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Measuring AND Managing for Performance

Posted February 26, 2012 7:10 PM by Brandon Kline

Recently, I watched an interview (conducted by Andy Feldman of Gov Innovator) of Bryna Sanger, the deputy provost at The New School in New York City. Throughout her career, Ms. Sanger has been researching, evaluating, and proposing best practices for performance measurement and management systems in cities around the country. Currently, she is conducting a study entitled, "Does Measuring Performance Lead to Managing for Performance," which takes a look at nearly 200 cities across the United States, and explores the link between performance measurement and performance management. The findings of her study are interesting and thought provoking, especially for those of us involved in performance management, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share an overview of them with you.

When someone decides to undertake a study, especially one as intense as this, the first question I always find myself asking is, "why?" When asked this question, Ms. Sanger responded by citing previous research which shows that even though many organizations collect performance data, not many of them actually use that data to manage and make decisions. She wanted to gain a better understand for why this is the case.

As the data began to come in for her study, she found "very few cities who were actually using even high quality performance data who had moved from a culture of measurement -- and many of these cities did have a culture of measurement -- to management." Many organizations, especially cities, were measuring performance, but solely for accountability and transparency purposes. While collecting performance data is an important first step, merely showing off that data for accountability and transparency isn't likely to foster an organization that drives performance through data informed decisions.

One aspect that I found particularly interesting was the connection she drew between performance management, and the atmosphere of a learning organization that develops as a result of that. Using data to make informed decisions not only drives performance, it enables those within the organization to better understand the overarching strategy and the reasoning behind why decisions get made.

To wrap up this post, and give each of you something to think about, I would like to summarize three of the main findings from her study, along with four key takeaways from a city with a strong performance management culture.

Three Key Findings

  • Lots of cities measure performance, but in a limited way and disconnected from management decisions. One reason being that data is not collected frequently enough, or is too broad to be useful for management purposes.
  • Cities with a strong commitment to performance management often had leaders (e.g., mayor or city manager) who championed it (without that leadership, serious performance management rarely became a reality)
  • Cities have reduced their investments in performance management efforts because of the recession and its aftermath
  • In addition to the above three findings, Corpus Christi, TX was mentioned as a city with a strong performance management culture. Ms. Sanger listed four key attributes of Corpus Christi that have played a big role in the creation of a solid performance management ethos. Those characteristics are:

  • Monthly reports on agency performance
  • City manager holds monthly meetings to review
  • All measures have targets set in collaboration with agencies in order to be realistic
  • An overarching goal is developing a learning environment (focused on doing things better)
  • To see the interview with Bryna Sanger, please follow this LINK. If you enjoyed this blog, and enjoy learning about performance management, especially in the mission-driven sector, you should check out our upcoming summit- The Mission-Driven Management Summit. Follow this LINK for more information.

    Good stuff as always.
    # Posted By Mike Medin | 2/28/12 10:35 AM
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