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Let’s Talk Performance!

A couple of weeks ago, we were invited by the National Center for Public Performance to be the inaugural panelists in its series of webinars about performance management. We were fortunate enough to have Monica Croskey Chaparro, assistant city manager in Virginia Beach, Virginia with us to ask us questions, lead the conversation and add many pertinent points from her own experience.

You can find the complete video under Special Videos on the home page of our website, but here are a handful of the thoughts upon which we expanded in the webinar:

· * The words “performance-informed management” are preferable to “performance-based management.” The latter implies that there can be a formulaic approach to gathering data, with the assumption that it can drive government. But in the real world, that’s just not true, and the real goal of performance management is to gather information that will be helpful in making decisions.

* It’s critical to win the trust of people in the data that’s being used – both in and out of government. There’s a tendency in some cities and states to cherry-pick data that shows only the bright side of government performance, but people who actually live in those places can compare the government’s reports to the world in which they live, and when there’s a significant difference between the two, they’ll believe their eyes and not the information the government is issuing.

· * There’s an important distinction between having a performance management system, that exists only on paper, and actually having it utilized by public sector leaders and managers to make decisions. This can be particularly difficult when a new administration comes in, and the support of leadership declines.

· * Many efforts – notably those that have been dubbed “stat” programs can run the risk of being perceived as ‘gotcha” exercises. When government employees fear accountability exercises, they’re disinclined to buy in and that stands in the way of progress and improvement.

· * It’s important to bridge the gap in the world of performance management that can exist between important research done by academics and the day-to-day decisions that need to be made by practitioners.

· * While incentives for good performance can be useful, they can also result in poor data quality when the incentives lead to fudging of data.

· * When a state or local government sets up a performance management system it’s important to take the next step – providing enough resources to provide staff and research.

· * As time has gone on, there have been challenges to the independence of performance management offices. But without non-partisan, independent efforts, politics can prevail over fair, honest reporting.


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