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Fall 2018 OPPIA Newsletter -- Featured Performance Improvement Article

Purpose + Process + People = Results  In this issue, we focus on three pillars of performance management: Purpose + Process + People = Results.

Purpose [pillar one] provides a clear picture of where you want to be. Performance metrics tell us where we are today compared to a defined goal. Without purpose, programs, and processes people are left to define their own goals, with the inherent risk of each pulling in a different direction. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, reconfirmed a pervasive government management problem in its new report published as part of the “Managing for Results” series. The title defines the problem: Managing for Results: Government wide Actions Needed to Improve Agencies' Use of Performance Information in Decision Making In addition to its analysis and detailed survey results by agency, the GAO report makes two recommendations:

Create a Data Action Plan that identifies

Performance goals (tangible, measurable results);
Contributing sources (agencies, units, programs, processes, systems);
Those responsible for leading implementation of the Plan for each of the sources;
Planned actions with time frames; and the
Means to assess progress (and evaluate the effectiveness of actions taken – as defined by the Plan – Do – Check – Assess/Act cycle).

Prioritize efforts to

Identify and share proven practices for increasing use of performance information; and
Identify challenges (barriers) that hamper implementation of data-driven decision-making and include strategies for addressing challenges to the Action Plan (this includes ensuring data is timely, reliable, believable, and accessible.)

The mantra at the first quality conference I attended was, “In God we trust, everyone else bring data.” That was in 1986. Where do Oregon state and local agencies stand with performance metrics today?  While we have a long way to go, I think we are moving in the right direction. At the Oregon Department of Transportation, we recently set up a Central Services Performance System (CSPS) to identify and track performance metrics for core processes. ODOT’s CSPS is based on models used by DAS, DHS, the State Hospital, and many other state agencies. A common framework simplifies communication between agencies, leaders, and staff. However, do not let the lack of an established framework stop you from using data to form your decisions.  Discussion item: Where do I/my team routinely use data to make decisions? Where can I/we improve? The second pillar, Process, is the approach an agency can use to manage performance.  In the fiercely competitive airline industry, it's an ongoing challenge to cut costs while enhancing the traveler's experience. Many airlines have embraced a Lean culture to maintain their customer focus while eliminating waste. Of course, some are farther along than others. Check out this ten-point lean checklist for leaders developed by McKinsey & Company. The article defines Lean benefits as:

  1. Savings that go straight to the bottom line.

  2. Improved customer experience.

  3. Employees engaged in a more productive “value-added” workplace.

How do these benefits apply to the public sector? Savings are savings. All agencies struggle to stretch budgets. A penny saved is a penny earned. We all have customers: The public, legislators, other agencies, business units, and employees. Who of our customers do not want the products and services we deliver to arrive faster, better, cheaper? In a tight labor market with increasing demand to do more with less, attracting and retaining highly skilled employees is difficult at best. If we can’t woo them with money, we can provide a challenging, rewarding Lean-culture inspired work environment free of wasteful practices. Discussion item: What can we do to identify Lean wastes?  (Huddle boards, Gemba walks, process audits...) Which leads to the third pillar, People.

New research shows that curiosity is vital to an organization’s performance—as are the particular ways in which people are curious and the experiences to which they are exposed. This section examines how leaders can nurture curiosity throughout their organizations and ensure that it translates to success.

Read John Kamensky’s article The Role of Curiosity in Innovation, and the underlying Harvard Business Review article The Business Case for Curiosity, by Francesa Gino. In his article, Kamensky notes the benefit of curiosity is, “Managers are less likely to only focus on information that supports their pre-existing beliefs because curiosity encourages looking for new options.” 

The barriers to curiosity include mindsets that, “often shy away from encouraging curiosity because they believe the company would be harder to manage if people were allowed to explore their own interests.” Mr. Kamensky’s article also describes Five Ways to Bolster Curiosity. Indulge your curiosity -- read it!   Discussion item: Under item 1. Hire for Curiosity, do you believe Kamenky’s comment, “This advice may not work in a government context...”  Why or why not?  What can your agency do to evaluate the curiosity index of candidates? [Pablo Torrent and Victoria Hawley, Oregon Dept. of Transportation, provided the articles for this issue. If you have ideas for future articles, please submit them through email at]

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