Magazine article Government Finance Review

Getting at the Real Benefits of PerformanceStat

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Getting at the Real Benefits of PerformanceStat

Article excerpt

The PerformanceStat Potential: A Leadership Strategy for Producing Results

Robert D. Behn

Brookings Institution Press 2014, 413 pages, $29.66


In his new book, The PerformanceStat Potential, Robert Behn describes the next level of performance management.


He begins his discussion of the leadership strategy he refers to as "PerformanceStat" with an explanation of a closely related data-driven performance management approach to law enforcement that is commonly known as CompStat. This management methodology, which uses data to measure performance in law enforcement, was piloted in the New York City Police Department in the 1990s and is credited with historic reductions in the city's crime rate. At least in part because of this success, CompStat gained popularity and was used as a template not only for other law enforcement agencies, but for data-driven approaches developed for public-sector organizations of all kinds. The success of this method was driven by its ability to fuse: 1) accurate and timely intelligence; 2) effective tactics and strategies; 3) rapid deployment of resources; and 4) relentless follow-up and evaluation. In assessing the impact of CompStat and its offshoots, Behn is careful to note the important distinction between the use of data as part of a truly transformative leadership strategy versus what he calls mimicry, or merely repeating the data collection steps seen in other organizations without any real sense of direction.

CompStat led to a host of similar applications for data usage in the public sector. These included similar tactics and applications at the agency level, which Behn calls "AgencyStat"; at the organizational level, referred to as "OrganizationStat"; and at the city level, referred to as CitiStat. Perhaps the most popular of these was Baltimore's CitiStat program, which provided data collection and analysis to measure and improve performance from law enforcement to public service delivery. The city developed a six-step process comprising memos, all relevant data, a CitiStat template, a CitiStat track report, visual evidence, and follow-up. Although the processes were augmented to address the unique needs of service delivery improvement, the basic tenets of CompStat remained the same in its CitiStat iteration. Behn highlights common themes that can be found in the various "data-driven, performance-management" approaches used in the public sector, regardless of the name or adaptation, and unites them all under one umbrella. He sees the different approaches as part of a common leadership strategy.


Although the term PerformanceStat unites numerous "data-leveraging" management approaches, Behn notes that not all management approaches that use data for decision making are PerformanceStat. He warns against the danger of merely repeating what other jurisdictions have had success with, without serious consideration to how applicable that tactic will be to a given circumstance. Behn argues that PerformanceStat is a leadership strategy rather than a tactic. This suggests that an organization's leadership, particularly those who have the capability to make decisions and allocate resources, must champion and lead any true PerformanceStat effort.

While PerformanceStat is applied under a number of dissimilar circumstances, its tenets remain the same, and they can be identified regardless of the organizational type. …

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