Winter 2013
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The Public Manager

Performance Measurement 2.0—What Will We Do With It?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

We are awash in data. We must now learn to develop effective strategies and allocate resources using that data, as we set standards and develop employees with renewed focus.

It's been a pleasure helping to put together this special performance management Forum for this issue of The Public Manager. As the policy director at The Performance Institute, we've been grappling with these issues for more than 15 years. We continue to see fresh insights and new perspectives in our research and advisory work with federal, state, local, and international governments.

When the institute began in 1999, the lack of data constrained improved performance. Today, this paradigm has been completely upended as organizations report they are awash in data and now struggle to manage or make sense of it. In this new era, it's the ability to understand the challenges and develop effective strategies, not simple measurement, that really matters. In this Forum, we've gathered some of the field's leading thought leaders to address a few of the critical issues we all face on the road to improved results.

As an appointed member of the new Budgeting for Results Commission for the state of Illinois, Jason Saul presents an up-close look at how to implement budgeting for results in Illinois. By moving from simply demanding more data and more metrics to actually understanding desired outcomes and standardizing evaluation around those results, Illinois is out in front of much of the rest of the country and presents an intriguing model for other states and the federal government.

In "Transforming into a Performance-Based, Results-Oriented Culture," Laura E. House and Spurgeon Kennedy give us another first-person perspective into the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia. The agency has made major advances on a journey that began more than 10 years ago with early data collection efforts and now has reached a much higher level of maturity due to cultural change, leadership buy-in, and other key management practices that must accompany the development of metrics.

For a larger perspective, John M. Kamensky, who led Al Gore's reinventing government effort and is now a leading expert in performance issues, gives us a bird's-eye view of what's driving the enhanced focus on performance, outcomes, and evaluation at the highest levels of government, including the White House and Congress, and what it means going forward for managers throughout federal organizations.

As a new position in many organizations, performance analysts are still working to understand their role and convey it to others. What are the expectations and requirements to excel and truly improve results? In "15 Roles Leaders Play to Manage Performance and Accountability," management expert Chris DeVany looks at the multiple skill sets required for all of us working to drive performance and outcomes inside our organizations.

One of the more troubling issues in this subject area is the continuing disconnect between planning and measurement and its negative impact on execution and achievement. In "Mind the Gap: Bringing Planning and Analytics Together in Government," I detail The Performance Institute's experience with this issue and some promising practices to connect the two that we've started to see in local government.


Another frequent refrain in strategic measurement and planning concerns misalignment and the lack of prioritization. In fact, actual resource allocation often does not match the strategies and measures represented in these plans. In "Align Strategic Plans to Reduce Fragmentation and Redundancy," Marie Muscella, Amy Squires, and Yashoda Bhavnani, detail how MITRE, the federally funded research and development center, utilized new techniques to expose this misalignment in one federal agency. Through this analysis, the differences between the stated strategies and the actual resource decisions were clarified for senior agency leaderships and real improvements followed.

Although improving planning and measures are vital, it is improved competencies, processes, and practices that actually drive improvement. For more and more government organizations, centers of excellence are critical to that effort. In "Virtual Centers of Excellence Provide Catalysts for Innovation," expert Ron Bohlin discusses vital steps on how to create efficient and effective knowledge hubs that can serve large organizations regardless of their location.

Enhancing organizational efficiencies has become critical in our era of declining resources. How can we use measures to get there? In "Avoiding Management's Middle-Age Spread," corporate measurement expert and author Mark Graham Brown discusses his distraction index tool and how he's using it in both government and private-sector settings to enhance motivation and bring employees back to where they want to be: focused on their mission-critical work.

Finally, why are we still spending relatively little time thinking of our ultimate audience, the taxpayer? In "Reporting to the Citizens about the Business of Government," Eveanna Barry, the director of performance reporting at the Association of Government Accountants, updates us on the new reporting format that agencies at the state, local, and federal levels are now adopting. By using a standard and a well-designed template, agencies are now bringing a clear and concise picture of their mission, metrics, and results to the widest possible audience—all of us.

I welcome your comments, notes, and your own lessons learned in performance management.

About the Author

Jon Desenberg is policy director of The Performance Institute. He has more than 20 years of public management experience. He led the U.S. General Services Administration’s performance management program, which resulted in the largest single enterprise-wide performance program in the federal government. Contact him at [email protected].

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