Magazine article Government Finance Review

A "MAP" Approach to Performance Management in Local Government

Magazine article Government Finance Review

A "MAP" Approach to Performance Management in Local Government

Article excerpt

Performance measurement is making progress toward becoming a professional norm in local government. One study found that 38 percent of municipalities with populations of 25,000 and more reported the adoption of performance measurement systems,1 while another found that 37 percent of municipalities with populations between 2,500 and 24,999 used performance measurement systems to some degree.2 Organizations adopt performance measurement because it creates accountability, provides feedback on operations, and results in more effective planning, budgeting, and evaluation.3 The adoption of performance measurement also has been advanced by the professionalism of administrators, the applied research of academics, and the encouragement from professional organizations like the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA).4

However, local government officials struggle with how to use the results of performance measures to make management decisions, which the literature refers to as the distinction between adoption and implementation.5 Adoption of performance measurement is the creation and reporting of output, outcome, and efficiency measures. Implementation of performance measurement occurs when local government officials analyze and interpret performance results in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery, which is commonly referred to as performance management. In other words, performance management represents the actual use of performance measurement systems for developing an organizational culture of results-based management.

How do local government officials move their organizations from adoption to implementation of performance measurement? This article presents the mission, assessment, and performance (MAP) approach to a successful performance management system in local government. The MAP approach is a rating system that gauges how committed a program is to performance management and provides insight for making performance management a meaningful part of the organizational culture.6 Exhibit 1 contains the performance management rating system which is based on MAP categories. These categories are then divided into subcategories; for example, the mission category contains the subcategories of leadership, goals and objectives, and customers. Each of the subcategories contains a series of best practices, which the program manager uses to rate his or her program using a five-point scale. The total score is compared to the interpretation scale (Exhibit 2) to gauge how committed the program is to performance management.


The mission category reflects the notion that successful programs have a clear and well-defined mission statement that all employees understand and work toward. The mission provides the context for measuring performance in local government; consequently, the performance measurement system must be aligned with the mission. If it is not, employees perceive that performance measurement is peripheral to the mission and not core to their job responsibilities.

The first subcategory under mission is leadership. While there is no single agreed-upon definition of leadership, we know that it is extremely important in any successful organization and essential to an effective performance management system. Current literature suggests that a key leadership best practice is a personal commitment or ethical obligation to performance management from the program manager.7 That commitment extends to communicating the importance of performance measurement and management on an ongoing basis, and to assuring that employees receive regular training to help them build a knowledge base. (Unfortunately, training on performance measurement in local government is rare.)8 Leadership also includes making sure that performance management is emphasized in personnel recruitment, so that applicants understand that it is a part of the organizational culture even before they become a part of it. …

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