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

Panel Paper: The Design and Practice of Integrating Evidence: The Connections Between Performance Management and Program Evaluation in the US Federal Government

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Pearson II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Alexander Kroll, Florida International University and Donald Moynihan, University of Wisconsin - Madison
The rational design on  government systems depends upon connections between different parts of that system. Such connections might be logically obvious, but not reflected in practice. For example, performance management processes and program evaluation processes have the potential to offer different and complementary insights into public sector outcomes. But in governments where both exist, there is a tendency for disconnect to occur between those systems, and in some cases for program evaluation and performance management to serve as competing systems. 

Our analysis takes the US federal government as a case study, examining the relationship between program evaluation and performance management over time. This history reveals an institutionalized separation between the two. Program evaluations rarely informed performance management efforts, and vice versa, and each approach was viewed as potentially hostile to the other. Policymakers have become increasingly aware of this separation and in recent years have sought to bridge it. 

In addition to providing a historical account of these trends, we offer survey-based quantitative evidence that efforts to integrate program evaluation and performance management had some success. Using two comparable federal datasets from 2000 and 2012, we compare the interaction of program evaluation and performance management routines, and whether those interactions altered the use of performance data to make decisions. We demonstrate that in 2012 there is evidence of such an interaction that was not present in an earlier time period.

We provide secondary evidence that one reason that program evaluation facilitates the use of performance data is by identifying causal connections between actions and outcomes in a way that performance data itself cannot provide.

The paper offers evidence that an integration between performance management and program evaluations is feasible. However, simply having both capacities within government offers no basis to expect an easy connection between the two. In the US case, the connection appears to have emerged from deliberate and ongoing effort first by the Bush administration, and then by the Obama administration. For other countries that have adopted such tools as part of a comprehensive reform package, such divides may never arise in the first place. But we argue that whether logical connections between different government systems occur in practice is highly context-driven. This implies that general claims as to connections between government processes should be made cautiously.

Full Paper: