The Art of Performance

The major first report by the UK’s latest ‘think tank’, the Institute for Government led by well-known and outspoken former Permanent Secretary Sir Michael Bichard, bodes well for the future of the new body. It is a serious, measured and balanced account of many of the achievements and problems experienced in the UK.

Reviewing the huge experiment with performance measurement and reporting – especially over the past decade in central government – which the UK has been going through, the authors’ conclude that “performance management is here to stay”.

Whilst they recognize some of the oft cited criticisms – too much top-down target setting; some ‘game playing’ by public managers with measurement; some unwanted distorted behaviors with managers managing to targets rather than objectives; and so on – nevertheless they point to real improvements in services and accountability.

Some of the detail may be of interest only to a UK audience, given Britain’s peculiar relationships between central government and others levels, but the central messages are probably relevant to most countries thinking about, or even experienced in, attempts to introduce performance systems and policies.

For those interested in on-going insights from performance policies and practice in the USA, a good starting point is Harvard Academic Bob Behn’s ‘Public Management Report’.

For those interested in ‘Public Value’ approaches to performance you might also want to note the following:

The Work Foundation (UK) have completed their work on Public Value and a range of interesting reports from both practice in UK public organizations and by a number of analysts are available on their website: Work Foundation Public Value

These include my own report on ‘Measuring Public Value


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