Management by Objectives

Original Text (not available online)

Effective Dates
4/18/1973 - 1976

Reform Goals
“To gain greater control administrative control over major executive branch departments and agencies” - President Nixon. An attempt to streamline and supervise the agencies administering Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs, the system outlined in Nixon’s memorandum to the then 21 regulatory agencies was to set clear goals and accountability for each manager in a federal agency. 

Requirements (What of Whom?)
Required 21 federal agencies to report “presidential-level objectives” to the OMB and show estimated budget outlays related to Fiscal Year 75 objectives. [1] “Management associates” were hired at the OMB to help major agencies in prepare objectives, track progress, examine budgets, and act as intermediaries between the agencies and the OMB. [2]

Who oversaw the rule? 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 

Reform “Teeth”
None, OMB management associates had no formal control over agency actions or decisions on how to implement MBO. [3]

None; the program was discontinued in 1976 by President Ford. [4] 

While agencies did identify more than 450 objectives, implementation was slow and OMB sponsors quickly lost interest in the program, frequently cancelling meetings with agency heads. Over 80 percent of proposed objectives were purely formal, apolitical exercises in book-keeping and reporting rather than substantive reforms to agency structure or objectives. [5]  Finally, many of the objectives were generalized (ex: “the abolition of crime in society”) and difficult to measure. [6]


  1. Chester Newland. “Policy/Program Objectives and Federal Management: The Search for Government Effectiveness.” 1976. Link
  2. “Performance Budgeting: Past Initiatives offer Insights for GPRA Implementation.” GAO, March 1997. p. 43. Link , PDF 
  3. See Page 44. United States General Accounting Office. Report to Congressional Committees. "Performance Budgeting. Past Initiatives Offer Insights for GPRA Implementation." March 1997 Link , PDF
  4. Marcus Peacock. "Improving the Accountability of Federal Regulatory Agencies: Part I: A Review of Government-Wide Efforts." George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center. June 22, 2016. Link , PDF
  5. Richard Rose. “Implementation and Evaporation: The Record of MBO.” Public Administration Review, Vol. 37, 1977. Link
  6. See Page 45. Reference [3].