The Role of Performance Measurement in Public Administration

In the mid-90s the US government embraced performance measurement. The National Performance Review, which later became the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, made the term “performance measurement” part of every public administrator’s vernacular.

While performance measurement has its critics, the program brought many positive aspects to public administration including:

Clearly Communicated Expectations

With expectations outlined and communicated, an employee better understands his or her role in the success of the department or program, and management has a better grasp on how to gauge performance. Using standards for each position and grading the employee against them means a more objective review.

In a broader sense, it allows the administrator to align each employee’s role to a larger objective within the department’s or administration’s goal.

Measured Accountability

With communicated expectations comes the ability to measure against them. This process not only works on the individual level but toward the larger goals of the department or the administration. When goals are clearly defined and connected to the process, the framework provides guidance from which an administrator can base his/her actions as well as from the direct reports.

Employees are less surprised by evaluations and understand their role in meeting the goals of their department through more focused feedback. Should a problem with performance arise, performance measurement stresses the importance of creating a development plan to help cultivate the needed skills and encourage future professional development.

Identify Operational Strengths and Weaknesses

As goals and performance are more closely aligned, it is easy for administrators to recognize individual strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the department/process. This gives the department head a way to develop needed skills or redirect them for optimal efficiency.

Performance measurement from an operational perspective led the New York City Department of Technology and Telecommunications to work with the Mayor’s Office of Operations to address a need for information. They created the NYCStat Stimulus Tracker that links into the Federal database for tracking recovery funds.

Reallocation of Resources

Performance measurement helps managers recognize those who are succeeding and those who are floundering. By getting a better appreciation for the department capabilities, managers are able to reallocate resources in the most effective way possible.

Performance measurement also helps with accountability, ensuring that work crews are performing as expected and taxpayer’s money is spent responsibly. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services implemented performance measurement and used it for cross-agency planning and goal setting to make sure their department tied tightly into the governor’s initiatives.

Ability to Benchmark

Formalizing a performance measurement system means government leaders and auditors are able to compare departments, teams, projects, and budgets. This benchmarking can help increase team efficiency and decrease expenses. It creates a broader base of knowledge and data to use in planning and budgeting.

Performance measurement in public administration has had some struggles over the past two decades since its adoption but overall, its ability to help in increasing efficiency and accountability in the public sector has been worthwhile.