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Performance Management: Confronting the Challenges for Local Government

PAQ, Vol. 41 No. 1, (2017)

Performance management, the use of performance information in strategic daily decision making, has not infiltrated local governments to the same degree as state or federal agencies. This article uses the capacity/performance paradigm as a framework to build a theoretical synthesis of the obstacles to local government use of performance management. It identifies and elucidates a series of challenges local governments face in successfully implementing performance-based management approaches. Among the obstacles identified are: insufficient administrative capacity, limited fiscal resources, insufficient economies of scale, absence of comparable entities for benchmarking, inadequate use of strategic planning, complex implementation environments (intergovernmental, intersectoral, cooperative, and collaborative), strings attached to state or federal grant awards, the illusion of control created by proximity to decision makers and citizens, task simplicity, and the cacophony of reform expectations (strategic planning, program evaluation, performance measurement and management, evidence-based practice). Because of these challenges, these small local governments are less likely to encounter demands for performance information, or to develop an a priori appreciation for its value to day-to-day administration. The essay concludes with a look at what can be done to inspire increased attention to performance in local government administration.

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