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Guide Helps Public Programs Improve Services

Document date: January 26, 2007
Released online: January 26, 2007

Contact: Stu Kantor, (202) 261-5283, skantor@ui.urban.org

Washington, D.C. January 26, 2007 — After publishing a highly successful first edition that helped many government and nonprofit organizations embrace performance measurement as a regular practice, the Urban Institute Press is releasing an updated edition of Performance Measurement: Getting Results, by Harry P. Hatry. The new edition expands Hatry's step-by-step explanation of how to obtain and analyze outcome data and discusses the major uses of this vital information.

Performance Measurement is a detailed guide to measuring the results and efficiency of services and programs, from defining their scope and establishing the types of outcomes and indicators to be tracked, to picking data-gathering methods and analyzing and reporting performance information. The book outlines the typical service characteristics to track in a performance measurement system: timeliness, accessibility, convenience, accuracy, courteousness, adequacy of outreach, condition of facilities used by customers, and customer satisfaction.

The book includes more than 80 exhibits, including checklists for collecting, processing, and assessing outcome information. Some lay out general themes, such as categories of outcomes and ways to segment data; others showcase performance-measurement practices—such as neighborhood ratings and ads that include performance indicators—from various agencies and nonprofits.

"Those of us who have been pursuing performance measurement for a long time recognize Harry Hatry as the master of the craft. Performance Measurement: Getting Results is written in Mr. Hatry's well-recognized style: well-organized, no glitz, just nitty-gritty practical advice about what works and what doesn't," said Mark Funkhouser, former city auditor of Kansas City, Missouri, when the book premiered.

Using Performance Measurements

A nationally renowned expert on public-sector performance measurement, program evaluation, strategic planning, alternative service delivery systems, and employee motivation, Hatry is a principal research associate and director of the Urban Institute's Public Management Program. The main purpose of performance measurement, he says, is to improve citizens' quality of life by providing better services more effectively. To that end, he identifies 11 uses of performance information:

  1. Making public officials more accountable
  2. Preparing and justifying budget requests
  3. Allocating resources
  4. Spurring quests to explain problems identified by the outcome data
  5. Motivating personnel to continue improving their programs
  6. Monitoring (and motivating) contractors' and grantees' performance
  7. Supplying data for in-depth program evaluations
  8. Supporting strategic and other long-term planning efforts
  9. Helping establish priorities
  10. Improving communications with the public
  11. Helping to provide services more effectively

"Quantitative data alone do not show why a program had certain results. A good performance measurement program should include qualitative analysis and should seek explanations for the outcomes. It is better to be roughly right than precisely ignorant," says Hatry.

Follow-up with former customers is important in determining what works, what does not, and why. Acknowledging the difficulty agencies may have in sustaining contact with ex-clients, Hatry recommends "after care" activities to maintain that connection.

In 1999, Hatry became the first winner of the American Society for Public Administration's Harry Hatry Distinguished Performance Measurement Practice Award. He was a member of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget's Performance Measurement Advisory Council (2002-2003). In 2005, Hatry was named the first Urban Institute Distinguished Fellow.

Performance Measurement: Getting Results (second edition) is available from the Urban Institute Press for $34.50 (342 pages, ISBN 087766-734-9). Order online at http://www.uipress.org or call (202) 261-5687 or toll-free 1-877-847-7377.

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Topics/Tags: | Governing | Performance Measurement / Mgmt

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