Choose Your Performance Framework

An Open Performance framework can be customized to fit your organization; you’ll need to decide what works best for your team.

The most commonly seen model is executive-led. In this framework, the principal prioritizes desired outcomes for the organization as a whole. The structure may be driven by long-term goals. For example, what does the city want to achieve in the next four years?

To assist in the creation of this framework, the principal may choose to identify a manageable number of high impact areas where results are desired. Common areas and categories include:

  • Public safety
  • Public health
  • Education
  • Sustainability and the environment
  • Jobs and the economy
  • Government operations and management

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, data analysis is an important part of County Stat, their performance measurement program, but their services don’t stop there. The program also performs a research and development function, identifying and implementing best practices to improve government operations and policies. To do this, County Stat engages think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and other jurisdictions from around the country to generate the best ideas possible.

Tips for Identifying Performance Measures

Tip: Be Specific

The more specific the principal’s goal, the more specific the agency goals can become. It’s great to think big and strive for significant outcomes that require support from multiple departments. Moreover, it’s difficult to track progress when goals leave too much room for interpretation.

Tip: Be Realistic

The most successful strategic frameworks incorporate perspectives from the frontlines of an organization. Think about how to set up a feedback loop from the frontline service delivery levels. The sooner this is established, the more quickly you can ensure that your goals are connected to the reality of day-to-day processes.

Very often in government, as in many organizations, there is an incredible amount of positive energy and innovation that happens on the frontlines. There is often a mirrored level of energy and innovation at the top of agencies. The danger often rests in what is the “permafrost” of government. This is typically a difficult layer of bureaucratic mid-level career managers that have seen many leaders come and go. They are the most important element of lasting change.

Progress is more likely to happen when the principal and department lead make credible decisions and gain the support of midlevel managers. A top-down, forced approach rarely will work when attempting reform. The fastest and most effective way to reform is to identify internal champions for change.

Tip: Find Advocates

It’s beneficial for the principal to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders in the process of developing goals. Government reform takes great energy. Advocates, inside and outside of government, can help gather resources and support around the strategic framework. It’s easier to get support by involving your advocates from the start.

Tip: When Possible, Choose Cross-Cutting Initiatives

Governments continuously have to adapt to work with fewer resources and find creative solutions to challenges. Open Performance can assist in this transformation by identifying cross-cutting, multi-stakeholder goals.

Often, departments duplicate efforts around similar subjects. Consider workforce development, for example. If workforce development programs are not coordinated, there is very likely duplication in how they are administered and funded. By bringing departments together around a common effort, there may be room for consolidation to break through the status quo. Results happen faster and yield higher returns when teams work together and share resources.

Tip: Stay Connected and Open

Encourage participants inside and outside of your team to contribute feedback, without fear of criticism or retribution. Employees and citizens can be great assets to a program when they are able to monitor the goal setting process, contribute to the dialogue of reform, suggest data to track, and apply expertise. Successful performance programs embrace the reality that it’s an ongoing process and encourage a healthy feedback loop to improve the process.