The Best Performance Initiative? It's the One Valued by Leadership.

Author:Feldman, Andrew
Position:Commentary
 
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There are many effective approaches for improving results and efficiency. It's essential to have buy-in from the top.

Lets say you're the chief performance officer for a jurisdiction or an agency. You've been given an exciting task by your chief executive: Design and implement a performance-management initiative that--if it works --will catalyze better results for residents and better value for taxpayers.

Cool opportunity! But what should the initiative look like? For better or worse, you have lots of possibilities. The public-management field has countless approaches to improving results--an alphabet soup of acronyms and buzzwords.

Based on our experience, however, one criterion above all others should guide you in designing the initiative: Choose the approach that your leadership values most. Do they want to primarily emphasize efficiency, or cutting costs, or accountability for results, or learning and improvement? Do they like to be the visible leaders of improvement efforts, or do they prefer sit quietly with reports and provide direction?

Why is the connection to leadership so important? When leaders strongly value a performance initiative, it leads to a cascade of useful outcomes. One is that everyone in the organization, including busy bureau heads, will know that they need to take the initiative seriously and invest time in it. Another is that it is much more likely to become the way that leadership manages the organization and makes key decisions, turning the initiative into a meaningful, ongoing driver of results.

To help you consider which approach might resonate most with your leadership, here are some of the most widely used ones:

* Performance Management Strategies. A good example is the PerformanceStat methodology, such as CitiStat in Baltimore and BlightStat in New Orleans, which involve ongoing, data-driven meetings between leadership and departments to track progress, identify problems, and devise solutions. There's also the balanced scorecard, which emphasizes measuring performance in four categories (financial, customer, process, and organizational capacity) to provide a comprehensive view of progress and challenges. A third example is a performance dashboard, with regular status reports for leadership.

* Lean Initiatives. These process-improvement efforts involve and empower employees to solve particular performance problems, especially for processes that require lots of handoffs or are slow. Lean emphasizes...

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