If you’re a social service organization operating in the current milieu, you’ve probably heard of performance management and may even believe you’re applying some of the concepts within your own organization. But are you sure you’ve understood it correctly?
Performance management in the public sector is faced with a unique batch of challenges, and these challenges need to be addressed and overcome if organizations can hope to succeed in achieving their missions. And yet, many organizations are not even aware that these challenges exist. They’re using recommended models and tools but often applying them in the wrong way or wrong context and therefore not seeing the results they would hope for.
If you google “performance management in the public sector,” you’re going to get a lot of results because this is something we, as an industry, know a lot about and like to talk about extensively. However, as it turns out, we actually have little idea of what it means to apply these concepts to real functioning organizations.
And yet, all is not lost. Keep reading to find out what the most common outcomes and performance management challenges in the public sector are and how to make sure your organization has processes in place to move past them effectively.
According to Dr. Dean Fixsen, during our webinar on Scaling an Effective Intervention: How to Build Implementation Capacity, Replicate with Fidelity, and Produce Consistent Outcomes, we need to think about service delivery in three parts:
Effective Innovations: This is the area where we’ve seen the most activity in the past 25 years, in particular around developing new approaches and increasing our focus on evidence-based approaches. Innovating models for addressing existing social problems abound, and yet, by themselves these models have not resulted in substantial change.
Enabling Context: Enabling context means having federal, state, and local governments interested in knowing what they can do to help enable social service providers to succeed. This context is critical for enabling the success of organizations at all levels, and this too has begun to fall into place in the last few decades. The results have been a greater increase in funding streams and resources as well as more collaborations among service providers.
Effective Implementation: Implementation is something that has also improved greatly in the past few decades when it comes to thinking about service delivery, but it is the area which is still experiencing the greatest lack. New techniques, tools, and modes of measurement have lead to substantial changes in the way organizations interact with their constituents and yet, implementation has still not reached critical levels.
When new innovations come about, practitioners first need to learn to effectively implement these new strategies. This is the part of the process we often focus on, which can include selection, training, coaching, and performance management. While these are important, there’s another piece of implementation: the organizational component. According to Dr. Fixsen, “Organizations have to change their policies, procedures, their ways of work in order to support practitioners doing the innovation as required and to support the implementation components.”
This involves a level of planning which has largely been absent from social service organizations because of the immense amount of planning and resources it requires. Often it feels like taking time to adequately address the creation of systems within an organization to help perpetuate the use of innovations is not time well-spent; it frequently can cause a direct decrease in productivity, at least temporarily, as resources are diverted to handling these bigger picture aspects, and yet it’s imperative in order to effectively address outcomes and performance management challenges in the public sector.
Diverting attention and funding in this way is often seen as a distraction from the task at hand, and it is further compounded by the fact that organizations receive funding based on the services they are providing to the community they serve; funding for overhead expenses is often limited or non-existent, and so these aspects often get left out of the plans and out of the budgets.
So what’s the solution to these outcomes and performance management challenges in the public sector?
Organizations have to build their capacity and improve their organizational effectiveness with an eye towards sustainability and long-term change. And some of the greatest tools that we have to do this today are software programs, such as Social Solutions’s ETO Software, which are designed to help simplify and codify organizational program delivery and impact measurement.
ETO software helps organizations simplify and standardize the collection and analysis of data, but more importantly, the process of implementing such a product forces organizations to think through systems and procedures that are necessary to creating programs and achievements that last.
If your organization is struggling for effective implementation, maybe it’s time to make an appraisal of your current implementation strategy and begin adopting tools and tactics with the goal of helping your organization survive and thrive well into the future. By thinking ahead and being strategic, we can help address the outcomes and performance management challenges in the public sector that we see today.