The Key to Self-Renewal and Survival

The key to self-renewal and survival for an organization is a performance measurement and management system integrated with key management processes and daily operations.

Courts are conservative institutions. Unlike private business, which society will let disappear, courts are here to stay. They are steeped in the traditions of law that favor stability and continuity (precedence) over innovation and change. Like most public inctitutions, courts were originally created to prevent, or at least to slow down, change. Therefore, courts need to work harder than other public and private organizations to counter rigidity and decay that threaten their continuity.

Revolution every so often, as Thomas Jefferson recommended, is a radical response to senile decay and a failure of self-renewal. Obviously, such destabilization to the point of destruction is no way to run a court.

As Peter Drucker has pointed out in several of his writings, to maintain continuity – to survive – organizations must find ways to weave innovation and change purposefully and systematically into the fabric of their leadership and management structures, processes, and daily operations (e.g., see Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Harper Collins, 1993). To maintain continuity courts must find a way to change without destabilization. As contradictory as it may appear, innovation and self-renewal must be seen as necessary ways to continuity and sustainability.

Rigorous performance measurement and management are ways of ensuring both continuity and change. This can only occur, however, only if they are brought off the sidelines into the mainstream of the business of a court.

Performance measurement and management are the hallmarks of successful learning organizations – organizations that have the capacity and the political will to learn from the answers to critical questions:

  • How are we doing?
  • Where are we now? What is the baseline from which we start? What is the current performance level compared to established upper and lower “controls” (e.g., performance targets, objectives, benchmarks and tolerance levels)?
  • How are we doing over time? What are the trends? Is our performance better, worse or flat? How much variability is there and where do we see it?
  • Why is this happening (analysis and problem diagnosis)? What happened to make performance decline, improve or stay the same. What are some credible explanations?
  • What are we doing to adapt, improve or maintain (planning)?
  • What actions and strategies should we start, continue or stop as a result of the measure (strategy)? What should be done to improve poor performance, reverse a declining trend, or recognize good performance?
  • What performance targets and goals should we set for future performance (goals)?
    The willingness and capacity to address these questions – on a continuous and regular basis – to learn, to adapt and, if necessary, to transform are the hallmarks of a high-performing court.

Yes, change and continuity are opposites, but they relate to each other as necessary poles rather than contradictions. Performance measurement and management tie these poles together.

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