Cost & Performance Management

What does it have to do with SHC?? – Everything!

When the leadership at the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) sets out to make an impact on the migratory birds, fish and threatened/endangered species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, they bring their entire management toolkit to the table –including both their biological expertise and world-class cost and performance management tools. The following article describes FWS’ cutting-edge approach to integrating SHC and business processes, and the resulting management decision support information available to help them in meeting the tremendous challenges in saving the Chesapeake Bay.

Integrating Biological and Business Processes

Over the past several years, the Service has initiated two significant management initiatives from which its critical mission will be accomplished. The first management initiative is centered on the Service’s biological processes -- Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC). SHC is a science-based approach to conservation focused on providing landscapes capable of sustaining trust species populations at objective levels. This approach is founded on an adaptive, iterative process of biological planning, conservation design, conservation delivery, monitoring, and research. The FWS believes this approach is critical to effectively deal with the threats of continued human development of key wildlife habitats, invasive species, and global climate change. It is also leveraged on integration and collaboration with federal, state, and non-governmental partners.

The second management initiative is centered on the Service’s business management processes – Strategic Cost and Performance Management. Since FY2004, under the leadership of the Division of Cost and Performance Management (CPM), FWS has built and maintained an on-going activity-based costing (ABC) capability. This capability provides FWS’ executives and program managers with information and visibility into the costs of key work processes and activities. In addition to ABC, CPM also led the development of FWS’ Operational Plan (i.e., strategic plan) and associated “Critical Success Factors” (i.e., key performance measures). These key documents provide the roadmap for the organization to guide and gauge its performance against its mission and goals. ABC data and Operational Plan performance data is integrated within the Strategic Cost and Performance Management initiative, and supports a variety of business management efforts – most notably the Service’s performance-based budget planning and formulation process.

Building out capabilities with a geographic and SHC focus

In September 2007, under the leadership of FWS’ Region 5 Director (RD), Region 5 in partnership with the Division of Cost & Performance Management (DCPM) began an effort to advance Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) as a key component of the operating culture in Region 5. Specifically, DCPM to lead an effort across 27 FWS field stations within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to identify key priority species, the work performed to affect these species, and the cost of that work. This effort was split into two work streams – a prototype initiative, completed in April 2008, and the complete watershed pilot, completed in August 2008.

Pilot results provided FWS leadership with new visibility into the costs and workload associated with managing and restoring a variety of migratory bird, fish and threatened/endangered species to a specific long-term population objective. For example, the American Black Duck was identified as a priority species in the watershed, and through pilot efforts, FWS leadership gained insight into the population objectives for this species, and annual work performed (and its cost) in support of “moving the needle” towards the specific desired population outcome. Additional significant benefits to the Service include:

  • ability to very clearly articulate their contributions to the conservation and restoration of Chesapeake Bay species and resources to a wide variety of stakeholders
  • visibility into the work performed across 27 diverse field stations and offices, enabling improved internal program collaboration and cooperation in conducting and staging work
  • transparency into the full cost of work to assist in informing cross-programmatic landscape based planning and budgeting centered on specific species priorities
  • full accountability by linking field-level workload and performance measures to priority geographic and overall organizational goals and objectives.

As a result of its success, Region 5 plans to use this pilot as a stepping-off point for further geographic implementations, and to improve their collaboration/ coordination with the overall Chesapeake Bay Program and its partners. Finally, given the success of the SHC prototype effort in the Chesapeake Bay, the Region seeks to expand these modeling efforts to include both human capital management and business process improvement components.