The Pacer Share Demonstration Project: Implications for Organizational Management and Performance Evaluation

By Gilbert, G. Ronald; Nelson, Ardel E. | Public Personnel Management, Summer 1989 | Go to article overview

The Pacer Share Demonstration Project: Implications for Organizational Management and Performance Evaluation


Gilbert, G. Ronald, Nelson, Ardel E., Public Personnel Management


The Pacer Share Demonstration Project: Implications for Organizational Management and Performance Evaluation

McClellan Air Force Base is engaged in a five year demonstration project aimed at both simplifying the current personnel management system and improving quality production and services in a logistics setting. The fundamental purpose of the demonstration is the design and test of a management system exportable to the entire federal sector that will accomplish the goal of better management, improved product and service quality, and correct the various deficiencies associated with traditional efficiency models. This article discusses the Pacer Share Project which offers a prototype model, using changed personnel policies, practices, and procedures to improve overall mission accomplishment performance and quality work life at the McClellan Air Force Base. This article represents the opinions of the authors and should not be construed as in any way representing official or unofficial viewpoints of the U.S. Air Force or the Office of Personnel Management.

Public organizations in the United States seem to be organized more according to the efficiency paradigm than the quality paradigm. "Good enough for government work" has the connotation that the product meets minimum, not optimum, standards. It does not imply customer satisfaction--quite to the contrary.

It has also been argued that public personnel systems have likewise been designed within the efficiency paradigm. Municiapal, county, state, regional, and federal employees have, at times, been hired for reasons of political expediency, but without the same commitment to develop the ability and expectation that they provide quality products and services. Neither have they been provided the training and orientation about the quality that would facilitate excellence in all that they do.

Public workers are generally bound by rigid bureaucratic rules and classification systems. They are held accountable for their outputs. They are appraised based on their ability to do what is "expected" without regard for the inherent limitations of the job or the built-in deficiencies of the system. They are not consulted as full partners in their organizations. In general, they are not fully engaged in the tactical planning of their agencies, i.e., sharing meaningful partnerships with management in the problem solving processes associated with identifying plans to improve process quality issues and ways to ameliorate them. Management does not generally share responsibility with workers when deciding on ways to improve product reliability, services, and customer satisfaction even though the workers are often the most knowledgeable about the causes of production and service provision problems.

Performance appraisal, as it is currently designed and used in many large public organizations may often tear apart the partnership between supervisor and subordinate and build antagonisms and adversarial relations in the peer group and work team. It may facilitate the placing of blame on the worker for situations the worker knows to be the fault of the system rather than him/herself. Conversely, it may reward the quirks of the system rather than the people worthy of recognition.

In response to the above, public personnel managers are challenged to develop constructive alternatives to those associated with the efficiency model as described above. One such alternative is Project Pacer Share at McClellan Air Force Base, Sacramento, California, a joint effort sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), based on enabling legislation from Title V of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978.

The Problem Description: Need For Improved Federal Personnel Practices

The current civil service system has some features that may impede (rather than facilitate) work groups from realizing their full potential due to insufficient incentives and built-in demotivators. …

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