Showing posts from February, 2006

Implementation: The Simple Lesson of COMPSTAT

Three keys to successful court performance measurement are: (1) finding the right measures, (2) getting them to the right people at the right time, and (3) ensuring that the right people put the measures to good use. The first two depend on an effective design process. The third is the key to implementation and it will not happen by itself.

A previous posting recommended two simple techniques to facilitate implementation of a court performance measurement system (CPMS): (1) making the review of the court's core performance results a permanent agenda item on the court’s executive meetings and (2) assigning ownership of core measures to key managers.

“It’s too simpleminded,” responded a court management consultant. He was skeptical that simply putting performance measures on the agenda and talking about them would contribute to effective implementation. Of course, he’s right. But maybe simple-minded is just what is needed.

COMPSTAT, short for “computer statistics,” is a management …

Evidence-Based Practices

Wherever you look, you see best practices. Sounds like a bit of wisdom from Yogi Berra, doesn’t it?

We have best practices for appellate courts and for problem solving courts, for racial fairness, for reducing family violence, for collection of traffic fines, for electronic document digital discovery, for human resource management, for ensuring public trust and confidence and, seemingly, for everything in court policy and operations under the sun. To put it bluntly, even though I’m guilty of using it in the past, I’m tired of best practices and would like to replace the concept with evidence-based best practices or simply evidence-based practices. Here’s why.

While I’m sure that serious policymakers associate the concept of best practices with empirical evidence to back up the word “best” – the National Center for State Courts, for example, provides information on proven best practices – but that’s not the way the concept is used and generally understood. Instead, best practices seem …

Attitudes and Beliefs: A Quick Reality Check

Performance measurement, no doubt, influences beliefs. That’s why performance measurement results have inherent value, especially in these days of accountability and evidence-based decision making. However, we need to keep in mind that even well-established conclusions based on sound performance measurement may not lead to changes in policy, programs or procedures. Why?

Answer: Because policymakers view performance measurement data in conjunction with compelling testimony from ordinary citizens and stakeholders, newspaper articles, and politics. We may emphasize performance measurement data, but others may not. Even when policymakers embrace performance measurement, they need to balance multiple competing demands for resources, including the attentions of court leaders and managers. That’s just the way it is, and it’s unlikely to change.

We need to work well in this reality. We need to recognize it and be deliberate about reversing the negative attitudes and breaking down the resistance…

Implementation: Lesson of the History of E-Filing

Previous posts (Implementing Performance Measurement, November 12, 2005; and Implementation: How It Looks When You Get There, December 13, 2005), explored what it takes to implement a court performance measurement system (CPMS). It was pointed out that is one thing to build a CPMS and quite another to get it to be used effectively. Even a well-conceived, well-designed CPMS will not necessarily get used unless it is woven into the very fabric of a court’s management practices and processes. “If you build it, they will come” works in the movies (e.g., in the 1989 film Field of Dreams) but not for court performance measurement

The history of electronic filing – a system that uses digital documents instead of paper filings – is instructive. Implementation may be inevitable, but moving from roll-out to full use of the system takes time and effort. The ABA Journal reports that the move to digital filing systems in the State courts is often very slow and confusing. Even though the system migh…

Ten Tips for Designing Performance Measures

#1 Start with the outcome: You cannot identify and develop a good performance measure unless you first define what you want to achieve. You must commit to the purpose of the measure, not just the performance metric. A good measure is aligned with one or more of a court's key performance areas or success factors (e.g., access to justice). It emphasizes the condition or status of the recipients of court services or the participants in court programs (outcomes) over that of internal aspects of court processes, programs and activities (inputs and outputs) -- that is, they indicate results rather than resources, activities, and level of effort.

#2 Vital few instead of trivial many: Develop a handful of core measures – seven to twelve. A core performance measure is a primary indicator – like the speedometer on your car’s dashboard -- of an important area of court performance. There’s nothing wrong with a court having many measures and indicators of their inputs, outputs and outcomes -- i…

Cost Per Case

Why Is This Measure Not Used As Much As It Should?

How long does it take? How much does it cost? These are the most frequently asked questions by customers, clients and other consumers of (or stakeholders in the provision of) services. We ask these questions when we consider seeking the assistance of a lawyer, getting our car fixed and remodeling our kitchen.

Even though cost analysis is still relatively new in courts, it is somewhat of a mystery why courts are comfortably fixated on answers to the first question while all but neglecting answers to the second. Time to disposition -- the percent of cases disposed or resolved within established timeframes -- is a performance measure that has been around for more than 25 years and is used by a majority of courts. On the other hand, cost per case is a perfromance measure that -- to the best of my knowledge -- is considered seriously by only a in a handful of courts and court systems (e.g., the Arizona Superior Court in Maricopa County and C…