Telling a Good Performance Story
in the Public Sector

Building a good – i.e. credible, defensible, repeatable – performance story is about a lot more than just measures and data. And the process starts well before you have defined your performance measurement framework or Scorecard.

The PRS partners have worked with a lot of public sector organizations over the last decade or so; sometimes we've been engaged to design and implement performance measurement; sometimes to assess an existing framework; and sometimes to 'fix' what's already in place.

When we find gaps or problems with existing performance measurement frameworks, it's rarely about the measures, or the data. It's usually has much more to do with analysis and attribution of performance results, and using that information to drive decision-making. In other words, the program or organization lacks a good performance story to provide the rationale and the context for performance measurement.

How do you build a performance story? You begin by answering a few fundamental questions about your program. Note I'm using the term 'program' in the following narrative, but the same applies to organizational performance reporting).

Why does your program exist? Programs exist to serve someone outside the program.

What do you want to accomplish over the life of the program? The management team must achieve agreement on the expectations of results for the program.

How are you going to deliver the program? You will spend your budget to conduct activities and produce outputs. Good performance reporting tells how well a program has done, at what cost (as per the Office of the Auditor General for Canada).

What tools do you need to improve program delivery? Identify the enablers (systems, skills, work structures, etc) that will enable you to influence or contribute to program outcomes.

How will you answer the question “how are we doing”? If your expectations for the program are clear, then identifying a suite of measures to compare actual results to expectations is easier. It's also a good idea to explain why you believe your performance information is an accurate depiction of results.

All the above form a results chain that is a key component of your performance story; your results chain provides the context necessary to understand organizational results and explain them to stakeholders.

Finally, there are the measures themselves. There's more to reporting than just data. There are three things you need to identify:

  • what you accomplished;

  • what you learned; and,

  • what you will change as a result.

In our professional practice we often use the terms Situation, Implication, and Recommendation (S-I-R) as a 'short-hand' description of these three points. Another way to think of this is as the 'What', 'So What', and 'Now What' of results reporting.

This is so important that we built S-I-R into PracticalPRS, our online data collection, analysis and reporting tool. Documenting S-I-R is the simplest, most practical way we've found to ensure good performance reporting.

If you would like help in defining your performance story, or for an on-site demo of PracticalPRS, contact PRS Vice President Charlie Snelling 613 744-4084

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