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Trans-European Dialogue (TED) 8

Towards Meaningful Measurement: Performance Management at the Crossroads of internal efficiency and social impacts 

 

 

February 5-6, 2015, Milano, Italy


 

 

 

Over the last decades, public bureaucracies in West and Eastern Europe have implemented performance management systems, as recommended by managers, management consultants, and international organisations. In recent years however researchers have documented two lines of critiques. In some cases, performance information is not used, making performance management a paper exercise. In other cases, the use of indicators leads to unintended effects when the indicators become a goal in themselves. The intensity of these effects seems to differ across different contexts. In many respects, performance measurement and management have turned to ideology: while widely acknowledged, they are unevenly applied, and their meaning varies in different countries.  Performance and performance management do not necessarily have the same meaning in different countries.

With the evidence of its shortcomings growing, performance management finds itself at the crossroads. The engineer’s logic – set targets, measure attainment and punish or reward – has reached its limits. The world of public administration is way too complex for that. The context is political and hence perspectives are different.  Performance is evaluated internally in terms of efficiency gains and externally in terms of social impacts. An alternative to the command & control approach is to use performance information for learning and dialogue. Rather than being a system to punish and to hold actors to account, performance management should focus on the future. Performance indicators should inform dialogue and help us to understand complexity. Could this be the reinvention of performance management?

In this TED, we will study this proposition. We will take stock of existing performance management efforts and ask ourselves whether performance management can address its critiques when developed as a learning system. This being a dialogue, we will try to understand differences between countries and administrative traditions in Europe, but we will also pay attention to shared challenges that European governments are facing. Papers can evaluate current practices as well as propose prospective directions.