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 tool that has revolutionized many police agencies across the United States. Its simple key elements are weekly “crime control strategy meetings,” real-time performance data, and peer pressure. At least one member of the courts community, Adam Gelb, vice president for programs at the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse in Atlanta, recognizes that such simple management techniques “hold tremendous promise for other public sector organizations” including courts (see his article, “COMPSTAT for Community Corrections,” Perspectives, Volume 30, November 1, Winter 2006). COMPSTAT uses real-time performance data and peer pressure to hold managers accountable. It focuses on weekly meetings in which police executives gather unit commanders together in a single room and use real-time data to address trends and developments in performance. “This practice creates enormous incentive for supervisors to have already identified problems and sought solutions, especially those that involve partners in the room and outside of the agency,” writes Gelb.

Making performance measurement results a standing item on court executive meeting agendas and assigning ownership of performance measures are just two relatively simple techniques for integrating performance measurement into the court’s management practices and processes. As Adam Gelb said about COMPSTAT, weekly meetings, real-time performance data, and peer pressure are hardly the stuff of legend. But that’s probably a good thing.
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