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Election Special - Expectations in Public Sector Performance Management

Posted October 28, 2010 5:58 PM by Dylan Miyake

With increasingly high stakes - politicians and leaders across the country are focusing on results. Be it unemployment numbers or budget deficit projections, effective performance management is in increasingly high demand. Thanks to incredible investments by large organizations, powerful tracking systems are now available to even the smallest groups.This doesn't mean every public sector and non-profit organization should focus on earning more revenue and managing costs – after all, public sector organizations and non-profits have different goals and answer to different constituencies than businesses. What it does mean is that many leaders of public sector organizations need access to the tools and information so they can operate more like a business – with better metrics for efficiency, accountability, and an overall sense of precision in the organization's focus and results. So why is public sector performance management gaining such momentum? Systems that work: Corporations and intelligence agencies paid a premium over the years to develop IT systems to measure and track all aspects of an organization's work – and now these same powerful systems are becoming available at reasonable prices to non-profit and governmental organizations. Higher expectations: People are impatient for data. Expectations for quality and timeliness of data delivered to decision makers have grown – people don't want to wait to learn what they need to know about your organization. Anyone who needs data about your organization – whether they're executives, lenders, donors, volunteers, partner organizations, or even public officials working on legislation related to your organization's mission who need real statistics to prove a need – wants to be able to find relevant information as quickly as possible. Risk management: It's a risky world, and your organization increasingly needs to track all sorts of data, from sentinel events in a hospital (unexpected events leading to death, serious injury or the risk thereof), the number of EEO complaints in the workplace, student test scores for No Child Left Behind, or the number of fatalities on state highways tracked by the state Department of Transportation. Better performance management can help your organization track the numbers you need to promote your mission and defend your reputation. Competition: At a time of shrinking budgets, decreasing donations and ever-scarcer resources, programs that cannot prove their effectiveness are seeing major funding cuts, while programs that can point to metrics and data to prove their effectiveness are attracting more resources. Performance management can help your organization prove that you get quantifiable results – and that you're being a good steward of your resources. Accountability: Every organization needs to maximize its effectiveness, which means that every individual employee is under greater scrutiny and has to be accountable for performance. Better performance management can help your organization develop performance plans (for individuals, teams and larger departments), specific performance targets, and a method of tracking progress on the individual level or organization-wide. You can see these trends at work in many different public sector organizations. One of the major driving forces behind the new emphasis on performance management is not only a "reactive" measure in response to public scrutiny, but also a "proactive" measure by organizations looking to promote their work and raise awareness of their positive results. For example, in Washington DC, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has posted an online Metro Scorecard showing various performance metrics for the city's public transit systems, including cost per ride (and subsidy per ride), on-time performance, and employee and customer injury rates. Many public sector leaders use performance management data as a way to prove that their organizations are doing a better job than the media tend to report. Increase Interactions with Constituents and Stakeholders: Another driving factor behind the shift to performance management is a reflection of the larger consumer culture – in the era of social media, when dealing with private sector brands, customers expect their favorite brands to be interactive, to respond to their ideas and demands, and all with a certain level of brand humor and "sex appeal" in the products they purchase. Gatorade has taken listening to the customer to a whole new level with their new Mission Control team – a group of social media operatives at Gatorade headquarters who constantly monitor and respond to feedback about Gatorade on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The goal is to have a rapid response to customers' ideas, feedback and criticism, and engage customers in conversations to improve customer loyalty and sales. What does this mean to your organization? The fact is, right now, people are talking about your organization, in public, on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. They might be praising your staff, expressing complaints, or offering useful suggestions. Many public sector organizations have a big opportunity to increase their presence on social media, engage in conversations with constituents – not only for immediate customer service needs, but also for longer-term awareness and public support of the organization's mission. This kind of heightened responsiveness to your constituents' needs is another aspect of public sector performance management that is going to continue to grow in importance. Performance management will be an enduring part of any public sector or non-profit organization's operational future. If you want to learn more about how your organization can improve its performance, develop strategic alignment, and develop metrics that pinpoint your performance, contact Ascendant Strategy Management Group for guidance.