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Effective Administrative Restructuring: Lessons from the NIH Experience

By Fall 2003, NIH had become responsible for so many administrative reforms that the agency requested the National Academy of Public Administration’s advice and assistance.

The Academy previously had assisted NIH with benchmarking and analysis in one function. This new assignment was much broader, encompassing significant reforms in acquisition, budget, equal employment opportunity, facilities, finance, grants, human resources, and information technology.

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Key Findings

In the year and a half that the Academy worked with NIH to help implement ARAC, one group or another at NIH has learned better ways to restructure administrative services. The Academy and NIH observed these lessons as they developed, and endeavored to transfer them from one group to another.


Recommendations

As part of its work with NIH, the Academy identified the following six major lessons for helping federal agencies to moderate and manage the risks and unintended consequences unleashed by multiple demands for organizational and process change.

  1. Give the agency's mission top priority
  2. Provide strong, sustained leadership for change
  3. Keep the goals for administrative charge within manageable bounds
  4. Communicate early and often
  5. Provide sufficient change-management tools to support smooth transitions
  6. Emphasize fact-based decision-making