Showing posts from January, 2007

Measure for Measure … Well, Not Always

An occasional diversion ……

Some of us who actually believe in the adages “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” and “What gets measured, gets done” sometimes don’t get folks who are not all excited about the power of performance measurement. So I read with great interest a review of Sara E. Igo’s book The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public (Harvard University Press). The mostly positive review, which appeared in the January 21, 2007 New York Times Book Review, was written by Scott Stossel, the managing editor of Atlantic Monthly.

In appreciation of diversity of thought, I quote Stossel’s last paragraph about how we understand ourselves and our work in its entirety –

Even as we have moved toward ever-finer calibrations of statistical measurement,
the knowledge that social science can produce is, in the end, limited. Is the
statistical average rendered by pollsters the distillation of America? Or
is it grinding down porridge? For all the hunger American…

Gainsharing in Courts

“Profit-sharing and other incentive plans are hardly novel in the corporate world,” write David C. Ammons and William C. Rivenbark in the Spring/Summer 2006 issue of Popular Government. “They are regarded simply as good business – good for employees and good for the company and its shareholders,” they say. Ammons and Rivenbark, who are on the faculty of the School of Government at the University of North Carolina, are studying a type of profit-sharing system called “gainsharing” used by local governments in North Carolina and across the nation. I had a chance to discuss gainsharing in state and local courts with Professor Ammons last week.

Defining Gainsharing

In response to lessons learned in the private sector, judges and court administrators are quick to remind us that courts are not driven by profits and, therefore, profit-sharing and similar incentive plans simply are not possible for them. That’s true, but courts do have budgets and balance sheets, and actions that trim costs (…

Needed: An Instructions Manual for Implementing Performance Measurement

We can easily imagine how we might use a hammer or some other practical tool. Not so for conceptually complex management tools like performance measurement. And therein lies a problem.


Sure, we’re quick to claim that performance measurement improves performance and accountability, that it can change the way courts do business. We point out that performance measures are unambiguous and actionable, that they serve as incentives for change.

We can even pony up of a nifty list of uses for performance measures:
translate vision, mission and broad goals into clear performance targets;communicate progress and success succinctly in the language of performance measures and indicators; respond to legislative and executive branch representatives’ and the public’s demand for accountability;formulate and justify budget requests; respond quickly to performance downturns (corrections) and upturns (celebrations) in performance;provide incentives and motivate court staff to make improvements in p…