Do You Make A Difference? Shouldn’t You?Mar 22, 2022
Do You Make A Difference?
In an important study a few years ago, Alfred Tat-Kei Ho and Anna Ya Ni investigated whether cities had shifted to outcome-oriented performance reporting, through an analysis of city budgets. As they said in their study, an ‘‘outcome’’ orientation has been emphasized in performance measurement and reporting in recent years.
Using budgetary documents of the largest cities in the United States, they analyzed more than 4,800 performance measures reported by 21 cities to show that clear progress toward outcome-oriented performance measurement has been made.
It also shows that the selection of performance measures differs among types of municipal services and is driven partly by professionalism in city management and the influence of professional organizations.
The researchers distinguish outcomes (end measures and intermediate measures) from outputs.
To ensure consistency in the treatment of all performance measures reported in different programs, they adopted these classification rules for their analysis:
- Customer satisfaction with a program is treated as an intermediate outcome.
- The number of voluntary participants or the number of users of any non-mandatory program who ‘‘successfully complete’’ the program is treated as an intermediate outcome. However, merely reporting the number of participants or customers served is treated as an output measurement since it does not indicate any result or completion of the program.
- Similarly, the number of users of services is defined as an output measure, even though it can be treated as an intermediate outcome measure.
- The response time of emergency services or replies to customer requests is treated as an intermediate outcome toward the goal of saving lives.
- Measures of service quality, such as accuracy, accessibility, and safety, are treated as intermediate outcomes.
- The number of complaints about service quality is treated as an intermediate outcome.
- The number of arrests and cases cleared or successfully resolved by law enforcement agencies is treated as an intermediate outcome measure.
Much has changed in the intervening years. There is far more awareness of the differences among inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes.
But to what extent has this awareness and understanding transferred to implementation and practice? Have we “caught up” to assessing the impact that we have on people’s lives?
Or are we still measuring and reporting the amount of support we get (inputs) and the people who walk in the door (outputs, intermediate outcome) and attend a program (personally I think that labeling this an intermediate outcome is generous)?
What are the expectations of your major funder(s) for showing return on investment (ROI) or impact? They have so many competing demands and limited resources that outcomes and impact matter more than ever.
How do your key success factors align with your mission? Do they focus on the demonstrated and evidentiary difference that you make in people’s lives and the impact on your community?
What are your main “pain points” dealing with measurement and outcomes? What advice would be most helpful to you? And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!
Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.
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