What is performance management for government?

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What is performance management for government?

Performance management for government is the process by which governments review and evaluate their achievements in order to inform future decisions. Using performance measurement tools such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and relying heavily on data, performance management for government serves as the basis for measuring and improving processes and services. 

The Urban Institute places performance management for government within the context of strategic planning, explaining that strategic planning looks forward, while performance management looks back. Strategic planning sets goals, while performance management assesses their success. Taken together, strategic planning and performance management create an ongoing cycle, whereby the results of performance management efforts lead to adjustments in the strategic plan, and so forth. 

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What are the benefits of performance management for government?

Performance management for governments is often challenging due to the large number of stakeholders, multiple offices and organizations, and disparate goals that exist within them. But those challenges also make adequate performance management even more essential. 

Governments, whether city, county, or state, exist in large part to provide services and community initiatives for residents. Therefore, performance management serves to maximize the impact of those services and initiatives in order to better serve residents and the diverse needs of different community groups. 

The main benefits of performance management for government are a deeper understanding of successes and missteps, and the opportunity to change course. The International City Managers Association (ICMA) elaborates that with performance management, “Performance data is intended not as an end result, but rather as a means to more informed decision-making and a more engaged community.” 

Performance management can benefit local government leaders by helping them:

  • Learn how to select the right metrics for ongoing evaluation.
  • Gain a clear picture of how initiatives and services are performing over time.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of their programs based on data.
  • Adjust short and long-term plans and goals such as budgets or strategic plans as-needed, and then evaluate the efficacy of those adjustments.

What are the causes of poor government performance management?

The National League of Cities (NLC) defines government performance management as, “The process of consistently reviewing performance data to inform decision-making.” Using that definition as a guideline, performance management can only be effective when all four of these key components are present: 

  1. Clear targets
  2. Timely data
  3. Measurable values; and 
  4. Strong analysis. 

Yet local governments often have poor performance management, in large part due to the number of different offices and objectives that exist within any one government organization and the often disparate goals between them. 

Among the causes of poor performance management are:

  • A missing indication of targeted goals.
  • A lack of KPIs or Key Performance Indicators, that determine which metrics will be evaluated and how.
  • Inadequate or insufficient data with which to measure success.
  • A poor understanding of the data on-hand.

In other words, government performance can only be evaluated by first determining the goals of each project or initiative, then setting the metrics for evaluation, gathering sufficient data, and understanding it. Without all of those elements, governments will end up with poor performance management resulting in a knowledge gap about the effectiveness of their programs and services, and a missed opportunity to improve them. 

How to evaluate government performance?

In private sector organizations, the measurement of success is often financially based. On the other hand, to evaluate government performance, many other factors come into play. Among them are the number of residents served, positive or negative changes in priority areas such as public safety or public health, and even public perception of government. 

Therefore, in order to evaluate government performance, local leaders must first decide which organizational goals they want to set, then how to achieve them, and then how they can be measured. It’s only once those parameters have been determined that performance management can come into play. One of the most important aspects of effective performance management is learning which questions to ask and which data to measure in order to effectively assess a program’s success. Simply put, not all data is useful data, and focusing on the wrong measurements won’t give an accurate picture of success. 

Read more about using community feedback as a performance management metric

Creating a government performance management strategy

One of the biggest challenges in building a government performance management strategy is finding common organizational goals and KPIs across disparate offices and departments. Therefore, an effective performance management strategy needs to not only measure each individual program or initiative, it also needs to be able to evaluate a governmental organization as a whole. 

A strong government performance management strategy should therefore include both:

  1. A cross-organizational KPI: In addition to goals and performance indicators for individual offices, governments should have at least one KPI that’s used across all programs in order to better evaluate how services are performing in relation to each other.
  2. Benchmarking capabilities: In order to understand how a government organization is performing, local leaders must be able to benchmark their efforts against their own past performance and against similar organizations.

Checklist for government performance management strategy:

  • A list of departmental and organizational goals and objectives
  • Measurable KPIs for each governmental department, service, or initiative
  • Organization-wide KPIs that measure the success of departments against each other
  • An understanding of how data will be collected for each KPI
  • Mechanisms by which to analyze data collected in a timely manner
  • A system by which to implement changes to long-and-short term plans according to performance management

Choosing a government management system: the right government performance management software

Keeping in mind the necessary elements of a performance management strategy, a good government performance management system will give you the ability to evaluate the performance of individual agencies as well as the whole organization, and to benchmark against your own programs and those of similar communities. When choosing a government management system or a government performance management software, look for the ability to measure individual programs or initiatives and to follow them in real-time and over time, a common KPI—such as resident feedback data—across all initiatives, benchmarking capabilities, and the ability to ask the right questions. Furthermore, a government management system or government performance management software should be able to provide measurable data in a timely manner, giving local governments the ability to make changes quickly and effectively.

You can learn more about the Zencity Community Survey – and how Zencity has transformed resident satisfaction into an easily attainable, organization-wide metric for effective and timely local government performance management.