Panel Paper: The Role of Performance Information Artifacts: Key Mechanisms for Meaningful Use

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 2:25 PM
Poe (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Natalie Helbig, State University of New York, Albany, Luis Luna-Reyes, Universidad de las Americas Puebla and Michael Deegan, US Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources

Background and Overview

Performance information use remains an important and relatively understudied aspect of performance improvement (Moynihan et al, 2011). Equally important to the question of ‘why actors use performance information’, is the question of how that use unfolds across the organization in various contexts and over time. Without knowledge of the process of performance information use in organizations, it becomes difficult to establish the conditions necessary in organizations to enable meaningful use of performance information to improve practice. In this study, we use system dynamics thinking to build upon the current stream of literature treating performance information use as a form of organizational behavior and dialogue (Moynihan & Pandey, 2010; Moynihan, 2009) to map the process of use across the organization, particularly between executives, managers, and front-line employees.  

Research Approach and Data

We characterize the use of performance information in organizations as a learning process where we highlight the function of performance artifacts (reports, dashboard displays, graphs) as boundary objects (Star and Griesemer, 1989) that make performance goals concrete and negotiable for various groups of participants (Yakura, 2002). We use System Dynamics to explore the relationships between executives, managers, and front-line employees as they use performance artifacts in individual and group use processes that extend across multiple contexts and over time. A system dynamics approach to modeling information use emphasizes a continuous view and looks beyond discrete events to see the dynamic patterns emerging from them (Richardson, 2011).  

Our data is from an in-depth case study of the ChildStat program at the New York City (NYC) Administration for Children Services (ACS). Data include participant observations of ChildStat meetings and semi-structured interviews with over 120 executives, managers, supervisors, and front-line employees.  We use this qualitative data as the basis for the development of the conceptual model (Luna-Reyes and Andersen, 2003) to explore a series of dynamic interrelationships among use contexts and interactions with performance artifacts to show various scenarios that highlight the key role played by the quality of the artifacts in the process of performance information use to improve practice. 


Performance artifacts, working as boundary objects, facilitate goal translations, practice changes, and learning across hierarchical and professional boundaries. We expect that the model will be able to explain how the current characteristics of performance artifacts in use are not enough to effectively transform practice. Performance artifacts can be effective if they have images and text that are representative for both professional actors and they are good instruments to facilitate translation between professional areas when they are concrete enough to share meaning. Lastly, they are effective in the process of learning and transforming practice when they are transformable (Carlile, 2002).