Thursday, August 30, 2007

Performance Management

According to the Oregon Progress Board Key Performance Measures many states are initiating statewide performance management initiatives to ferret out under performing activities and find ways to stretch their resources. While robust statistics remain elusive, there is a growing body of evidence that performance management makes a difference. In 2001, at the start of the states’ most recent fiscal crisis, a bipartisan group from the Kennedy School of Government exhorted public-sector executives to embrace performance management, calling it among the most powerful of a limited number of tools available to advance an organization’s priorities. Using a report by Accenture (a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company) Oregon was able to grasp a better understanding about the process of performance management.

Oregon recognizes roadblocks to performance management. When asking asked about performance budgeting in the public sector it was found that one key roadblock is that Executives have not found a clear, comprehensive way to measure value. Because most states do not have an articulated strategic plan, executives are unable to define their priorities. The diversity of state government stakeholders and the different (and sometimes far-flung) services provided within agencies may put the needs of different populations served by an agency at odds and drive the agency in completely different directions. Without a handle on the state’s priorities decision-makers are ill-equipped to determine what better performance even means. Further, different agencies often have conflicting missions—one striving to expand Internet services, for example, and another trying to cut technology spending. Maximizing value means striking the right balance, which involves judgment. Once the very definition of success involves a subjective judgment of this sort, it becomes more difficult to measure and open to political manipulation.

Another roadblock is a fundamental lack of understanding of the concept of performance management and inadequate management skills impeding progress. The root of the problem often can be traced to the way agency leaders are chosen. In most states, the people who lead the organizations are political appointees who have been selected based on what they did, or what they will do, for the governor—not because they had specific expertise in leading and managing organizations. To assume these people will willingly embrace a performance management system, develop strategic plans and then monitor performance when their career track continues to be completely built on politics is, at best, optimistic. “Sometimes the people driving the politics aren't the same people who know best how to manage government day-to-day, and it's an interesting dynamic,” explains Jim Chrisinger of the Iowa Department of Management. “It's hard to keep everything aligned when some of the key people toward the top don’t accept it as a priority. I think there are some lessons to be learned from what's happened at the local government level, where there's been more of a split between the political side and the management side. I could argue there ought to be a professional COO of state government. I think it’s an interesting model; we just haven't taken it to that level.”

Other roadblocks include that when they do develop performance information, political realities prevent executives from using it. One of the most fundamental challenges to successful performance management at the statewide level is the fact that decision-making in government is based on power, not a rational analysis of the facts. The nuances of political relationships and the vital importance politicians and appointees place on managing perceptions make it difficult to implement objective report cards. What to measure, how to measure, and what to do with the information are highly charged decisions. And these choices can inspire particularly intense debate when the results might not be good—precisely when performance management promises the largest benefit. Performance reports have the potential to point out programs that are not succeeding, which can threaten the legislators who have nurtured them as pet projects. “You’re goring their ox,” as one executive in Oregon explains it. “These are the programs they supported for years, and we're telling them that they're not effective, and there are other programs where we should be putting our money.” Unfortunately, politics often overrides cold, hard facts.

While these problems may seem insurmountable the report continues on an upward note. Despite the challenges, a number of organizations have made real headway on the road to effective performance management. Certain practices came to the fore among these successes, including: Concentrate on performance management at the agency or team level rather than statewide level. Focus on setting goals and performance expectations to guide measurement. Support, but do not drive performance management initiatives with new technology. Use legislative and regulatory mandates to create a consistent, cross-administration push. Understand that performance management is an iterative process.

Focus on setting goals and performance expectations to guide measurement. Performance management initiatives can get bogged down under the weight of extensive and detailed measurement —documenting exactly what happens at every single stage of the process and why. Agencies tend to fall into this trap when they view performance management as an externally imposed exercise rather than an effective way to make things better. When the focus is only on the process, any obstacles can become showstoppers. In contrast, when agencies focus on the end goal—performance improvement— they begin to see that processes can be changed and obstacles overcome. That is why some leading states are making concerted efforts to develop concise, overarching statewide performance goals as a starting point.

Support, but do not drive performance management initiatives with new technology. Getting the agency’s IT environment under control is clearly essential for performance management; it provides, in a timely manner, the kind of information people need to get the performance management job done. In fact, IT reform will often ignite performance management initiatives.

Understand that performance management is an iterative process. Once the foundation pieces are in place—the goals, the expectations, the technology and the legislative and executive support—then states can begin to work on the process itself. California CIO Clark Kelso likens the start-up process to pulling off a bandage: “You've got to do it in one quick pull. You can't stretch this out over three to five years. You have to decide: ‘We’re going to do performance- based budgeting. We're going to start next fiscal year. We know that that first year's performance-based budget is going to be very rough. We're not going to have all the information we need. We're not going to have all the metrics. We're not even probably going to have a very good baseline completed. But we just have to decide we're going to do that.’ And then, the second year, you know that it will get better.” The idea is to start small to effect change. Identify a few strategic priorities and find the indicators you can influence at a broad level. Recognize that wholesale agency transformation is unlikely to occur quickly, but over time small effects will add up.

As states consider their own paths toward high performance, they will undoubtedly question how best to use performance management as a tool of greater efficiency and effectiveness.
We [the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business] identified a number of emerging practices among the leaders that we think will be critical:
  • Be explicit about value.
  • Set high-performance aspirations.
  • Use performance management practices to focus and energize the entire organization.
  • Remember that leadership at all levels is crucial.
Performance management is a difficult journey. The good news for performance management champions is that it gets attention in times of budgetary shortfall such as the states are experiencing now.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Courtroom Protocol: The Does & Don'ts

An adolescent teen spirit was allowed to observe the courtroom procedure Monday morning as a decision was made on a petition, a petition cast in the hopes that two sides of an important issue would finally make it into media. The teen was allowed, by her supposed guardian (the elderly looking male with her), to make vile hand gestures at elected County officials and mouth obscenities. A casual observer must wonder about the guardian and come to the conclusion that he must be unschooled in courtroom procedure and protocol.

Would that were true, but alas, the guardian with his adolescent were none less than the District Attorney, Joshua Marquis with his wife Cindy Price, who spent the time flipping off the Chair of the Board of County Commissioners and mouthing, "F*ck-you" at him. In nodding appreciation, Steve Forrester, the owner and editor of the only local daily newspaper, looked on. It was apparent that even this petition would not garner an even handed reporting of the events unfolding in the drama that is community life across the United States, land of the free, home of justice and often run via little town media.

Outside, a deluded woman paced the sidewalk with a sign proclaiming "Let us vote" beseeching people for the opportunity to vote for an independent District Attorney. Her pathetic lament showed her blinded to reason, intent on finding others to share her lunacy. She supports a petition which she says will make the district attorney "truly free." One free from being bound to the capricious willy, nilly politics of the local atmosphere. In her passion she forgets the District Attorney is an elected official paid by the state of Oregon, already as free as one can get, and still live here, from local affairs.

Inside the spacious second-floor courtroom people sat listening, most trying to ignore the outbursts of ill manners by the adolescent, hoping that the local paper would go against custom and for once print an accurate accounting of the proceeding. Our County Commissioners who attended graciously acknowledged the presence of each person that caught their eye with a nod or a wave, ignoring the cold eyes and defiant looks of those who took umbrage at the audacity of doing their duties as commissioners.

The Commissioners patiently waited and after a startled look at the District Attorney's wife's frantic antics, with a shrug of "what do you expect from an ex-employee of a porn magazine," went back to watching the proceeding. The action being a forgone conclusion, their presence added credence to the reason for the proceedings having to take place. A call to media for fair representation to both sides of the issue. All knowing it probably is in vain but willing to give the local media another opportunity to be just and fair.

Too soon it was over. The good, reliable, retired attorney's efforts perhaps in vain, but most perhaps not. While the local media mutt weaved his way back to his den to convince himself that he was a good and honest journalist the eyes of Clatsop County have begun to open wider. The extra weekend this garnered allowed many to discuss openly and frankly what this "Petition for an Independent DA" has, and will, cost the tax payers.

Frivolous measures on a ballot are not appreciated by tax payers, they cost money. Those putting them on the ballot are remembered, especially when the tax payer is reminded who they are. Being forced to compensate a state paid elected official, who was instrumental in crafting the petition to amend the County Charter, won't sit well with the tax payer either.

While those who opposed the petition, in the hopes of saving the tax payer money, had no choice but to take this to court, one wonders if they aren't more than satisfied that this is going to the ballot.

The next few months are going to be interesting, very interesting indeed.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Those who hold themselves accountable for their own actions are people we should all try to emulate in our own way.

While this is not intended to target any individual or situation, this whole debacle with the Clatsop County's elected DA and his attitude towards the county officials exemplifies 'what NOT to do'.

If you make a mistake, fix it and don't make excuses. Really, people will think more of you for having done so. You are being damaged yourself, by not fixing mistakes, even if you cannot readily see it at the time.

In your life if you are asked questions that you do not have the answers to, or are unsure, please admit that you don't know and that you will get back to the person with the information later. People will not mind, honestly. Shooting from the hip and being wrong can destroy a person's credibility pretty darn fast.

If you hurt someone, apologize and try not to do it again. Even if it was unintentional, you should always apologize and make a point to analyze just what happened, so the hurtful behavior is not repeated.

If you happen to get caught in a lie, no matter how small, please admit it, briefly apologize if warranted and move on. Never believe that you have gotten away with something by not getting caught in a lie. It will catch up with you in one form or another and you are the person who will be damaged the most.

If in your life you break something, albeit someone's heart or someone's tangible possession, please fix it or replace it. This will have it's rewards later in life, as you will come to find out.

Don't lay blame on others for something you have done. Some people have made a lifelong habit of casting blame on everyone but the person in the mirror.

This message is not meant to admonish any one, but rather to remind us all to be more aware of our actions, and (hopefully) to stop and think about whether we are being good role models that others that may look up to.

Are you a good role model for yourself and if you were to die tomorrow, would you be proud of your recent actions that people will remember you by?

Those are the questions we must ask ourselves on a daily basis to keep things in check and keep our lives 'purposeful' as well as being an example for our children for those of us that have them or are around them enough to form an impression.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Which Side Are You On?

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This simple law of physics translates well into everyday life. There is nothing that happens in our lives that this law doesn’t apply to. Every event starts a chain reaction which creates a Mobius Strip where the equal and opposite thing comes about.

Let’s say for example a criminal activity takes place. Wanting to prevent another criminal activity in the same location a gate or a door will be fitted with a lock and a camera will be installed. Next time the crime is committed elsewhere more locks and cameras will be installed.

To get ahead of the curve and in the name of proactive measures we suddenly see everything caged and locked with cameras pointed everywhere trying to prevent crimes. In order to get access one often needs to be “Buzzed in” and sometimes even “Buzzed out” in order to leave.

The card keys that open your hotel room are linked up to a database where your activities can be tracked. It inn keeper can find easily find out what times you entered your room or any other room that card key has access to such as the entrance after hours, the exercise room, the pool or sauna. You were on camera from the moment you drove into the parking lot and are on camera until you enter your room; that is if you close your blinds.

If you go grocery shopping, you are on camera the whole time as well. If you use your rewards or customer card they know who you are and what you purchased. The cameras were placed there for security but are actually being used to detect consumer patterns or stated in another way, to spy on the customers.

It was the threat of crime justified the installation of cameras but what they’ve in effect done is turn our world into a minimum security prison where we are the inmates. We are locked in or locked out and we are nearly always on camera when we leave our homes. Our activities are often limited so as not to perpetuate criminal activity.

Some people say they feel safer living in a society where everything happens within the view of a lens. Some people feel safer in prison than they feel when they are free. Some criminals will commit a criminal offense just so they can go back to prison. It is home to them.

As for yourself, what your limits are? Banks have been using cameras for years. Many businesses such as Fred Meyer have large monitors mounted above their entrances just to let you know you are on camera every where you go in their store. Police cars are outfitted with cameras and there are traffic cameras and weather cameras also lacing popular places people pass through and visit.

Would you like being on camera in your coffee shop? How about in the changing room? How about on the street at Sunday Market? How about in the theater? How about being on camera on the River Walk? How far does it need to go before you feel like you are a prisoner in your own society?

It is doubtful that we will ever be able to get the Genie back in the bottle. We are living in a time where we are all presumed guilty at birth as though we really were born with what Catholics call “Original Sin.” Remember, America is the Land of the Free, unless we surrender all of our freedoms. Is it possible that one day “Trust Zones” will appear, where shops and neighborhoods take the necessary measures to rid their areas of spy equipment and people will be able to live free again?