Implementing Performance Measurement In The Public Sector

Let's assume you (as a responsible public sector manager) and your team have built a performance measurement framework, drafted some preliminary performance measures and indicators, and are ready to implement.

Over the course of the last couple decades working in public sector performance measurement, we've seen a lot of frameworks. We've also observed a lot of gaps when it comes to actually implementing performance measurement.

Gaps can usually be attributed to a number of organizational conditions:

  • Lack of (or lack of use of) an organizing framework – i.e. Program theory, or theory of change, most commonly expressed as a logic model, to drive the development of relevant measures and indicators.
  • Lack of understanding of the requirements for data collection, analysis, and reporting;
  • Lack of appropriate processes or structures to support data collection, analysis, and reporting;
  • Lack of clear responsibility and accountability for data collection, analysis, and reporting
  • Lack of sufficient resources – personnel, tools, supporting Information Technology – for data collection, analysis, and reporting
  • Insufficient rigor in defining data requirements, format, presentation, consistency -  i.e. data integrity
  • The perception among data providers that performance measurement is a reporting exercise, rather than one intended to provide valuable management information.

Figure 1 Gaps In Implementing Performance Measurement*

*Adapted from the NPR Performance and Planning Model

A key understanding is that these gaps are inter-related; e.g. if data is not analyzed or reported back to those who might make use of it, there is little incentive to improve data integrity.

And obviously if substantive analysis and reporting does not take place, then links to policy, planning, and management decision-making are impossible.So stakeholders perceive performance reporting as just a 'feed the beast' execise.

So, then, how do you do it? That is, how do you roll-out your system and integrate it into management practice in your organization? First, realize that implementing performance measurement is like any other improvement initiative; it requires active change management to be successful. Project management – that is, making sure events and tasks occur on schedule and within budget – is just the beginning. Here's what you need:

Requirement 1. On-going, consistent, relentless communication. I can't tell you the number of times I've been in organizations where key people had no idea that performance measurement was rolling-out. Use any and all means to get the word out to your staff, your clientele and your stakeholders.

Trust me, you can't communicate enough, and you can't communicate  important messages 'off the cuff'. You need an actual Communication Strategy, defining messages, media, audiences, and timing. And you need someone with assigned responsibility and authority to carry out that strategy. Communication needs to be consistent from conception to implementation.

Requirement 2. On-going, consistent, relentless consultation. The single most common reason for the failure of change initiatives is . . . lack of acceptance by the customer. This means you need to provide feedback mechanisms to 'take the pulse' of the people affected by the change.

You need to know what they like, what they don't like but can live with, and what is absolutely a non-starter for the various stakeholders in your performance measurement project. You only get this information by going after it. Trust me, the worst thing you can hear about any project is silence.

Requirement 3.The right team. You need a team of people with the right skills and armed with a clear understanding of the scope, roles, responsibilities, reporting and communication requirements for rolling out your performance measurement initiative. This includes having senior management support, and (perhaps) representation from key functional areas like IT, HR, Finance.

Requirement 4. The Right Roll-out Plan. Your roll-out plan includes defining all the above, plus documenting the need for training, specialist support (e.g. from your departmental IT), activities, and milestones. I strongly recommend a pilot test before fully implementing performance measurement, with a limited number of measures and stakeholders, before you bite into the whole enchilada.

Requirement 5. Your performance measurement governance strategy. Now we get to the point of it all: reporting and using and applying performance information to improve decision-making, resource allocation, and planning (See Figure 2).

To actually embed performance measurement into the management practice of your organization, you need to closely define:

  • who will collect and collate the data, in what format and at what frequency;
  • who will analyse the data and make recommendations, and in what forum;
  • who will receive the data and make decisions based on results, and how will those decisions be communicated;
  • who will act on those decisions, and how do you 'close the loop' from reporting to planning to action.

Figure 2 Performance Measurement Governance Structure

Click here to download full-size version

By the way, the need for this  kind of rigor and structure does not go away just because you use performance measurement software. You still need all the governance and communication pieces in place if implementing performance measurement is to be successful in your organization.

The PRS partners have spent the last couple decades helping public sector organizations create and implement and actually use performance measurement systems.

If you would like to discuss how we may be of assistance in your organization, please contact PRS Vice President Charlie Snelling 613 744-4084 or PRS President Scott Kelland 613 302-3924.

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