Is the performance movement in jeopardy?


Dr. Kelman suggests the performance measurement and management “movement” of the past decade is on the edge of a shift – either backward or forward. He opts for forward movement where:

  • Outcome measures are preferable to input, output, or activity measures
  • Efforts move from supplying more measures to a demand for useful measures

Should the next President place a greater distinction on his/her use as performance-improvement tool vs. as an accountability tool? If so, do you have examples of how?

5 Responses to “Is the performance movement in jeopardy?”

  1. John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, The Center for The Business of Government Says:

    Welcome to our second set of questions to spark a national dialogue about “what happens next.” We look forward to your participation in our ongoing conversation.

  2. Cathy Downes Says:

    The performance movement is in jeopardy not because of Presidential action or inaction, or focus on input, process measures as opposed to output and outcome measures. Until there is significant, systemic and structural changes in congressional appropriations processes (that all focus on input-based budget items), performance management in US government will always contain significant inefficiencies, and constraints on addressing inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

  3. Nik Apostolides, Budget Officer, Office on Violence Against Women (DOJ) Says:

    As Harry P. Hatry et al commented in their 2003 paper (How Federal Programs Use Outcome Information: Opportunities for Federal Managers), “Although the federal government has collected some outcome data for many years, such data have tended to be less used by individual program managers than by higher level government officials for major policy decisions.” (page 6) This critique is still valid today.

    So, yes, top government officials should place a greater distinction on their use as a performance-improvement tool vs. an accountability tool. And yet, leaders must develop strategies to more effectively engage program managers to guage their performance based on outcomes, including in the front line and mid-level of the government services continuum.

    It seems to me that a key test of future leadership is the ability to capture the imagination of program managers using an outcome-based approach; and then provide the authority, flexibility, training and resources for managers to make course corrections in light of this important data – adjustments to program goals and operations which are designed to further outcome goals at the program management level.

    Such an approach holds the potential to transform government services, but not if the line and mid-level program managers are not fully engaged and given the tools to succeeed. See also Chris Wye (2004), Performance Management for Career Executives: A “Start Where You Are, Use What You Have” Guide.

  4. Jon Strickler Says:

    I’m not sure I understand the difference between output and outcome measures. What is the difference? I am a big proponent for not measuring inputs as a means of justification (

  5. John Kamensky Says:

    Inputs are resources to be used to produce an activity (e.g., money, supplies, or people). You’re right; they are not the best means of justifying your budget. Output measures measure the volume of activity, for example the number of immunization shots delivered to infants to prevent diseases. Outcome measures measure the impact of the activity, for example the percent reduction in infants dying from preventable diseases. Sometimes measuring outcomes takes a longer period of time than the fiscal year being budgeted, so output measures are used instead. Sometimes government program managers prefer output measures because they can better control what happens. However, outcome measures tend to be a better measure from the citizen point of view. Citizens care more about impact than process or activity.

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