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UK Public Sector Performance Management and Targets

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            Public sector is a component of administrative and economic existence that is concerned with timely goods and services delivery by local or central government (Massey and Pyper, 2005). The public sector activities vary from urban planning, providing security and organizing state defense. The institute of public sector takes a number of forms like direct or express administration.

Despite their names, public companies do not belong to the public sector but still they offer shares to the general public for sale. The dichotomy of the proper matters for the public sector as opposed to the private sector still divides socialists, liberals and conservatives

Performance management

            This is the real process of creating good work environment in which the workers are capable to perform their jobs to the very best of their ability (Atkinson, John and Robert, 1997). Indeed this is the whole job system that gets its beginning when a job is made available to the worker and ends as the employee leaves the organization.

            Performance management is synchronized by a related framework between employee and manager; the main areas of the structure to be decided are main objectives, personnel, working standards and the means of rewarding employees. For thriving performance management, a tradition of responsibility for the upgrading of business process is recognized and personality contributions are fully encouraged and nurtured (Massey and Pyper, 2005). One way of monitoring individuals performance is through performance appraisal and for the organizations is through business appraisal.

            Indeed performance management is all about coming up with a tradition in which individuals and companies take liability for the improvement of business process and of their skills and contributions. It is all about sharing expectations. Managers do clarify what they anticipate individual and teams to perform; likewise individuals and teams communicate their expectations of how they expect to be managed and how they need to do the job. It shows that performance management is all about interrelationships and about improving the quality of relationships between managers and teams, and is therefore a joint and a continuous process and not a one-off event (Atkinson, John and Robert, 1997).

United Kingdom’s Present approach to Performance management

            Because performance management is all-encompassing, it needs structures to support it. These provides a framework to assist people operate, and to aid them to facilitate others to operate. However it should not be an inflexible system; there requires to be a realistic level of flexibility to permit people independence to operate.

            There are four values guiding public sector restructuring:  devolution and delegation, national standards, increased choice and flexibility.

Aligning of organizations

Speedy and bendable reporting to many user types both outside and inside the organization enables government deliver expected services and everyday good organization savings by working personally with major partners from the business society and transversely with the government. Reliable data from different sources and enabling easy analysis lets it identify the main issues and distribute significant intelligence with all partners.

Improving service to citizens

The U.K government disseminates decisive information to the civics through a visually affluent arrangement (Harvard University, 2001). Enhanced customer contentment ratings through better performance administration and monitoring and in conclusion responding to the Transformational Government proposal is done by making available superior e-government service at cheap cost.

Financial predictability by planning and budgeting

            The UK government Monitors and forecasts budgets to advance efficiency and decrease the costs. This creates new planning process that can without problems provide accommodation to changes in funding and lower cost and inaccuracy in the spending review practice.

Ensuring optimal staff

            The government develops human resource strategy to compete with the private sector. Recruits and retains brilliant individuals. The government in addition motivates existing human resources during periods of ambiguity and revolution.

            Performance extent has become so prevalent that it is impractical to know every part of that is taking place in the government. In addition, the label and the center of attention of performance measurement systems change habitually when a new government assumes office. Encouraging, action-oriented clauses are frequently selected as names for such systems – for example, the ‘Best Value’ clause used in the United Kingdom (Boyne et al, 2002). Despite such inspiring language, some of the early most important performance dimension systems have recently been cheap in scope or dropped exclusively. Keeping an eye on the increase and decrease of performance measurement systems is made rather easier by the Internet but the dilemma has happened to be information overload and meaningful understanding what trustworthiness ought to be assigned to the official information, given that the government is more concerned with promoting the best likely repute for its efforts (United Kingdom, National Audit Office, 2000).

            There is no solitary best advance to performance measurement. A government needs to build up an approach that augurs well with its constitutional provisions, its administrative and political traditions, its organizational capabilities and size, its present setting and issues and what it can manage to pay for. The trend has been for the governments to use a single approach uniformly to all sectors, programs and non-departmental bodies. This approach may have the noticeable virtues of uniformity, comparability and evenhandedness, but it is not without harms.

            The primary problem is that programs and organizations differ in the scope to which they are agreeable to measurement, particularly in terms of connecting outcomes in the public to programs. Routine, operational programs with narrower goals and enhanced understood production processes allow for easier and more articulate measurement than softer programs serving broader and more controversial goals, the accomplishment of which is not fully explicit and depends in the lead of the exercise of a wide measure of judgment and professional discretion (Gormley et al, 1999).

            In outlook of these differences, there is the lawful concern that the make use of performance measurement, especially an assertion on quantification of outcomes and payback, will craft an institutionalized unfairness in favor of heavy government programs whose making processes are moderately well understood. As befits the function of a governmental auditor, this framework emphasizes the attractiveness of integrating presentation planning, monitoring, budgeting and reporting. The structure also stresses external responsibility for results.

Performance indicators

            Regardless of the approach used, a good performance measurement system should possess three qualities: it must be technically valid, functional and it must be well legitimate. For a system to be legitimate, it is classically necessary to entail such institutions and individuals in the improvement of the measures (Boyne et al, 2002).

            Stakeholder conformity on measures will not only develop the procedures themselves but it will also help to triumph over potential resistance and to boost the prediction for actual utilization.

Most government manuals on routine measurement make a clear distinction between performance measures and the performance indicators. Generally, performance measures report unmistakably on the associations that exist between program actions and the outputs and outcomes allied with them while performance indicators are tied to given programs or to broader guiding principle systems that can warn when unlikable surprises are on the approach, as well as inform managers of the success of the program.

            Considering the current state of information about many programs, the difference between true measures and approximate indicators is rather artificial, since most measures in exercise by the government nowadays have their restrictions and open to interpretation; and thus, should be a subject of debate rather than of habitual acceptance. The performance indicators are as follows:

  • Clarity – the performance indices should be well defined, simple and effortlessly understood.
  • Consistency – The definition used to come up with the indicators should be consistent over the time and between units.
  • Relevance – Many applications requires specific presentation indicators that are indeed relevant to their special requirements and conditions.
  • Feasibility – one should ask if the targets are based on unrealistic expectations. Can the said targets be reached through sensible actions?
  • Comparability – Following closely from consistency, it is reasonable to compare like with the other like.
  • Controllability – The performance of the manager should only be considered for those areas over which he or she has control.
  • Comprehensive – Do the indicators said reflect those aspects of that are imperative to the management decision makers?
  • Bounded – should concentrate on a limited figure of key indices of performance such as those most likely to give the largest pay-off.

There is tough drive inside the performance management movement to have organizations create proportional evidence on performance; the comparisons are made to other comparable organizations within a sector or within the same organization over a period of time (Harvard University, 2001).

            It recommended for the organizations to pursue a ‘smart’ practice rather than the ‘best’ practice approach. Smart practice recognizes that in statistical provisions that all organizations cannot be ‘the best’. Under the benchmarking advance, choosing the best organization for comparison purposes is fundamental.

Advantages of Performance Management

            Given their varied origins, it is not a wonder that multiple advantages have been emotionally involved to performance management systems. Often the advantages are the highly positive terms. Efficient performance management leads to better-quality ending and strengthens democracy (Burnham and Pyper, 2008). The most important aim from the government’s point of view is to achieve productivity and budgetary control; the main focus will be on most good organization measures such as the costs of providing a certain output on a yearly basis. In distinction, if the endeavor is to encourage public understanding and support for a program, it will be essential to collect performance information about which people really do care. There are practical advantages of performance management that include:

  • Helps make clear organization goals, expectations and directions.
  • Helps the organizations learn how to achieve goals more successfully.
  • Helps to converse the priorities setting of the organization.
  • To support calculated line planning by involving broad statements of direction to definite operational outputs and outcomes.
  • Helps to support budgetary arrangement and resource distribution processes.
  • Used to scrutinize the function of programs and to make uninterrupted improvements.
  • Used to encourage public servants and to restore satisfaction within the public service that it is making a constructive input.
  • Enables citizens to make healthier and well-versed decisions in the best use of public programs.
  • It restores public confidence that they are indeed receiving value for money in public spending.
  • Used to assess if the organization is well achieving its goals.
  • Aims at strengthening internal administrative and external political accountability.

            Multiple aims mean multiple potential advantages for performance management information and multiple subjective perspectives on what constitute good performance management. Citizens will logically think about performance mainly in personal terms – often based on how their governments work.

            Public servants are only interested in performance, but they as well know the informal rules of the current responsibility and rewards systems which operate in government. Ministers want error free government. When mistakes occur, public servants are expected to present a rationalization to lessen the damage to the repute of the government (Burnham and Pyper, 2008).

            In review, performance extent has been identified to serve numerous advantages, which are both administrative and political in character. Not all of these aims are constant and it is not possible for any single presentation measurement system to serve them each and every one equally well.

Disadvantages of performance management

            Many of the disadvantages linked with the utilizing of performance management may be presented in three types of complications: institutional, financial and political.


            The financial obstacles to performance dimension are probably the most obvious. To produce valid, comprehensive, comparable, reliable and continuous performance data is basically too expensive for many governments. The pragmatic answer of most governments has been to spotlight on a select number of indicators and to draw on administrative data collected on a routine basis. Another consequence of cost constraint may be the measurement of the measurable only, rather than of what is truly significant.

            For example, quantity is usually easier to measure than quality, but without quality considerations outcomes measures will be distorted (Office of the Auditor General, Victoria, 1996). Cost considerations may also lead to a short-run concentration in measurement, since time-series data is expensive to maintain. Ideally, there should be a comparative component to any performance measurement, and this may involve additional expenses (United Kingdom, National Audit Office, 2000).


The main institutional barriers to utilization of performance measurement have been described or hinted at throughout this paper. These include;

  • Organizations often do not collect the most appropriate data and do not have the administrative and technological capability to gather new types of information;
  • Existing staff may not have the appropriate knowledge and skill to gather and to analyze the relevant performance data;
  • The incentive systems within public organizations may lead to resistance or lack of commitment to performance measurement;
  • Leadership support may be lacking because performance measurement is seen as a tedious, expensive task; and,
  • The culture of the organization does not promote and support the constructive use of performance measures.

            Achieving a supportive culture of performance management is probably the most important and most difficult goal to accomplish (Office of the Auditor General, Victoria, 1996). At present, performance measurement has negative overtones for the people who manage public programs and those who supposedly benefit from them. It is often seen primarily as a budgetary tool to eliminate or to reduce programs seen as ineffective or inefficient.

            For many managers, control is currently seen in the negative terms of identifying deviations from planned performance and assigning blame for shortcomings (Magd and Adrienne, 2003). The public sector needs to move its practices and culture towards a more positive conception of control that emphasizes organizational learning and the design of appropriate responses on the basis of informed diagnoses of how programs are progressing.


            Public programs are born and shaped through the political process. This is appropriate and desirable within a democracy. Therefore, to talk about the constraints of politics interfering with the ‘rational’ processes of performance measurement and performance management within the public service is to ignore or to discount the requirements for democracy, legitimacy and political support for the actions of government. Performance measurement should be seen as a means to improve the quality of the political process, not to substitute for it.

            The role of political considerations remains here only to reinforce some of the key points. Reflecting their origins in the political process, public programs have broad and general goals intended to attract the maximum political support. Speaking in terms of precise goals and measurable targets may be risky in terms of re-election prospects (Magd and Adrienne, 2003). Because performance measurement serves many audiences, there can be serious disagreement over what information is important and what constitutes successful performance.

Performance Management Measurement and Evaluation

            Performance information might play their mainly useful position in signaling to dependable decision-makers and to others the require to conduct more organized and in-depth evaluations of values and programs which appear to be working very fine based on the latest available performance evidence. In some way, performance aspect represents the successor managerial advance to program evaluation which really enjoyed great recognition during the ‘60s and the ‘70s. Evaluations done promised better conversant decision-making about programs based upon random, systematic and object investigations into their economy, efficiency and effectiveness in serving their affirmed goals.

            Many countries, but particularly the United Kingdom, made evaluations of programs obligatory on a cyclical basis (Heinrich and Carolyn, 2002). A large community of qualified evaluators developed both inside and outside of government views. However, within a number of decades, a certain amount of hindrance overcame the evaluation society based on the difficulty and expense of evaluating the accomplishment of programs and the seemingly small levels of exploitation of evaluation findings by the decision-makers (Magd and Adrienne, 2003).

             In addition to the financial and analytical problems, many in the evaluation the public pointed to the role that policy played in limiting the impacts of the advance.

            As budgets in the governments became tighter as of the late 1970s onwards, ‘the performance evaluation industry’ which had been growing speedily both within and outside of government began to send regrets. Rather than make evaluation obligatory on a schedule basis, the governments adopted a more selective advance to the use of findings (Heinrich and Carolyn, 2002). Also, evaluations became less all-inclusive and did not seek to the same level of technical validity as in the precedent. Performance extent emerged in this context partially as a lower charge alternative to costly, in-depth evaluation. Since the latest approaches derive from the similar disciplines and rely upon same logical techniques; professionals who were previously evaluators lastly became performance measurement specialists (Boyne et al, 2002). Though, most performance procedures stop undersized of answering basic questions about why programs do work or fail to do so.

            At finest they sound warnings that something is going wrong, recommend questions about what has exactly happened and start debate about what can be prepared to progress programs. On this starting point, performance information can support decisions to embark on a more in-depth assessment of the operations of the programs. Evaluation answer can then flow into the arrangement, budgeting and performance measurement system.

The Origins of Performance Management Measurement

            Many trends and circumstances within and outside of government have motivated the current prevalent interest in the utilizing of performance measurement to progress the performance of government in broad-spectrum and individual organizations which comprise it. These factors are:

  • The strained financial state of most governments with accumulated amount overdue and annual shortfall, which are now being brought under control;
  • The unstable and irregular environment of today’s public sector which do require governments to have a sense of direction and the aptitude to respond expeditiously to unanticipated changes, creating a want to track trends and development more watchfully than in the history;
  • The impact of latest public management philosophy, which is most important, rhetorically at least, to persistence on results rather than an observance of approved procedures, to the elimination of unnecessary central agency control over other departments, the handing over of more ability to public managers;
  • The transfer of services and program responsibilities to other guidelines of governments usually at the provincial or local level and to the private for profit or non profit sectors of the society;
  • The necessity to respond to numerous decades of slow and balanced decline of public trust and self-assurance in governments by growth accountability and civilizing communication with respect to the public programs;
  • The very need to respond to the mounting public insistence that service quality in the public sector ought to improve; and
  • The chance to take advantage of the refinement in systematic techniques and latest information technologies, which make possible more complicated tracking of the accomplishment of programs and present opportunities to progress the independent dialogue over community policy.

            The increase of performance management measurement reflects and strengthens these trends. It is significant to note that both outside ‘political’ forces as well as inside ‘managerial’ considerations lie in the wake of the topical popularity of performance management analysis (Heinrich and Carolyn, 2002). This means there is a big risk that what started as a managerial tool in the private sector, that is. performance measurement, will be misguided for a solution to fundamentally political troubles that have arisen from the essential changes taking place outside and within public sector organizations (Burnham and Pyper, 2008).

            Another method to analyze the appearance of performance management measurement is to think of the survival in the trendy public sector of four types of deficits. During the ‘80s and the ‘90s, most of the discussion, and all the measures of governments, were projected to deal with the financial discrepancy. Though, by the ending of those decades, there was a rising recognition of the continuation of three other types of deficits. The ‘social deficit’, consisting of the unmet requirements arising from the collective impacts of two decades of budgetary cutbacks.

            Second, at hand was a ‘performance’ deficit consisting of the space which the public alleged between what they were paying to the government in form of taxes and the worth of the services they were receiving, which seemed to be a lesser amount of than in the past.

            Thirdly, there was the ‘democratic deficit’ which is the declining authority and public assurance in political institution, such as elections, legislatures, political parties and public services. Experimental studies recommend that the sources of public displeasure with the political structure are many, including both short and long-term factors (United Kingdom, National Audit Office, 2000). This means that a solitary institutional reform or place of reforms is not expected to wholly decide the problem. Adoption of performance management has frequently been oversold as an answer to all four types of deficits – social, financial, performance and democratic. Practicality it requires an appreciation that its contribution is probable to be incomplete, especially to the so-called democratic shortfall.

            In synopsis, performance management and targets achieved reputation in rejoinder to the complicated varying conditions of the public sector at the very end of the 20th century. On the other hand, the notion was not new. It had been a fraction of the of private management techniques  – such as planning, budgeting, management with objectives and whole quality management  –  practical to the public sector, with by and large disappointing results during the earlier decades (Hughes, 2003). This makes performance management measurement a potentially threatening action for both the producers and the benefactors of public programs. Faced with the strains described above, struggling public sector leaders have been under extreme pressure to advance the performance and the reputation of the organizations they guide (Public Performance and Management Review, 2003).

The British view of public sector management

            British Standards Institution (BSI) is the state standards organization of the UK responsible for drafting, facilitating, publishing and promotion of standards and associated information products. It has acknowledged public sector management, and in precise public sector performance management, as a key spot of interest.

            According to the BSI, public sector performance management is growing in significance, requiring a distinguishing understanding from customary private sector approach (Atkinson, John and Robert, 1997).

            The BSI Report observed that the accommodating and practice of performance Management has been increasing rapidly throughout the public sector over latest years. Nevertheless a constant comment from existing public sector practitioners has been that until now; the majority of the investigative literature relating to performance Management has sought after understanding and explaining it within a mainly private-sector context (Hughes, 2003).

            There has not been a single national study that has independently and specifically analyzed the growth of the public sector and in so doing set out the truth-based public sector situation within which performance Management can append value to the occupation of public servants. The British Standards Institution, through this channel to Good Practice, has sought after to plug this imperative gap (Magd and Adrienne, 2003).

            According to the BSI, it is an infrequent trend for the public sector to delay behind the private sector in its implementation of new management approaches. Experience suggests that the board of judges is currently still out on public sector performance management. Several public sector practitioners consider that what is at present termed ‘performance management’ is essentially what public servants have for all time done since time immemorial – impartially and together collating, analyzing and deploying facts in an effort to update, increase and enact the policies of the administration of the day.

            The BSI account suggests that whether it is recognized unambiguously or not as being ‘Performance Management’, there are a variety of facts and learning based actions going on just about the public sector nowadays which are delivering real modernization and indicating tangible benefits (United Kingdom, National Audit Office, 2000).

            The BSI accounts also argue that, for the public sector, information is a main constituent for providing services and increasing policy, as opposed to market place tool. Information shared in much of the public sector does not amount to private sector competitive advantage getting diminished. It is no bombshell that lots of the leading and most advanced examples in the United Kingdom of online ‘Sharing Best Practice’ are found among groups of public sector employees, often geologically or managerially dispersed.

            The BSI analysis rests on the row that public sector organizations are unmistakably a major part of contemporary knowledge economies. They are also extremely diverse in their functions, authority structures, personnel and outputs (Hughes, 2003). We aspire to value this diversity by acknowledging the diverse experience of a wide range of organizations. At the same point in time, it is imperative to recognize that organizations in public sector do practice in a set of challenges in implementing performance management guidelines because of the cost value.


            Performance management is at this juncture here to stay. Concerned members of the public are becoming familiar to the usual appearance of presentation reports in countless policy fields. There is a mounting commitment by politicians at all levels of U.K government to the proposal of habitual and significant reporting on performance. Not only have good number public servants embraced the concept of performance management; they have developed their familiarity and skills of performance management analysis (Atkinson, John and Robert, 1997).

            For the future, a more alert approach to analysis and reporting ought to be used to lessen the weight on organizations and the managers (Halachmi et al, 1996). The more choosy approach should focus on information that is significant to managers and has the prospective to sustain decision making and accomplishments.

            A more review and shared leadership advance should be developed as a foundation for deciding what is calculated how and indeed with what consequences. In conclusion, there is also the need to boost trust in reporting relations and to create incentives for agenda managers to deliver inclusive, impartial and credible information concerning performance. All of this will contribute to the appearance of a stronger presentation culture, which eventually is more important.


  1. Massey and R. Pyper, Public Management and Modernization in Britain (London: Palgrave, 2005).

Atkinson, Anthony A., John H. Waterhouse and Robert B. Wells. A Stakeholder Approach to Strategic Performance Measurement (Sloan Management Review 38, Spring: 25-38, 1997)

Boyne, G., J. Gould-Williams, J. Law and R. Walker. Plans, Performance Information and Accountability: The Case of Best Value (Public Administration 80, winter: 691-710, 2002)

British Columbia, Office of the Auditor General and Deputy Ministers Council. Enhancing Accountability for Performance: A Framework and an Implementation Plan (Office of the Auditor General, Victoria, 1996)

Gormley, William T. and David L.Weemer. Organisational Report Cards (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1999).

Halachmi, Arie and Geert Bouchaert (eds). Organisational Performance and Measurement in the Public Sector (Quorum Books, Westport Ct, 1996).

Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, Executive Session on Public Management, 2001 www.ksg.harvard.edu/visions/performance_management. Assessed on May 11, 2009

Heinrich, Carolyn I. Outcomes-Based Performance Management in the Public Sector: Implications for government accountability and effectiveness (Public Administration Review, 62: 712-725. November-December 2002)

  1. Burnham and R. Pyper. Britain’s Modernised Civil Service. (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008)

Magd, Hesham and Adrienne Curry. Benchmarking: Achieving Best Value in Public Organizations. Benchmarking (An International Journal, 10: 261-86. 2003)

  1. Hughes. Public Management and Administration: An Introduction (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003; 3rd edition).

Public Performance and Management Review – In the Following Theme Issue (Symposium on Performance Assessment in the United Kingdom, Vol. 26, March 2003).

United Kingdom, National Audit Office, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Good Practice in Performance in Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (Stationery Office, London, March 2000). Website; http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/9900272.pdf Assessed on May 11, 2009

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