Common Performance Measurement Gaps And What To Do About Them

When our consultants do an assessment of current performance reporting practices for a client organization, we seek to first, identify performance measurement gaps and second, identify the actions necessary to close those gaps. This second part also requires an analysis of why the gaps exist.

Perhaps surprisingly, our findings often indicate that existence of data per se is not the problem. Public sector organizations generate data by nature of the work they do. However, there are often some aspects of that data that pose problems:

Gaps in quality – lack of data completeness, or data integrity. Quality and consistency in data collection and reporting is a common problem. This is most often the result of a lack of understanding across the organization of the requirements for data collection; this in turn may result from the lack of clear standards for data collection.

Gaps in analysis – data not analyzed, or not analyzed from the appropriate perspective. Data is worth little by itself; data must be analysed to be useful. Thorough analysis usually needs to happen at (at least) two levels: first, the situational analysis and implications of the data by the person(s) closest to the work being measured. And second, a higher-level, 'big-picture' analysis from the management team accountable for results.

Gaps in reporting/distribution – reports don't reach the groups that need to make use of the data. This gap and the previous one are sometimes related. Sometimes data is collected, but results are not cascaded to the units doing the work that generated the data. Sometimes key stakeholders who should be involved in the analysis of data are excluded.

Gaps in usage – results are not linked to planning, management, resource allocation, decision-making, continuous improvement. This is probably the most egregious gap; to go through all the effort to collect and analyse data, and then not 'close the loop' by using it for organizational improvement and learning.

These performance measurement gaps can be attributed to a number of organizational conditions that we have observed.

Lack of (or lack of the use of) an organizing framework – i.e. a logic model or strategy map to drive the development of relevant measures and indicators, a Data Collection Strategy to define the standards and sources of data collection.

Lack of clear responsibility and accountability - the responsibility for data collection, analysis, and reporting needs to be clearly documented and enforced by means of a performance measurement Governance Structure and a formal Communication Strategy. The Governance Structure identifies the 'what' and the 'who' of collection, analysis and reporting, and the Communication Strategy identifies the 'how', 'when', and 'where'.

Lack of sufficient resources – e.g. personnel, tools, supporting information technology – for data collection, analysis, and reporting. Performance measurement is like any other initiative or activity; it needs a plan, a budget, and responsible personnel to do the work. This comes about when performance measurement is not valued by the organization i.e. the perception is that performance measurement is a reporting exercise, rather than one intended to provide valuable management information.

The solution to fixing these public sector performance measurement gaps is simple to state, but can be a little more challenging to implement. Bottom line, you need a properly-funded and resourced performance measurement strategy, with an organizing framework and defined responsibilities and processes for data collection, analysis and reporting. Anything less than this will give you the gaps.

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