Short Guide

This short guide is designed to assist local government managers, elected officials, academics and citizens in understanding the basics of Public Performance Measurement.

This guide explains:

What is Performance Measurement?

The movement toward a more responsive and transparent government at all levels has been growing steadily over the past decade. This movement has intensified the need for more efficient and effective government that delivers services to citizens. Performance measurement and reporting is designed to provide the type of information critical for decision-makers to allocate limited resources across constituent programs and services, in order to yield the best possible results.

What is the purpose and value in measuring public performance?

Public performance measurement is a means for governmental agencies and organizations to improve their service delivery by tracking and monitoring departmental and organizational progress. It is important for governmental agencies to monitor their services because they are publicly funded entities.

There are four main reasons why governments choose to use performance measurement.

  1. Performance measurement creates a more accountable government.
    As government funding ultimately comes from taxpayers, government officials prioritize citizens as a key constituency. Many governmental agencies find it important to communicate the progress of their programs/departments to their citizens and use a measurement and reporting program to do so.
  2. Performance measurement helps to improve performance.
    Similar to how businesses have been using performance measurement to track sales, losses and profits year-over-year and analyze results, governments use performance measurement to monitor their services to the public and the amount of funding that is spent on each program and department. This tracking and analysis allow government to improve their services for the following year.
  3. Performance measurement stimulates creativity and productivity in an agency.
    A growing number of municipalities have used performance measures to create incentives to stimulate productivity and creativity within their workforce. Performance measurement systems and performance reports allow employees to pinpoint operational areas of concern and generate ideas on how to overcome these obstacles.
  4. Performance measurement helps to improve budget processes.
    Performance measurement can help governments cut costs by analyzing performance from year to year, helping them to determine if there are unnecessary costs associated with a program or department. Performance measurement also keeps a record for governments as to whether agencies have kept within their budget, and the reasons for the increase or decrease in funding accordingly.

How is public performance measured?

Most governmental agencies begin the process of measuring performance through one or two key departments of government, such as fire and police. Services that are offered through these departments are tracked by measures. "Performance measures may address the type or level of program activities conducted (process), the direct products and services delivered by a program (outputs), and/ or the results of those products and services (outcomes)." (Artley, Will & Stroh, Susan (September 2001). The Performance-Based Management Handbook (Vol. 2). Washington D.C.: Training Resources and Data Exchange Performance-Based Management Special Interest Group.).

What is a Public Performance Measurement system?

A Public Performance Measurement system is a tool that agencies and organizations use to measure public performance. Most performance measurement systems allow public managers to identify key performance measures, measure performance systematically, track and analyze performance data, display performance data in comparative graphs and charts, and generate performance reports in order to communicate progress internally and externally.

What is Performance Reporting?

Performance reporting summarizes all the indicators and compares actual results to previously identified targets. Besides comparisons with targets, performance reports may also include comparisons made with "… 1) a previous period; 2) similar jurisdictions; 3) technically developed standards or norms; 4) geographical areas of client groups within the same jurisdiction; and 5) public sector/private sector costs and results with similar organizations. Performance reporting formats will vary depending on the circumstances."

Performance reports should be made accessible to employees within an organization or agency and to the public, and should be created in a way that allow for progress comparisons between previous years and/or similar jurisdictions.

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