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Missing Links

By Rodney Dormer

Abstract

In the context of the worst economic shock that the world has experienced for eighty years, the New Zealand Government has announced a campaign to establish "a more focused, efficient and productive public service" (Whitehead, 2009). As the emphasis of managing the performance of the public service swings away from effectiveness and outcomes back towards efficiency and outputs, the practical and underlying tensions of managing within individual agencies remain. This research explored these tensions in relation to the performance measurement and management practices in three of New Zealand's public service agencies, namely Work and Income, Public Prisons and the Community Probation Service. For each of these agencies, the official performance management models as defined in relevant legislation and the agencies' external accountability documents (primarily their statements of intent and annual reports) are described. Note is also made of the 'formal' frameworks encoded within each agency's computer applications. These frameworks are then compared to an analysis of interviewees' descriptions of the performance measurement and management practices in use within those agencies. A framework by which the official, formal and in use performance management models within public service agencies may be better understood and aligned is then explained. This model utilises a competing values framework composed of two axes. The first of these, the rationality of control is explained in terms of the nature of the major functions involved, the ease with which they may be measured and managed, in what forms information is represented and the nature of the rationality employed. It is argued that these factors support models that exist along a continuum that extends from the use of regulative control to control based on shared understandings. The second axis reflects the locus of control and is explained in terms of the political saliency and perceived complexity of the agency's core functions, the extent to which sensegiving activities are internally and/or externally driven (Maitlis, 2005), and the extent to which management invest in the agency's public capital. These factors are used to explain a continuum on which agencies experience more or less operational autonomy and management discretion. The combination of these factors produces four possible models that may be described as: an administrative control model with a principal focus on managing inputs; a rational goal model employing the language of (quasi) markets and a principal focus on outputs; a multiple constituency model that acknowledges the shared responsibility for outcomes and a need to establish 'joined up' mechanisms with other agencies within government and the community; and a professional service model that seeks to manage specific targets and focuses on the processes or activities that managers manage. This model is then applied to each of the case study agencies to reveal the, at times competing, forces that shape performance management practices

Topics: Public service, New Zealand, Performance management models, Public sector performance
Publisher: 'Victoria University of Wellington Library'
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz:10063/1390
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