Definitions and scope

Diagram of the six steps of a performance management system

For the purpose of this paper, David Hunter’s[i] definition of performance management is used:

Performance is intentional action dedicated to reaching one or more measurable objectives. Performance can be good or bad, effective or ineffective, successful or unsuccessful, well-managed or not. Performance management, then, is a multi-step, self-correcting process…[ii]

This process is also known as ‘continuous evaluation’, ‘continuous improvement’, ‘performance-based management’ or ‘management for outcomes’. The focus of this research is performance management systems for social outcomes in particular. This paper does not seek to cover the leadership and managerial aspects of a performance management framework. Instead, it focuses on the flow of information and analysis in a performance management system, as shown in the diagram above[iii].

For this paper, terms to describe stakeholders have been chosen for consistency. It is acknowledged that these terms are not universally accepted.

  • ‘client’ is used where interviewees also said ‘end user’, ‘service user’, ‘beneficiary’
  • ‘delivery staff’ is used where interviewees also said ‘frontline staff/worker’, ‘service delivery staff/ worker’, ‘social worker’ or ‘caseworker’
  • ‘service manager’ is used to describe the manager of delivery staff
  • ‘service delivery organisations’ is used to describe organisations delivering services to clients. The word ‘organisation’ is used to denote both a single ‘service delivery organisation’ and also several working in consort.

This paper is written in Australian English. Apologies for any ensuing discomfort with unfamiliar spelling combinations.

Out of Scope

This paper does not attempt to capture all essential ingredients for good performance management systems. Specifically, it seeks to complement rather than summarise the literature on the subject, which covers:

  • Leadership, strategy and culture that are essential for performance management
  • How to identify outcomes and indicators, and what makes some indicators better than others
  • How to design an information technology system that reflects the service model

[i] David Hunter describes the essential features of performance management in a framework of three pillars and six elements in his excellent book Working Hard – and Working Well. This paper delves into one particular element of his performance management framework, “Measuring and Monitoring Systems to learn from the work, support real time adjustments, adapt to emergent conditions”. It also touches on other elements, particularly “Results-Focused Budgeting to deploy resources to build and sustain the organisation’s capacity to achieve targeted results”.

[ii] Hunter, D.K. (2009). Yes We Can! Performance Management in Nonprofit Human Services. Baltimore: Social Solutions Inc. p.8.

[iii] Powell, J. & Miguel, A. (2013). Peterborough SIP Performance Management. London: Social Finance.