Advancing Performance Measurement and Management (PMM) in the Justice Sector

Who else is doing PMM where? How is it working out for them? Answering these two questions will advance performance measurement and management initiatives more than any effort to date.

For many years, I’ve been in the business of convincing courts and other justice institutions to develop political will and capacity (OK, mostly just trying) to measure and manage their performance in an effective, accountable, and transparent manner. I used to think that widespread buy-in by the justice sector surely would be seen by the time of the development of well-conceived models beginning with the Trial Court Performance Standards in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to the CourtTools ten years ago, to the Global Measures of Court Performance in the last few years. But buy-in for PMM certainly has not been overwhelming. Instead, at best, it has been a slow slog for advocates of PMM.

Who Else is Doing PMM Where?

In a recent article in the William & Mary Policy Review (Volume 7, Number 1), I suggest a way of speeding up this slog. (The article should be available on the Journal’s website and on HeinOnline shortly.) The PMM that is taking place today in justice systems throughout the world, relatively limited that it may be, needs to be documented and made visible and known to be used, I wrote. That is, knowledge production should be accompanied by knowledge transfer. Unfortunately, this is not taking place at an effective speed and extent, largely because the institutions and countries actually engaged in PMM at the local levels understandably are not much in the business of disseminating and promoting their PMM beyond their jurisdictions and borders. Unlike research firms, universities, justice-related organizations, and donors, they lack incentives to promote their work.

Over the last several months, for example, I only learned through personal contacts with the principals that the Victoria courts in Australia had adopted the Global Measures of Court Performance and that High Court in Lahore, Pakistan, currently is including seven of the eleven measures of the Global Measures into its new case management system. I’m trying to follow-up on the latter as I write this post. This type of word-of-mouth, hit-or-miss, anecdotal transfer of knowledge will not accomplish the trick of PMM knowledge transfer.

To address the problem, my colleagues and I at the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William & Mary last year launched the Justice Measurement Visibility (JMV) Project, a project that aims to identify successful PMM in throughout the world focused on Global Measures of Court Performance (which is part of the International Framework for Court Excellence developed by the International Consortium for Court Excellence). For those interested in adopting or adapting the Global Measures, we hope the project will answer the inevitable question for which today, unfortunately, we have only an unsatisfactory answer, “Who else doing this today?”

How Is It Working Out for Them?

Working with the Courts and Tribunal Academy of Victoria University in Australia in February and March this year, I ran into unexpected headwinds of resistance to PMM, mostly coming from judges.  In several venues, I presented the idea of PMM in a way that I was convinced at the time would receive enthusiastic support. I tried with moderate success at best to address confounding questions and counter a few verbal bullets point-by-point. For example, I responded to the criticism that the very idea of public accountability for court performance and transparency is antithetical to the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers by arguing that public accountability driven by a system of performance measurement and management can and will strengthen, not weaken, judicial independence and the institutional integrity of courts and judicial independence.

Reflecting on the experience with these presentations, I had an epiphany of sorts, the sudden and striking realization that advocates of PMM, including me, were not practicing what we preach, namely that we should measure results that matter, and count what counts. Shouldn’t we be looking at the results of PMM itself in the same way? Yes, I realized we were failing to address not only the question, “Who is doing PMM where?” but also the more important follow-up second question, “How Is It Working Out for Them?”

How could I have missed this? Would not resistance to PMM dissolve and the naysayers silenced if we could only answer these two questions clearly and succinctly? If we could say, for example, that yes, two-thirds of the justice institutions and justice systems using PMM throughout the world have improved their performance. Moreover, three of them have very much in common with that of the questioner.

A new ambitious project, will be joined with the JMV Project at William & Mary, will address this second question. The project, which does not yet have a name, is in the proof-of-concept stages. I will describe progress in future posts here. Comments would be welcomed.

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