Performance Metrics: Lessons for Public Leaders

The goal of developing sound metrics is something that all organizations can agree on. We have all probably heard the old cliché “What gets measured gets managed.” Historically, public sector leaders have paid little or no attention to developing adequate performance measures. Unbalanced, incomplete or competing metrics will hinder your efforts toward higher performance. Also, public employees will do the work that he or she is measured on. Hopefully, this work will be adequate and make the metric look as good as possible. However, public managers need to align all components to drive ongoing improvement and change. Public leaders must provide a consistent model for performance measurement by selecting the correct metrics.

Metrics are divided into three categories:
Output metrics: These measure something that the people who receive your entity’s service or product will notice. Specifically, the right answer to question, the right form, a check, an inspection, the right type of repair, etc. A change in an outcome metric means that something visible and important to your customers is happening.

Process Metrics: These measure what is happening internally in your operations. For example, the time needed to complete each step of a process, the number of defects per step. Ideally, the process metrics you develop will directly improve your outcomes.

Activity Metrics: These measure the level of activity in your organization related to enabling improved performance. These metrics do not guarantee that customers will see that improvement. For example, holding public meeting may be part of a strategy or improving communication. However, tracking an increase in the number of public meetings does not guarantee improved communication. Activity metrics may be necessary for internal management purposes but are seldom useful in improvement.

To evaluate your current level of performance, focus first on developing outcome metrics. Once you know which outcomes you want to improve, then identify the process metrics that are good indicators of what is happening with those outcomes. Effective metrics require a mix of financial and non-financial performance measures. Focus on those that reflect a cross section of service, cost, and quality levels that provide leaders with an accurate picture of the state of operations. Performance gaps for these key indicators will lead you to focus efforts on identifying and addressing the causes.

Below are four tips for public leaders when developing performance metrics:
1) First figure out what you need to know to make better operational decisions. Only then can you determine what kind of data you will need.
2) Don’t collect any kind of data just because its easy to gather. Instead, put your time and effort into getting data what will help you better run your organization.
3) Remember that that data that comes too late to help you take corrective action are useless for performance improvement. Focus on improving your information systems so you can get real-time data.
4) Lastly, don’t waste your organization’s time and energy collecting data you won’t use.

Charles Lewing is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. A Louisiana native, he graduated from McNeese State University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance. He later earned his MBA in 2001. He relocated to Houston, Texas and worked in various finance and accounting roles for number of healthcare organizations. In 2016, he relocated to West Texas to pursue a career in public financial leadership. He currently serves as the Reeves County Auditor. Charles is very passionate about inclusive management, LEAN six sigma, and improving operational efficiency through leveraging technology. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time in the outdoors and reading spy novels. You can read his posts here.

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Profile Photo James Abyad

I really like these last four tips! “Figure out what you need to know to make better operational decisions.” That’s a jam-packed statement! So often we just gather data because it may come in handy never thinking about the output of that data. I love this organized approach!