Open Book Management in the Courts

Open book management is a management technique popularized by John Case in his 1995 book, Open-Book Management: The Coming Business Revolution (New York: Harper Business). As the name implies, its aim is to give employees all relevant financial information about their company so they can make better decisions as workers. The concept behind open book management is the same as that supporting line of sight court performance metrics and measurement hierarchies. That is, in order for performance measures to be practical tools and to serves as incentives for improvement -- for measures to be motivational -- there must be a line of sight between the measure and actions that can be taken by employees at various levels of the court. It conveys to everyone what the drivers of success are and provides them with the concrete knowledge of how they contribute to that success.

Here are the basic rules of open book management extended beyond financial information to all performance data available to court managers and staff as part of a comprehensive court performance measurement system (CPMS):

  • Give all employees access to all performance data on a self-help basis. Line of sight can be created by computer based graphic displays, dashboards, or scorecards of core performance measures, measurement hierarchies, navigation techniques, definitions, explanations, and references.
  • Give employees a simple performance scorecard. Because employees may not be naturally drawn to mind-numbing sets of numbers, open book management relies on the “critical number” and a “scorecard” that brings all the critical numbers together. This same approach is recommended for building court performance measurement displays, dashboards, and scorecards.
  • Give employees training to understand and use the performance information available to them including an intensive system of meetings, called "huddles," to keep employees informed about the status of the court in terms of its performance measures.
  • Give employees ownership and responsibility for the numbers under their control. If the performance measure – let’s say the median number of jail days for pretrial detainees – rises above the control level, the “owner” of the measure is held accountable.
  • Give employees a stake in how the court performs. If, on the other hand, the median number of jail days for pretrial detainees drops below the target level, the “owner” is given credit for reducing jail days and attendant costs.

Openness and transparency are hallmarks of good government, but commonly they are seen as applicable primarily to a court’s external stakeholders. Open book management applies these hallmarks to a court’s internal stakeholders – its employees.

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