In today’s rapidly evolving world, government agencies face the crucial task of continuously improving their services to better serve the public. The paradigm has shifted from mere service delivery to emphasizing value creation for citizens. Utah has been actively working to measure government performance for over a decade now through various initiatives. In 2021, the Legislature codified a collaborative approach between the executive and legislative branches and state agencies. To foster this culture of improvement, the joint Legislative Fiscal Analyst (LFA) and Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (GOPB) performance team hosted national partners from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Center for Results-Driven Governing and The Policy Lab at Brown University in Salt Lake City for an exciting workshop on creating performance measures (see agenda here).
Performance measures serve as the foundation for evaluating the effectiveness of government services. They provide tangible metrics that enable legislators to understand agencies’ progress toward goals, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions. By implementing robust performance measures, agencies can enhance accountability, transparency, and citizen-centricity and communicate effectively to the legislative branch.
Rather than measuring outputs, the emphasis of the workshop was on capturing outcomes that truly matter to the public. This shift is essential to aligning government efforts with citizens’ needs, expectations, and desired outcomes. By measuring the impact and value created, agencies can proactively adapt their strategies and policies to better serve the citizens of our state.
The workshop fostered collaboration among state agency representatives, LFA, GOPB, and experts in performance management. This cross-functional engagement allowed participants to exchange best practices, share experiences, and learn from one another. LFA presented on how Utah measures performance by utilizing funding item and line item measures. NCSL presented on the national landscape of performance measurement and showed that Utah is unique in its collaborative approach between the executive and legislative branches and in following up on the performance of individual appropriations. The Policy Lab, from Brown University, trained state employees how to create a causal chain/logic model for how a program activity creates outputs, which affect outcomes, and ultimately impact a population. They also cautioned about misinterpretations that can occur and gave suggestions on how to correct them. The training culminated in a workshop where agencies worked with LFA, GOPB, NCSL, and the Policy Lab to create individual performance measures. State employees, tasked with the creation of performance measures for each funding item actively engaged in determining the full purpose of the funding item and, ultimately, a measure.
Other states, such as New Mexico, have been doing this work for a long time and we know from them that success occurs in small increments over time. Our training with national peers and our agency partners gave us a boost of confidence in this work and in our efforts to continue to shift the conversation about government performance.
A crucial aspect of this cultural shift lies in celebrating improvement. The workshop highlighted the significance of recognizing and appreciating the efforts of government agencies in enhancing their services. By embracing a culture that values continuous improvement, agencies can motivate their employees, boost morale, and cultivate an environment conducive to innovation and excellence. Recognizing achievements can inspire all to strive for excellence in their respective roles.
The workshop also focused on creating performance measures to increase value, which drives culture shifts in how state agencies serve the public. By regularly evaluating their performance, identifying areas for improvement, and celebrating successes, agencies can create a virtuous cycle of continuous enhancement that benefits both citizens and government.
Creating performance measures to enhance public service value is an exciting step towards the outstanding service we aspire to see in government agencies. By placing a stronger emphasis on outcomes, collaborating across sectors, and celebrating improvement, agencies can elevate their services to the citizens of Utah. We are excited to embrace this improvement mindset, drive positive change, and shape a future where government agencies consistently deliver value and exceed citizens’ expectations.
Additional Resources for Measuring Performance
For more resources on creating performance measures, see:
- Performance Measure Rubric
- Performance Measure Playbook
- NCSL Doc on Buildings and Other Difficult to Measure Items
In addition to best practices on creating measures, some states have clearing houses that inventory hundreds of public programs and services with ratings to show the extent to which rigorous research supports that a given program leads to a certain outcome. Some examples include:
- Minnesota Inventory: “Since 2015 the Results Team at Minnesota Management and Budget has inventoried hundreds of publicly-funded programs and services offered across Minnesota and assigned a rating that reflects the extent to which rigorous research indicates the program causes specific outcomes. You can search for a specific service by typing a keyword in the search bar below or use a filter to narrow the inventory based on your filter selections. Evidence-based practices are those that are rated Proven Effective or Promising.”
- Tennessee Inventory: “A comprehensive list of state-funded programs in the base budget, including whether they are supported by rigorous evidence. It includes information about the services provided and insight into the evidence that is tied to the program’s desired outcomes.”