The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform

The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform

The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform

The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform


Efficiency. Innovation. Results. Accountability. These, advocates claim, are the fruits of performance management. In recent decades government organizations have eagerly embraced the performance model -- but the rush to reform has not delivered as promised.

Drawing on research from state and federal levels, Moynihan illustrates how governments have emphasized some aspects of performance management -- such as building measurement systems to acquire more performance data -- but have neglected wider organizational change that would facilitate the use of such information. In his analysis of why and how governments in the United States have made the move to performance systems, Moynihan identifies agency leadership, culture, and resources as keys to better implementation, goal-based learning, and improved outcomes.

How do governments use the performance information generated under performance systems? Moynihan develops a model of interactive dialogue to highlight how performance data, which promised to optimize decision making and policy change for the public's benefit, has often been used selectively to serve the interests of particular agencies and individuals, undermining attempts at interagency problem solving and reform.

A valuable resource for public administration scholars and administrators, The Dynamics of Performance Management offers fresh insight into how government organizations can better achieve their public service goals.


When the National Collegiate Athletic Association selects teams for the annual NCAA men's basketball tournament, some teams automatically qualify for the “dance” if they win their regular season conference tournament, but more than half of the sixty-four-team field depend on invitations from a ten-person committee assigned to evaluate their performances. In 2007 Syracuse University did not make the cut. The decision, at least for Syracuse alumni such as myself, came as something of a shock. The Syracuse coach suggested that the head of the selection committee was crazy. After all, Syracuse had won more than twenty games, usually the basis for an invite to the tournament, and the team was ranked fifth in the Big East conference, which had six teams invited. These seemingly important and straightforward measures of performance, however, were not enough. The selection committee gave greater weight to a statistic that showed that Syracuse had played too many weak teams in their nonconference schedule, although the head of the selection committee conceded that “if you torture the numbers long enough, you can get them to confess to anything.”

Another sports example: Political scientists Brian Sala, John Scott, and James F. Spriggs have investigated bias in Olympic figure skating judging between 1948 and 2002. The judges, who represent national sporting bodies, are expected to provide impartial assessments and can be removed if their judgment comes into question. Nevertheless, Sala, Scott, and Spriggs found distinct patterns of bias. Perhaps not surprisingly, judges consistently awarded higher marks to skaters from their own countries relative to other judges. More interestingly, the pattern of bias suggests that judgment was shaped by cold war politics. Judges from NATO and Warsaw Pact nations tended to mark down skaters from countries perceived as enemies. These biases largely disappeared in the post–cold war era, suggesting something of the fluidity of political identity.

The final example is less whimsical in substance. An article by Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post, “Iraq War's Statistics Prove Fleeting,” notes that performance data on the Iraq war have been repeatedly invoked when it suits the Bush administration but dismissed as misleading or irrelevant on other occasions. For example, the Department of Defense has made a policy of not counting casualties inflicted by American military except when it wishes to emphasize the number of . . .

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