Utah Elevates Its Performance: Performance Elevated Is a Management Tool for Improving Performance and Efficiency in State Agencies

Article excerpt

According to a recent report on state government management, "Utah has been a clear leader in sound government based on smart planning and effective performance management that emphasizes long-term results ... Utah manages all facets of state government well, emphasizing long-term goals and performance outcomes. The executive and legislative branches work together effectively to align expenditures with the strategic direction of the state." (1) Like other state governments, Utah has developed a performance culture that focuses on outcomes and uses tools that allow state's limited resources to be managed more effectively. Such sound management is facilitated by Utah's comprehensive performance measurement and management initiative, Performance Elevated.

Utah's Performance Elevated, which began in 2005 as an executive branch initiative, is a management tool for improving performance and efficiency in state agencies.

The program consists of four central elements for "creating a culture of quality governance"--strategic planning, performance management, collaboration and training, and enterprise innovation. Each element will be addressed in turn below.

STRATEGIC PLANNING

All of Utah's state agencies develop and annually review and revise a strategic plan that answers three critical questions:

1) What is your mission?

2) What is your strategy for accomplishing your mission?

3) How do you know when you are successful?

The strategic plan helps the agency rationalize and justify the performance metrics it is tracking. Each plan contains the following elements:

* Scope statement--an explanation of the role of the strategic plan in managing operations.

* Current environment--an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and a discussion of critical short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term issues.

* Strategic focus--the agency's key objectives, with an explanation of how each one is tied to the governor's four broad priority policy areas: economic development, education, quality of life, and governance.

* Implementation--description of the process, roles, and responsibilities necessary for carrying out the plan, and how the strategies and key objectives are represented in performance metrics.

Agency strategic plans "communicate a cross-boundary vision" that feeds into the statewide long-term planning document, which is called Emerging Issues and Strategies (EIS). With guidance provided by their own strategic plans and the governor's four statewide priorities--education, economic development, quality of life, and governance--agencies develop emerging issues narratives and strategic focuses for each priority area, which are compiled into Utah's full EIS document.

The EIS document "provides a framework to assist agencies in identifying enterprise-wide, current and emerging issues, determine priorities and coordinate resources, and most importantly, assure the effective use of taxpayer dollars." (2) The executive branch uses this information to assess upcoming challenges and to identify the best way of adapting so it can address the challenges.

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

Utah follows a balanced scorecard approach to performance measurement. All executive agencies develop outcome, output, and efficiency measures which are placed into the balanced scorecard categories of customer, finance, internal process, and learning and growth. Each agency's outputs and outcomes align with its strategic focus, as established in the statewide EIS document.

The balanced scorecard initiative is not meant to micromanage agencies; rather, it is designed as a communication and problem-solving tool. Taking a balanced approach to choosing performance measures ensures that agencies continue to focus on the quality of service rather than only quantity or speed of service. Agencies must articulate the rationale behind each measure and justify performance goals and targets. …

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