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Another First

2008 December 5

About the author: Marcus Peacock is EPA’s Deputy Administrator.

Loretta Lynn once mused — to paraphrase — while everyone wants to go to heaven, nobody wants to make the trip.

It may not be everyone’s definition of heaven, but I carry around a punch list of my goals for 2008. It comprises ten numbered items.  When a goal is reached, I punch a hole in the list next to the appropriate number.

I say it is the list of my goals, but it is really a list of goals for a large team of people at the Environmental Protection Agency.  There is nothing on this list I could do alone.  For instance, I have little idea how to establish a best practices system or create an electronic dashboard.  Nonetheless, I am able to punch items off the list because people are willing to do the hard work necessary to make EPA a better agency and better protect human health and the environment.

I sat down with some of these team members almost a year ago and went through the goals.  When I got to item number 7, there was a groan.  Number 7 seemed impossible.  It was something that no agency had ever achieved and, it seemed likely, no agency ever would achieve.  I said, “That’s okay, we’ll leave it on the list and consider it a stretch goal.”

You see, in the many years it’s been available, only two agencies have ever won the President’s Quality Award for Overall Management Excellence. Think of it as a supercharged Malcolm Baldridge Award for the federal government.  It’s not like winning an Olympic Medal.Two statues of crystal eagles  It’s more like winning 8 gold medals all at once.  It’s possible, but very rare.  And, certainly, no agency has ever won this award two years in a row.

And yet, last night, thanks to this team of EPA employees — employees who not only wanted to go to heaven, but were willing to take the trip — I took my hole puncher and punched out item number 7.  EPA won the President’s Quality Award for Overall Management . . .again.

Of  all the Cabinet and Cabinet rank agencies, EPA is the:

  • first to publish quarterly performance data;
  • first to have an ongoing public blog;
  • first to broadcast management meetings throughout the agency;
  • first to achieve and maintain the highest possible rating on the President’s Management Agenda; and, now,
  • first to receive the top award for management excellence . . . back-to-back.

Not a bad pattern to keep going.

(Find out more about how we did it at

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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One Response leave one →
  1. Lina-EPA permalink*
    December 5, 2008

    No wonder you were so chipper when I saw you in the elevator today! Happy holidays!
    I’m glad to be part of the team that contributes to the ongoing public BILINGUAL blog!

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