Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Performance Management: Confronting the Challenges for Local Government

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Performance Management: Confronting the Challenges for Local Government

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Local government managers face considerable accountability demands on a daily basis, as do their state and federal counterparts. But local government administration offers distinct challenges to accountability through responsiveness (Koppell 2005), or what we might call performance-based accountability. The tasks of local government are routine, problems are often small in scale, and government organizations are often small, facilitating communication and information sharing through traditional means. But routinization of tasks should also facilitate the use of performance measurement to a greater degree than an environment characterized by task uncertainty. With respect to size, Zheng (2015) found, for example, that the use of e-participation in local governments in New Jersey increased among cities with greater populations. This suggests that as cities become larger, the linkages with citizens become more difficult to maintain, and as agencies grow, the information burden is difficult to bear without systematic approaches. This article uses the capacity/performance paradigm as a framework to build a theoretical synthesis of the obstacles to local government use of performance management. That is, to elucidate the barriers and impediments local government administrators--both municipal and county--face for developing a culture of performance management. In the way of definitions, it is helpful to begin by distinguishing performance measurement, which is the collection, analysis, and reporting of performance information, from performance management, which is the use of such information by managers with adequate discretion in daily decision making (Moynihan 2008).

BACKGROUND: SYSTEMATIC USE OF PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT AND MANAGEMENT

State governments, such as Virginia, led the way in producing government-wide performance management systems, and most states have such systems in place today (Moynihan 2008). The federal government entered the performance measurement and management arena in a formal sense with the passage of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, following a years-long National Performance Review. With the adoption and implementation of CompStat by New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Giuliani in 1994, performance management began to enter the nomenclature of local government management. The performance movement, as a phenomenon, has emerged quite recently in practical terms, and it has evolved and expanded with ardor. Citistat, implemented in Baltimore, characterizes a city-wide performance management system based on the principles found in CompStat.

The advent of these new approaches to management has been accompanied by a series of trends that shape its application, demand, and value. The rise of the IT sector has provided more and more powerful technology to collect, process, analyze, and report performance information directly to citizens and stakeholders directly through the world wide web. The new generation of consumers has grown up with technology and social media as a central part of their lives, and the demands for government accountability and citizen engagement have taken on new forms as a result. The internet has also changed information sharing not just in terms of availability, but it has drastically reduced transmission times, making information immediately available, and leading to expectations for reduced time from production to reporting. The absence of information now is seen as suspicious, and contrary to the foundational expectation for transparency. Finally, the effects of globalization in the new economy have been widespread. This means that goods and services flow freely from place to place, but it also means that people, as individuals, are more mobile than ever before. They are not place-bound consumers of public services, but mobile mavens with increased expectations who increasingly exercise choice. We are now more aware of what is going on in other places, and more readily able to observe differences in public service quality from place to place. …

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