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Performance management
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  1. Performance management Perversion of a vital concept

  2. Corruptions of ideas • It is not uncommon in the field of human endeavour to find that important notions get corrupted • A good example is the one about the so-called “Carrot and stick” approach • Many of you may share the common understanding of this concept in which the stick in question is to beat the donkey whilst the carrot is an inducement to perform • In fact, the carrot and stick metaphor was coined to show the following situation

  3. Distinctions • In the field of management we have come to forget that the terms “performance management” and performance measurement” are not interchangeable • We tend increasingly to believe that performance measurement is performance management • We forget that performance measurement was conceived as a tool to aid performance management

  4. Performance measurement and management • We forget, most of all, that “Performance management” is an activity conceived by management experts • In which the public service organisation uses performance information in a particular way, to self-direct the development of its own performance • Some people involved in the occupation of producing performance indicators seek to find ever better means of improving the validity and accuracy of performance measurement techniques • There is a huge danger that the key messages of those who invented the idea of performance measurement as an occupation are being overlooked

  5. How well are we doing? • In my view, the performance measurement regimes in place in the UK over the last 10 years at least have directly contributed to several major national disasters with a combined effect in terms of excess deaths and other socially undesirable outcomes much greater than the terrorists behind 9/11 • Everywhere you look in the public sector we are beginning to hear more and more about very serious failings in the delivery of public services which can be attributed directly to the almost ubiquitous culture of inappropriate performance measurement and management • There are a number of pernicious effects of the current culture which, only slowly, are public inquisitors, auditors and inspectors beginning to bring to light

  6. What’s wrong? • Perversion of best policy & practice as organisations focus on what is measured rather than what is actually important • A situation made infinitely worse when indicators are wholly inadequate for measuring what they claim to measure (e.g. Child protection as addressed in the 2nd Laming Report) • Wholesale manipulation of the measurement process to conceal seriously bad practice • Driving out of senior management good people who know what is happening is wrong & the avoidance of senior management jobs and responsibilities by people with the right ideas, leaving such roles to others • Senior managers paying with livelihoods & health for challenging the stupidity of conventionality in performance management

  7. The focus • I could try to cover all of these issues but it would take me too long • Some at this conference may be most interested in how we might improve our measures of performance • I have chosen deliberately not to tackle this as I think it actually detracts from my main message. • How information created to measure performance in child protection work is used must be considered or else, this enterprise could only help make things even worse

  8. Perversion of best practice • Schools • scope of curriculum severely constrained to exclude all non-measured subjects • socially undesirable “selective” admission and exclusion policies introduced • rehearsal of tests replaced 35% taught sessions for 5 months of the year • children unlikely or very likely to meet target left with teaching assistants • efforts of trained staff focussed on booster classes for those just under target level at Xmas • creation of “sink” schools leading to “sink” areas. • Ambulance services • To meet patient access targets of X% being reached within 8 minutes, ambulances were relocated to areas with most emergency calls able to be reached in 8 minutes • Ambulances moved away from areas where the target could never be met- meaning that patients already most in need of the fastest possible journey to A and E got a reduced service

  9. Perversion of best practice Hospitals • Neglect of sickest patients • Focus on waiting times to exclusion of other concerns The Police • to meet crime detection targets- efforts focussed on crimes which are easiest to solve, inducements offered to prisoners and others unlikely to be ever found guilty of crimes to admit guilt Child protection • Schools lack engagement with child protection issues

  10. Manipulation of performance data School SATS • Ill pupils with good chances of passing ferried by teachers to school, others encouraged to stay at home • baseline assessment results adjusted to produce higher measures of value-added • Test questions illegally accessed in advance to support pre-test coaching Ambulance services • “Rounding” of cases where ambulance took between 8.1 and 8.9 minutes to reach patient Hospitals • Holding patients in ambulances to delay their point of registration for counting wait time • Counting triage or preliminary examinations as “being seen” • Rejecting patients with below-average chance of successful treatment

  11. Manipulation of performance data The Police • Fewer unlikely to be solved crimes recorded following crime reports -cheque book theft for example • Improved recording of cases of personal violence as perpetrator is usually known to the victim Child protection • Records of children‘s case work management misrepresent actual contacts and case work

  12. What to do? • Those engaged in the performance measurement industry are as well-placed as any other professional group to do something about this • The first thing they should grasp is that the present culture is based on premises of effectiveness in improving performance that lack a sound evidence base • Secondly, the most damaging feature of that culture is that the information they produce is seen as a tool to give the Government the power to use sticks with which to beat the public sector • The evidence from managerial research is that information is a powerful and effective tool in the right hands • Although there is research evidence which seems to show that publishing performance data produces greater improvements in measured performance of organisations than when such performance data is fed directly to operational managers, this research is itself deeply flawed in that it takes no account of the effect of “Gaming” • Indeed, it is the publication of performance data which directly increases the amount of gaming to make performance seem to improve when it may actually have worsened • Performance information is most powerful and effective when the information is in the hands of those who produce it through a process of honest self-appraisal

  13. Gurus of management • The main personality associated with the development of performance measurement as an aid to performance management is Peter Drucker • Although he was originally writing over 30 years ago and died a few years ago, his books are still in print and other authors quote him extensively • His vision of public service organisations was that they would become the main source of employment and consumer consumption in the future so it was important that most effort should be put into working out how such organisations could be managed most effectively • He observed that most such organisations at that time were pretty much poor performers and mostly experienced very poor quality management • He argued that without improvements in the quality of management, this position would get worse • His vision of the place of such organisations has been fulfilled very largely

  14. Gurus of how not to manage performance • It would be impossible to gauge fairly whether performance of public service organisations is any better or worse than in 1979 • My view is that he would probably say much the same thing about the defects of the system and be able to pinpoint some of the sources of the problem • He would probably be turning in his grave at the way that the Government, in particular have not understood the proper purpose of management information which is to inform management

  15. Implications for information producers • Those who supply information to managers should retain a much higher status in public service organisations • They should not be recruited as specially trained versions of the usual service delivery professions • They should be recruited from the ranks of those trained in the creation, analysis and dissemination of information • They should enjoy high income status working in separate professional hierarchies as specialists akin to legal advisers, IT engineers etc • This may mean that the they should be outsourced

  16. Implications for others • Strategic managers should define the primary task of such information suppliers as the supply of relevant information to relevant operational managers • Operational managers in this setting should • Seek to understand the reasons for gaps between the performance they aspire to and actual performance • Seek out potentially effective means of bridging such gaps • Pilot such means & apply results from high-quality pilot evaluation

  17. Why does the Drucker approach work? • The basis of the Drucker arguments remains that the kind of system I have described is highly motivational • It empowers the operational managers by making them responsible for acting on the information they receive • We know from so many examples of motivations research that this kind of empowerment is highly effective in raising standards of performance in public service organisations • To bypass the operational managers by passing information direct to the Government or service consumers is positively disempowering and highly demotivating, leading to poorer results, not even sustaining present performance

  18. What can you do? • It depends partly on who you are but it is already clear that the penny has started to drop in Government circles, if a bit belatedly • Do you have a choice? • Those of you whose job it is to create management information for the eyes of the Government only should pause to consider whether you are part of the problem not the solution to poor performance • Ask yourself the question whether the more you get involved in perfecting the supply of information to Government, the more you are making services worse?