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Performance Information in the Public Sector: How It Is Used



Performance information has long permeated the public sector. The actual use of performance information however has long been taken for granted. This book is one of the first to bring together an international team of acclaimed academics focusing on how and whether politicians, public officials, and citizens use public sector performance information. Combining practical experience with academic analysis this book explores the social and organizational dynamics of performance indicators. It moves beyond the technicalities of measurement and indicators and looks at how performance information is changing the public sector.

Chapters (14)

Martha S. Feldman, a distinguished student of the role of information in organizations and in decision making starts her seminal book Order without Design by writing about her experiences undertaking fieldwork for a research project in the US Department of Energy: When I explained to the members of this office that I was interested in how the policy office produces information and how it was used, I was met time and again with the response that the information is not used. (Feldman, 1989: 1)
In a critical analysis, Radin (2006) argued that the concern for performance in the United States has become so ubiquitous that it has taken the form of a movement — the performance movement. It is characterized by a mindset of long-term and mid-term goal setting, indicators, and quantitative measurement. In this chapter, I argue that we have witnessed not one, but several performance movements that have attempted to measure government outputs or outcomes in the twentieth century.
This chapter examines how agencies use performance information, and in particular the potential for performance information to foster goal-based learning in the public sector. The most crucial indicator for whether measuring performance is worth the effort is whether public managers are using performance information (Hatry, 2006). It is also the most difficult aspect of performance management, requiring individuals and organizations to change deeply entrenched decision behaviors by widening the scope of the information considered.
Over the past two decades there has been a significant increase in the use of performance management systems in the public sector internationally. These systems are widely used, but also criticized (Bouckaert and Peters, 2002; de Bruijn, 2002; Holzer and Yang, 2004; Johnsen, 2005; Radin, 2006). Over time, performance measurement has become more systematic, specialized, professionalized and institutionalized (Van Dooren, 2006). Performance information related to goals and objectives, measured through performance indicators and reported through ICT-based systems has increased (Bouckaert and Halligan, 2006). Yet, performance-based strategic steering is limited (Pollitt, 2006c).
Performance measurement has been expected to produce information that can be used to make better and more rational decisions. In the United States,thisbelief is directlyrelated to performance measurement’s lineage — scientific management and its perceived contribution to better government (see also Van Dooren in Chapter 1). In the early 1900s, organizations focused on developing procedures and measurement techniques to improve efficiency and increase the productivity of workers. For public organizations, the interest in efficiency, which is built into the traditional approaches to accountability (Brunsson, 1989: 5; Radin, 2002) was a reaction to the pervasiveness of patronage and corruption in the way government conducted its business. Thus began a series of efforts to replace rather subjective assessments of government performance with systematic and more precise measurement. There was an optimistic view that performance measurement would automatically lead to rational decision making and, thus, to good government (see also Chapter 13 by Van de Walle and Roberts). Performance measurement in this chapter refers to measures or indicators of inputs, outputs, efficiency, effectiveness and outcomes.
This chapter compares the models for managing performance of four countries and the extent to which they have been implemented. The approach is, first, to examine the countries in terms of their official models and how these compare to an ideal type of Performance Management. The second part addresses how the country models work in practice, focusing on the main dimensions of performance. The countries have well-developed performance management systems, but practice falls short of aspirations, and questions remain about the quality and use of performance information in the budget process, internal decision making and external reporting. Details of the country material and references are in Bouckaert and Halligan (2008).
Public services are by their nature complex (Moore, 2002), involving a large number of stakeholders. As a result, the number of public sector performance measures can quickly rise in order to reflect this complexity and to be accountable to the various stakeholders. Hood gives an example of the Health Department in England, where ten top-level targets “were translated into some 300 lower-level targets for various public sector health-delivery organizations” (2006: 515). In many countries we have seen a rapid proliferation of policies introducing performance indicators and targets in all areas of the public service sector, from local and central government to education, health and community care.
Performance measurement systems are promoted as mechanisms of accountability and, thus, enhancements to democratic control. Choices mustbe made aboutwhether the unitof accountability will be individuals, programs, agencies or larger systems. Focusing on the performance of the individual program or agency has the benefit of establishing clear lines of accountability, and has emerged as the most common focus of performance measurement systems. At the same time, the importance of partnerships and other forms of collaboration have been emphasized in management theory and practice. Complex social problems are typically addressed by multiple organizations inside and outside government, so (at a minimum) coordination among programs is necessary in order to avoid duplication or gaps, as well as to achieve better outcomes. The question is whether, and how, typical approaches to performance management are impacting partnerships and collaborations. Self-aligning collaborations, performanceagreements and social indicatorsare explored as mechanisms for achieving both accountability and collaboration in pursuit of outcomes oriented performance.
Performance management has become a defining feature of public administration, especially in OECD countries (Bouckaert and Halligan, 2006; Radin, 2000). Performance management consists of three routinized activities. The first is measuring the outputs, outcomes and throughputs of organizations, people and programs in government, thereby generating what will hereafter be called performance information. The second is analyzing performance information by comparing current performance levels to past ones, normative standards (like goals), and the performance of other organizations. The third activity is communicating performance information to appointed and elected decision makers in government.
This chapter turns its attention to the issue of how performance information is and isn’t used by the United Kingdom’s parliamentary scrutiny committees involved in scrutinizing government activity. Whilst performance management is largely rooted within the technocratic administrative arena, there is a growing trend towards the possibility, at least, that performance information could be used as one source of data for the purposes of supporting the democratic polity (Pollitt, 2006b). The case of the Public Service Agreements (PSAs) discussed below is, ostensibly, one example where there has been the intention to support the democratic use of performance information. The findings may lend support to Pollitt’s assertion that politicians, if interested in performance information at all, are interested in broad brush data only. They appear not to be engaged by the prospect of carrying out detailed scrutiny. However, the government itself has not given the PSA policy the precedence it deserved and may be partly responsible for the lack of scrutiny that PSA policy received.
We do not know a great deal about the way performance information is used in public policy in modern democracies (Pollitt, 2006b). Nonetheless, there lies a great potential for decision makers to use performance information to assess and enhance efficiency and effectiveness, as well as to provide feedback to stakeholders in the political system about the need for policy innovation. The tools that generate performance information include the use of performance indicators (PIs), performance audits and evaluations. This chapter focuses on the use of performance indicators as a means of informing public policy.
The New Public Management was a catalyst for monitoring activities in the public sector (Bouckaert, De Peuter and Van Dooren, 2003; Mayne and Zapico-Goni, 1997; Vedung, 1997). The Netherlands is no exception with amongst others a drug monitor, an integration monitor and a traffic mobility monitor. These monitors track policy-relevant developments in a systematic and periodic way. Although monitoring of policy processes is quite common in the public sector, the utilization of these monitors remains under-explored (Poister, 1983; Vedung, 1997). In the current mode of monitoring, rational assumptions are dominant (De Kool and van Buuren, 2004). This chapter argues that besides the rational approach, we need cultural and political perspectives for a better understanding of the utilization of monitors.
Today, performance measurement is a widely accepted tool of government management in the United States. At the national level, the George W. Bush administration has adopted the Performance Assessment Rating Tool to integrate performance measurement into strategic planning and budgeting (Breul and Moravitz, 2007). Many US state and local governments and professional organizations also have their own initiatives to promote performance measurement, “results-oriented” management, and public performance reporting (Berman and Wang, 2000; Jordan and Hackbart, 1999; Melkers and Willoughby, 2001; Poister and Streib, 1999).
Previous chapters have discussed, from a variety of viewpoints, the usefulness of the information generated by performance measurement processes in government. This chapter extracts from these materials, and discusses, three major dimensions of usefulness. These dimensions include: first, technical features on which usage may depend; second, the variety of types of potential users, each of whom is likely to need somewhat different performance information; and, third, the major ways in which performance information can be used. Then the chapter identifies the very substantial limitations of performance information, a topic that has seldom been well articulated in the past. Finally, the chapter does some crystal-ball gazing, discussing the future of performance measurement and performance management, especially as it relates to their likely future usefulness.
... This literature has largely put performance information (PI; i.e., goals, targets, indicators) at the centre of scholarly interest (see Moynihan and Pandey, 2010;Van Dooren and van de Walle, 2016). There exists much evidence about how performance information is used by politicians (e.g., Ho, 2006;Liguori et al., 2012;Sterck, 2007) and factors that enhance or inhibit the latter, but also different types of use (e.g., Grossi et al., 2016;Van Dooren et al., 2015). ...
The paper explores how members of parliament (MPs) address gender-related aspects in the budgeting process at the central level in Germany, a country that pursues gender equality as a global objective but has not implemented gender budgeting (GB) (yet). Nevertheless, from a budgeting perspective the German context is interesting, as parliament has unrestricted powers to amend the budget draft. The study follows approaches in performance management literature streams that have explored different types of performance information use. Building on a qualitative analysis of parliamentary budget debates, our results show that gender-related aspects matter in budgeting even when GB is not implemented. However, resources are less often referenced than programmes and policies in the budget debates. We find that MPs address gender-related aspects in a differentiated way (reflected in four types of performance information use), and that this is affected by user characteristics: the MPs’ gender, their party affiliation, committee membership and in some aspects, their age. While it may not come as a surprise that female MPs act as advocates for gender-related aspects, it is interesting that female MPs are more likely to reference resources when addressing gender-related aspects than male MPs. Further, our analysis of types of performance information use shows that a party's position as either a part of a governing coalition or opposition, as well as party lines across the opposition, affect the way in which gender-related aspects are addressed: exerting supportive use types (i.e., legitimizing, highlighting) and rather challenging use types (i.e., de-legitimizing, deflecting). Points for practitioners Even in a context where gender budgeting is not implemented, members of parliament (MPs) reference gender equality in budget debates. The frequency and the way in which gender-related aspects are referenced mirrors MPs’ stance towards gender equality (rather supportive/rather challenging). Female MPs are more likely than male MPs to draw attention to the allocation of resources for gender-related issues. More female MPs in parliament may strengthen advocacy for gender-related aspects, particularly if budget documents do not contain gender-related performance goals.
... The findings presented here contribute to the small but growing literature addressing the use of performance information in the context of public sector reforms (Moynihan and Pandey, 2010, Pandey, 2015, Van Dooren and Van de Walle, 2008. To the best of our knowledge, there are no prior case studies addressing the contributions of implementation of PM interventions in the context of health reforms in low-and middle-income countries, nor of the integration of a determinant framework like CFIR in theorydriven evaluation. ...
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Performance management (PM) reforms have been introduced in health systems worldwide to improve accountability, transparency, and learning. However, gaps in evidence exist regarding the ways in which PM contributes to organizational-level outcomes. Between 2015 and 2017, the government of El Salvador and the Salud Mesoamerica Initiative (SMI) introduced team-based PM interventions in the country's primary health care (PHC) system including target setting, performance measurement, provision of feedback, and in-kind incentives. The program's evaluation showed widespread improvements in performance for community outreach and service timeliness, quality, and utilization. The current study characterizes how the implementation of team-based PM interventions by SMI implementers contributed to PHC system performance improvements. We used a descriptive, single-case study design informed by a program theory (PT). Data sources included qualitative in-depth interviews and SMI program documents. We interviewed the members of four PHC teams (n=13), ministry of health (MOH) decision makers (n=8), and SMI officials (n=6). Coded data were summarized, and thematic analysis was employed to identify broader categories and patterns. The outcomes chain in the PT was refined based on empirical findings that revealed the convergence of two processes: 1) increased social interactions and relationships among implementers that enhanced communication and created opportunities for social learning; and 2) cyclical performance monitoring that generated novel flows of information. These processes contributed to emergent outcomes including the uptake of performance information, altruistic behaviors in service delivery, and organizational learning. Through time, the cyclical nature of PM appears to have led to the spread of these behaviors beyond the teams studied here thus contributing to system-wide effects. Findings illustrate the social nature of implementation processes and describe plausible pathways through which lower-order implementation program effects can contribute to higher-order changes in system performance.
... Una pressione cioè, più o meno formale, volta ad ottenere l'accesso a dati relativi alla performance realizzata dall'amministrazione, da questa monitorata o controllata nell'ambito delle proprie attività. Le pressioni esterne, legate alla domanda ora citata, hanno una indubbia influenza nel determinare le scelte dell'amministrazione in tema di misurazione, tuttavia spesso tali pressioni sono parziali, discontinue e creano una domanda cui è possibile dare risposta frammentata o temporanea senza che risulti necessario sviluppare un sistema di misurazione (Van Dooren e Van de Walle, 2008). La parzialità del punto di vista che interessa ciascuno degli interlocutori esterni può in altri termini convivere con una parzialità di dati e informazioni e del resto l'amministrazione non può certo rincorrere le richieste di un soggetto o l'altro, dovendosi piuttosto accreditare come fonte autorevole di dati e informazioni che sono frutto di una scelta, di una selezione di priorità. ...
Technical Report
Il tema della diffusione del performance management nelle amministrazioni pubbliche centrali può essere affrontato da molti punti di vista. E’possibile focalizzarsi anzitutto sulle riforme intervenute in un determinato contesto e osservarne il percorso di attuazione (Pollitt e Bouckaert, 2000). Si possono osservare gli strumenti impiegati dalle amministrazioni e le dimensioni di progettazione dei sistemi di misurazione e valutazione della performance (Valotti et al., 2012). Si possono identificare i vincoli e le opportunità di sistema e le peculiarità che contraddistinguono il caso italiano. Oppure è possibile porre al centro dell’analisi il soggetto più che l’oggetto e dedicare attenzione ai dirigenti pubblici e cioè a coloro che, concretamente, sono chiamati a tradurre in concreto le riforme, impiegare effettivamente nuovi strumenti manageriali, superare i vincoli e mettere a frutto le opportunità. Quella dei dirigenti pubblici, delle loro percezioni e del loro ruolo, è la prospettiva entro la quale si sviluppa la presente ricerca con l’obiettivo di restituire al tema del performance management una dimensione soggettiva.
Public-sector performance measures can steer social changes at a distance by offering conceptualizations of such changes. As such, measurement can be a powerful political tool in defining and redefining the desired social change in societies. It is this political power embedded in measures that has attracted political competition in the world of performance measurement. This chapter aims to clarify how performance measures end up incentivizing new forms of social changes that serve some political agendas while ignoring competing ideologies of the opposition. Lessons learned from past studies are discussed to show how performance measures describe new forms of social changes by defining and redefining measurement objects, such as desired events and activities in governments’ operating environment. The results of the chapter reveal why politics of performance measurement can advance social changes in societies. Moreover, the analysis summarizes the main chains of events leading to politically valuable performance measures that either define or redefine valuable social change. The summarized knowledge provided in this chapter helps the reader to comprehend how performance measures can drive social change that supports the political elite who designed the measures. Understanding the politics of performance measurement and its role in social change can benefit those trying to change societies.
Performance management theory has been largely organizational with a focus on the decision maker, operating within the public-sector hierarchy. But such an understanding misses most contexts that are more horizontal and fall somewhere between intra-organizational team structures and inter-organizational collaborations. To address this gap, this article puts forward the concept of collective performance data use; a group-level construct defined through the lateral, voluntary, and reciprocal negotiations among partners. Drawing on related literatures, it develops a theoretical framework to explain collective data use based on three relational mechanisms (system sensemaking, deliberation routines, and dissent-conflict balancing) and a set of mechanism-activating antecedents, out of which four are featured in greater detail: connectedness, power imbalance, expertise configurations, and distributed leadership. The article argues we need to update extant performance management theory using a relational perspective if we want to better understand the social side of performance practices and related behaviors.
Research has demonstrated that certain drivers increase the probability of performance data use in local government. One performance driver that has received minimal attention is where the performance function is organizationally located, even though prior research has shown that the organizational placement of the performance function can potentially influence the design and use of performance measurement systems. Our study explores how the organizational placement of the performance function in local government influences key drivers of performance data use. We find evidence that performance functions located outside the budget office are more likely to promote the drivers of measurement system maturity, other management processes, and devolved decision‐making, which in turn increases the probability that local officials engage in performance data use. We also identify several research implications to advance the study and practice of performance management in local government and conclude with research limitations and suggestions for future research opportunities.
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Pivotal for decision making quality in representative governing boards of local authorities is that performance information is used in a purposeful way by its members to challenge the status quo and express constructive changes in support of collective learning (i.e., voice). However, despite the presumed importance of purposeful use of performance information and voice, empirical insights on the relationship between both constructs as well as the motivational mechanisms fostering voice are limited. To address this omission, we build on motivated information processing theory and develop a model that includes a person-based and situation-based pathway. Data from 520 politicians populating the representative governing boards of 242 local authorities in Belgium are used to test the developed model. Results indicate that the studied drivers help explain the detected variance in purposeful use of performance information and voice, but that the role of individual antecedents like public service motivation and open-mindedness is predominant.
This research paper sets out to identify if household water inequality consumption in Mexico City is expressed itself in a spatial distribution pattern. The methodology is based on spatial data analysis performed on Geoda software. Data were obtained from the city’s water operating agency for 2019. The results reveal that exist a household water consumption’ spatial pattern: households located in the central-western area register a high consumption of water, while those in peripheral areas of the southern and southeastern register a lower consumption. This pattern confirms that water consumption increases as households move from the poorest periphery to the central area of the city. These findings suggest the urgency of the city’s public water utility to adopt strategies to reduce discrimination in the poorest areas. Thus, this research contributes to closing the information gaps on inequality water consumption in cities in developing countries.
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Türkçe: Dünyanın her bölgesinde kamu yönetimlerinin verimliliğinin, etkinliğinin ve hesapverebilirliğinin arttırılması ortak bir ideal olarak görülmektedir. Bunu sağlayabilmek için geçen yüzyılın ikinci yarısında ve özellikle Yeni Kamu Yönetimi anlayışının gelişimiyle birlikte kamu yönetimlerinde performans ölçüm ve yönetim sistemlerinin kullanımı söz konusu olmuştur. Çalışmada, kamu yönetiminde performans sistemlerine, temel kavramlara, işleyiş mekanizmasına ve bunların gelişimine ilişkin bilgi verildikten sonra, farklı coğrafyalardaki ülkelerde, kamu yönetiminde performans yönetimi ve ölçümü uygulamalarının gelişimi ve işleyişi örneklendirilmekte ve karşılaştırılmaktadır. Karşılaştırma sonuçları, tespit edilen ayrımlara göre sınıflandırılmakta ve özellikleri belirtilmektedir. Kamu performans yönetim ve ölçüm sistemlerine ilişkin tespitler ve değerlendirmeler yapılmaktadır. English: Increasing the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of public administrations is seen as a common ideal in every region of the world. In order to achieve this, performance measurement and management systems have started to be used in public administrations in the second half of the last century and especially with the development of the New Public Management approach. In the study, after giving information about performance systems, basic concepts, working mechanism and their development in public administrations, the relationship between performance measurement and management processes and ethics is examined. The development and functioning of performance management and measurement practices in public administrations of the countries in different geographies are exemplified and compared. Comparison results are classified and their properties are stated according to the identified distinctions. Determinations and evaluations are made regarding public performance management, measurement systems and their implementation.
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