Court Intelligence -- A Matter of Survival

“What if I were to tell you,” IBM’s Dean R. Spitzer asks in the first sentence of his 2007 book, Transforming Performance Measurement – Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success (New York: American Management Association), “that one of the most important keys to your organization’s success can be found in a very unlikely place – a place many of you may consider to be complicated, inaccessible, and perhaps even boring? … The key to success is MEASUREMENT,” he tells us (emphasis in the original).

Effective performance measurement and management can transform your organization, writes Spitzer. It shows you where you are and gets your organization where it wants to be.

I, of course, agree with Spitzer. But I would go even further.

Performance Measurement No Longer Optional

How is your court or court system performing in meeting its fundamental obligations to those it serves -- access to justice, fairness and equality, efficiency and effectiveness, professionalism, honesty and integrity, public trust and confidence, as well as accountability? How would you answer this question? Would you even bother?

Court leaders and managers today no longer have the problem (or luxury) of not knowing? Instead, they face the burden of whether they want to know. And if they believe they are better off not knowing, they still will face the demands of those that want to know, including the public, legislators, government executives, the court system’s own employees, and other stakeholders whose calls for accountability for performance are getting louder and more persistent. Not knowing the answer or refusing to answer no longer are viable options for court executives.

We Have the Keys

Identifying the right measures, getting them into hands of the right people, at the right time, and in the right way, and ensuring that performance measurement and management are integrated into the leadership and everyday management of the courts are no longer mysteries. The business and technology architecture to meet these key requirements exists. We have the tools. They are in place, in at least rudimentary but recognizable form, in courts in Oregon, Florida, Utah, Texas, California, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, and several countries outside of the United States.

Business intelligence (BI) is a matter of survival for private companies. I predict that effective performance measurement and management – court intelligence – will soon be a requirement, if not a matter of survival, for court leaders and managers. Decisions and actions will need to be based on valid and replicable performance data – not on hunches or conjecture.

Sure, there will be courts and court systems that will resist developing court intelligence systems, just as there are those that have resisted automated court management systems. But they will be out of the mainstream.

Hallmark of Success

Today, performance measurement and management, and court intelligence -- hard-wired into the DNA of the very fabric of court leadership and management – is the hallmark of a successful court or court system. “A science is as mature as its measurement tools,” writes Dean Spitzer quoting Lois Pasteur. The same can be said about high-performing organizations.

In early cultures, the position of the sun in the sky was sufficient to measure time. Today, the tools for precise time measurement in fractions of seconds are all around us (and, literally, on us in the form of watches, cell phones, and PDAs). At least at work, our survival depends on our ability to measure time.

In the near future, court intelligence, in the form of performance measurement and management, is likely to be the defining attribute of a high-performing court or court system.

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