How Do You Measure Up?

A court unwilling or unable to measure and to account for its performance rigorously and responsibly is unlikely to achieve independence and accountability. Since 2003 my colleagues and I have been experimenting with a tool to assess whether a court's capabilities for performance measurement are “measuring up.” Using a simple self-administered test, one version of this tool allows a court to assess its readiness -- in terms of demonstrated proficiency, present and future capacity, and political will -- to take the core court performance measures prescribed by the CourTools. Inclusion of this measure among a court’s core measures sends a powerful message that a way to improve independence and accountability is for a court to develop its capacity to measure and account for its performance.

The Performance Institute, a private, non-partisan think tank seeking to improve government performance through the principles of performance, competition, accountability, and transparency, has developed the “National Survey on Performance Management,” a self-assessment, based on eight critical factors for the effective implementation of performance measurement. The Institute’s survey includes 20 questions that are organized by these eight factors.

Defining and Aligning to Mission and Strategy
1) Your organization has clearly defined its mission and the agency's unique role in achieving that mission.
2) Your organization has defined and implemented specific strategies to achieve organizational results.
3) Your organization has ensured that its programs and internal support functions have fully aligned their plans, processes, measures, and resources, with the organization strategy.
4) Your organization has communicated its agency-wide strategic plan to all employees at all levels of the organization.

Developing Meaningful Performance Measures
5) Your organization has appropriate performance measures to track outcomes of its organizational goals and defined mission.
6) Your organization has performance measures to track the implementation and impact of all its strategies as outlined in its strategic plan.
7) Your organization uses organizational process metrics (i.e. quality, cycle-time, efficiency) for day-to-day management decision-making.
8) Your organization has goals and measures that enjoy the support and buy-in from internal and external stakeholders.

Increasing Data Availability
9) Your organization has identified clear, reliable, and readily available data sources to be used for performance measurement.
10) Your organization ensures that the cost, paperwork, and data burden related to its performance measurement is appropriate for the use of the data.

Maximizing Data Integrity
11) Your organization regularly collects, manages, and analyzes performance data in a uniform and consistent manner.
12) Your organization meets or exceeds all performance data integrity standards and uses external independent review for verification and validation.

Enhancing Performance Reporting
13) Your organization has a reporting system that delivers, in close to "real-time", performance data for frontline managers and senior decision-makers.
14) Your organization has a reporting system that produces comprehensive program performance reports that include measures, analysis, trends, and suggestions for improvement.

Improving Evaluation and Analysis
15) Your organization has benchmarked its process measures every 1 to 2 years.
16) Your organization has periodically analyzed the "cause and effect" link between its outcome and strategy measures and organizational performance.

Achieving Performance Integration
17) Your organization routinely tracks and compares the performance contributions of multiple programs within the same mission area.

Driving Decision-Making
18) Your organization applies performance-based budgeting, whereby program budget justifications are routinely driven by performance measures.
19) Your organization effectively implements performance-based contracting to hold venders accountable for products and services.
20) Your organization effectively links employee bonuses and pay increases to individual performance evaluations.

For each of the 20 statements, the Performance Institute’s self-assessment survey elicits responses to two questions: How well does this statement describe your organization? How much impact has this action had on the overall performance of your organization? For the first question, respondents are asked to “agree/disagree” on a four-point scale; for the second, respondents are asked to choose among high, moderate, low and no impact.
If you are interested in participating in efforts to test a self-assessment instrument focused on courts, please contact me at or simply comment on this posting.
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