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 -- it’s just that any individual can only keep track of a vital few.

#3 But never just one: A measure is merely an indicator of something like access to justice – not the thing itself. Use two or three measures to measure a key performance area or sucess factor like access to justice.

#4 Be balanced: Develop performance measures that together constitute a balanced scorecard for all of the court’s key performance areas or success factors. Don’t put all your measurement eggs in one basket like case processing.

#5 Look for differences: Measures should capture differences in groups of people, locations, and other categories. One way to do this is to disaggregate or stratify the data you collect (e.g., respondents in a survey broken down by race, gender, frequency in the courthouse, and business in the court).

#6 Identify drivers of success: The key to collecting data for court performance measurement is identifying those performance measures that will actually help to achieve the desired results. The best measures are those that promote and reinforce the positive activities that move a court closer to the desired outcome. They are both incentives and practical tools for improvement.

# 7 Establish ownership: Make sure that the potential users of the measure and those whose progress will be measured have contributed to the development of the measure and have confidence in it.

#8 Be Consistent: Make sure the measure is consistent from the top to the bottom of the court.

#9 Keep it simple: A good performance measure makes intuitive sense to most people. It should be unambiguous and actionable. It should be practical and relatively inexpensive to use. The actual or perceived future value of the measure should give a good return on investment (ROI) in its development and use.

#10 Start simply by simply getting started: No measure is ever perfect. Its value is in the questions it forces you to ask about the court. We may not know what perfect is, but we all know what nothing is – so just get started!
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