Q & A: Can Step 1 Be Taken At the State-Level

Fourth in a multi-part series exploring the Six-Step Process for Building an Effective Court Performance Measurement System (CPMS) which was first summarized by Made2Measure (M2M) in October 2005.

Q: Last week’s posting described Step 1, Assessing Currently Used Performance Measures, of the six-step design process in an individual court. Can this initial step be taken at the state level?

M2M: Although no state has attempted it yet (folks in Arizona and California are thinking about it), doing some kind of inventory of performance measurement efforts already done or underway throughout the state seems a logical and necessary start to any kind of state-wide initiative.

For example, California is moving toward the implementation of court performance measurement as a mechanism to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the work trial courts are doing and to establish clear goals for improving programs, services and processes. Specifically, the Office of Court Research (OCR) currently is conducting several projects that involve the development of performance standards and improving the performance and operations at the trial court level – projects that cover various functional areas such as trial court budgeting, resource management, staffing standards, court operations and data quality control. In addition, other Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) divisions and units – the Center for Families, Children, and the Courts (CFCC), the Court Consulting Services, Grants Management, Finance, and the Executive Office – are engaged in work that relates to performance measurement and management. Individual trial courts themselves are engaged in various performance measurement projects. There is a need for coordination and alignment of these efforts. Ultimately, a long-term plan laying out the various approaches from a strategic perspective is necessary to ensure that the many pieces “hang together” in a meaningful and logical way. All this starts with an inventory of what’s already being done.

An inventory at the state level can facilitate the coordination and the alignment of projects and other efforts related to performance standards, and provide a useful reference for future work. I might include the following elements:

· Name/identity of project or court
· Performance measure or indicator
· Type of measure (e.g., input, output, outcome)
· Data elements
· Success factor (domain, strategic goal, key performance area) with which the measure or indicator is aligned
· Data source(s)
· Scope of measurement (jurisdiction ,court type, court size)
· Phase/status of measurement initiative (e.g., planning/initiation, design and development, implementation, and institutionalization)
· Availability of results

An assessment of the inventory might include the following evaluative criteria:

• A preference for outcome measures
• Alignment with mission, strategic goals
• Scope of measurement project or effort (e.g., comprehensive state-wide versus unit specific)
• Level of implementation (.g., integration of measurement with key management processes and operations)
• Uses of measures. For example:

• Improving programs and services
• Responding to legislative and executive branch representatives' and the public's demand for accountability
• Responding to internal demands for accountability
• Formulating and justifying budget requests
• Making resource allocation decisions
• Triggering and providing data for in-depth examinations (including program evaluation and research) of why performance problems and successes exist and what should be done about them
• Providing incentives and helping motivate court staff to make improvements in programs and services
• Supporting planning efforts
• Communicating better

Previous parts in this series:

Introduction to the Six-Step Process for the Design of an Effective Performance Measurement System (Part 1), Made2Measure, June 6, 2006

Introduction to the Six-Step Process (Part 2), Made2Measure, June 12, 2006

Step 1. Assessing Currently Used Performance Measures, Made2Measure, June 17, 2006

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