Step 2 – Identifying Desired Performance Measures (Part 1)

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

Effective measures are not chosen haphazardly. The aim is strategic alignment – providing court managers with performance information explicitly linked to mission and goals. There is no ideal number of measures that should be identified. However, it is better to have a few meaningful performance measures than many poor ones. It is also preferable to select measures that indicate the desired outcomes of the court's programs and services rather than measures of the resources (input) or completed activities or level of effort (outputs) used to produce those outcomes.

The second step of the design process for building a court performance measurement system (CPMS) defines the scope of a court's performance measurement effort. It requires the court to identify its key success factors, determine the types of performance measures to be included, and identify a limited number core measures. The second step produces prescriptions of six to twelve core performance measures, operationally defined and linked to key court performance areas.

Four Sub-Steps of Step 2

Four sub-steps proceed from the general to the specific, from broad conceptualization of key success factors or performance areas to the operational definitions of desired measures:

(1) Identify Key Success Factors
(2) Determine Types of Measures
(3) Identify Core Measures
(4) Define Measures in Operational Terms

The four sub-steps overlap. There is no requirement to begin at the beginning and to proceed deductively from the first through the last sub-step. For example, the design team might take these sub-steps out of sequence by quickly agreeing that on-time case processing (percent of cases reaching first and final disposition, conclusion or resolution within established timelines) definitely should be included as one of the specific performance measures (the third sub-step), that this measure is aligned with key success factor of expedition and timeliness (the first sub-step), that similar types of outcome or output measures should make up the bulk of the performance measurement system (the second sub-step), and finally, that the operational definition of this measure, as well as the data sources and the data collection methods for this measure described in the National Center for State Court’s Court Performance Standards and CourTools should be adopted by the court with little or no adaptations (the fourth sub-step).

People must sign on to the purpose of the performance measure, the key outcome it indicates, not just the metric. Performance measures are derived from the mission and strategic goals of a court and the factors important to its stakeholders. Decisions about what to measure are, to a large extent, collective judgments that reflect the intended use of the performance information (e.g., major reform, public accountability, program improvement or resource allocation) and the needs and desires (e.g., efficiency, equity, quality, or improving the public confidence in the courts) of the court’s stakeholders. Ultimately, the performance of a court is a socially constructed and not an objective reality. Therefore, determining a court’s key performance areas, selecting the types of measures that should be tracked, and identifying the right performance measures are basically judgment calls that must be made by the court.

Next in this series: the four sub-steps of Step 2 of the design process.

Previous four parts in this series:

  1. Introduction to the Six-Step Process for the Design of an Effective Performance Measurement System (Part 1), Made2Measure, June 6, 2006
  2. Introduction to the Six-Step Process (Part 2), Made2Measure, June 12, 2006
  3. Step 1. Assessing Currently Used Performance Measures, Made2Measure, June 17, 2006
  4. Q & A: Can Step 1 Be Taken At the State-Level, Made2Measure, June 23, 2006

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