Q & A: Line of Sight Metrics and Measurement Hierarchies

Q: I administer a drug court in a jurisdiction developing a court performance measurement system based (more or less) on the 10 performance measures of the CourTools. The problem is that the performance measures most relevant to drug courts -- like participant retention and program completion, participant sobriety, recidivism, and units of service provided to participants – do not seem to fit with the CourTools. How do I reconcile the drug court performance measures with the CourTools? Choosing one and ignoring the other is not a choice open to me.

Made2Measure: Different levels or aspects of a core performance measure are called performance measurement hierarchies. In a comprehensive court performance measurement system (CPMS) that includes core measures and measurement hierarchies, you can accommodate the core (executive level) performance measures such as the CourTools, as well as subordinate measures at different levels of “business” units of a general jurisdiction court (e.g., drug courts and other problem-solving courts, adult and juvenile probation departments, and justice courts) of general jurisdictional courts. Just as no single core measure can adequately capture all success factors of a court, rarely can a single level of a measure be used throughout the court. Effective CPMSs involve measurement hierarchies (families) that include similar (related) measures of an aspect of performance.

For example, Measure 7, "Collection of Monetary Penalties," of the CourTools, indicates how well court orders are observed and the extent to which a court takes responsibility for enforcement of orders. Compliance with both monetary and non-monetary orders imposed by a drug court, including participation in drug programs -- measured in terms of program retention and completion, sobriety, and recidivism of drug court defendants – could well be part of the hierarchy of measures aligned with Measure 7. In order to accommodate similar measures for the success of its probation departments, some courts have created a core measure, "Compliance with Court Orders," that is a composite of several measures of compliance including Measure 7 as well probation program requirements, recidivism, and other non-monetary compliance.

In order for performance measures to serve as incentives -- for measures to be motivational -- there must be a line of sight between the measure and actions that can be taken by various levels of the court. Line of sight can be created by graphic displays of measurement hierarchies, navigation techniques, definitions, explanations, and references. It conveys to everyone what the drivers of success are and provides them with the concrete knowledge of how they contribute to that success.

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