Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Performance Management and Decision Making in State Agencies: The Case of Massachusetts

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 8:30 AM
Pearson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ryan Whalen, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Accountability and transparency are prominent themes across government today. Popular movements such as “reinventing government” (Obsorne & Gaebler, 1992) and “new public management” (Hood, 1991) represent a new form of government that includes the formal measurement and monitoring of performance in order to serve the public with efficiency and accountability. In response, governments of all forms and sizes are adopting “performance management” (PM) programs to measure and report their performance. While variation exists across these programs, the major components typically include: strategic goal setting, identification of performance measures, systematic data collection and routine monitoring of performance through internal or public facing dashboards. While private firms have used similar techniques to increase efficiency and profits through performance management programs such as “Total Quality Management” and “Lean” (McGowan, 1995; McNary, 2008), the public sector faces unique challenges when attempting to identify how performance management programs can lead to more effective and responsive government (Van Dooren, 2011). Some argue that performance management and government are fundamentally misaligned (Kellough, 1998). To date, a wide range of scholarly literature on public sector PM has examined the social and political movement behind PM, the strengths and weaknesses of PM as a public administration technique and the implications of performance management for public organizations (Obsorne & Gaebler, 1992; Wholey, 1999; Kellough, 1998). Scholars and practitioners alike have attempted to make recommendations for public managers who seek to utilize performance management. While performance management strategies have been utilized across almost all levels of government (Hatry, 2014), current literature focuses largely on identifying the factors that impact the adoption or implementation of performance management programs. Despite gains in our understanding of the extent of performance management adoption, more research is needed to understand how, if at all, measuring and monitoring performance data leads to a better, more efficient public sector. This research’s primary research question is: How is performance management used to inform decision making in state agencies? This research will utilize a case study design of Massachusetts state executive agencies, and will supplement in depth semi-structured interviews with secondary data analysis. This research will contribute to the scholarly literature surrounding performance management while also providing key insights to practitioners and public managers on the front lines of performance improvement efforts.