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Management experts in the early half of this century adopted simplistic approaches to the ratio of managers to workers, and unequivocally stated that the optimal ratio was one manager to five or six workers. Related research on group effectiveness generally showed that groups of five to seven performed best. Larger numbers led to group conflict, problems of coordination, and less effective group participation.

More recent management experts have argued that a variety of factors must be considered in determining manager-to-worker ratios. Among those factors are the complexity and interdependence of the work, the rate of change in the work environment, and the significance and impact of the organization's products. Organizations that solve problems innovatively on behalf of others, like consulting firms, high technology corporations, and GAO, tend to need a larger number of managers relative to numbers of workers. However, these managers do not 'manage" in the classical sense of giving direct orders to groups of subordinates. Rather, they spend considerable time coaching and mentoring highly educated, professional staff and coordinating work internally among independent, multidisciplinary teams addressing a wide range of research questions affecting similar areas. They often participate in and contribute to the work on complex issues, they represent their organization in meetings and negotiations with others outside the organization, and can commit organizational resources.


GAO senior executives provide expertise and leadership for work on the operations and policies of complex, constantly changing government programs and activities. The results of their work are frequently at the center of public debate. Further, from 1990 through 1995, GAO work has achieved about $135 billion in measurable financial benefits.

In the past decade, responsibilities of GAO's senior executives have expanded dramatically, matching the expansion in the scope and complexity of GAO's work. Today, GAO executives-most of whom are issue area directors or associates-must demonstrate an in-depth expertise and conceptual understanding of the operations of one or more agencies, or of governmentwide functions, that is at a level equivalent to an agency's head or a program or functional expert's. They routinely meet with the highest level officials in federal, state and local government, the private sector, and international organizations and other national governments.

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Most of GAO's senior executives are responsible for responding to requests from the Congress for audits or evaluations of government programs within the framework of one of GAO's 32 issue areas. To carry out this responsibility, they must develop expertise in issues such as financial management reform, information technology, health care delivery and financing, major weapon systems, the administration of the tax system, transportation programs, or the implementation of governmentwide management initiatives.

To be successful, issue area senior executives' understanding of these agencies and programs must be commensurate with, and over time may exceed, the scope of knowledge expected from senior agency officials in the executive branch. Management of our work also requires issue area executives to develop knowledge about and professional relationships with representatives of the other organizations that are relevant to or affect the agencies they review.

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On a day-to-day basis, issue area senior executives bring conceptual and team-building leadership to the work we do and to the staff carrying out that work. These responsibilities include the development of a strategic vision for the issue area to anticipate and plan for the evolution of issues facing the Congress. Issue area executives contribute directly to the methodological design and development of complex individual assignments, to the framework and sophistication of the analysis of the data, and to the structure and content of GAO reports. A typical issue area senior executive team may manage 25-50 assignments, involving statt in Washington and several regional locations. In addition to their substantive contributions, they are expected to motivate assignment teams to meet important congressional deadlines, to do so efficiently, and in a constantly changing environment.

GAO executives testify frequently on the results of our work before committees of the Congress. As shown in table 1, for example, in fiscal year 1995, 72 senior executives testified a total of 246 times, and this pace has been matched or exceeded in most recent fiscal years. During the period from fiscal year 1990 through fiscal year 1995, GAO senior executives testified before congressional committees more than 1,500 times.

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To be responsive to congressional needs in testimony, our senior executives must command both very detailed knowledge about the specific work being reported as well as a depth of understanding of the issues and operations of the agencies or programs under review and the context in which the issues are being debated. BAND MIS PROVIDE DAY-TO-DAY DIRECTION AND MANAGEMENT OF WORK FOR CONGRESS

Historically Band Is, as assistant directors, have been the hands on supervisors of the assignments we carry out They demonstrate expertise at a program or sub-agency level, and for several concurrent assignments design the project plan, supervise and participate in data collection and analysis, and ensure that products are delivered on time, within cost estimates, and meet GAO's demanding quality standards.


Typically, a Band III assumes responsibility for a logically defined sub-issue within an issue area's responsibilities. To be successful, they must develop an in-depth expertise about those specific aspects of an agency's programs or functions that affect this sub issue, and plan assignments in response to specific congressional requests or in anticipation of future congressional needs. They must motivate individual assignment teams and provide support to ensure that obstacles can be overcome and the work completed on time and within manageable costs. Oftentimes they participate in key interviews and analyses and may be the primary authors of our reports, particularly on more complex assignments. They are often the principal contact with congressional staff in presenting the results of specific assignments.

As assignments have become more complex, and as the demands for information to be provided more quickly have increased. Band Ms have become more closely focused on fewer assignments, typically 3 to ni to mnable them to provide the in-depth support and

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management necessary to meet these demands, and produce high quality products on time.

In recent years, as we have undertaken work in increasingly technical and complex areas, we have also strengthened our capacity by employing technical experts to support our work. Specialists in such areas as information technology, financial management, economics, statistics, tax administration, and ther elds significantly enhance our capability to address complex issues. Many of these specialists also occupy Band III positions because it is necessary to pay salaries in that pay range to retain a high level of expertise. Today, about 17 percent of our Band IIls are providing specific technical or functional expertise rather than filling the traditional assistant director role.


Our and others' work on the management of organizations that are being downsized shows that continuous workforce planning and concern about the morale and stability of the surviving workforce are important to the continuing success of the downsized organization. After a reduction and the necessary adjustment of staff allocations both in headquarters and regional offices, as has occurred at GAO, staff may be faced with new or changed jobs and may need additional support to achieve the level of productivity required in our smaller environment.

Studies of organizations that have downsized have also found that retention and motivation of the remaining employees is an important factor in maintaining an effective, if smaller, organization. Career development and progression opportunities remain important as factors in encouraging and motivating surviving staff. Reductions in middle management positions need to be balanced with the need to permit staff at all levels to aspire to and achieve career growth.

In GAO and in other organizations that have downsized, the departure of many senior, experienced staff results in a loss of expertise that requires additional adjustment for remaining staff, places increasing demands on managers and executives, and requires a continuing investment in training. In a smaller GAO, managers and senior executives will increasingly face significant competing demands to manage a complex workload while also providing support and training for staff.


Successful management of GAO during this period of downsizing and in the upcoming transition at the end of my term of office will require maintenance of a strong leadership that can provide continuity and assure that our work continues to be timely and of high quality.

We, therefore, need to retain flexibility in the assignment of Band IIls and senior executives. Some promotions to Band III positions will be necessary to ensure that our workload can be effectively managed. Similarly, the ability to establish, make appointments to, or eliminate senior executive positions within the broad guidelines of our existing authorities is critical to our ability to maintain the governmentwide program and issue area expertise that make our work most useful to the Congress. We will consult with our appropriating and authorizing committees about our management needs as we work to meet our future responsibilities to the Congress with fewer resources.

We are providing copies of this letter to the Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch; the Chairman and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee; the Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight; and the Legislative Subcommittee, House Committee on Appropriations.

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