  communication that required some sensitive and diligent work. First,
                  there “was some rough going for a few years” in promoting the services
                  of the technical assistance units. Second, there were disputes about how
                  to do a job between the technical “purists” and those who were pres-
                  sured to meet the timing demands of the job. There was a perception
                  that some jobs were “over-designed,” in which the technical staff
                  designed a “Cadillac” when all they needed was a “Chevy.” Alterna-
                  tively, there were cases where the “audit staff could not appreciate the
                  methodological need to proceed in [a particular] fashion when there
                  appears to be a much straighter line to get from here to there [that is]
                  much less resource intensive.” Three senior managers spoke to these
                  issues as follows:

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“The technician gets caught up in the process, in wanting to do more for the sake of
purity of the science, whereas the evaluator has recognized that the job has got to
get out the door in 12 months or so and somewhere we’ve got to cut corners in terms
of methodology.”

“You wind up with over-designed jobs, The statistician didn’t realize that he could
cut corners on this one and the generalist didn’t know enough to tell the statistician
to cut it off. So, that’s been an integration problem due to inexperience on both

“What became readily apparent was that the specialist needed training in relating
to people and communicating and interacting skills. What the evaluator needed was
a basic appreciation for technical areas-being able to relate on technical issues at
least an inch deep with these folks. And then trusting them to go the mile deep in an
inch wide area.”

The senior managers discussed many approaches and activities that
they believe have contributed to the technical staff being “well
respected and appreciated.” When the DMTAGS were first organized, some
divisions made a decision to indirectly promote the use of the DMTAGS
because they believed that a smooth, working relationship is “something
that you can’t force.” They carefully structured a few early jobs in
which the DMTAGS were used and the results were highly successful.
Then they made sure that the success was well-known to everyone in
the division. Other divisions have taken a more direct approach to
ensuring the use of the DMTAGS by focusing on the need for sound meth-
odologies and “framing the issues right at the outset of the job.” They
then insist that all jobs go through the DMTAGS by routing all job-start
paperwork through the DMTAG and including a DMTAG representative in
the one-third and report conferences.

To foster communication between technical and nontechnical staff, some
technical staff have been rotated to line positions. Some senior managers
felt that this experience gives technical assistance staff exposure to the
audit cycle and to the individual evaluators they will be working with.
Others encouraged “marketing” of the technical staffs’ skills. Here the
staff engage in outreach activities in which they visit the audit sites to
explain the services of the technical staff or they are assigned as advi-
sors to several evaluator staff with whom they are supposed to periodi-
cally check. Finally, some regions and divisions have eliminated the
technical assistance units altogether to encourage a better “synthesis”
of the complementary technical and evaluator skills. One manager

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             Groups of Senior Managers

             “We have required [them] to get some on-the-job audit experience or an evaluator
             experience so that they can understand what the whole audit process is and under-
             stand the frustrations that the evaluators live through.”

             Senior managers in the regions mentioned a few other activities that
             they perceived to be useful in forging and solidifying relationships
             between technical and nontechnical staff. They were the technical con-
             ferences, the TAG annual report, user group meetings, and using techni-
             cal staff to train auditors in technical issue areas.

Recruiting   The senior managers generally believed that recruiting technical staff is
             not a problem. They felt that the only exceptions were in the computer
             field, where GAO salaries are too low, and in some regions where salary
             is a problem for technical and nontechnical staff alike.

             A few senior managers indicated that while they have plenty of appli-
             cants for their technical positions, they must carefully screen for staff
             who have an appropriate mix of technical and interpersonal skills. They
             noted that without good interpersonal skills there will be little opportu-
             nity for a technical staffmember to accomplish anything, even with
             superior technical skills. Furthermore, some senior managers indicated
             that they must also carefully screen applicants for a willingness to
             advise or assist rather than having “hands-on experience.”

Retention    Senior managers were of the opinion that retention of technical staff
             presented the same issues as for nontechnical staff. Some even said they
             thought retention rates for technical staff were higher than for nontech-
             nical staff.z As one manager expressed it:

             “I think what you are hearing us say is that there’s not much distinction              in terms of
             people leaving in terms of technical or generalists.”

             When technical staff do leave, GAO’S senior managers believed that it
             was generally for a higher salary, especially in the computer field, or
             because their specialized skills were not being used as they had

             ZAttrition rates for technical assistance staff are now running at about 15 percent annually, while
             those for nontechnical staff (i.e., line evaluators) are around 6 percent (GAO 1988 Annual Report of
             Key Performance Indicators, November 1988).

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The general perception among senior managers was that “there are
plenty of promotions” for technical people. Some felt that technical staff
may be promoted faster than nontechnical staff because there is less
competition for the positions and the divisions must operate on a “rank-
in-person” principle. One senior manager said this situation has led to
some “acrimonious” comments from the evaluators, noting that:

“We’re promoting [the specialists] like crazy. As a matter of fact, I think we’re pro-
moting them too quickly.”

Many senior managers stated that the uppermost levels of the career
ladder should be reserved for staff who are managers. However, “by
exception” or “on a case by case” basis, there are opportunities for
highly qualified technical staff to advance to the GS-15 (Band III) level
and even to the SESpool without supervisory responsibilities. As one
senior manager commented, “there is nothing on the books that keeps
you from [promoting them].” In some of these cases, though, the senior
managers felt compelled to justify the promotion by including manage-
ment responsibilities even when they were not real. Two senior mana-
gers commented:

“A viable alternative that I see is a willingness to promote people to the Band III
level as specialists, as opposed to having to be assistant directors running audit

“I think you will always see the exception. There will always be some cases, but I
think generally speaking, we’re going to expect people in the SES to have broader
skills, managerial skills.”

Some senior managers stated that, within GAO, it is difficult to reward
exceptional technical staff with higher level promotions. Technical staff
were perceived to “peak out” and either be forced to move to the evalu-
ator ranks or to leave GAO to advance. The majority of the senior mana-
gers, however, believed that this situation is as it should be. In one
manager’s words:

“You’ve got to decide what you want to do in life. If you want to be responsible for
the kinds of things that [a group director] would be responsible for, manage people,
put the report together, deal with the Hill, if you want to do that then you should
move over and that is the route to the top in this organization. Rut if you want to
spend your whole time [doing technical work] and thinking of yourself as somebody
who is sort of here at GAO but he could be in an academic institution, then you are
only going to go so far in this organization because we don’t pay off for that sort of
thing at higher levels.”

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Appendix VIII

Comparisonof TechnicailStaff and GAO

                         Interdisciplinary management at GAO is strongly influenced by the
                         extent to which managers and technical staff have similar perceptions
                         of their relationship with each other and of the role technical staff can
                         and should play at the agency. The two surveys of technical staff and
                         GAO mid-level managers’ carried out by the task force provide a basis for
                         making that comparison (see appendixes VI and VII). Information
                         gained through related activities of the task force, most notably the
                         interviews with former staff and the focus groups with GAO’S upper
                         management, has not been incorporated into this appendix because
                         those activities used very different methods to collect their data and
                         analyze them. Chapter 4 juxtaposes their findings with those obtained
                         from the two surveys examined here.

                         Since even the two surveys generally ask related but not identical ques-
                         tions, some care and caution is needed in drawing inferences from these
                         comparisons. However, an analysis across a broad range of questions
                         reveals fairly clear patterns of agreement in some areas, and divergence
                         in others between GAO’S technical staff and its managers. The main top-
                         ics addressed in this analysis are (1) the selection and orientation of
                         staff new to GAO; (2) quality control with respect to both GAO’S policies/
                         procedures and technical accuracy/completeness; and (3) factors influ-
                         encing technical staff to leave or stay at GAO.

                         A basic question is how much technical staff and managers differ in
Starting Out             their background and experience. As expected, technical staff tend to
                         have more graduate education, with 41 percent having been trained at
                         the doctorate level when hired, compared to 10 percent of managers.
                         Half the managers hold the bachelor’s as their highest degree compared
                         to 25 percent of technical staff. Managers also have worked, on average,
                         more than twice as long at GAO, with a median of 20 years at the agency
                         compared to 8 years for the technical staff.

Experience Relative to   One issue of particular concern to the task force was the extent to which
Expectations             technical staff coming into the agency had an inaccurate understanding
                         of what their jobs would entail. Staff who started in 1980 or later were
                         asked about this. Of these, 24 percent found that their experience dur-
                         ing their first year either very greatly or greatly matched their expecta-
                         tions, 48 percent reported they matched moderately, while 28 percent

                         ‘Directors of issue areas, associate directors, assistant directors, assistant regional managers, and
                         managers of regional Technical Assistance Groups (TAGS).

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                           Comparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
                           Manager Surveys

                           found a slight to nonexistent match. The fact that 76 percent indicated
                           no better than a moderate match of experience to expectations suggests
                           a fairly widespread view among technical staff that the accuracy of
                           understandings conveyed to incoming staff could be improved. At the
                           same time, 76 percent of the managers-when      asked about “perceived
                           satisfaction” among technical staff-reported   that, on average, their
                           technical staff were satisfied with the match of their experience to their
                           expectations (14 percent thought they were very satisfied and 62 per-
                           cent generally satisfied).

                           Of the 76 percent of technical staff whose experience matched, at best,
                           moderately their initial understanding of what they would be doing at
                           GAO,62 percent found the work less technical than expected and 75 per-
                           cent used their specialized skills less often than expected. But those
                           managers supervising technical staff generally did not see a problem in
                           this area. Just about half (51 percent) felt that their staff, during their
                           first year, were either very or generally satisfied with their ability to
                           use their technical proficiency on their assignments. Only 17 percent of
                           them believed their technical staff were dissatisfied on this dimension.
                           Yet 46 percent of the managers who lost technical staff rated the need
                           for “a better match of assignments to skills or subject areas” as a “major
                           reason” for their staff leaving GAO.This was the second highest rating
                           accorded to any of the 17 factors listed, after salary, which 48 percent
                           rated as “major.”

                           Thus, the two surveys have surfaced some disparity between what tech-
                           nical staff and managers believe about the match between technical
                           staff expectations and experience at GAO.However, managers do recog-
                           nize the need to convey to incoming technical staff a clear understand-
                           ing of what their work at GAOwill involve. For technical staff currently
                           being hired, 82 percent of managers believe it is “very important” to
                           explain to the applicants “how GAOworks,” and 65 percent feel it very
                           important that candidates receive an oral description of what their job
                           duties would be. The main question, therefore, is not whether this
                           should be done but how well and how consistently it is carried out in

Orientation and Training   GAOmanagers overwhelmingly       perceive technical staff as having greater
                           difficulty than nontechnical staff in adapting to GAOwork procedures
                           (71 percent to 2 percent) and review processes (69 percent to 7 percent).
            Y              Consistent with this view, 75 percent of the managers favor establishing
                           courses specifically for technical staff on GAOpolicies and practices to

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                    Appendix VIII
                    Comparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
                    Manager Surveys

                    more effectively convey this information, even though most managers-
                    71 percent-also believe that all professional staff need some form of
                    GAO orientation training.     -

                    From the perspective of technical staff, any problems they have with
                    GAO procedures lie in the limited availability of training of this sort.
                    Technical staff generally do not quarrel with the need for or appropri-
                    ateness of GAO procedures (see below). However, only 43 percent of the
                    technical staff hired since 1980 recall receiving as much as 24 hours of
                    formal training in GAOmethods and procedures within 6 months of start-
                    ing work. Forty-eight percent say that they definitely did not receive
                    such training. Between 47 and 73 percent of technical staff hired since
                    1980 do not feel that they received adequate instruction when they
                    started to work at the agency (either through courses or on-the-job
                    training) in workpaper preparation, indexing, referencing, or GAO'S
                    reporting style.

Opportunities for   Technical staff and managers agree on the desirability of more and bet-
Improvement         ter training for technical staff, early in their career, in GAOpolicies and
                    practices. They also agree on the importance of clear and accurate
                    expectations among technical staff accepting employment at GAO.Both
                    of these areas are thus clear candidates for task force attention.

                    One factor that can cause tensions in the relationship between managers
Doing the Job       and technical staff is the potential for differing emphases on particular
                    aspects of quality assurance (see chapter 3). On the one hand, there are
                    GAO'Sown policies and practices which have evolved over a long period
                    of time and apply to the full range of GAOproducts (some of which are
                    technically complex and some of which are not). On the other hand,
                    each technical discipline is partially regulated by a set of methodological
                    norms which define good-and acceptable-quality          work within that
                    field. Indeed, technical staff are often hired precisely because of their
                    knowledge of those norms. On a simplistic level, one could view nontech-
                    nical managers as primarily the defenders of quality as defined by GAO
                    policies, and technical staff as primarily the defenders of technical qual-
                    ity as defined by professional norms. In practice, of course, distinctions
                    are blurred and the real question is how effectively these two groups
                    work together to maximize adherence to both aspects of quality and
                    how smoothly they resolve any apparent conflicts that arise between
                    these norms.

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Compwison   of Technical   Stnff and GAO
Manager Surveys

Managers do have doubts about the knowledge of technical staff with
respect to GAOpolicies and practices. Among managers other than those
who supervise technical staff exclusively, 84 percent believe that tech-
nical staff are less likely to be aware of GAOpolicies and practices than
nontechnical staff. Even among those who manage only technical staff,
44 percent agree with this view, while 64 percent believe technical and
nontechnical staff are about the same.

This deficiency, if accurately perceived by managers, does not reflect a
systematic rejection by technical staff of the value of GAOpolicies. On
the contrary, 56 percent of technical staff indicated in their survey that
they believed that GAO'Sdocumentation requirements, including index-
ing and referencing, were reasonable, and only 17 percent felt that they
were unreasonable. However, as noted above, most technical
staffmembers thought they had not received adequate training in these

At the same time, some technical assistance staff have concerns relating
to the technical quality of GAO'Sproducts. This emerged in questions
about the use of their own work and the resolution of technical disputes.
While 84 percent expressed predominantly favorable views-30 percent
reporting that their work had been presented accurately in “all or
almost all” the GAOreports they had worked on and 54 percent saying
“most” reports-16 percent indicated that their work was accurately
portrayed no better than half the time. A somewhat larger proportion-
24 percent-said that disagreements they had with the evaluators
working on jobs frequently had not been resolved in a technically ade-
quate way (17 percent reporting adequate resolutions “as often as not”
and 7 percent rarely or never). By contrast, 60 percent indicated that
technically adequate resolutions were obtained-either    “always or
almost always” (23 percent) or “usually” (37 percent)-while      16 per-
cent said they had not experienced such disagreements.

The subset of managers who supervise both technical assistance and
line staff were asked a related question: how satisfied were they with
the way their technical staff’s work was used in final products, includ-
ing accuracy and depth of coverage? Their responses broadly paralleled
those of the technical assistance staff cited above. About three-quarters
were favorable (74 percent): 22 percent reported they were “very satis-
fied” with the use made of their staff’s work and 52 percent “generally
satisfied.” Of the remainder, 21 percent were “both satisfied and dissat-
isfied,” and 5 percent very or generally dissatisfied. As with the techni-
cal assistance staff, managers approved of the process used to negotiate

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                        Appendix VIII
                        Comparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
                        Manager Surveys

                        disputes over technical issues, but with somewhat lower levels of satis-
                        faction than for the overall use of their technical staff’s work. Fifty-
                        seven percent were either “very satisfied” (14 percent) or “generally
                        satisfied” (43 percent) with this process, while 43 percent were either
                        ambivalent (29 percent) or generally dissatisfied (14 percent).

                        These responses show that large majorities of technical assistance staff
                        and managers of technical staff are broadly supportive of GAO'Suse of
                        technical work. However, they also suggest that at least some in both
                        groups find room for improvement. Thus, for each of the four questions,
                        there was a clear preponderance within the favorably disposed group
                        toward the more reserved response-“most”        or “usually” rather than
                        “all or almost all the time” and “generally” rather than “very” satisfied.
                        Moreover, a minority of technical assistance staff described situations
                        which, if true, would indicate serious problems for an organization that
                        places as much emphasis as GAOdoes on the accuracy and objectivity of
                        its work-for    example, the 16 percent finding their technical analyses
                        presented accurately in reports no more than half the time. (We cannot,
                        of course, make any judgment here about the accuracy of these state-
                        ments; other persons involved could perhaps persuasively justify the
                        decisions to which these respondents objected.) Nonetheless, their
                        responses -even with some discounting for individual partiality-may
                        well reflect genuine problems with respect to aspects of technical qual-
                        ity, and/or a certain frustration on the part of these technical
                        staffmembers with GAO'Sapproach to quality control.

Communication Between   In order to develop the kind of trust and confidence that is needed for
Technical and           true interdisciplinary teamwork, managers, nontechnical, and technical
                        staff need to be able to communicate effectively and work together with
Nontechnical Staff      each other. Most mid-level managers believe technical and nontechnical
                        staff are about the same in their ability to work well with other people
                        (67 percent) and communicate orally (64 percent); however, those man-
                        agers who do see a difference (33 percent to 36 percent) overwhelm-
                        ingly rate the nontechnical staff higher on these dimensions. Managers
                        express stronger reservations about the written communication skills of
                        technical staff, which play a role in the internal exchange of views as
                        well as in the ultimate impact of reports on non-o.40 audiences. Here, 59
                        percent of mid-level managers rate the nontechnical staff more highly
                        than technical staff.

                        Effective communication requires not only a clear message but also a
                        reasonably receptive audience. Technical staff, for their part, perceive a

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                             Appendix VIII
                             Comparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
                             Manager Surveys

                             certain amount of indifference (or resistance) from nontechnical staff to
                             the information that the technical staff are trying to convey. While
                             twice as many technical staff credit the evaluators with whom they
                             work as being “receptive” to new or different ways of doing their work
                             (44 percent to 20 percent), another fairly large group of technical staff
                             (36 percent) express mixed feelings, rating evaluators “as receptive as
                             unreceptive.” Thus, more than half the technical staff find the evalu-
                             ators at best ambivalent to at least one major type of input that the
                             technical staff have tried to introduce into discussions over the planning
                             and implementation of GAOassignments.

Contributions of Technical   Despite some areas of divergence and possible friction noted above,
Staff                        managers and technical staff agree that technical staff have a substan-
                             tial and positive impact on GAO'Swork. Overall, 57 percent of GAOmana-
                             gers believe that both technical assistance and technical line staff make
                             a “great” or “very great” contribution to the agency as a whole. A total
                             of 58 percent of managers rate the technical assistance received for
                             their own jobs as making a great or very great contribution, while 77
                             percent rate the contribution of technical line staff working for them as
                             great or very great. Interestingly, managers rate some types of technical
                             assistance more highly than others, ranging from 70-71 percent “great”
                             or “very great” contribution for sample design and questionnaire design,
                             to 26 percent for engineering assistance.

                             Technical staff appear to have a similar perception. For example, 83
                             percent of technical assistance staff feel that their advice is generally
                             given serious consideration-46     percent reporting that this “always or
                             almost always” occurs and 37 percent “usually.” Moreover, 49 percent
                             feel that their group’s advice is accorded great or very great authority
                             by the people they assist. (No comparable questions were asked of tech-
                             nical line staff.) Only 1 percent of technical staff say that their advice is
                             rarely or never given serious consideration, but 16 percent perceive
                             their group’s authority to be less than “moderate” (12 percent “some”
                             and 4 percent “little or no authority”).

Opportunities for            The two surveys asked about several types of changes that could influ-
Improvement                  ence the quality of GAOworking relationships and products. These
                             included recruitment of additional technical staff, expansion of internal
                             and external training opportunities, possible mechanisms for adjudicat-
                             ing disputes over technical issues, and changes in staffing policies
                             designed to enhance contact between technical and nontechnical staff.

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Appendix VIII
Comparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
Manager Surveys

Over half of the mid-level managers (66 percent) believe that they have
the right mix of technical skills represented on their own staffs; 40 per-
cent do not. There is greater consensus on the need to hire more techni-
cal staff, with 64 percent favoring a larger number compared to 32
percent who feel the current number of technical staff working for them
is adequate.

Both managers and staff support increased technical training for techni-
cal staff. (Training on GAOprocedures was discussed in the section on
“orientation and training” under “Starting Out”.) A majority of mana-
gers believe that GAOshould expand its own course offerings in several
technical areas-statistics     and research design, but not in others-com-
puters, economics, and questionnaires. Fifty-seven percent of the techni-
cal staff feel that GAO'Scurrent selection of courses “slightly matches”
or “matches little, if at all” their need for technical training. Both tech-
nical assistance and technical line staff would most like additional train-
ing in “analytical techniques.”

Technical staff prefer to receive their technical training through profes-
sional seminars (59 percent) or professional meetings (47 percent)
rather than in-house GAOtraining (favored by 21 percent). Within limits,
GAOmanagers appear willing to go along with this preference. A major-
ity (59 percent) would support a disproportionate expansion of training
(including conferences) for technical assistance staff, but not technical
line staff, relative to nontechnical staff. At the same time, 72 percent of
managers favor offering technical courses to nontechnical staff as well.

Technical assistance staff split evenly (35 percent to 35 percent) in
favor or opposed to a formal mechanism to resolve technical disputes
beyond what currently exists. Those favoring this mechanism would
prefer a “GAO authority” by 58 percent, as opposed to several alterna-
tives involving external experts. This is consistent with the current
practice of GAOmanagers, about a third (32 percent) of whom reported
they had consulted one or more technical experts outside GAOto help
resolve a technical issue in the last 3 years.

Another strategy for enhancing GAO'Suse of technical staff is to estab-
lish staffing patterns that would bring more technical and nontechnical
staff into the same working unit, which over time should promote better
communication and interaction between them. Along these lines, 65 per-
cent of managers would promote technical quality and communication
by encouraging technical staff to take short-term rotations in nontechni-
cal positions or groups. However, just 41 percent favor-and 38 percent

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                       Appendix VIII
                       Comparison of Technical     Staff and GAO
                       Manager Surveys

                       oppose-short-term    rotations of nontechnical staff into specialist
                       groups such as DMTAGS.Only managers who supervise technical staff
                       exclusively, presumably including the heads of DMTAGS,EAGS,and TAGS,
                       give greater support to rotations of nontechnical staff into those units.

                       Greater contact between technical assistance staff and generalist evalu-
                       ators could also occur through more permanent transfers within the
                       organization. However, technical assistance staff expressed minimal
                       interest in making career shifts of this sort. Only 8 percent indicated
                       they would want a lateral transfer to an evaluator slot; however, 39 per-
                       cent said they would want to be promoted as an evaluator.

                       Both surveys examined in some detail the extent to which technical
Staying at GAO         staff are satisfied with their work at GAO,the likelihood that they will
                       seek employment elsewhere, and, particularly, the factors that drive a
                       decision to leave or stay. In comparing the technical staff and manager
                       responses, the main questions are whether they view the situation in
                       comparable terms and the degree to which they share similar prefer-
                       ences of how the organization can and should evolve over time.

Overall Satisfaction   A majority (57 percent) of technical staff are satisfied overall with their
                       employment at GAO,either “moderately” (42 percent) or “very” (15 per-
                       cent) satisfied. Twenty-six percent are dissatisfied-17    percent “moder-
                       ately” and 9 percent “very’‘-while     17 percent are “as satisfied as
                       dissatisfied.” Thus, the overall pattern indicates that a majority of tech-
                       nical staff are reasonably to extremely happy at GAO.However, the 43
                       percent of neutral or dissatisfied staff signifies that more could proba-
                       bly be done to enhance the job satisfaction of technical staff at GAO.

                       Staff satisfaction is likely to affect the probability of current staff stay-
                       ing at GAOas well as their effectiveness in aiding the recruitment of new
                       technical staff. In responding to the survey, 38 percent of technical staff
                       stated that they are “very likely” (22 percent) or “likely” (16 percent)
                       to make a serious search for employment outside GAOwithin the next 2
                       years. Another 27 percent felt that there was about a 50 percent chance
                       that they would do so. Less than half (43 percent) of the technical staff
                       would recommend GAOas a place to work for others with similar skills
                       and backgrounds, compared to 35 percent who would not recommend it
                       and 23 percent undecided. This suggests two things: that GAOmay have
                       to exert some effort to maintain its cadre of technically-trained staff,

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                          Appendix VLII
                          Comparbon   of Technical   Staff and GAO
                          Mannger Surveys

                          and that monitoring of technical staff attrition is important to do (see
                          the footnote, page 127).

                          Mid-level managers perceive that technical staff at GAOare, at least in
                          some respects (assessed in the survey), relatively dissatisfied compared
                          to nontechnical staff, and more likely to seek employment elsewhere.
                          For example, managers believe that newly hired technical staff are more
                          often disappointed than nontechnical staff with the number of routine
                          tasks they are assigned (40 percent to 12 percent) and with the recogni-
                          tion accorded their work (64 percent to 2 percent). Moreover, managers
                          expect that technical staff are more likely than nontechnical staff to
                          leave GAOby a very substantial margin (61 percent to 5 percent).

Reasonsfor Staying With   The two surveys provide relatively extensive data on factors that could
OR Leaving GAO            influence the decisions of technical staff to remain at GAO.Although the
                          list of factors that technical staff and managers were asked to consider
                          were not identical, there was substantial overlap in the content of what
                          they covered. Overall, the results show a broad consensus between tech-
                          nical staff and management on what the critical factors are that affect
                          staff attrition.

                          Technical staff were asked to rate 28 factors that might contribute to
                          the attractiveness of an organization as an employer. The most highly
                          rated were “professionally challenging work” (93 percent “great or very
                          great importance”), “work in area of interest” (89 percent), “access to
                          personal computers” (79 percent), “professional reputation of organiza-
                          tion” (75 percent), “salary” (73 percent), and “autonomy in how the
                          work is done” (72 percent). For the mid-level manager survey, the man-
                          agers who had actually lost technical staff in the last 3 years indicated
                          which of a similar list of 17 factors had been “major reasons” why those
                          staff chose to accept employment elsewhere. Here, four factors clearly
                          predominated: “salary” (48 percent), “match with staff interests” (46
                          percent), “acceptance of technical role by management” (45 percent),
                          and “rewards for technical rather than managerial tasks” (43 percent).

                          Of the other factors (besides salary and match with interests) that staff
                          rated highly, two also appeared (in somewhat altered form) on the list
                          rated by managers. Among the managers, 29 percent felt access to com-
                          puters was a major reason for leaving GAO(tied for 5th out of 17 factors)
                          and 25 percent “influence over assignments” (7th of 17). On the other
                          hand, the technical staff did not rank “ability to advance in career with-
                          out going into management” nearly as highly as the managers did

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                    Appendix MI
                    Camparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
                    Manager Surveys

                    “career rewards for technical tasks as opposed to managerial tasks.”
                    While 55 percent of technical staff accorded this factor great or very
                    great importance, it only tied for 13th out of the 28 factors rated by
                    technical staff. By contrast, managers ranked it fourth (out of 17).
                    Moreover, 43 percent of managers losing technical staff cited a desire
                    for such rewards as a “major reason” for their leaving GAO,only 5 per-
                    centage points behind the first-place factor, “salary.”

Opportunities for   From the perspective of retaining technical staff, it makes sense to focus
Improvement         attention on the factors they think are important in terms of how well or
                    poorly they feel GAOdoes on those factors (see table VIII.1). It is espe-
                    cially in the areas of weakness that opportunities for improvement can
                    be found. There are 9 factors out of the 28 surveyed to which more than
                    half the technical staff ascribe great or very great importance and fewer
                    than half rate GAOas good or very good. These are (in order of staff-
                    assessed importance): “access to personal computers,” “amount of sal-
                    ary, ” “autonomy in how the work is done,” “interaction with peers
                    within GAO,” “influence over public policy,” “financial support for
                    outside training, ” “career advancement without managing,” “adequacy
                    of personal work accommodations,” and “interaction with peers outside

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                                          Appidix VIII
                                          Comparison of Technical         Staf’f and   GAO
                                          Manager Surveys

Table VIII.1: GAO Performance on
Employment Factors in Relation to Their                                                                                   Importance
Importance to Technical Staff             Employment factors
                                          --          ___-                                                                    ratinga    GAO ratingb

                                          Factors which the technical staff consider
                                          --. important where they rate GAO relatively highly
                                          -.-~-                 challenging work                                                93(l)            58 (5)
                                          --..     in skill  or  subject area of interest                                       89 (2)           69 (4)
                                          --______-           reputation   of organization                                      75 (4)           71   (3)
                                          _.--.--.     of  employment                                                           69 (7)           95   (1)
                                          Work in variety of subject areas
                                          -...-----___-__                                                                       69 (7)           88   (2)
                                          ----_______ of work outside
                                          Importance                            organization
                                                                           ______                                              59(11)            55   (7)
                                          -.___             benefits      --__                                                 54 (15)           58 (5)
                                          Factors which the technical staff consider
                                            important where they rate GAO relatively poorly                                     ____-___-
                                          Access to personal computers                                                          79 (3)          37 (15)
                                          --.---      of salary
                                                            --.._                                                               73 (5)          39 (14)
                                          _____-_____-I_-in how the work is done                                                72 (6)          31 (16)
                                          Interaction with peers within GAO
                                          ----                                                                                  68 (9)          49 (16)
                                          _______.--.- on public__----__
                                                                    policy                                                     60 (10)          46(11)
                                          Financial support
                                                         ___-..__. outside training
                                                                  for                                                          56 (12)          16 (24)
                                          Career     advancement
                                          --..-.- --.-.-              without managing                                         5mr         .--__ Q (28)
                                          Adequacy of personal work accommodations
                                          ----_----.                                                                           55 (13)          21 (22)
                                          Interaction with peers outside GAO                                                   52 (16)    --    24 (19)
                                          Factors which the technical staff consider
                                            relatively . less important
                                                         --_____-                                                 ____-                            -.-
                                          Amount of health benefits            __---                                           49 (17)         45 (13)
                                          Interaction with upper management
                                                                        .___-                                                  47 (18)         30 (17)
                                          Access to mainframe computers---~                                                    40 (19)            52 (8)
                                          Level of administrative
                                          .-....-_______--      ____-__support ___-                                            40 (19)         16 (24)
                                          --~-.---.----__  for outside   professional recognition                              38 (21)         23 (20)
                                          Level of research assistance support                                                 34 (22) .--__~- 12__ (27)
                                          In-house library services .-. -_____-                                                29 (23)            52 (8)
                                          ---.         technical training                                                      28 (24)         ___-(23)
                                          Ability to publish about work outside organization                                   25 (25) ______ 29 (18)
                                          Individual authorship
                                                            .___- of products
                                                                           _____-                                              24 (26)
                                                                                                                              _______..      __-.13 (26)
                                          Opportunity -.-..___
                                                           to teach within organization                                        18 (27)         46 (11)
                                          Opportunity for outside professional employment                                      16 (28)         23 (20)
                                          aPercent of technical staff rating the factor of “great” or “very great” importance (rank order of factor in
                                          ‘Percent of technical staff rating GAO “good” or “very good” on that factor (rank order of factor in

                                          Page 139                    GAO/PEMD-90-18s          GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendies
Appendix VIII
Camparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
Manager Surveys

Managers were asked what priority should be given to 17 factors that
could affect the attractiveness of GAOas a place for technical staff to
work. The top 10 factors, ranked in order of the percentage of managers
who rated them as high or very high priority, were: “more computers”
(66 percent), “career rewards for technical as opposed to managerial
tasks” (65 percent), “more recognition for a job well done” (62 percent),
“better match of assignments to staff interests” (50 percent), “better
acceptance of the technical role by management” (50 percent), “oppor-
tunities to attend professional meetings and seminars” (49 percent),
“better technical training” (46 percent), “higher salary” (43 percent),
“better office space” (27 percent), and “more opportunities to work
with other technical staff” (27 percent).

In comparing the factors identified from the staff and manager surveys,
one finds considerable congruence, particularly on the importance of
improving access to PC'Sand the somewhat less urgent desire for better
working conditions, technical training, and contact with professional
peers. On the other hand, there is disagreement about matching assign-
ments with staff interests. Managers believe this is a problem, but tech-
nical staff-who    rank this second in importance-feel   that GAOdoes
well in this area (69 percent rated GAOgood or very good). In the same
way, managers and technical staff accord different priorities to “non-
managerial career rewards.” However, while technical staff did not
assign a high priority to this factor, they rated GAOlowest (28th) on this
dimension-with      only 9 percent saying the agency was good or very

The biggest difference between staff and managers may be over “auton-
omy in how the work is done/more influence over assignments.” Only 18
percent of managers accorded it high or very high priority (tied for 15th
out of 17)-compared to 72 percent of technical staff rating it of great
or very great importance (6th out of 28). It is interesting to compare this
with the rather higher rating, noted above, of “more influence over
assignments” as a “major reason” for leaving (7th out of 17). It is true
that managers may feel there is relatively little they can do, in the con-
text of GAO'Soperations, to expand staff autonomy. However, the impor-
tance placed by technical staff on this dimension suggests that it may be
useful to exploit whatever latitude exists in this area. Notably, those
managers who supervise only technical staff, and therefore have proba-
bly the most experience in working with them, are much more likely to
give high or very high priority to this factor (51 percent).

Page 140              GAO/PEMD-90-183     GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix VIII
Comparison of Technical   Staff and GAO
Manager Surveys

One issue long considered critical to the morale and retention of techni-
cal staff at GAOis their perceived promotion potential relative to non-
technical staff, In this vein, managers were asked a series of questions
on the desirability of specific changes in the career path of technical
staff, Generally, they seemed to favor expanded promotion opportuni-
ties targeted to technical staff. Thus, 57 percent felt the top of the non-
competitive career ladder for technical staff should be raised above the
current level (equivalent to GS-12). Moreover, 66 percent supported the
concept of nonmanagerial Band III positions for senior technical staff.

Technical assistance staff would appear to welcome these types of
opportunities (technical line staff were not asked a similar question).
For example, they prefer research to managerial work-assuming
equivalent salaries -by 56 percent to 33 percent. But by a very sizable
margin (62 percent to 17 percent), they would aspire to managerial posi-
tions if that is what is required for promotion to the Band III level. In
other words, the technical assistance staff would be pleased to advance
without changing the nature of the work they do, but most would also
be willing to move into a managerial role if that is how GAOchooses to
structure its advancement opportunities.

However, managers express great skepticism that technical staff would
perform such managerial functions as well as people recruited from
GAO'Snontechnical staff. Technical assistance staff in particular are
rated as less suitable than nontechnical staff for assistant director,
director, and regional manager posts, by a margin of 73 percent to 8
percent. Moreover, even technical line staff, many of whom have experi-
ence leading assignments similar to that of nontechnical candidates for
such positions, are considered less suitable by 44 percent to 14 percent.
(Forty-one percent judge technical and nontechnical line staff equally

In short, GAO'Stechnical staff may have a greater desire to be promoted
into managerial positions than many in the current cadre of managers
believe is desirable.

Page 141              GAO/PEMD-90-18S     GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                      Appendix VIII
                      Comparison of Technicn.l Staff and GAO
                      Manager Surveys

                      These patterns of agreement and disagreement in the survey responses
Implications for      of technical staff and GAOmanagers lend support to a number of specific
Improving             measures designed to facilitate interdisciplinary work at GAO.They
Interdisciplinary     include:
Management at GAO .   instituting procedures to make sure that all newly hired staff are given
                      clear and accurate descriptions of the type of work they will do at GAO;
                  .   increasing training for technical staff in GAOpolicies and procedures,
                      along with systematic efforts to insure that all technical staff receive
                      this training soon after their arrival at GAO;
                  .   continuing training for nontechnical staff in technical areas;
                  .   expanding training in technical subjects for technical staff, including
                      increased resources for external training in relevant areas that cannot
                      be covered adequately through GAO'Sown courses;
                  .   monitoring of technical training for all staff;
                  .   increasing managerial attention and resources, insofar as is feasible, to
                      ameliorate those aspects of the GAOworkplace that technical staff and
                      managers indicated are most likely to have a negative effect on technical
                      staff morale and retention, including inadequate access to personal com-
                      puters, noncompetitive salaries, restricted contact with professional
                      peers, and limited input in how they will do their work;
                  .   monitoring technical staff attrition;
                  .   seeking nonmanagerial Band III positions more routinely for those
                      strong technical staff whom GAOwishes to retain and who do not desire
                      to perform managerial functions;
                  .   structuring incentives to encourage technical staff to obtain qualifying
                      experience (e.g., as project managers), and then to apply, for managerial
                      positions. If the performance of these new technical managers should be
                      of high quality, it seems reasonable to expect that GAO'Scurrent mana-
                      gers could well change their attitudes on the managerial aptitudes of
                      technical staff over time.

                      Page 142              GAO/PEMD-90-18s    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix IX

Review of Available Orientation and
Training Programs

                    Orientation and training programs play important roles in educating
Introduction        staff about their work context and providing opportunities for them to
                    maintain and enhance specific skills. GAOhistorically has had a strong
                    commitment to training, providing both an active central training pro-
                    gram and some resources for external training opportunities. The
                    agency is currently in the midst of a major curriculum revision for its
                    evaluator and evaluator-related staff, with curriculum proposals under
                    review that would place much greater emphasis on technical skills. The
                    present workforce is a heterogeneous mix of disciplines and technical
                    skill levels, necessitating a training curriculum with sufficient flexibility
                    to allow nontechnical staff to expand their technical skills, and technical
                    staff the opportunities they need to further enhance their statistical and
                    methods skills. Thus, any review of available training activities at the
                    present time must consider both existing and proposed training

                    In conducting this review, we concentrated on examining training activi-
                    ties for GAO'Sexisting technical staff, the group studied by the Interdis-
                    ciplinary Task Force. In the context of improved understanding between
                    technical and nontechnical staff, we also discuss briefly current agency
                    efforts to provide opportunities for nontechnical staff to expand their
                    technical skills and the challenges posed by the wide range of technical
                    skills among recent hires.

                    This task force’s efforts identified four basic areas of training relevant
Training Needs of   to GAO'Stechnical staff-orientation    to the agency’s policies and proce-
Technical Staff     dures, analytical techniques and methods, supervision/management,
                    and issue area training. The subgroups of the task force showed a high
                    degree of consistency in their results regarding the need for training in
                    several of these areas and in the preferred methods of delivery.

Orientation         GAO'Smanagers believe strongly that all technical staff should be
                    included in orientation training so that they will understand the
                    agency’s policies and procedures. This was the case whether staff were
                    to work in line or in technical assistance roles. The importance of the
                    acculturation process was also heavily emphasized, especially the need
                    to educate staff that GAO'Sproducts are institutional rather than individ-
                    ual products. A key issue in any such orientation is “language.” GAO now
                    has a multidisciplinary workforce; however, much of the vocabulary of
                    its policies and the underpinnings of its work procedures stem from the
                    accounting profession. In order for technical staff to be successfully

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                          Review of Available   Orientation   and

                          acculturated, orientation activities need to adequately explain the “rea-
                          sons behind” GAO'Squality assurance/quality control procedures. For
                          example, for such staff to implement procedures such as workpapers,
                          they need to understand GAO'Sdocumentation requirements and to be
                          aware of the subsequent uses of their analysis products. They also need
                          to translate correctly the vocabularies of various disciplines and to learn
                          about the origins and nature of the audit tradition. These issues emerge
                          frequently-e.g.,   from the task force’s interviews with staff who have
                          left the agency, as well as from discussions during training classes.

                          Despite the importance managers place on “orientation” training,
                          slightly less than half of the technical staff surveyed by the task force
                          reported having received training in GAO'Swork procedures during their
                          first 6 months on the job. For some, this lack of training may have been
                          a function of the budgetary cuts made in training in the early 1980’s
                          when GAOwas under tight fiscal constraints; however, those entering the
                          agency in the 1986-88 timeframe reported receiving only slightly more
                          orientation training.

Analytic Techniques and   There is general agreement among both managers and technical staff
Methods                   that GAO'Stechnical staff have special training needs, and that many of
                          these needs are best met through external rather than internal
                          resources. Current in-house courses do not meet the technical training
                          needs of these staff. Technical staff themselves expressed interest in
                          two training areas-analytic    techniques and design methods. Those who
                          manage technical groups expressed a strong preference for additional
                          courses in statistics (83 percent) and research design (74 percent). In
                          addition, technical staff are perceived as having a stronger disciplinary
                          affiliation than other GAOstaff, an affiliation that they often seek to
                          maintain through attendance at one or more yearly professional

Supervision/Management    The third area of training need concerns supervisory/management train-
                          ing. Here, the task force results are mixed. GAOmanagers have varying
                          views of the degree to which technical staff have special supervisory/
                          management training needs. Some believe that staff need special assis-
                          tance in interpersonal communication skills; others believe that there is
                          little difference between the skills of technical and nontechnical staff in
                          this area. Others think that the biggest challenge lies in first persuading
                          technical staff to take on managerial responsibilities, and then teaching

                          Page 144                GAO/PEMD-99-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                       Appendix M
                       Review of Available   Orientation   and

                       them the necessary skills. However, this is somewhat belied by the find-
                       ing of the technical staff survey that 70 percent of technical staff would
                       welcome the opportunity to assume managerial duties at higher levels.

                       To some degree, it seems likely that this issue of special supervision/
                       management courses for technical staff will become moot as GAO'Sover-
                       all workforce becomes increasingly technical. The recently initiated
                       effort to develop a revised supervision/management curriculum for GAO
                       must of necessity assume a technical management environment.

Issue Area Training    The task force’s survey of technical staff joining GAOsince 1980 found
                       that individuals functioning in line positions cited needs for training on
                       issue area specific topics. In general, this is not surprising; GAOstaff
                       moving to new issue areas presumably often have such training needs.

                       In addition to these four areas, the regional office Technical Assistance
                       Groups have identified needs for advanced automated data processing
                       training in systems operations, programming, and other applications.
                       Their assistance work often requires them to provide heavy computer
                       support to regional assignments, and the needed training has not gener-
                       ally been available centrally. Access to technical training for TAGmem-
                       bers, whether basic or advanced, is further hampered by their
                       geographic dispersion. Each office has relatively small groups of staff
                       requiring such training, even though in the aggregate they make up a
                       significant number.

                       As already noted, training activities for technical staff are currently in
Current and Proposed   transition, with some activities initiated and others only in the proposal
Training Activities    or planning stages, This section summarizes the status of training activi-
                       ties for each of the four areas of need identified by the task force.

Orientation            As the task force’s survey documents, many technical staff now with
                       the agency did not receive a formal orientation to GAO,Currently, all
                       entry-level GAOhires are scheduled to complete an 8-day Introductory
                       Evaluator Training course within their first 2 months with the agency.
                       This course was revised in January 1989 to better reflect the changing
                       nature of agency recruitment and, based on a re-evaluation in late 1989,
                       was further revised in the spring of 1990. The first 3 days of the course
                       are devoted to explaining the history of GAO,its mission, and an over-
                       view of its assignment planning and execution policies and procedures;

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    Appendix IX
    Review of Available   Orientation   and

    they also include opportunities for participants to meet with some of the
    agency’s top managers, including the Comptroller General, and a tour of
    the Hill. The remaining days are devoted to skill training, with emphasis
    on writing and interviewing. In past years, entry-level technical staff
    have either participated for the first 3 days or the entire program, with
    mixed reviews.

    Given the need for technical staff, especially social scientists, to under-
    stand GAO'Saudit tradition, it would also be useful for new technical
    staff to complete a course in basic auditing. The new evaluation curricu-
    lum starts with an overview course-Approach          and Methodology Selec-
    tion-that   illustrates the similarities and differences between audit and
    evaluation approaches. As a follow-on, there are two proposed audit
    courses which may meet the orientation training need for technical
    staff: Compliance Auditing, and Economy and Efficiency Reviews.
    Either of these courses may help orient technical staff to GAO.

    GAO,in the past, had no orientation program for mid- to upper-level
    hires, whether of technical background or otherwise. Divisions sought to
    create individualized programs for Band III hires through on-the-job
    training opportunities and sometimes arranged priority enrollments in
    such courses as GAO,Congress, and the Environment and Managing Per-
    sonal and Organizational Change. The need for an upper-level orienta-
    tion program was identified as critical. GAOhas greatly increased its
    upper-level hiring, with projections as high as 60 persons for fiscal year
    1990. The Training Institute led an agency-wide effort in this area to
    develop a classroom orientation program and to specify other supple-
    mentary activities, on-the-job or classroom training, which could assist
    new staff in becoming familiar with the agency’s values, procedures,
    policies, and structure. GAO'Sfirst orientation course for upper-level
    hires was conducted in March 1990.

    Beyond introductory training, the task force considered which courses
    might be useful to technical assistance staff to enable them to better
    understand the work context of the nontechnical evaluator-in-charge. It
    was agreed that the following list of currently available evaluator
    courses might be helpful:

. Introductory Evaluator Training (8 days);
l Promotion Programs for Bands II and III (2 days);
. Computer Security (l-2 days);
. Approach and Methodology Workshop (2-l/2 days);
l Report Writing and Message Development (3 days).

    Page 146                GAO/PEMD-96-MS    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                Appendix IX
                                Review of Available   Orientation   and

..-..-- ..--.-- -.----   ..-_
                                Assistance staff could enroll in additional courses as electives when
                                such courses appear relevant to their assignments or career needs.
                                Those desiring to eventually move on-line may want to complete as
                                many of the core courses as possible, including the new Assignment
                                Management course.

Analytic Techniques and         Until last fall, in-house opportunities for learning about new analytic
Methods                         techniques and methods had been infrequent. In the mid-1980’s a few
                                contracted courses were purchased and made available on a limited
                                basis to members of DMT~GS,TAGS,and PEMD;however, this effort was
                                short-lived. In the interim, technical assistance staff desiring to learn
                                log-linear methods once even pooled their own funds to bring in a local
                                university professor to provide a workshop. The only other regular
                                opportunities were sessions at GAO'STechnical Conference and profes-
                                sional conference attendance funded by each unit’s external training
                                budget. When the Human Resource Management Task Force interviewed
                                technical assistance staff in 1988, they found a general consensus that
                                such staff had special training needs that needed to be met outside GAO
                                and that their share of the unit’s external training budgets was not ade-
                                quate to meet those needs.

                                Two steps have already been taken to meet training needs in this area-
                                a new speakers series, and a change in priorities for allocation of GAO'S
                                external training funds.

                                In fall 1988, the Training Institute initiated a Speakers Series in Techni-
                                cal Methods which brings a recognized technical authority to GAOon a
                                monthly basis to provide a 2-hour presentation on analytic or method-
                                ological issues. Past topics have included: interrupted time series analy-
                                sis, complex sampling plans, standards for statistical reporting, and
                                computer-assisted telephone interview methods.

                                At least twice, these presentations have been expanded into a longer
                                workshop format. The advisory group for the Speakers Series is drawn
                                from the technical staff representing all divisions and regional offices,
                                thus providing a mechanism for staff to obtain access to presentations
                                on new methods and techniques. Although this effort has drawn good
                                attendance from headquarters, it has been less accessible to regional
                                office staff.

                                Instructions for external budget justifications were this year revised to
                                place additional emphasis on the needs of technical staff. Given the lack

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                         Appendix IX
                         Review of Available   Orientation   and

                         of appropriate internal courses, it is recognized that per person alloca-
                         tions to technical staff may need to be increased to enable them to
                         obtain the requisite training from professional conferences, workshops,
                         or university graduate programs. This issue is particularly critical for
                         meeting the advanced ADP training needs of the regional office Technical
                         Assistance Groups. The centrally funded Managerial and Executive
                         Development Programs have also been expanded to include financial
                         support of nominees for intensive technical and issue area training.

                         GAO'STechnical Conference will continue to be a major resource for
                         staff, especially the first day of external speakers. However, this confer-
                         ence can, at most, provide “exposure” to new techniques and methods,
                         not training. More intensive in-house opportunities are planned and the
                         possibility of l- or 2-day pre-conference workshops is currently under
                         discussion. The revised evaluator curriculum proposal for GAOadvocates
                         that all nontechnical evaluators attain knowledge of basic applied statis-
                         tics comparable to that of 1 year of graduate work. Several elective
                         advanced statistics courses are also proposed to meet the needs of both
                         existing technical staff and recent recruits entering GAOwith substantial
                         prior statistical training: Multivariate Analysis, Categorical Data Analy-
                         sis, Time Series Analysis, and Causal Modeling. While planned as in-
                         house courses, it is expected that these courses will be delivered through
                         ties with various universities (or their equivalents).

Supervision/Management   GAO'Ssupervision/management      course sequence is now under revision,
                         trailing curriculum development in other areas. It is expected that new
                         proposals in this area will recognize the increasingly technical nature of
                         GAO'Sworkforce and will thus be applicable to any technical staff
                         already on board. A draft proposal is expected to be ready for agency
                         comment in the spring of 1990. In the meantime, the Training Institute is
                         proceeding with the development of a generic Introduction to Supervi-
                         sion course to meet continuing training needs in this area. Most of the
                         existing on-line courses are for Band II or III staff, are very general in
                         nature, and are purchased from commercial vendors. These courses
                         include: Managerial Decisionmaking, Managerial Leadership, -____ Managerial
                         Competencies, and Managing for Productivity.

Issue Area Training      The great majority of GAO'Sissue area training needs are handled
                         through external training funded by individual units. Two exceptions

                         Page 148                GAO/PEMDBO-18S    GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
          Review of Available   Orientation   and
          Training Programs

          exist: training to support AFMD'Sfinancial management areas and train-
          ing to support IMTEC'Sinformation systems areas. Only the IMTECactivi-
          ties are relevant to this review.

          As noted previously, IMTEChas continually sought to identify specific
          training needs in support of its mission and to support both internal and
          external training opportunities. The Training Institute has worked with
          the division to both procure specific training courses and to develop a
          collaborative program with a local university. The most recent initiative
          is a graduate-level 6-course Certificate in Information Systems program
          available from the George Washington University (GWU). Faculty from
          the university teach courses at the end of the work day in GAO'STraining
          Center, enabling staff to have convenient access to graduate education
          opportunities at substantial tuition discounts. Most GAOstaff seek tui-
          tion assistance from their unit’s external training fund.

          In sum, several efforts have been either recently initiated or are planned
Summary   to better address the training needs of GAO'Stechnical staff. New orien-
          tation activities exist for entry-level staff, and their appropriateness for
          new technical staff is being evaluated. Planning efforts are underway to
          design and implement new orientation activities for mid- to upper-level
          hires, activities which should be applicable to mid- and upper-level tech-
          nical staff as well.

          The Speakers Series on Technical Methods provides a new forum for
          headquarters technical staff to create their own training opportunities
          on analytic and design methods, and several new in-house advanced sta-
          tistics courses are planned for the next year. In the information manage-
          ment and technology area, GAO'Scomputer science staff have access
          both to external speakers and to extensive contract and university-
          based training opportunities. Additionally, the guidance provided for
          the allocation of units’ external training funds has been changed to
          reflect the special needs of technical staff for external training. This is
          in recognition of the fact that technical staff will need a higher per per-
          son allocation in order to obtain continuing education outside the

          The supervision/management area is as yet undeveloped. Until new cur-
          riculum proposals are forthcoming, it will not be possible to determine
          whether technical staff’s needs are met in this area. Issue area training
          is not expected to differ for technical and nontechnical staff, except per-
          haps for the information technology area.

          Page 149                GAO/PEMD-90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix   X

Review of Systemsfor Identifying and Tracking
the Recruitment, Retention,and Rewarding of
Technical Staff
                   Management Information Systems (MWS) play a key role in GAO'Sability
Introduction       to monitor progress in increasing the technical skills of its workforce.
                   Such systems allow the agency periodically to inventory workforce com-
                   position and to track progress in recruitment, training, retention, and
                   rewards for specific types of staff. This report reviews the adequacy of
                   existing management information systems and suggests needed

                   In conducting this review, we broadened the scope to include reviewing
                   the adequacy of systems for tracking any skill group within the organi-
                   zation (e.g., economics, secretarial/ administrative, writer/editor). In our
                   review, however, special attention was placed on the adequacy of sys-
                   tems for identifying and tracking technical staff.

                   Defining the term technical posed as great a problem for this effort as it
                   did for the work of the entire task force. There is little agreement within
                   the organization. The designation technical is used by some parties to
                   refer to “non-line” assistance work, to refer to specialized training, or to
                   refer to the nature of the person’s predominant assignments. Informa-
                   tion on level of degree (i.e., bachelors, masters, doctorate) is insufficient
                   without information on area of degree; information on area of degree
                   may be insufficient without information on content of the school’s cur-
                   riculum; and curriculum information may be insufficient without infor-
                   mation on degree of subject mastery. To avoid constraining our
                   definition of “technical” prematurely, we looked to determine the nature
                   of any available information related to technical skills and education.

                   Our review of Mrsesconsidered their utility for tracking any generic
Methodology        group.

                   The following Mlses were identified for review:

               l   Personnel/Payroll Database, National Finance Center, Personnel;
               .   Education Microcomputer Dbase System, Personnel;
               .   Awards Microcomputer Dbase System, Personnel;
               .   sMls/Profile, Office of Information Resource Management (OIRM);
               .   sMIS/Training Registration System, Office of Information Resource Man-
                   agement and Training Institute (OIRMand TI);
               .   Applicant Tracking System, Office of Recruitment (OR);
               l   Database for Entry-level Tracking and Analysis (DELTA), Office of
                   Recruitment (OR).

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                                Review of Sy&mm for Identifying     and
                                ‘hacking the Eecmitment,   Retention, and
                                ltewdhg    of Technical Staff

                                Each system was briefly reviewed to determine:

                            l the major purpose of the system;
                            . the availability of information on technical training and skills;
                            . the quality of the information and nature of update procedures; and
                            l the potential of the system for enabling tracking of progress in recruit-
                              ing, training, retaining, and rewarding staff.

                                Individual MIS summaries are provided in appendix XI.

                                GAO'Sneeds for human resource information      are currently being met
Findings                        through a variety of Mrses.The Personnel/Payroll Database provides the
                                core information, with other MIses custom designed to meet specific
                                needs of individual staff offices or divisions and regional offices. While
                                most of the information necessary to identify and track the progress of
                                subgroups of staff is generally available through these systems, this
                                decentralized approach to MISdevelopment and planning needs tobe
                                thoroughly reviewed. Some redundant efforts are already evident and
                                the process may not be yielding the most useful human resource data in
                                an efficient manner.

Current State of                The Personnel/Payroll Database at the National Finance Center contains
Decentralized Information       over 1,400 data elements, including: name, title, position series, grade,
                                step, pay plan, salary, date last promoted, service computation date,
Systems                         date hired at GAO,and organization code. Data from this system can be
                                retrieved using a variety of methods-downloads      to PCS,tapes to the
                                House Information System Computer Center, or direct access to the
                                National Finance Center. Several of the other MISeScovered in this
                                report use information from this database and supplement it with addi-
                                tional data items. Data are extracted biweekly from this system to cre-
                                ate historical files maintained on the House Information System.

                                Personnel has constructed other special purpose databases maintained
                                on PCS,one of which is the Personnel Awards/Education System (PAES)
                                Database. The Education Microcomputer Dbase portion is intended to
                                capture education and professional certification information for current
                                GAOemployees, information not available from the Personnel/Payroll
                                Database. The education record contains up to three majors and three
                                professional certificates for each staff member. Historical education
                                information is available for the past 6 years. It should be noted, how-
                                ever, that education data must be given to Personnel by the employee,

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Beview of Syrrtem for Identifying and
‘hackhg  the Recruitment,  Retention, and
Rewardjng of Technical Staff

and the database will only be accurate if the employee keeps the infor-
mation current. The Awards Microcomputer Dbase portion of PAESis
intended to capture historical awards data not readily available from
the Personnel/Payroll Database. Historical awards information is availa-
ble for the past 6 years, with a slight data entry backlog for 1989. The
data are provided by the Employee Benefits Office after each award is

The sMIs/Profile system is maintained by OIRM,but is an option for indi-
vidual GAOunits. Its purpose is to provide information on the character-
istics of staff members and to flag key dates for personnel actions. It
allows space for entering up to three academic degrees (degree, school,
year, major) as well as one professional certification. Education infor-
mation is again provided and updated by the employee and thus may
not be current.

The sMIs/Training Registration System (TRS),involving another subset of
the SMIS,is designed to provide information on staff members’ training
and other continuing professional education activities. Prior to January
 1989, use of the training subsystem of the SMISwas optional, and it was
not used by all units. With the initiation of the 80-hour continuing edu-
cation requirement for all evaluators and evaluator-related staff, the
Training Institute designed an MISfor recording continuing education
activities which links the training subsystem of SMISand the Institute’s
central Training Registration System. Information on attendance at cen-
tral courses is handled through TRS.Information on other activities is
entered into the SMISsubsystem by each GAOunit and is ultimately
merged with TRS.Central course information is very accurate; the accu-
racy of information on other activities will likely depend on whether
individuals have already satisfied the 80-hour requirement. The linked
system began in January 1989, and it is still too early to determine its
overall accuracy. The system will permit the agency to determine how
much of its training/educational activities involve technical, supervi-
sory/management, or issue-area related training. As the core technical
curriculum for evaluators is finalized, the system will also enable moni-
toring the agency’s progress in increasing the technical skills of its staff.

The remaining two        MKSS   serve special needs of the Office of Recruitment
(OR). The Applicant Tracking System, maintained on a microcomputer,
contains information on the education backgrounds of all applicants
through the National Recruitment Program. Items include disciplines,
grade point averages, and level of degree. The database is limited to per-
sons applying through the entry recruiting program, thus it omits upper-

Page 162              GAO/PEMIMO-18S        GAO Technical   Skills Task Force! Report Appendixes
                       Appendix X
                       Review of System for Identifying   and
                       Tracking the Becruitment, Retention, and
                       Ben&rdinB of Technical Staff

                       level hires, attorneys, etc. Database for Entry-level Tracking (DELTA) is
                       another ORmicrocomputer database. It contains the same education
                       information; however, it provides longitudinal information on the
                       employment and promotion patterns of staff accepting employment
                       offers at GAO.The data base is new, starting with the universe of hires
                       resulting from 1986 employment offers. Promotion information is
                       obtained manually from the Personnel/Payroll Database. Due to its
                       infancy, DELTAcurrently reflects promotions only through the GS-12 level
                       (Band I). This database, however, comes closest to the tracking system
                       approach believed necessary to monitor the agency’s progress with
                       workforce subgroups.

                       None of these previously described systems contain individual appraisal
                       data, and the organization, both historically and currently, has sought to
                       keep appraisal information separate from all other personnel data. This
                       year a new data base is being constructed in &x/Operations that com-
                       bines characteristics information from the NFCsystem, performance and
                       bonus data from the recent appraisal cycle, and merit selection promo-
                       tion information in order to assess the implementation of GAO'Snew pay-
                       for-performance system for evaluators.

                       In sum, each staff office, and sometimes individual GAOdivisions or
                       regional offices, has independently developed its own human resource
                       MIses to meet its needs. The result is that there is no single data system
                       that can presently meet the agency-wide need to identify and track
                       progress in recruiting, training, retaining, and rewarding specific sub-
                       groups of staff. Instead, there are multiple systems (mainframe and
                       microcomputer) that, with some modification and merging, could be
                       adapted to meet this need. Before proposing any modifications, how-
                       ever, we believe that it is necessary to better delineate the purposes of
                       such an effort.

Need to Determine      The major purpose of an integrated human resource ME approach is to
Information Purposes   efficiently provide information necessary for managing the human
                       resources of the agency, We start with the assumption that there is an
                       ongoing need to assess how well GAOis doing with respect to recruiting,
                       training, retention, and rewarding of staff. Such information is desirable
                       for the entire workforce, and for specific subgroups, in order to assess

                       Page 153              GAO/PEMD+O-1SS       GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                            Appendix X
                            Review of Systems for IdentiQing    and
                            Tracking the Recruitment,  Retention, and
                            Rewarding of Technical Staff

                            both absolute and relative progress. Examples of relevant subgroups
                            and information items are:

Subgroups               . technical staff (in line and assistance roles);
                        l evaluators by discipline (e.g., business administration, social sciences,
                          accounting, public policy, public administration);
                        l lawyers;
                        . secretarial/administrative   staff;
                        . upper-level hires in Band III;
                        . recent hires according to geographic areas;

Information Items       l
                            GAO-wide and unit EEOprofiles;
                    .       distributions of job series;
                    .       distributions of academic specialties;
                    .       distributions of colleges and universities;
                    .       distributions of academic degrees;
                    l       entrance salaries of subgroups;
                    .       salary progressions of subgroups;
                            distributions of bonuses among subgroups.

                            With regard to the tracking of technical staff progress, especially impor-
                            tant items would be:

                    . attrition rates,
                    l employment durations,
                    l amount of training,
                    . patterns of continuing professional education activities,

                            In combination, these kinds of information could be contrasted and com-
                            pared within and across time to answer a variety of policy-relevant
                            questions. For example:

                    l       Are we succeeding in increasing the proportion of entry hires with mas-
                            ters degrees?
                    l       Are we succeeding in broadening entry hiring to include more disciplines
                            relevant to GAO’Swork, e.g., social scientists? Is this as true in the
                            regions as at headquarters?
                    l       Are we making progress in rewarding and retaining secretarial staff,
                            thus reducing the attrition rate of this subgroup?
                    l       Are there any dramatic differences in distributions of bonuses, rates of
                            pay progression, and rates of promotion across organizational units?

                            Page 164              GAO/PEMD-90-18s       GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
               Review of Syetem~ for IdenWying     and                                        . ..
               Tracking the Recruiment,   Retention, and
               Bespandins of Technica4 Stati

             . Are there any differences in attrition rates across organizational units
               which are not explainable by the job series?
             . Are we able to retain our most promising staff?
             . Is there appropriate access to external training funds?

               The existence of an integrated system could also make it easier to evalu-
               ate the effects of future human resource initiatives at either the unit or
               agency-wide level. The development of systematic data on trends over
               time could enable monitoring of changes in workforce patterns in a vari-
               ety of areas. Indeed, recent government studies of the turnover of com-
               puter scientists and secretarial staff have proven to be enlightening and
               sometimes surprising in their results. For example, the turnover rate for
               computer scientists was found to be much lower than had been assumed.

Next Steps     Defining a new human resource MIS is outside the scope of this task
               force. MI%% are not without costs, and it is necessary to determine the
               details of the required information, the most crucial policy questions,
               and the attendant costs and benefits, before advocating any large
               efforts in this area. At the present time, it is possible to obtain consider-
               able information from the various independent systems; however, sub-
               stantial effort is needed to coordinate and merge such information
               requests. The most pronounced information gap is the lack of regular
               reports on the progress through the agency of specific skill groups. This
               is information which is extremely policy relevant, but relatively expen-
               sive to produce and maintain on an ongoing basis.

               Page 156               GAO/PEMD-W-16S       GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix XI

MIS      Summaries

                             Personnel/Payroll System
Name of System and           National Finance Center
Contact                      Personnel
                             Terry Condon, Personnel
                             Stevie Young, Personnel

Major Purpose                To provide personnel/payroll data on GAOemployees. Currently, nearly
                             all reports which are generated (excluding CAPS)use the personnel/pay-
                             roll data from the National Finance Center (NFC). The data can be
                             retrieved to run reports using a variety of methods - downloads to PCS,
                             tapes to the House Information System (HIS) Computer Center, or acces-
                             sing the NFCdirectly. The data are extracted biweekly to update the his-
                             torical information maintained at the HIS.

Information Available on     None.
Technical Training and

Assessment of Information    The information entered into the system is based on personnel actions
Quality and Description of   provided by management to document the hires, promotions, reassign-
                             ment, and separations of GAOemployees. The personnel office relies on
Update Procedures            units to provide the information on a timely basis to ensure accurate
                             salary payment and personnel reporting of the employee.

                             Historical information on employees resides at the HIS facility and will
                             be up in Fall 1989. Data entry is performed daily directly into the NIX
                             system, based on the personnel and payroll documents received.

Assessment of Potential      The system contains 1,400 data elements, including: name, title, series,
for Enabling Tracking of     grade, step, pay plan, salary, date last promoted, date of last within
                             grade, service computation date, date hired at GAO,veterans preference,
Progress in Recruiting,      last personnel action processed (HIS must be accessed for prior actions),
Training, Retaining, and     annual/sick leave data, date of birth, handicap code, minority code,
Rewarding Staff              organization assigned to, duty station, work schedule, and probationary
                             date. These are the most commonly requested data items. Reports can be
                             produced which will provide 5 years of historical data.

                             Page 156          GAO/PEMD-90-189   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                             Appendix XI
                             MIS Snmmarles

                             Education Microcomputer Dbase System
Name of System and           Personnel
Contact                      Don L. Phillips, Personnel
                             Becky Taylor, Personnel

Major Purpose                To capture additional education and professional certification informa-
                             tion for GAOemployees (supplemental to information available at NFC).
                             This detailed information is not available from the personnel/payroll
                             system at NFc.

Information Available on     The education record contains data elements for school, type of degree
Technical Training and       (maximum of three degrees), major, date of degree, and professional cer-
                             tificates (maximum of four) for each employee.

Assessment of Information    Education data exist for employees who have been employed with GAO
Quality and Description of   during the past 5 years. Some education data from October 1988
                             through the present for new employees have not been obtained yet. In
Update Procedures            addition, the data maintained in the system may not reflect the most
                             recent, up-to-date information since education information is normally
                             not provided by employees after their initial appointment with GAO.
                             Data entry is performed using a Dbase program to update the system. In
                             the future, the education data for new and existing employees will be
                             obtained from a new form, GAO202, soon to be placed in distribution.
                             This system is not yet fully functional.

Assessment of Potential      Reports can be produced which will provide education data on current
                             GAOemployees and for employees who have separated from GAOwithin
for Enabling Tracking of     the past 6 years.
Progress in Recruiting,
Training, Retaining, and
Rewarding Staff

                             Awards Microcomputer Dbase System
Name of System and           Personnel
Contact                      Don L. Phillips, Personnel
                             Becky Taylor, Personnel

                             Page 157            GAO/PEMDBO-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                             Appendix Xl

Major Purpose                To capture historical awards data which are not readily available from
                             the personnel/payroll system at NFC.

Information Available on     None.
Technical Training and

Assessment of Information    The system currently maintains awards data for staff employed with
                             GAOduring the past 5 years. It captures information   on all awards,
Quality and Description of   regardless of the number. Historical awards data prior to October 1988
Update Procedures            are currently on the system. Awards data are provided by the Employee
                             Benefits Office after finalizing individual awards, A form has been
                             developed, GAO203, to be distributed in the near future to request from
                             GAOemployees an update of their awards history.

Assessment of Potential      The awards data elements maintained in the system are: name, series,
for Enabling Tracking of     grade, pay plan, date of award, type of award, amount, and office
                             originating the award. Reports can be produced which provide 5-years
Progress in Recruiting,      worth of awards information on current GAOemployees and separated
Training, Retaining, and     employees.
Rewarding Staff

                             Staff Management Information
Narne of System and          System/Profile (SMIS/PrOfik),OIRM
                             Rhonda Thompson, OIRM

Major Purpose                To provide information on the characteristics of staff members and to
                             flag key dates for personnel actions.

Information Available on     The database permits entering information for up to three academic
Technical Training and       degrees (degree, school, year, major) as well as one professional certifi-
                             cate. Use of these information items is optional.

                             Page 158          GAO/PEMD-fW1SS   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                             Appendix   Xl

Assessment of Information    Education information is provided by the individual employee. Update
Quality and Description of   procedures are likely to vary across GAOunits. It is unclear whether edu-
                             cation degree information is kept current.
Update Procedures

Assessment of Potential      The sMIs/Profile system is currently not used by all GAOunits. Voluntary
for Enabling Tracking of     nature of use and likely inaccuracies in the education information limit
                             its usefulness for tracking purposes.
Progress in Recruiting,
Training, Retaining, and
Rewarding Staff

Narne of System and          Office of Information Resource
Contact                      Management, Training Institute
                             Pat Logan, TI
                             Rhonda Thompson, OIRM

Major Purpose                To provide information on staff members’ training and other continuing
                             professional education activities. To determine compliance with GAO'S
                             80-hour continuing professional education requirement for evaluator
                             and evaluator-related staff.

Information Available on     The database contains information on attendance and completion of
Technical Training and       internal training courses, attendance at external courses and confer-
                             ences, speaking engagements, and published writings. Detailed informa-
Skills                       tion is available on Training Institute course participation; more limited
                             information is available on other educational activities. No information
                             is available on degrees granted for completion of college courses or on

Assessment of Information    Information on attendance at TI courses is handled centrally through the
Quality and Description of   Training Registration System (TRS) at NIH. Information on other activi-
                             ties must be entered into the SMIStraining subsystem by each GAOunit
Update Procedures            and is then merged with TRSdata. Courses are categorized as being one
                             of three types: technical, issue area, or supervision/management. Infor-
                I            mation on central courses is accurate and complete. The completeness of
                             other information is likely to vary, depending on whether the individual

                             Page 159          GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                           Appendix Xl
                           MIS Summaries

                           employee has already satisfied the 80-hour continuing professional edu-
                           cation requirement.

Assessment of Potential    The linked SMIS/TRSsystem began in January 1989 with reporting for-
for Enabling Tracking of   mats still under development; therefore, it is too early to determine the
                           overall quality of the database. The system is used by all GAOunits, with
Progress in Recruiting,    small offices providing data manually to the Training Institute. As the
Training, Retaining, and   curriculum for evaluator staff is finalized and course development com-
Rewarding Staff            pleted, the system will enable tracking of skill enhancement in various
                           technical skill areas.

                           Applicant Tracking System
Name of System and         Office of Recruitment
Contact                    Steve Kenealy, OR

Major Purpose              To provide information on GAOapplicants through the National Recruit-
                           ment Program.

Information Available on   The database contains information on the education backgrounds of all
Technical Training and     applicants through the National Recruitment Program. There are six
QlAlln                     major discipline categories (less reliable information available on subcat-
LJA1113                    egories of disciplines), GPAdata, and level of degree information. Indi-
                           vidual codes exist for each school.

                           Disciplines: public administration, business administration,           computer
                           science, social science, economics, accounting, other.

                           GPA:currently gives only GPAranges, will switch to exact GPAin Fall

                           Degrees: B.A., Masters, Ph.D., Law.

                           The database is constantly evolving as new needs are identified to sup-
                           port the initiatives underway in OR.As recently as last year, the data-
                           base included only three disciplines. The discipline categories have
                           recently been expanded, reflecting GAO'Schanging recruiting practices.

                           Page 160          GAO/PEMD90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                Appendix XI
                                MIS Snmmarles

                                The database is limited to persons applying through GAO'SNational
                                Recruitment Program (Band I), thus it omits upper-level hires, attor-
                                neys, administrative secretarial staff, etc. A separate system exists for
                                administrative/secretarial  applicants, but it is currently receiving very
                                little support.

Assessment of Information        Information is entered manually by ORand is based on self-report by the
                                job applicant. No verification checks are made for GPA, etc. Update pro-
Qualityand   Description   of   cedures are not relevant
Update Procedures

Assessmentof Potential          As of Fall 1990, the system will offer some capability for assessing GAO'S
for Enabling Tracking of        progress in expanding its entry recruitment activities through the
                                National Recruitment Program. Over time, this should result in greater
Progress in Recruiting,         disciplinary diversity in the applicant pool and a larger proportion of
Training, Retaining, and        technical degrees.
Rewarding Staff

                                Database for Entry-level Tracking and Analysis (DELTA)
Name of System and              Office of Recruitment
Contact                         Steve Kenealy, OR

Major Purpose                   To provide information on the characteristics and employment patterns
                                of applicants selected from the National Recruitment Program applicant

Information Available on        In general, information available for DELTAis the same as for the Appli-
Technical Training and          cant Tracking System - school codes, degrees, GPAS,and major disci-
                                plines. In addition, this database contains information on whether GAO'S
Skills                          offer was accepted, whether the individual showed up for work, and
                                whether the individual continues to work for GAO(including dates of
                                separation). Information on dates of promotion is available through the
                                top of Band I only due to the newness of the database. Attrition infor-
                                mation is obtained from personnel’s ongoing personnel system. Promo-
                                tion information is available from a special personnel report and is
                                matched and entered manually.

                                Page 161          GAO/PEMD-90.18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes

Assessment of Information    Education information is self-reported by the applicant. Information on
Quality and Description of   attrition and promotions resides in GAO'SMISeSfor personnel. The DELTA
                             system is updated several times a year to incorporate new attrition and
Update Procedures            promotion data. It is not updated for changes in education-related infor-
                             mation. The database was initiated for Fall 1986 selectees, employees
                             who started work in early January 1987.

Assessment of Potential      The database has strong future potential for tracking GAO'Sprogress in
for Enabling Tracking of     these areas for the universe of staff hired through the National Recruit-
                             ment Program starting in 1986. It is the only longitudinal database. Like
Progress in Recruiting,      the other ORdatabase, however, it omits several major groups of
Training, Retaining, and     employees.
Rewarding Staff

                             Page 162         GAO/PEMIMO-18S   GAO Tecknkxl   SW   Task Force Report Appendixes
Requests for copies of     GAO   reports   should be sent to:

U.S. General Accounting      Office
Post Office Box 6015
Gaithersburg, Maryland      20877

Telephone   202-275-6241

The first five copies of each report       are free. Additional   copies are
$2.00 each.

There is a 25% discount     on orders for 100 or more copies mailed to a
single address.

Orders must be prepaid by cash or by check or money order made
out to the Superintendent of Documents.
                  Requests for copies of                                              GAO   reports   should be sent to:

                  U.S. General Accounting                                               Office
                  Post Office Box 6015
                  Gaithersburg, Maryland                                               20877

                  Telephone                   202-275-6241

                  The first five copies of each report                                                are free. Additional   copies are
                  $2.00 each.

                  There is a 25% discount                                              on orders for 100 or more copies mailed to a
                  single address.

                  Orders must be prepaid by cash or by check or money order made
                  out to the Superintendent of Documents.

..,..   __   _.   .   .   ,..   .,   ---._.          ,,   ---C----...-,,.,._.....-.
                           Appendix II
                           Interviews     With Experts on
                           Interdbciplinary     Management

                           whom move to program divisions every year. Second, all program divi-
                           sions and most regional offices benefit from technical assistance on their
                           work by expert groups housed within their own units. Finally, technical
                           people are increasingly assigned to program division jobs which they
                           staff or run, co-located there with GAO'Sauditors from the beginning of
                           the project. GAO’S approach thus includes efforts to achieve a critical
                           mass (like BOB),to provide auditors with technical assistance (like the
                           IIIIS/IG), and to integrate its workplace (like Arthur Andersen), albeit
                           gradually and over time.

                           However, just as this three-pronged strategy has sometimes been diffi-
                           cult to implement, so the approaches tried in the organizations whose
                           managers we interviewed have not proceeded without problems. We
                           asked our seven experts to discuss these problems of interdisciplinary
                           management and the resolutions they had sought to apply.

                           Given the different nature of the integration efforts discussed above, we
Problems Identified        were surprised to find that many of the same problems emerged in the
and Strategies             various organizations. The strategies adopted, however, tended to vary.
Adopted or Suggested       Generally speaking, the integration problems our interviewees raised fell
                           into three categories:

                       l   Problems of “fitting-in” (i.e., difficulties for technical staff in perceiving
                           themselves, and being perceived, as integral members of the
                       l   Problems in assuring work quality across disciplines; and
                       l   Problems of rewards and recognition for technical staff.

Fitting-In                 The problem here, in a nutshell, is that it is easier to work with the
                           kinds of people you know and understand than it is to work with people
                           who have been trained differently, make different assumptions, use dif-
                           ferent words (i.e., either words that are actually unfamiliar, or words
                           that are well known but used in a special way), and possess different
                           criteria for measuring product quality. Speaking of his experience at
                           ROB,Carey said that technical people and generalists “just don’t seem to
                           mix very well naturally, so the temptation is to separate them. But if
                           you separate them, you manufacture morale problems because main-
                           stream missions and operations tend to receive preference over those of
                           specialists.” Carey’s solution is to maintain separate technical centers,
                           nonetheless, to ensure high quality and critical mass, but at the same
                           time to have technical people work directly-not       as advisors-with

                           Page 31                  GAO/PEMD-90-1SS   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Interviews     With Experts on
Int2rdlsciplimuy     Mnnagement

Technical people across IBM came to use the CTC and the Fellows as infor-
mal channels to top management. By the same token, Branscomb said,
the Committee and the Fellows also became “de facto ombudsmen” for
the technical professionals at IBM. That is, the two groups served as an
informal network for communicating ideas and judgments between top
management and technical staff at the working level, operating indepen-
dent of (but not in competition with) the formal corporate hierarchy.

The “fitting-in” problem at the Inspector General’s office at HHS was so
intractable that it was at the origin of Kusserow’s conclusion, noted ear-
lier, that the integration of technical people with generalists simply
doesn’t work. The Inspector General told us that technical staff in an
audit office automatically become “the odd men out: they’re immedi-
ately surrounded by white corpuscles.” The problem, then, was how to
get the technical contribution Kusserow felt was needed applied directly
to the work of the IG’s office. Kusserow’s solution was to keep the func-
tions separate organizationally, but instead, to integrate the jobs them-
selves. This boils down, in practice, to technical assistance. For example,
economists from outside a unit will work together with auditors to help
“frame an audit” by identifying key assumptions. Sampling approaches
are approved in advance by a sampling statistician, again from an
outside unit. But such work involves only discrete parts of jobs. Audi-
tors and technical people do not work together on projects from begin-
ning to end on a coequal basis. Thus the solution to the “fitting-in”
problem at the IG’s office was either to avoid it entirely by total separa-
tion-as in the case of auditors and social science evaluators-or      to
implement only temporary, segmented relationships-as         in the case of
specialized technical assistance to audits.

At IBM, the problem of integration was a different one, that of bringing
in advanced scientists and engineers to work with already highly
trained technical people in the product or technology divisions. This was
not the technical-nontechnical fitting-in process just described, but one
of getting top-flight people to work in places which needed their contri-
butions and where they would not ordinarily want to work. IBM'S strat-
egy was again dual. First, they established a sabbatical program that
assigns technical staff to work in various divisions within the company,
for a year. Second, they created ad hoc “laboratories,” staffed in part by
advanced researchers, in part by people from the divisions, to work
together on implementing the operating division’s plan for future prod-
ucts. These programs were ingenious in that they allowed some of the
company’s top technical people to learn about divisional perspectives,

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Appendix II
Interviews     With Experts on
Interdisciplhary     Management

without forcing them to give up their identity as members of IBM'S pres-
tigious research community; in addition, and perhaps most importantly
from the company’s perspective, the divisions received help of a quality
they couldn’t have otherwise procured.

These kinds of “fitting-in” difficulties have not occurred at Arthur
Andersen and RAND.In the former case, this is because of the way staff
with different undergraduate degrees are given the same training and
become somewhat homogeneous after a year. That is, there is no main-
stream staff group with whom new recruits need to fit. In the RANDcase,
it is because of the existence of the matrix organization, which optimizes
the fit of a variety of technical disciplines working on the same jobs
within the same workplace.

At RFF, it was not the technical people who had a problem fitting in-so
long as this group remained uniquely composed of economists-but
rather, some of the nontechnical staff. Ahearne told us there were prob-
lems in getting RFFtechnical staff to accept even the need to focus on the
use of their work, much less the need to turn technical language into lay
terms, or the judgments of editors about how to do that. One solution
brought to this problem was to recruit an associate professor of history
from a prestigious university to take charge of preparing RFFpublica-
tions. The idea was that perhaps the possession of a doctorate would
help to permit a peer relationship with the staff economists. That, how-
ever, only led to more vehement arguments and stronger, not weaker,
antagonisms. Even bringing in prominent potential user groups to talk
about policy needs didn’t work: many RFFstaff felt these meetings were
a waste of their time and said so. RFF'Smanagement has reorganized the
nontechnical staff four times in recent years, but so far nothing has
worked well. The technical staff view is that RFFshould cut back on
what they see as “overhead.”

In recent years, KFF has also moved to bring in a few technical people
who are not economists. This has typically involved, first, a 6-month
debate on whether “still another” non-economist is really needed at RFF,
followed by a search for good candidates who have had experience in
working with economists. This strategy has helped a great deal in ensur-
ing that non-economists will fit in at RFF; however, the benefit is not
without cost, namely, that of severely limiting the pool of potential
recruits in non-economic fields.

In discussing RFF'Sfitting-in problems, it is interesting to note their simi-
larity with those of other mainstream, but nontechnical, organizations.

Page 34                  GAO/PEMD-90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix II
Interviews     Wlth Experts on
Int.erdiec~plinary   Management

Given these similarities, it seems reasonable to argue that some of the
concerns we have thought of as opposing technical to nontechnical peo-
ple may in reality be problems of mainstream versus non-mainstream
groups. This will be important to distinguish as we apply these lessons
to GAO.

Still, another area of “fitting-in” problems is the expectation in most
workplaces that both technical and nontechnical (or mainstream and
non-mainstream) staff will understand and be responsive to the overall
goals of the organization (see above, the stress put on mutual commit-
ment and organizational accountability at the individual level by RAND
and Arthur Andersen). The difficulty here is that, as our literature
review showed, the academic training of many technical staff does not
prepare them well for the goals or the routines and rituals of organiza-
tional life: that is, for dedication to organizational rather than scholarly
or disciplinary goals.

At RAND,for example, a number of the original contingent of researchers
who conducted the organization’s pioneering work on national security
issues were unenthusiastic about, the proposed expansion into domestic
policy issues in the late 1960’s and “did not choose to participate” in it.
Shubert told us further that RANDhas always had a problem in detach-
ing researchers from research and moving them into management posi-
tions. Relatively few RANDresearchers have wanted to go any higher in
the organization than project leader or perhaps program director. For
those who have wanted to do so, RANDhas relied on the individual
researcher’s initiative to achieve success as a manager. As a result, Shu-
bert said, only limited progress has been made at RANDin the art of
developing research management skills. (They are, however, currently
developing a course in management for new project leaders.)

Branscomb joined Shubert in pointing out the failure of many technical
organizations to recognize the importance of educating their researchers
in the techniques of management, to develop tools for doing so, or to
reward those people who succeed in mastering the art.

Woolsey mentioned specific organizational cultures that need to be
understood by researchers moving into a nontechnical environment. She
told us, for example, that she had been accustomed to having
“brownbag” lunches once a week at her former workplace “where peo-
ple would just grab a conference room and colleagues could come and
talk.” But that did not work well at Coopers and Lybrand where there

Page 36                  GAO/PEMD90-18s   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix II
Interviews     With Jbpert~ on
Interdieciplinwy     Management

was no such informal custom and the auditors misunderstood her inten-
tion. Woolsey believes that technical staff should be told about an
organization’s mores at the time they join the organization. Learning
about the workplace culture in dribs and drabs comes too late to be use-
ful and allows some serious mistakes to be made. Indeed, it is under
these types of circumstances that the perception is often acquired (and
given credence) that technical staff are “arrogant,” or “uncaring” about
the goals of an organization (in comparison to their own individual
agenda). In our interviews, technical staff were variously referred to as
“condescending, ” “elitist,” or as “folks coming on like a band of Jesuits
trying to Christianize the heathen.”

Branscomb articulated the tension explicitly. Everybody in an organiza-
tion, he said, must understand and respect the importance of an organi-
zation’s goals, and the necessity for it to keep discipline in support of
those goals and in the management of its business. But at the same time,
there needs to be freedom of communication and openness in an organi-
zation if technical people are to make their best contributions to that

However, communication is precisely one of those areas in a multidis-
ciplinary workplace where “fitting-in” problems are most common
because of different kinds of jargon across technical disciplines or
between technical and nontechnical groups, as well as across the differ-
ent cultures and work goals just described. It is true that some communi-
cation problems reflect fairly simple misunderstandings that derive
from ignorance about the usage and terminology that characterize dif-
ferent educational backgrounds. Coopers and Lybrand has addressed
this problem by recognizing these differences in orientation and explain-
ing them routinely to the members of interdisciplinary groups. Woolsey
thinks that a great deal of acrimony and confusion can be prevented
when it is realized how differently accountants and economists define a
simple term like “cost.” Similarly, “materiality” means little to a statisti-
cian, and “statistical significance” is not understood by the typical run
of “general practice” people. Woolsey suggests that interdisciplinary
organizations should routinely record and systematically share among
their staff members such discoveries involving differing assumptions
and definitions. An organizational glossary of terms, for example, could
be useful. Ahearne reinforced this point by noting that when RFFhires
non-economists (even those accustomed to working with economists), it
takes as much as a year for them to become familiar with RFFecono-
mists’ terminology.

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Interdbclplinary     Management

Although RAND'Smatrix organization appears to have dealt more or less
successfully with the other fitting-in problems described above, commu-
nications problems do exist there. However, they take on a somewhat
different character: the normal difficulties of multidisciplinary dis-
course are increased by the matrix organization, which not only sepa-
rates disciplines but reinforces that separation by turning the discipline
into an organizational unit (i.e., the department). In the same way, divi-
sional boundaries separate those who analyze one kind of program (in
health, say) from those who work in other areas. This is not so much a
question of multidisciplinary misunderstanding as it is of the kind of
compartmentalization that so frequently arises in organizations for
other reasons (“turf” protection, for example, or the demands of multi-
sponsored activities). But since this can be dangerous for an organiza-
tion like RAND,which must often bring complex mixes of skills to bear on
cross-cutting policy problems, the corporation has addressed the issue
by making its boundaries as transparent as possible and by maintaining
“an open shop.” The recruitment of staff across divisions and depart-
ments is not only encouraged but happens all the time. For example, one
senior staffer spends half his time working on jury selection and the
other half on army logistics,

Shubert told us that RANDmakes great efforts to ensure that everyone
who needs to know something related to his or her work is told about it.
All staff, for example, are asked to agree that their correspondence can
be opened unless it is marked “personal.” RANDalso counts on the open-
ness of its communications to determine whether a new manager is func-
tioning well. That is, if staff working for a certain project leader have
problems with that leader’s management, they are expected to talk
about it, first, with the leader and then at higher levels of management.
So if people do not work out as project leaders, they can be returned to
research, retrained, or eased out.

A different communication problem that RANDalso has is that, although
many staff are inveterate communicators, there is often no one there to
hear them because people have become so busy. Jobs currently tend to
be spread very thinly, Shubert said, and “it’s hard to find time to write,
to arrange or attend seminars, or even to have informal encounters.”

Looking at these “fitting-in” problems in the GAOcontext, many of the
same issues have been raised in the past, both by GAO'Smanagers and
technical staff. For example, GAO'SReports Task Force review (198%
1983) noted that there was too much separation between the Institute
for Program Evaluation (a technical division of GAO,now the Program

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Lntcrviews With Experts on
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Evaluation and Methodology Division) and GAO'Sprogram divisions. This
is the same problem that BOBconfronted. However, instead of abolishing
the division as BOBdid, the Comptroller General decided to maintain it
and also to facilitate the creation of technical assistance groups within
each of the program divisions and regional offices. (These are known as
DMTAGS,or Design and Methodology Technical Assistance Groups, and
EAGs,or Economic Analysis Groups, in the headquarters divisions, and
TAGSor Technical Assistance Groups, in the regions). In addition, after a
period of time in the technical assistance groups, division and regional
managements have been encouraged to gradually move technical staff
out of the assistance groups to work on projects with GAO'S“generalist”
auditors in the field. What this means is that technical staff at GAOhave
three different opportunities: to work in a technical division or office
where most people have advanced degrees; to work with program divi-
sion personnel on particular aspects of jobs; or to work side by side with
generalists on a coequal basis from the beginning to the end of a project.

GAOtechnical staff appear to be linked reasonably well with divisional
and regional management, and also to top GAOmanagement through the
three technical division heads and through an Interdivisional Design
Group which has brought together the technical assistance managers in
monthly meetings since 1984. Thus, access to top management appears
to be less relevant an issue for GAOthan does communications, where the
kinds of problems encountered at Coopers and Lybrand are quite com-
mon. For example, social scientists coming in to GAOare often ignorant
of auditing, are not familiar with quality control procedures like the pre-
paration of workpapers or indexing and referencing, do not understand
or accept concepts like “criteria, condition, cause and effect” (by which
auditors at GAOuse their professional judgment to determine causes of
observed changes), and are confused by auditors’ use of the terms “reli-
ability” and “validity” to mean “accuracy.” GAO'Smanagers, both main-
stream and technical, have also noted the lack of preparation of many
technical staff for management. Thus, the points made by Branscomb,
Shubert, and Woolsey about the need to train technical staff in manage-
ment and in the pathways of the institutional culture they are entering
are highly relevant to GAO.

All of this pinpoints the critical role of effective and open communica-
tion in mitigating the discomforts for technical people of fitting into non-
technical or multidisciplinary organizations. But that role does not end
there. Communication is also important in resolving the clashes of
assumptions, work procedures, and study methodologies that seem to

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                        Interdidplinary      Management

                        follow inevitably from the juxtaposition             of different disciplines in the
                        same workplace.

Assuring Work Quality   The central purpose for developing an interdisciplinary organization is
                        typically to respond better to changing demand, usually involving both
                        the quality and the use of the work product. Yet it is in that very area of
                        the work product that disputes between technical and nontechnical
                        staff, or among technical staff of various disciplines, are most acute, and
                        that the importance of “fitting-in” and especially, of open communica-
                        tions, can be most clearly understood. In effect, it makes sense, as our
                        experts pointed out, to eliminate those communications problems that
                        derive from ignorance of the differing assumptions and ways of concep-
                        tualizing questions that divide various disciplines from each other, and
                        technical staff, as a whole, from nontechnical staff. On the other hand,
                        recognition of these differences will only carry us so far. Differing
                        assumptions and values lead to real conflicts as well as perceptual ones.
                        The experience of our seven expz       in a range of organizations is elo-
                        quent in this regard in that every one of them raised problems in this
                        area, whatever the organizational context or strategy adopted.

                        When we asked the Comptroller General where Arthur Andersen had
                        had its biggest problems of integration, he told us it was in planning the
                        work, that is, in determining how the organization would set about try-
                        ing to address the kinds of questions or problems posed by its client.
                        Sometimes there were as many as four staff approaches to a problem-
                        for example, on one job there was an auditing approach, an operations
                        research approach, a computer-oriented approach, and a tax specialist
                        approach-and      there had to be a mechanism for conciliating these posi-
                        tions, since they were often mutually exclusive and people tended to dig
                        in their heels.

                        At first, if the team could not agree, it was always an “engagement”
                        partner who had the final say. But when the consulting side of Arthur
                        Andersen had some serious problems of job quality in the late 1960’s
                        and early 1970’s, the decision was taken “to get better organized” for
                        these important jobs. They did not go to a matrix organization, like
                        RAND,but instead, set up the institution of the “practice director.” The
                        Comptroller General told us this was a difficult decision to take because,
                        until then, the “engagement” partner had been king, and “to say to the
                        king, ‘you’d better get some advice along the way’ was not always easy.”

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Interviews   With Experts on
hterdiaeSpLinary   Management

In any event, the “practice director” was an innovation of the early 70’s
at Arthur Andersen that was at first voluntary. A practice director was
a very experienced senior advisor who “would fly in from anywhere
and go over the whole job with the team.” He was not responsible for
that job, but he had a great deal of authority. As the Comptroller Gen-
eral put it, “if you were the engagement partner and you didn’t agree
with the practice director’s advice, you’d better be successful.” Practice
directors were assigned to one of three areas: tax, audit, or consulting.
So each office could call on three practice directors, depending on the
type of work.

 When it was used, the innovation worked so well as a way of bringing
people together and improving work quality, that Arthur Andersen
eventually made recourse to the practice director mandatory in either of
 two cases: if an audit was one of a public corporation, or if a consulting
job went above a certain dollar level. That is, at some point during the
 execution of such a job, the practice director would have to be called in
to review it.

At RAND,the issue of how interdisciplinary work disagreements should
be resolved was central to the selection and use of the matrix approach.
Shubert told us that everyone shares responsibility for RANDproducts.
There is also a recognized responsibility to help colleagues, ranging from
discussions in the halls to participating in formal review processes.
Every RANDreport is reviewed in writing by at least two peers who are
selected by the department head, in consultation with the division head.
These reviewers (who may come from inside or outside RAND)are chosen
to combine objectivity with knowledge of the area concerned, and the
performance appraisals of the reviewers take specific account of the
quality of the reviews they’ve written each year.

The main questions addressed by the reviewers is “Is this publishable?
Are the assumptions clear and reasonable? Are the methods strong? Are
the conclusions appropriate. 3” The review is addressed to the author of
the report, with a copy going to the department head. The author then
talks to each reviewer and addresses each comment, though he or she
may not necessarily accept every point. About 95 percent agreement is
reached through discussion between the author and the reviewer. When
they cannot agree, the department head (whose discipline is normally
the same as that of the senior author) arbitrates. If the department head
cannot solve it, it goes to the division head. Even when the reviewer
comes from a different discipline and the dispute basically reflects an

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APW*           fl
Interdisclp~        Management

interdisciplinary disagreement (such as the importance of theory versus
data, for example), the approach is still the same.

Basically, Shubert says, RANDtries to promote a rational, informal pro-
cess, and depends on that to ensure a reasonable sharing of viewpoints.
If issues are raised that cannot be resolved, they go to a higher level,
where people try to decide on a substantive basis. Shubert noted that
staff sometimes confront each other “on points that they eventually rec-
ognize are not really germane to the review. The program people are in
there arguing too. Also, it’s not unusual for some difficult or controver-
sial reports to have a very large number of different reviewers (the RAND
alcoholism study, for example, had about 120, most of them from
outside RAND)."

At the HHS Inspector General’s office, Kusserow told us that a major
work problem he and others had had with the evaluation unit was that
the staff, “if left to their own devices, could never seem to come to a
conclusion.” He attributed this to their academic training and back-
ground and said there were also conceptual problems in that they
always wanted to do “the definitive study,” were not satisfied merely to
contribute to a specific piece of knowledge, and basically “had trouble in
narrowing the scope of their work to a manageable level.” As a result,
some reports came in late, were too long, and occasionally appeared

Kusserow’s solution was to stop the whole process and to ask the divi-
sion’s management to deal with the problem as an analytical task. As a
result, new standards on the study design and job process were devel-
oped and incorporated into the division’s operating manual. Since then,
Kusserow believes there has been a marked improvement in the quality,
t.imeliness, and impact of the division’s reports.

Ahearne joined Woolsey in pointing out that, at RFF,understanding the
assumptions made by different disciplines in structuring work has been
key to productive interdisciplinary work. For example, he noted that
economists tend to think in terms of a rational behavior model: “their
basic perspective is that people will make decisions intended to maxi-
mize their net economic benefit. Whereas other social science disciplines
have a model in which emotions, moral judgments, and error (based on
inadequate information, insufficient time, and lack of interest) are major
factors in determining decisions, so they tend to disagree.” Ahearne
feels that once people understand their differing assumptions, they can
then structure a way of working together usefully.

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                          Interviews      With Experts on
                          Interdisciplinary     Management

                          IIFF’Sreview process consists of sending drafts to, say, four to six
                          outside reviewers, plus one or two inside RFF. Based on that review pro-
                          cess, many manuscripts have been rejected and others sent back for
                          additional work.

                          Many of the problems raised by our experts in this area are echoed at
                          GAO. For example, our technical staff also complain on occasion about
                          managerial decisions that they feel distort the results of their analyses.
                          The review process at GAO is extensive, but it is mainly internal, except
                          in one technical division where external review is conducted on a regu-
                          lar basis for every report. Disagreements between managers and techni-
                          cal staff at GAO have raised questions about the effectiveness of an
                          almost exclusively internal review process in resolving technical issues.

                          On the other hand, some of the points made by Kusserow about the aca-
                          demic quality of technical staff reports have also been expressed at GAO,
                          and both managers and staff in technical divisions have been grappling
                          with the same problems of achieving brevity and clarity in their reports.

                          Strategies that may be of interest to GAO, with regard to the resolution of
                          technical issues, are the RAND and RFF external review processes. Brans-
                          comb said he feels that the great challenge, in an interdisciplinary work-
                          place where technical and nontechnical staff are mingled, is to stimulate
                          the mainstream culture to generate a work product of high quality,
                          while also attaining real responsiveness from technical staff working in
                          the non-research environment. Knowing what motivates technical staff
                          is important. So are recognition and rewards.

--~.       -
Rewards and Recognition   All the experts we spoke to agreed on the importance of both rewards
for Technical Staff       (including salary) and other forms of recognition for maintaining the
                          morale of technical staff. As Ahearne put it, “Two things are extremely
                          important to technical people: being able to say and write what they
                          believe, and being recognized for what they do.” Unfortunately, there
                          are few failsafe appraisal and recognition systems. On the other hand,
                          salary is something that people can often agree about. Several of our
                          organizations (i.e., RAND, RFF, and IBM) did not appear to have problems
                          in this area. This reflected concerted efforts by these organizations to
                          keep their salaries competitive with the alternatives available to their

                          In addition to salary, many experts noted the importance of “psychic
                          rewards.” These include bonuses and other types of rewards within the

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organization. However, several also emphasized that it is normal for
technical staff to seek recognition among peers in their discipline, as
well as in the organization. Branscomb noted that, since peer recognition
is so very important to technical people, it behooves an organization to
encourage them to publish, to present their results at professional meet-
ings, and so forth. This is as beneficial to the organization as it is to the
staff, since it keeps staff current about developments in their field and
hones their presentation skills. Further, he said, the knowledge base for
IBM, RAND, HFF,or GAO is not what the organization knows, but what the
world knows. All seven of our experts noted the importance for techni-
cal staff of being able to publish and present their research results. To
this end, the Inspector General’s office at HHS encourages and recog-
nizes such activity by giving awards to staffmembers who publish arti-
cles in professional journals.

Several experts, however, noted restricted opportunities for the promo-
tion of technical staff in some organizations. Carey discussed the serious
problems at BOB (see above), and this situation recurs in the HHS Inspec-
tor General’s office where technical assistance staff, or “specialists,”
with the exception of a very few, cannot expect to rise above the Gs-12
or 13 level. Among the organizations we examined, only those that are
themselves dominated by technical Staff-RAND      and wF--appear      to
have avoided promotion problems altogether. Indeed, one interesting
point about the JUND/HFF experience is that it suggests that if technical
staff salaries are competitive enough, there may be relatively little
demand by technical staff for assuming broader management

At Coopers and Lybrand and Arthur Andersen, technical staff can
become partners by working their way up the consulting side of the bus-
iness. However, both Woolsey and the Comptroller General indicated
that in the past, consulting partners tended to remain “second class citi-
zens” within the accounting firms, even though their work is much more
profitable than the traditional auditing business. Thus, technical staff
can be denied psychic rewards that are taken very seriously by those
within the organization, even though they earn handsome salaries. Both
Woolsey and the Comptroller General indicated that the consulting and
auditing arms of Arthur Andersen and Coopers and Lybrand have not
yet resolved these issues.

IBM, onthe other hand, seems to have done a remarkable job of provid-
ing nonsalary rewards within the company (e.g., through the IBM Fellows
program and generous cash bonuses). It does have a problem, though,

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                          Interdisciplinary     Management

                          with proprietary information. Publishing by technical staff is discour-
                          aged in some areas by the heavy emphasis on protecting corporate intel-
                          lectual property. During his years at IBM, Branscomb struggled, with
                          only limited success, to open the product divisions to intellectual
                          exchanges with academic research centers and other sources of techni-
                          cal peer group interaction.

                          With regard to the relationship of these issues to GAO, salary has been a
                          real problem for us because government agencies do not control their
                          own salary structure. Now, although ceiling salaries remain capped, GAO
                          is instituting a new pay-for-performance system whose bonuses and pay
                          increases may provide a way to help at least some technical staff earn
                          more money.

                          Promotion, at GAO, appears to be a problem for technical staff essen-
                          tially at the GS-15 level (now called Band III) and beyond if they have
                          not had experience as managers. Entrance to the SES corps at GAO has
                          generally required strong management skills because of the need to be
                          able to shift sEs-ers from one GAO area to another. However, as GAO
                          moves forward in its interdisciplinary approach, it seems likely that
                          candidates for the SESwill also need to have acquired and successfully
                          demonstrated technical skills, along with their management capabilities.

Summary and Conclusions   The interdisciplinary contexts discussed by our seven experts were of
                          three types: mainstream (whether technical or nontechnical) versus non-
                          mainstream, technical pluralism, and state-of-the-art versus current
                          practice. All three contexts are probably relevant for GAO in that
                          although our organizational situation used to be of the first type, we are
                          likely to be-indeed, we already are-moving toward the second and
                          third types over the coming years, as our staff and management become
                          more interdisciplinary.

                          The organizational approaches outlined by our experts moved from
                          “separate but equal,” side-by-side strategies, through various types of
                          intermediary relationships (from technical assistance to multidiscipli-
                          nary teams), to deliberate integration via training and other methods.

                          The problems experienced fell into three categories: fitting-in; assuring
                          work quality across disciplines; and rewards and recognition.

Problems                  “Fitting-in” problems included feelings by technical staff of organiza-
                          tional inferiority (i.e., their sense of being “second-class citizens” in a

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Interdisciplinary     Management

mainstream organization) and of having limited access to top manage-
ment. They also included hostility by mainstream groups which felt
threatened by unfamiliar technical approaches, irritated by technical
staff behavior, or unpersuaded by managers’ approaches to integration.
In some places, it was hard to get the best technical talent to go where it
was most needed; in others, technical staff would not accept differently
trained people as peers.

Another area of fitting-in problems had to do with the responsiveness of
technical people to the overall goals and values of the organization. For
example, technical staff have not always been especially interested in
learning how to manage, but have felt obliged to aspire to management
positions because technical salaries and other rewards were not competi-
tive. Further, in a mainstream organization, newly introduced technical
staff have not always internalized institutional values unaided, espe-
cially when those values differed markedly from their own. In addition,
when little or no effort was made in organizations to bridge the gaps
between a mainstream and a technical culture, technical staff have been
perceived (or have perceived themselves) as not being responsive to the
organization’s overall goals.

Communication, the ability to understand and be understood effectively,
was a fitting-in problem in every organization whose managers we inter-
viewed, because of differences in assumptions, culture, values, and lan-
guage, both across disciplines and across technical and nontechnical
groups. This seemed often to be a problem of simple misunderstanding.
In other cases, the normal difficulties of discourse were exacerbated by
organizational boundaries, and these developed on occasion into thick
walls between units which required carefully developed efforts to break

Work quality problems in the interdisciplinary context emerged in three
areas: problems of settling disagreements about work; problems of get-
ting technical staff to write well-scoped, readable, user-oriented reports;
and problems of stimulating cross-cutting interests and leading-edge
research among groups from varied technical disciplines.

Finally, with respect to rewards and recognition, everyone agreed on
their importance for technical staff morale, and on the importance to
technical staff of the ability to publish their work. Perhaps the most
acute problem we encountered was that of promotion in some organiza-
tions. At IIIIS/IG, the problem occurred at the GS-12 or -13 level; at BOB
and GAO, it was at the Gs-14 or -15 level; at Coopers and Lybrand and

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             Interdisciplinary     Management

             Arthur Andersen it was at the very top.              RAND, RFF,     and   IBM   had no such

             It is important to note that in the three organizations where technical
             staff salaries were competitive (at RAND, for example, researchers often
             earn more than department heads), there was little or no demand on the
             part of technical staff to be promoted to a higher level of managerial

Strategies   Different strategies were adopted by the various organizations to
             address the particular interdisciplinary problems posed by their individ-
             ual contexts. Training and procedure standardization were important at
             Arthur Andersen. RAND adopted a matrix organization to deal with a
             workforce that was interdisciplinary right from the start. BOB, the HHS/
             IG, and Coopers and Lybrand set up separate technical organizations and
             then brought various modifications to that strategy: integration of two
             technical centers at BOB, centralized technical assistance at HHS/IG, and
             the dual career track at Coopers and Lybrand. IBM integrated scientists
             and engineers into all phases of its operations from the very beginning
             (there are now between 25,000 and 30,000 technical people at IBM in an
             organization of around 175,000 U.S. employees, according to Brans-
             comb). RFF moved to an interdisciplinary workforce after many years of
             domination by economists in a mainstream role.

             IBM was concerned with ensuring (1) that the best technical thinking in
             the company would be widely available within the divisions, and (2)
             that technical people everywhere in the company would have access to
             top management. To meet these objectives, they implemented four initia-
             tives: a Corporate Technical Committee; a Fellows program; a sabbatical
             program (sending top technical staff to work in various divisions within
             the company for a year); and ad hoc laboratories.

             The need for RFF was to bring non-economists successfully into the
             workplace to join economists in working on projects. The strategy
             adopted was to seek out those qualified social scientists and others who
             had had prior experience in working with economists.

             At RAND, the goal of interesting researchers in management positions led
             to the recognition that a course in research management (now being
             developed) was needed at the project leader level. Coopers and Lybrand
             is addressing “fitting-in” problems by orienting new technical staff in
             the methods and values of the mainstream (auditing) culture. Differing

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Interviews     With Experts on
Inbxdisciplinary     Management

assumptions and definitions are explained and a glossary of terms has
been suggested.

RAND   confronts both work disagreements and barriers across divisions
and departments by creating incentives for better communication.
Arthur Andersen has dealt with work conflicts explicitly by instituting
the special position of “practice director.” RAND relies on a peer review
system, run by the corporation but often involving outside profession-
als, for judging reports; disagreements are arbitrated at higher levels
and expanded review occurs for controversial reports. RFFgoes to 4-6
external reviewers and 1-2 internal reviewers for every product.

With regard to rewards and recognition, the HHS/IG encourages staff to
make presentations before outside professional groups and has estab-
lished an award system for outside publication by technical staff; and
both RANDand RFF see the publication of research results in journals as
an important part of their staffs’ regular jobs. IBM, RAND, and RFF go to
great lengths to ensure that their salaries are competitive. Salaries of
technical people in all three places may be higher than those of mana-
gers. IBM also gives special bonuses and conveys different types of
psychic rewards to top technical staff.

Some of these strategies may have relevance for GAO. A course orienting
new technical people at GAO could focus on two things: first, the culture,
language, assumptions, and traditional methods of the organization that
are especially pertinent for them to know; and second, a general intro-
duction to management (for mid-level staff without managerial experi-
ence) that would emphasize methods for developing and motivating
staff, working in teams, fostering peer group relations, responding to
supervisors, furthering institutional goals, and the like. This would com-
bine IBM, RAND, and Coopers and Lybrand strategies.

More external peer review (such as that current at                 RAND    and   RFF)   could
be helpful in resolving technical arguments at GAO.

Finally, GAO may want to give some thought to rewarding technical staff
more visibly for successful efforts to publish their work and present it
at professional conferences. These efforts are important in that they
increase the organization’s reputation and prestige, accustom staff to
present and defend their work, and bring them current information on
new ideas and methods in their field.

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Appendix III

Interviews With OutsideManagers

               GAO'S task force on interdisciplinary management, in examining the
               management, training and utilization of its technical staff, established a
               subgroup to discuss with managers in other agencies and private firms
               the challenges of supervising technical personnel in a nontechnical envi-
               ronment. Because the problems surrounding interdisciplinary staff man-
               agement are ones that many private-sector and government
               organizations have dealt with for many years, it is valuable to learn
               what experiences managers- and especially nontechnical managers-in
               other organizations have had in supervising technical staff that can sug-
               gest improvements in our own practices. In short, from their viewpoint,
               what are the pitfalls and paths to success in interdisciplinary staff

               This paper summarizes the results of the interviews we conducted with
               a number of organizations, presents some suggestions by respondents
               with regard to issues raised by GAO, and describes a set of separate
               interviews we undertook as a result of the first set, to examine in more
               detail the experiences of various organizations with the dual career lad-
               der (see also appendix I, Effectiveness of the Dual Ladder System).

               We first conducted structured interviews in nine government and pri-
               vate-sector organizations. These were: the Bureau of Labor Statistics;
               the Department of Defense; the Food and Nutrition Service; the General
               Services Administration; the Department of Labor; Peat Marwick Main
               and Company; the National Air and Space Administration; the National
               Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly the Bureau of Stan-
               dards); and Touche Ross International. They were selected judgmentally
               on the basis of their similarity to GAO with regard to the challenges they
               face in managing an interdisciplinary staff. The organizations included
               two private audit organizations, three federal offices of Inspectors Gen-
               eral, and four other federal organizations.

               After discussing the interviewees’ organizations and job descriptions, we
               asked them if they had encountered difficulties in integrating technical
               and nontechnical employees, and if they had, to identify and discuss any
               difficult management problems that they attributed to the introduction
               and/or presence of both technical and nontechnical staff in the organiza-
               tion. This was followed by a discussion of some key management issues
               that GAO identified. Finally, the respondents were asked to provide
               information about programs and/or practices within the agency that
               they felt facilitated successful interdisciplinary staff management.

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                         Interviews     With Outside   Managers

                         The issues most often discussed fell into four categories: problems in
                         hiring and retaining technical staff; interpersonal relations and commu-
                         nications; conflicting goals and work styles; and the need for training.

                         More than half of the respondents (five) indicated they had serious
Problems in Hiring       problems in this area. Of these, four felt that their problems were due
and Retaining            (at least in part) to the inflexibility of the Office of Personnel Manage-
Technical Staff          ment’s (OPM) regulations regarding ceilings for technical staff positions,
                         the disparities between salaries in government and private industry, and
                         the public accountant certification (CPA) requirement for executive
                         branch audit staff. Two respondents attributed high turnover among
                         technical staff to these problems. In the four organizations in which no
                         problems in hiring or retaining technical staff were noted, their success
                         was attributed to either an ability to promote technical staff to GS-14
                         positions or the existence of a separate, nonmanagement career path for
                         technical staff (see below, the section on dual career ladders). Turnover
                         of technical staff was believed to be higher than that of nontechnical
                         staff in four of the organizations, even though this was not necessarily
                         viewed as a problem.

SuggestedSolutions       When asked about the steps that had been taken in their organizations
                         to deal with technical staffing problems, the respondents mentioned the
                         following actions as promising solutions:

                     . Focus on staff concerns that can be addressed, such as the availability
                       of technical training and professional tools, flexibility in job assign-
                       ments, awards, bonuses, and pleasant physical environments.
                     l Clearly state advancement limitations to potential staff during screening
                     l Encourage OPM to provide more flexible job classifications (such as posi-
                       tions comparable to GAO'S evaluator series).
                     l Demonstrate to both the technical staff and the organization the impor-
                       tance of the role that technical staff can play. Several of the organiza-
                       tions have highlighted the skills and accomplishments of their technical
                       staff to line management and fostered the early involvement of techni-
                       cal staff in job planning.
                     l Provide technical staff with varied and challenging job assignments.

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                            Intmviews     With Outside    Managers

                            Two thirds (six) of the respondents felt that their organizations had at
Problems in                 some time had a communication/cooperation problem either between
Interpersonal               technical and nontechnical staff, technical staff and nontechnical cli-
Relations and               ents, or technical staff in different disciplines. Factors that were viewed
                            as contributing to problems in communication and cooperation were:
                        . lack of communication skills among technical professionals;
                        . differing approaches to problem solving between different professional
                          groups and between technical and nontechnical audit staff;
                        . lack of understanding among nontechnical managers regarding the
                          potential roles and contributions of technical staff;
                        . overlapping areas of expertise as well as professional and occupational
                          rivalry; and
                        . preference of technical staff for working independently rather than as
                          part of a team.

SuggestedSolutions          Three respondents felt that their problems in this area were minimized
                            by their use of a formal or informal matrix organizational structure.
                            Some of the other suggestions for alleviating these problems were that
                            management should

                        l look for good communication skills when screening technical staff;
                        . stress the importance of the actual job content (e.g., computer audit
                          rather than software development) during hiring;
                        . stress the importance to the organization of an interdisciplinary
                          approach to jobs; and
                        . emphasize to all staff the importance of diversification, possibly even
                          cross-training, as a condition for advancement within the organization.

                            In all but one organization, problems were perceived in getting the tech-
Conflicting Goals and       nical staff to adapt to the organizational environment. In four of the
Work Styles                 organizations it was the impression of the respondent that this was due,
                            at least in part, to a “researchy” work style or personality type. Some of
                            the differences cited between the technical staff and their organizations

                        l the insistence of scientific professionals on the sufficiency of “profes-
                          sional judgment” as opposed to a detailed demonstration of evidence,
                        . a “perfectionistic” personality type that does not fit well in organiza-
                          tional cultures requiring great flexibility,

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                              Interviews     With Outside   Managers

                          . the inability of technical staff to ignore “irrelevant” details and focus on
                            primary issues,
                          . the “natural” reclusiveness of technical staff,
                          . technical staff intolerance of “bureaucratic requirements” (such as doc-
                            umentation and other paperwork) and other aspects of organizational
                            work environments, and
                          l conflicts among research goals, program goals, and management goals.

SuggestedSolutions            The only organization that did not appear to be experiencing difficulty
                              integrating its technical staff was a federal scientific agency that boasts
                              a very flexible organizational environment. Some of the steps taken in
                              the other eight organizations to alleviate the above problems included
                              the following:

                              Promote the skills and accomplishments of technical staff to the rest of
                              the organization.
                              Enforce accountability to ensure that everyone feels fairly treated. In
                              one organization this is accomplished by requiring written contracts
                              between technical assistance staff and their clients to eliminate
                              Provide audit and accounting training for technical staff as well as tech-
                              nical training for nontechnical staff and management. Several respon-
                              dents have encouraged their technical staff to seek CPA qualification.
                              Make sure that job requirements (such as documentation) are reason-
                              able. In one case, management has provided technical staff with a small
                              staff of paperwork facilitators.
                              Require nontechnical managers to maintain at least a good layperson’s
                              understanding of technical issues.
                              Make it clear at the outset to all staff (technical and otherwise) that
                              they will need to add to and diversify their skills in order to advance.

                              Only one of the private-sector audit organizations recognized a technical
Role of Training in           staff need for management training; however, the respondent empha-
Interdisciplinary Staff       sized his perception that this training was needed equally by technical
Management                    and nontechnical staff.

                              Two of the respondents saw an organizational need for audit and/or
                              accounting training for technical staff. Three expressed a management
              Y               position that technical staff training was principally for the mainte-
                              nance of technical skills. Two viewed technical staff training as a benefit
                              that could be used to compensate staff for inadequate salaries.

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                      Several agencies identified informal training activities that they felt
                      were particularly effective. These were:

                  l   teaming new technical staff with successful, experienced technical staff
                      to improve communication and consulting skills;
                  l   using rotational staff appointments in the program office as manage-
                      ment internships that junior staff can either request or be assigned to;
                  l   pairing technical staff with same-graded evaluators on jobs; and
                  l   using commercial “freebies” such as videos, expositions, and vendor
                      seminars when training dollars are restricted.

                      As a result of the interviews summarized above and because of the
The Dual Career       uncertain conclusions of the literature review (see appendix I), the task
Ladder                force decided to examine more carefully the operations and effective-
                      ness of the dual career ladder and its advantages or disadvantages for
                      technical staff. As a result, we reviewed six organizations (five private
                      and one federal): Monsanto, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Xerox, 3M,
                      and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). We
                      chose these organizations because they currently use a dual ladder
                      which meets three criteria: (1) advancement is based on technical rather
                      than managerial expertise, (2) positions require few administrative
                      responsibilities, and (3) rewards and status are viewed as equivalent to
                      those attainable on the management ladder. Other reasons for choosing
                      these organizations were that they were able to furnish documentary
                      evidence of their career ladder’s design and implementation, they
                      allowed us to interview their employees, and they are cited in the litera-
                      ture on dual career ladders. Names of candidate organizations were
                      obtained both from the literature and, as already noted, from interviews
                      conducted in earlier task force studies.

                      This study was conducted in two phases. In Phase I, discussions were
                      held with upper-level management- usually a corporate officer with a
                      personnel or human resources perspective-to       obtain a description of
                      the dual career ladder, how it operates, and how well it is documented.
                      In Phase II, computer-assisted telephone interviews were conducted
                      with 37 technical staff at various levels to obtain their perspectives on
                      the dual career ladder. Since the federal technical organization, NET,
                      diverges so substantially from the private organizations, we discuss it

                      In the corporations we studied, dual career ladders occurred only within
                      the technical divisions of the business. In general, the organizations used

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             Interviews     With Outaide   Managers

             the ladder to retain valuable expertise, combat turnover, and promote
             technical staff without requiring them to assume management responsi-
             bilities they might not welcome.

             The design of the dual career ladder and the way in which it is used
             varied among organizations. In each case, the organization’s goals and
             corporate culture determined the structure of the ladder, as well as the
             manner in which it was put into practice.

Background   Dual ladders are found mainly in the research, engineering, and product
             development departments of organizations in technical industries such
             as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, computers, and electronics. Figure III. 1
             shows a typical dual career ladder, with one or more developmental
             positions below the branch point at which technical staff must decide
             whether to pursue a management or a technical career. In general, this
             ladder usually does not reach as high as the parallel management lad-
             der, and it has fewer positions on its top rungs. People at its highest
             levels constitute a technical elite, often nationally recognized in their
             professions and treated as corporate resources whose value goes beyond
             the department or field in which they do their work.

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                                  Interviews     With Oatside   Managers

Figure 111.1:Dual Career Ladder




                                  The corporations we studied have used dual ladders for at least 10 years
                                  and, in one case, for over 40 years. Eligible staff came principally from
                                  research and engineering positions but, in at least one organization, all
                                  technical staff were eligible for the advanced technical positions.

                                  While election to and promotion on the technical ladder required both
                                  managerial and peer review, the relative importance of this review
                                  varied among organizations. The organizations were unanimous, how-
                                  ever, in their position that the technical ladder should not be used as a
                                  “dumping ground for failed managers.” In other words, their concern

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                         Interviews     With Outside   Managers

                         focused on the need to ensure that those placed on the technical ladder
                         were selected for their high standard of technical performance rather
                         than their lack of interest or ability in managing staff.

                         The opportunities for advancement offered by both sides of the dual
                         career ladder were roughly comparable at the lower and mid-levels, but
                         were more limited on the technical side at the higher levels. In addition,
                         the technical side generally offered few, if any, opportunities to reach a
                         position equivalent to corporate officer. Yet, as noted, one of our three
                         criteria had been that rewards and status on the technical ladder should
                         be seen as equivalent to those attainable on the management ladder.
                         This does not necessarily seem to be the case.

Promotion Criteria       The organizations differed considerably in the way technical ladder
                         positions were created and filled. At one end of the spectrum, positions
                         were developed to address an identified organizational need, position
                         descriptions were quite detailed, and candidates were rated on specific
                         aspects of performance. Performance ratings then determined an indi-
                         vidual’s suitability for the position in competition with other candidates.
                         At the other end of the spectrum were organizations that focused more
                         on the development of individual staff and thus had a less structured
                         promotion process with little or no competition for positions. In all but
                         one organization, the technical ladder was used principally for the
                         development of “home-grown” staff, with few, if any, positions awarded
                         directly to individuals hired from outside.

                         Although organizations varied in the degree of tenure afforded the
                         advanced technical staff, in all cases individuals could be demoted or
                         removed from the technical ladder for “performance below the stan-
                         dards for the positions.”

Use of Technical Staff   There was considerable variability, both within and among organiza-
                         tions, in the way the advanced technical staff were used. While some
                         people worked largely on their own projects, the majority worked on
                         project teams.

                         How technical staff advice was used depended on both the organiza-
                         tion’s management style and the individual’s temperament. Although in
                         all organizations the advanced technical staff were expected to provide
                         some form of technical leadership, most were used as consultants to

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                          Mm-views     With Outside   Managers

                          management. Only one company regarded its senior technical staff as
                          equal members of the management team.

The Special Caseof NIST   The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NET) is different
                          from the five private organizations in several respects. Most of NIST'S
                          advanced technical staff function as individual contributors; in this
                          respect, the organization identifies more with academia than with pri-
                          vate industry. Instead of having a technical ladder that is smaller than
                          its managerial ladder, the ratio of advanced technical staff to managers
                          is almost 20 to 1. According to NIST management, technical professionals
                          do not want to be managers; many have to be “persuaded” to take man-
                          agement positions and will escape those positions at the earliest oppor-
                          tunity. Career ladder crossovers are believed to be fairly common. Even
                          though federal law (rather than corporate culture) governs hiring, pro-
                          motions, and career path ceilings, NIST has achieved slightly greater flex-
                          ibility through its Pay Banding Demonstration Project and OPM'S
                          technical expert program.L

Management Training and   There was little formalized organizational effort in management training
Career Assistance         or career assistance in five of the six organizations. At Xerox, however,
                          managers were expected to discuss career ladder preferences with
                          developmental staff and to provide them with both management and
                          technical experiences. In addition, all Xerox employees are required to
                          take management seminars. The company has extensive in-house man-
                          agement training and also takes advantage of the technical management
                          courses offered at MIT.

Interview Results         Of the 37 technical staff we interviewed, eleven were developmental
                          staff, 12 were middle managers, and 14 were advanced technical staff
                          who hold positions on the technical side of the dual ladder. By and large,
                          the respondents believed the ladder was a viable and important part of
                          their organizations. Some respondents suggested minor adjustments;
                          none suggested a major overhaul.

                          During the course of the structured interview, we asked the respondents
                          to evaluate what benefits this ladder had provided to their organization.
                          In their estimation, the top five benefits of the dual career ladder for

                          ‘Paragraph 3104 of Title 6 allows OPM to grant a number of positions, similar in administration to
                          SIB positions, for the purpose of attracting top drawer technical talent to government where needed.

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Interviews     With Outside   Managers

their organization were: (1) the retention of staff with uniquely valuable
technical skills, (2) opportunities for non-management advancement, (3)
sufficient opportunities for advancement, (4) opportunities for technical
staff to interact with upper management, and (5) autonomy in deciding
how to do their jobs.

These factors do not necessarily mean that individual personal prefer-
ences and needs were largely met through the technical ladder. For
example, the factor ranked first (the retention of staff with uniquely
valuable technical skills) is purely a management goal.

Concerning the relative importance of factors that contribute to or hin-
der the job satisfaction of technical staff, these staffmembers ranked
challenging work, its match with their skills and interests, the provision
of tools (such as personal computers), and the degree of autonomy
granted them as the four most important. Thus, the only one of these
factors that the dual ladder was seen to affect was the last one (i.e.,
autonomy in deciding how to do their work).

Many of the staff mentioned that a crucial requirement for advancement
on the technical ladder is an understanding of the business of the organi-
zation. They emphasized that while it is important to recognize key tech-
nical opportunities, it is at least as important to be able to sell the idea to
a sponsor, develop the idea as a viable product, and see it through to

When we asked the respondents to rate a number of factors on which
technical ladder promotions ought to be based, the top three mentioned
were (1) creativity and innovation, (2) state-of-the-art knowledge, and
(3) peer recognition as an expert. Interestingly enough, in terms of dif-
ferences among technical and nontechnical values, strong interpersonal
skills were near the bottom of the list.

We also asked the respondents about the comparability of rewards on
the two ladders, and the consensus was that those on the managerial
ladder tended to fare somewhat better. Managers were believed to have
somewhat better remuneration and perquisites, and most respondents
believed that upper management had a better understanding of the man-
agerial ladder’s contributions to the organization. The advanced techni-
cal staff, on the other hand, were viewed as slightly more likely to have
the esteem of their peers or to receive awards. When asked about sug-
gestions for improving the technical career ladder, the majority of the
respondents indicated that they were pleased with the program. The

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                          Interviews     With Outside Managers

                          most frequent suggestion was that the advanced technical staff should
                          have more input to strategic planning.

                          When the respondents were asked whether they would prefer a promo-
                          tion on the technical ladder or on the management ladder, the majority
                          of managers’ and advanced technical staff’s responses were, as
                          expected, to obtain promotion on their respective ladders.

                          Finally, it is interesting to note that staff eligible for the technical career
                          ladder in the six organizations are (1) relatively homogeneous within
                          their organizations and (2) educationally and functionally distinct from
                          other staff in their organizations. This presents a different picture from
                          that of GAO, with its extremely heterogenous technical staff, many of
                          whom perform the same functions as nontechnical staff.

Summary and Conclusions   With respect to the first set of interviews, all of our respondents spoke
                          to issues that had already been raised within GAO regarding the manage-
                          ment of interdisciplinary staff: the difficulty of hiring and retaining
                          technical staff, particularly in specialties that are in high demand; the
                          problems in interpersonal relations associated with a highly varied
                          staff; and the difficulties of merging that highly varied staff into a cohe-
                          sive unit that honors everyone’s professional ethics without compromis-
                          ing organizational goals. Most of those interviewed suggested solutions
                          to one or more of these problems, discussed above.

                          One of these solutions was the dual career ladder which functioned in
                          some of the organizations we studied and which formed the object of a
                          second set of interviews, We found that the dual ladder concept allowed
                          organizations to retain valuable expertise and promote technical staff
                          without requiring them to assume unwelcome management responsibili-
                          ties. Although top management and staff differed on whether technical
                          staff had enough power and influence in strategic planning, and
                          although the consensus among respondents was that the two ladders
                          were not equal (managers being seen as having better remuneration and
                          perquisites) both groups agreed that the dual career ladder has been

                          Page 58                   GAO/PEMD-90-l@   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
Appendix IV

A Censusof GAO’sTechnicailStaff

                        GAO'S task force on interdisciplinary management, which seeks to
                        improve the management, training and utilization of technical staff at
                        GAO, established a subgroup to define, identify, and count GAO
                        staffmembers who should be considered technical staff.

                        The criteria adopted by the task force to identify the universe of GAO
                        technical staff are given in chapter 2 (figure 2.1) in volume 1 of this
                        study (GAO/PEMD8@ls).

                        We requested the divisions, regions, and offices to review the back-
Developing the Census   grounds and assignments of their staff, and for staffmembers who met
                        our criteria, to provide his or her name, current location, grade, job
                        series, and technical field or discipline.

                        We pretested this method of capturing technical staff for the census by
                        applying it in GAO'S General Government Division (GGD).In GGD,the list-
                        ing of technical staff was prepared by the Division’s Human Resource
                        Unit. GGD’SDirector of Operations, who is familiar with the technical
                        staff in the division, reviewed the results of the pretest (i.e., appropri-
                        ateness of who was included and excluded). On the basis of the pretest,
                        which successfully captured all GGDstaff with known technical back-
                        ground, the task force concluded that the criteria and approach, while
                        not perfect, would (1) be a fair representation of GAO staffmembers who
                        have specialized or research skills not normally possessed by members
                        of the evaluator staff and (2) provide an adequate universe for the

                        After the pretest, we proceeded with the task of identifying technical
                        staffmembers GAO-wide who should be included in the census for ques-
                        tionnaire purposes. The listings of technical staff provided by the divi-
                        sions, regions, and offices were reviewed by two task force members,
                        who evaluated the lists in terms of the stated criteria and added or
                        deleted staff as appropriate. Based on task force deliberations and
                        agreements, staffmembers in some staff offices, job series, or occupa-
                        tional specialties were excluded from the lists (such as writer-editors,
                        personnel psychologists, computer systems analysts in staff offices,

                        Technical staff, as might be expected, are concentrated primarily in
Characteristics of      three divisions or in the DMTAG,TAG,or EAGtechnical assistance groups
Technical Staff         within divisions and regions. (See tables IV.1 and IV.2.)

                        Page 69           GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                Appendix IV
                                A Census of GAO’s Technical         St&

                                101, Social Science Analyst/Program Specialist, each has about 13 per-
                                cent of the population. All other staff are spread among the remaining
                                17 job series.

                                Table IV.4 shows distribution of people by organization, and tables IV.5
                                and IV.6 provide additional detail about characteristics of the technical

6ble IV.4: Technical Staff by
Organization’                   Organization                                            Number      Percent of total population
                                AFMD                             .--____                       14                                   3
                                GGD.._.-. ..-..--.- ~- --- -.--
                                .--.-                                                          52                                 11
                                HRD                                                            56                                 12
                                IMTEC                                                          90                    -       ..-.~-19
                                NSIAD .-... ---~.-...--_--___-.
                                .__-.-.--                                                      44                                   9
                                PEMD                                                           78                                 16
                                RCED -.--______~ ~. ~~                                         39            -.--______.-.          8
                                  --..- .    . .- ~-.-...---.--~ .-~                           16                                   3
                                Regions                                                        92                                 19
                                Total                                                        481                               100

                                Page 61                     GAO/PEMD-904%   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                               Appendix N
                                               A Census of GAO’s Technical   Staff

Series                                  AFMD     GGD      HRD     IMTEC       NSIAD          PEMD      RCED        Other     Regions        Total
GS.1301 Physical Scientist                 0         0       0          0             0          1            1         0            0          2
GS-1350 Natural Resources Manaaer          0         0       0          0             0          0            1         0            0          1
GS-1510   Actuary                          0         1       0          0             0          3            0         0    .-      0          4
GS-1515   Operations Research Analyst      0         3       1           1          5            9            6         0            5         30
GS-1529   Mathematkal Statiskian           0         0       1          0           2            0            0         0            0          3
                                                                                ~--                                                        -~
GS-1530   Statistician                     0         0       0          0             0          1            0         0            0          1
GS-1550   Computer Scientist               0         0       0         15             0          0            0         0            0         15
Total                                     14        52      56         90            44         76           39        16           92        461
DMTAG/TAG/ADP      Staff                  13        15      21         17            17           0          12         2           75        172

                                               Page 63                GAO/PEMDBO-18s         GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                     Appendix     V
                     Interviewe    With Staf’f Who Have LeR GAO

                     Once we had our two universes-technical      and nontechnical staff whom
                     unit managers would like to have retained-we      drew a random sample
                     from each list. We randomly selected one technical and one nontechnical
                     person from each unit to be interviewed. In all, we conducted 18 inter-
                     views with technical and 21 with nontechnical staff, plus 4 interviews
                     with technical people who had returned to GAO.(Some of the units had
                     no technical staff leave during this time period; some had no staff at all
                     leave; and some had no staff leave that they wished to retain-there-
                     fore, we could not interview one person from each of the units included.)
                     Our results cannot be generalized beyond our samples.

Staff Who Left GAO   Over 1,200 people attrited from GAOduring fiscal years 1986-88. Exclud-
                     ing those who died or retired, administrative staff, and GS-7s and below,
                     about 550 professional staff left GAO.Of these, about 20 percent were
                     designated technical by their unit managers, and about 80 percent were
                     designated nontechnical. Managers would have preferred to retain about
                     70 percent of the technical staff, and about 50 percent of the nontechni-
                     cal staff.

                     In the next sections, we present what we learned from these interviews
                     in terms of entry to GAO,integration of staff into the GAOwork process,
                     interpersonal relationships, and the decision to leave GAO.

                     Technical and nontechnical staff responded similarly to questions about
Entry to GAO         their first year at GAO.A majority of both groups said that their actual
                     experiences at GAOmatched their initial expectations. Some, however,
                     said that later in their careers, their actual experiences deviated from
                     their expectations. Both groups cited negative and positive experiences
                     with supervisors and assignments.

                     Most persons in both groups received training in their first year and said
                     that it was beneficial. However, most also said there was other training
                     they would like to have had and did not get during their first year.

Experience Versus    Work assignments and GAO'Sapproach to work were the areas cited by
Expectation          some of both groups as not always meeting expectations. For example,
                     one technical person wanted to work full time in her unit’s TAGand was
              Y      told that she would have to work as an auditor through the grade 12
                     level. Another technical person was assigned to a TAG although he was
                     hired as an evaluator and would rather have stayed an evaluator.

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                       Appendix     V
                       Interviews    With Staff Who Have Left GAO

                       would be doing programming but instead was treated strictly as an
                       evaluator and assigned accordingly. A nontechnical staffmember said
                       that she was assigned to jobs she was not interested in. Another non-
                       technical person told us she had taken a job with GAOand relocated to
                       Washington in order to develop her computer skills. But she said she
                       was told to forget everything she had learned in school and concentrate
                       on becoming an evaluator. She eventually left GAOwith the feeling that
                       she had disrupted her life for no purpose.

                       On the positive side, two technical staff said awards received on first-
                       year assignments boosted their perceptions of GAO.

First-Year Training    Most respondents, both technical and nontechnical staff, received some
                       form of training during their first year with GAO.A majority of each
                       group said the training was beneficial. However, many of each group
                       said that in retrospect they would like to have taken other courses dur-
                       ing their first year. The courses most often mentioned by both groups
                       were courses in basic auditing, workpaper preparation, and evidence.

                       Integrating staff into the work of GAOis another area we explored with
Integration of Staff   both technical and nontechnical staff who left GAO.When asked what
Into the GAO Work      technical requirements for good quality work were difficult to maintain
Process                in GAO,both groups cited problems with job design and methodology,
                       and time constraints.

                       A majority (11 of 18, or 61 percent) of technical staff interviewed said
                       there are problems with our methodology and the way we design vari-
                       ous jobs, Five commented on design issues: sampling, modeling, and
                       questionnaire design. One technical respondent said that GAOwork
                       methods conflicted with professional standards, especially with social
                       science research methods. Four technical respondents believed GAO
                       could improve its application of computer technology.

                       A minority (8 of 21, or 38 percent) of nontechnical staff interviewed
                       also had critical comments about GAO'Smethodology, but the criticisms
                       were different, focusing on problems other than design. For example,
                       one nontechnical staffmember said technical requirements are difficult
                       to maintain because of GAO'Sreluctance to allow staff to specialize in
                       specific issue areas, Another said GAOis not doing vulnerability and reli-
                       ability assessments when they should be done, and that GAOrelies too
                       much on testimonial evidence. Four nontechnical respondents joined

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SuggestedChanges in     When asked directly if GAOshould make changes in its work procedures
GAO’s Work Procedures   to facilitate good quality work, a majority of both the technical and non-
                        technical staff said yes. Specific suggestions varied. Individual technical
                        staffmembers suggested the use of more outside consultants in our
                        work; the allowance of more time to do quality work; the development
                        of procedures for documenting computer work; a change in GAO'Sorgani-
                        zation structure to bring more technically trained staff into upper man-
                        agement; and the development of technical skills in the regions.
                        Nontechnical staffmembers said that GAOshould have a policy requiring
                        headquarters staff to be more involved in audit work; that GAOshould
                        change its method of collecting data, with the objective of reducing the
                        time spent and the level of detail; that GAOshould eliminate some layers
                        of report review; and that GAOshould allow people to specialize.

SuggestedChanges in     A majority of both technical and nontechnical staff had suggestions for
GAO’s Training          GAO'Sformal and on-the-job training. Both groups believed that they
                        needed basic audit training. One technical person said that GAOshould
                        increase its computer skills. One nontechnical person said that managers
                        should show new staff what they are expected to do: for example, how
                        workpapers are to be prepared and later referenced. Another nontechni-
                        cal staffmember said that new people should be placed with “quality” or
                        “seasoned” supervisors, and have at most three or four assignments
                        during their initial years. “Don’t rotate them for the sake of rotation,”
                        he advised.

                        A majority of both technical and nontechnical respondents characterized
Interpersonal           their interpersonal relationships at GAOas generally harmonious. A
Relationships           majority of both groups also said their performance appraisals were
                        generally accurate and well justified.

Communications          A majority of both sets of respondents said that they had little or no
                        difficulty communicating their professional judgment to supervisors and
                        peers and that their peers and supervisors attempted to understand
                        their concerns to a moderate or great extent. Most also said that they
                        had the opportunity to go higher up the chain of command with a

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                            Interviews   With Staff Who Have Left GAO

                            The nontechnical respondent who said his morale was negatively
                            affected said he had received some awards but no positive reinforce-
                            ment from his supervisors, who were far removed from his jobs. He also
                            stated that he received hardly any verbal recognition.

                            Both technical and nontechnical respondents cited limited promotional
Decision to Leave GAO       opportunities as their reason for leaving GAO.More nontechnical than
                            technical staff said they would definitely recommend GAOto someone
                            with comparable experience. The two groups generally agreed on the
                            attractive features of GAO-varied work experience; professional image,
                            reputation and prestige; good working relations; improved

Reasonsfor Leaving GAO      The majority (10 of 18, or 56 percent) of the technical staff interviewed
                            cited lack of promotional opportunities among the reasons they left GAO.
                            Six of the 10 said they believed their chances for promotion would have
                            been better if they were generalist evaluators. In addition, three of the
                            four technical staff who left and subsequently returned to GAOalso cited
                            lack of promotional opportunities as their reason for leaving.

                            Responses among the nontechnical staff interviewed also turned up lack
                            of promotional opportunities among the reasons for leaving GAO,but this
                            reason was cited by a minority (7 of 2 1, or 33 percent) of nontechnical

                            Many other reasons were given for leaving GAOby both technical and
                            nontechnical staff. These included the desire for different types of work
                            experiences; travel; personal situations; and problems with

Specific Changes Needed     Most technical and nontechnical staff cited improvements that would
to Persuade Staff to Stay   have encouraged them to stay. In the same way that many cited lack of
                            promotional opportunities as the reason they left, so more promotional
                            opportunities would have encouraged them to stay. Eight people (4 tech-
                            nical and 4 nontechnical)-that  is, about 20 percent of the sample-said
                            that nothing would have persuaded them to stay.

                            One technical respondent said that managers must demonstrate that
                            they seriously want to increase technical sophistication in GAO.Several
                            technical people thought their technical skills were underutilized or that

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                          l   Professionalism, image, reputation, prestige (10 of 39 people).
                          l   Good working relationships (11 of 39 people).

Reasonsfor Returning to       Of the four technical respondents who subsequently returned to GAO,
GAO                           three were rehired at higher salaries than when they left (two at a
                              higher grade, one at a higher step). One of the staff who returned did so
                              because she was offered a higher grade and management promised to let
                              her work in the group of her choosing. Another came back primarily
                              because of personal conflicts he experienced on his new job. The third
                              returned to GAObecause he felt that GAO'Sassignments were more chal-
                              lenging. The fourth person who returned took a significant cut in salary
                              to return to GAO,but did so for personal reasons.

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Appendix VI
Survey of GAO Techuhl      Staff

report, therefore, we examine the survey responses of distinct, but often
overlapping, subgroups within that population.

Probably the most fundamental distinction among the members of the
technical staff is that between staff located in a Washington division or
office and staff located in regional offices.’ Eighty percent of the techni-
cal staff are in headquarters, and 20 percent are in the regions. A second
important distinction among members of the technical staff concerns the
role that they perform. About 46 percent of the survey respondents
report that they serve in an assistance or advisory role, in most
instances as part of a DMTAG,a TAG,or the OCE.Fifty-five percent are
managing or working on jobs for which overall responsibility rests with
their own work group within a technical division, a program division, or
a regional office. Thus, the members of this latter group are performing
functions that are in essence those of the typical GAOevaluator.

The split between assistance and evaluator functions differs dramati-
cally between headquarters and regional staff. In headquarters, 36 per-
cent of the technical staffmembers provide advice or assistance, while in
regional offices 81 percent do so (see figure VI. 1). Thus, when reporting
responses of regional office staff, we are to a very large degree report-
ing the responses of staff whose function is to provide assistance. This
is less the case when we report the responses of headquarters staff.

‘Includedin regionaloffice responses are two from staff of the European office.

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                                  Swey      of GAO Technical     Staff

                                  categorization of importance among the assistance staff is that of the
                                  kind of assistance provided. Figure VI.2 displays the primary areas in
                                  which technical staffmembers provide assistance.

Figure Vl.2: Types of Technical
Assistance Provlded
                                  60     Percent of Assistance Staff


                                  We believed that, among the staff performing evaluator functions, a dis-
                                  tinction of considerable importance would be that between staff in the
                                  two technical divisions, IMTEC and PEMD, and those in the program divi-
                                  sions and regions. Presumably, the 63 percent who are in the technical
                                  divisions are in an environment populated by staff who are similar to
                                  themselves in level of training and in area of specialization. This is not
                                  the case for the 47 percent who serve in program divisions and regions.
                                  Thus, professional isolation would seem less likely to be a problem for
                                  those in the technical divisions.

                                  Another distinction that we believed to be important within the techni-
                                  cal staff concerns educational level. As shown in figure VI.3, the techni-
                                  cal staff is divided almost equally among those holding bachelor’s,

                                  Page 77                    GAO/PEMD-9WlSS   GAO Techniwl   Skilla Task Force Report Appendixes
                                Appendix       t’x

Figure Vl.4: Yeara of Service
                                60   Percent         of Technical   Staff



                                     Lees              St09         1Otot4   15tolQ   20to24   250r
                                     than 5                                                    more
                                     Range of Years of Service

                                Among the more recent hires, that is, those hired in 1981 or later, tech-
                                nical staff are primarily located at headquarters, with a large number
                                being in PEMD(in existence only since 1980) and IMTEC(formed in 1983).
                                Linked to the difference in location is a difference in function within the
                                agency. By a considerable margin, the more recent hires are performing
                                evaluator functions rather than serving in assistance or advisory roles.

                                There is a considerable difference between the more recent hires and
                                earlier hires in educational level. Overall, 43 percent of the recent hires
                                hold doctorates, while only 15 percent of the earlier hires do so (see
                                figure VI.5). Even when PEMDstaffmembers are excluded, the difference
                                is striking, with 37 percent of the recent hires holding that degree.

                                Page 79                             GAO/PEMDSO-18s     GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                    Appendix VI
                                    Survey of GAO Technical            Staff

                                    staff. Although the assistance staffmembers do not often prepare writ-
                                    ten material to be included in the final report, the results of their work
                                    are, in most cases, discussed or presented in the final report (see figure

Figure Vl.6: Frequency With Which
A&stance Is Used in-Reports
                                    5Q   Percent   of Assistance     Staff

                                         All or almost     all       Most            About   half        Some               Few, if any

                                         Ploportlan      of Jobs

                                         I            Headquarters

                                    On the important question of the accuracy with which the results of
                                    their work are reported, the great majority of assistance staffmembers,
                                    both in headquarters and in the field, felt that most of the time the
                                    results of their work are accurately portrayed in the final report. A
                                    smaller proportion, but still a majority, of the assistance staffmembers
                                    expressed the view that in most cases the results of their work received
                                    what they considered to be adequate prominence in the final report.

                                    On the issue of whether technical adequacy might be being sacrificed by
                                    evaluator staff whom they assist, the responses of the members of the
                                    assistance staff were somewhat reassuring. When asked about the reso-
                                    lution of disagreements between the evaluator staff and themselves, 60

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                         Survey of GAO Technical         Staff

                         50   Pwcont   of Aeelstanca     Staff


Acclimatization of       Unlike those members of the technical staff engaged in providing advice
Technical Staff to GAO   and assistance, those who perform evaluator functions have control, to
                         a large extent, over the report products for the jobs on which they work,
Evaluator Role           and thus over the extent to which their work is used. For them, there-
                         fore, the issue related to GAO'Ssuccess in its efforts to integrate varying
                         disciplines into the work of the agency would seem to center around
                         how well they as individuals have been able to adjust to an organization
                         in which the mainstream professionals are from disciplines and/or edu-
                         cational levels different from their own.

                         To this segment of the technical staff, therefore, we addressed a short
                         series of questions intended to elicit an indication of the extent to which
                         as individual professionals they have encountered difficulties in GAO
                         resulting from those differences. The areas into which we inquired were:

                         Page 83                       GAO/PEMD-90-1BS   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                        Appendix VI
                                        Snrvey of GAO Technical          Staff

Flgure Vl.8: Reasonableness of GAO
Documentation Requirements
                                       60    Percent   of Technical   Staff Who Act as Evaluators



                                     Degree of Reasonableness

                                                        PEMD and IMTEC

                                                       All Other Units

                                        Here, as in other areas addressed in the survey, although the general
                                        picture may be fairly positive, there are individual members of the tech-
                                        nical staff who report high degrees of frustration. Thirteen
                                        staffmembers, nine who perform evaluator functions and four who
                                        serve in assistance roles, expressed frustration with the documentation
                                        requirements. One, in the evaluator function category, expressed his
                                        frustration through this comment:

                                        “I suspect that virtually every specialist in GAO has had to pull an introductory
                                        textbook off the shelf to index some statement. When that specialist was hired for
                                        his or her specialized knowledge and ability, this frequently comes across as an
                                        insult to the specialist’s professional competence.”

                                       Page 86                        GAO/PEMD-90-18s        GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                           Survey of GAO Tecknical    Staff

                           In the survey, we attempted to obtain an indication of the extent to
                           which technical staffmembers who are performing evaluator functions
                           in the program divisions or regions, and are thus functioning in the
                           mainstream evaluator community, felt isolated professionally. We asked
                           those individuals how much opportunity they have to interact with GAO
                           colleagues of background similar to their own. Only 34 percent said that
                           they have great or very great opportunity to do so. Thus, it appears that
                           professional isolation may be a problem for technical staff performing
                           evaluator functions in the mainstream evaluator community.

Introducing Technical      It seemed to us that an important aspect of GAO'Smovement toward the
Staff to GAO               development of an interdisciplinary staff is the foundation established
                           during a technical staffmember’s first year with the Office. For this rea-
                           son our survey inquired into the first-year experiences of those mem-
                           bers of the technical staff hired during the 1980’s2 We were primarily
                           interested in the thoroughness with which the incoming staffmember
                           had been informed of what to expect, the staffmember’s experience
                           with his or her first supervisor, and the extent of training provided the
                           new staffmember in fundamental GAOprocedures. With the exception of
                           the supervision provided the new staffmembers, there seems to be a
                           need for improvement in all of these areas.

                           About 40 percent of the technical staffmembers joining GAOin the 1980’s
                           reported that before starting work at GAOthey thought they had a clear
                           understanding of the nature of the work they would be doing. Twenty-
                           seven percent said they had only a vague idea about it, and the remain-
                           ing 33 percent recalled being somewhere between clear and vague in
                           their idea of the nature of the work they would be doing. We then asked
                           how closely their first year work experiences matched their expecta-
                           tions. Nearly one-fourth of the respondents reported that there was a
                           great match, somewhat more replied that the match was slight, at best,
                           and nearly half reported that their first year moderately matched what
                           they expected work at GAOto be.

Expectations vs. Reality   To the nearly three-fourths of the respondents who reported that there
                           had been only a moderate or slight match between their expectations
                           regarding, and the reality of, their first year at GAO,we asked in what
                           ways their work during the first year differed from what they had

                           2We excluded staff hired before 1980 from our questioning about first year experiences for two rea-
                           sons: possible difficulty in recall and insufficient relevance to current and recent GAOoperations.

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                               Appendix    VI
                               Survey of GAO Technical         Staff

                              and actuality was in the direction of less control rather than more con-
                              trol. Only 17 percent were surprised in the opposite way.

From New Staff Expectations
                              100    Percent    of New Staff Whose Expectations   Were Not Matched


                              Note: This group includes only the 177 new staff members whose expectations were not matched by
                              their GAO work. New technical staff includes people who were hired since 1990.

                               It is unrealistic to assume that in our recruiting discussions with pro-
                               spective staffmembers we could provide them with completely accurate
                               pictures of their work life at GAO.These survey results suggest, how-
                               ever, that we ought to do better than we have thus far. Further, they
                               indicate some directions in which we ought to go in better explaining
                               what the new technical staffmember will encounter, at least in the early
                               stages of his or her career. There is a consistent thread in the areas of
                               “surprise” listed above. It is that, at least in their view, new
                               staffmembers have not been fully informed that they will not be doing a
                               great deal of technically sophisticated work and that they will be sub-
                              jected to documentation and review requirements that are more strin-
                              gent than those encountered in other employment settings.

                              Page 89                      GAO/PEMD-90-18s        GAO Technical      Skills Task Force Report   Appendixes
                            Appendix VI
                            Survey of GAO Techuieal            Stnff

of GAO Procedures
                                  Porcont   of Now Tochnlcal     Staff Understanding      Procedures   Within 6 Months





                                            LI L


                            GAO Procedure

                            Note: New technical staff includes people who have been hired since 1980.

                            In each of the topic areas, a higher proportion of staff who perform
                            evaluator functions than assistance staff reported an adequate under-
                            standing. This disparity was the greatest for reporting style, 11 percent-
                            age points.

Training and Professional   The members of GAO'S technical staff generally want additional training
                            but believe that in-house courses are not the appropriate vehicle to
Development                 deliver that training. Although many have been unable to attend desired
                            training courses, seminars, or meetings during the past 3 years, most do
                            not believe that their training opportunities have been constrained to a
                            greater degree than have those of members of the evaluator staff.

                            We asked all technical staffmembers how closely the current selection of
                            GAO  in-house courses matches their training needs. As shown in figure
                            VI. 12, only a very small number of respondents felt that the in-house
                            courses provide a good match with their own training needs.

                            Page 91                      GAO/PEMD-90-18s               GAO Technical    Skills Task Force Report Appendixes
                                           Appendix VI
                                           Survey of GAO Technical          Staff

Figure VI.13 Additional Training Desired
                                           100   Percent   of Technical    Staff

                                            Type of Training

                                           Large majorities of staffmembers involved primarily in providing advice
                                           and assistance expressed interest in additional analytical and method-
                                           ological training, while among those performing evaluator functions
                                           there was widespread interest in issue-area-related training and training
                                           in supervision/management.

                                           Having established the nature of the training desired by technical staff,
                                           the survey then asked the respondents to indicate their three most pre-
                                           ferred methods for obtaining additional technical knowledge or experi-
                                           ence. Nearly 60 percent cited “seminars by professional societies” as one
                                           of their three most favored methods. The second most frequently cited
                                           method was “attending professional meetings,” with 47 percent citing it.
                                           The relative popularity of various methods of obtaining training is dis-
                                           played in figure VI.14.

                                           Page 93                        GAO/PEMD-90-18S   GAO Technical   Skills Task Force Report Appendixes