Performance Measures

Dear Management Doctor:

I am getting my Master's Degree in Public Administration and trying to do a final paper on the pros and cons of using performance measurements in a public planning agency. Can you suggest any good written resources on the subject of performance measures?

Gerri Caruso
City of Sunnyvale

Dear Gerri,

Interesting to get this question from Sunnyvale, which many consider the guru of performance measurement. We do a lot of work in this area for our clients but I don't know of anyone who has done any definitive work on the pros and cons. My thoughts are:

  1. Yes, some performance measurement is essential.
  2. In relation to getting plans done, the measure is a simple one, "Did we do what we said we would do, when we said we would do it." I actually stole this one from Sunnyvale.
  3. In relation to the big question, "Does planning or did our planning actually make any difference?" No one is doing much in this area. I think the planning profession is afraid of this one. Few planners even go back two years after a project is completed to examine it impacts or if it did what we wanted. Even the New Urbanism gurus are making more claims than they can prove.
  4. We do see some headway in the last category of the permit process. Everyone should be concerned with timelines and that can be measured. However, timelines can also be misleading. We discussed this in some detail in our September Management Information. (See it at September Hot Info
  5. Since you are in academia, do some research on the Internet. Also, look at:
    1. Municipal Benchmarks, David Ammons, Sage Publications.
    2. Benchmarking for Best Practices in the Public Sector, Jossey-Bass.
    3. High Performance Benchmarking, H. James Harrington, McGraw-Hill.

I belong to the American Evaluation Association. Their publications are extremely theoretical but they do have a publication on performance measurements that I found useful. Unfortunately, I misplaced my copy but maybe they can track it down for you.

I hope our readers will chime in on this topic.

Best wishes,

The Management Doctor

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