Practice Advice in Evaluation and Performance Measurement
Measuring Results (OCED)
Description: Managers should be accountable for what they do, not how they do it. Effectively implementing this is, however, very difficult in practice.
Commentary: Some government activities lend themselves to results measurement much more readily than others. For example, an agency that produces a single or a few homogenous products or services can be rather easily measured, such as an agency that issues passports. However a majority of agencies produce heterogeneous and individualised services that are very difficult to measure.
We are also faced with the choice of defining results either in terms of outputs or outcomes. Outputs are the goods and services that government agencies produce. Outcomes are the impact on, or the consequences for, the community of the outputs that are produced. From an accountability point of view, the question arises whether you hold managers responsible for outputs or outcomes. Outputs are easier to work with in this context; but outcomes are what matters in the final analysis. A combination of the two is the optimum choice, but experience in member countries shows that one will always dominate.
If the agency’s measurement system is biased in favour of those activities that are more easily measured, there’s every likelihood that management will focus its attention disproportionately on those activities since their accountability is based on that. This creates a huge onus on those designing the agency’s measurement system to ensure that it captures all aspects of their activities which can create the problem of information overload. Agencies produce so much information that it’s very difficult for outsiders to judge which are the more important pieces of information. The lesson here is for agencies to differentiate between the measurements they do for internal purposes and those they perform for external purposes. A weighed index of various internal measures may be the optimum solution for an external audience.
Source: OECD (2003). Budget Reform in OECD Member Countries: Common Trends at http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/governance/budget-reform-in-oecd-member-countries-common-trends_budget-v2-art20-en (accessed 21 October, 2012).
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