Authors: Steven Kelman
April 1, 2006
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic expansion in use of non-financial performance measures for government organizations (Talbot 2005). Often, governments have limited themselves to what may be called “performance measurement” -- choosing measures and reporting performance against them. In this situation, the words typically associated with the effort are “accountability” and “transparency.” Political overseers are made aware of performance, and may then react based on a judgment about whether performance is good or bad. Other times, government organizations have gone beyond measurement to “performance management” – using measures as a tool to improve performance along dimensions measured, not just record performance levels assumed to be unchanging. The basic idea is that various non-financial performance measures serve a role analogous to the profit measure in firms for encouraging better performance. Performance management is thus seen as a potentially powerful tool to remedy underperformance in government.

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