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As you begin operations, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day round of activities needing attention. However, it is also important to focus on some larger, ongoing issues that are important to the success of your program. These ongoing activities are often called best practices.
The purpose of this brochure is to outline some proven practices that should occur within the planning, implementing, and evaluating phases of the management control cycle shown below.
The figure provides a conceptual framework for the following discussion. The circle emphasizes the ongoing nature of the management process. As the initial cycle is completed, you turn to planning for the next cycle - incorporating improvements based on lessons learned during evaluation. This iterative planning/improving process is in itself a best practice.
Of particular interest to legislators are your policies, data collection, and performance measurement activities. Policy is implemented in your day-to-day activities. Data collection is an ongoing process as well, one that flows into the evaluation phase. We will discuss performance measurement as part of both planning and evaluating.
Planning Is The First Step
Planning should be your first step; it then becomes an ongoing activity that includes revising your goals and objectives as progress is made. Also, develop a strategic plan for the long term and an annual budget for the short. Planning should also include the development of a performance measurement system.
The development of strategic plans, goals, and objectives should be the starting point for a program's performance measurement efforts. Build accountability into the process by reporting progress to the Legislature and the Governor. Remember - planning is a continuous process that involves making adjustments along the way as you strive to achieve your goals and objectives.
Recommended Best Practices
- Develop a strategic plan that includes long-term goals, refining them as needed. This should be a specific, quantifiable action plan driven by the agency's objectives. The strategic plan is an evolving document and is regularly being updated.
- Develop and prioritize goals and objectives for each year; plan activities to meet those goals.
- Identify who your stakeholders are and involve them in the development of your goals and objectives to get their assistance in defining what you need to accomplish.
- Identify and be guided by legislative intent by reviewing statutory mandates at both the state and federal levels.
- Learn about and adapt the methods other similar programs (local or in other states) have taken when planning and setting up their programs.
- Consider these three questions when writing a
- What is our purpose?
- What products/services must we deliver to meet that purpose?
- How will we accomplish our purpose?
Implementing Good Policy and Procedure
Daily implementation of your written policies provides guidance and defines acceptable program practices to staff. Procedures operationalize policies, giving guidance while allowing for discretionary decision making within the confines of the policies already set.Recommended Best Practices
- Adapt statewide policy to the needs of your
program. Examples of statewide policies
already in place include the following:
- Disbursements and purchasing
- Human resources and payroll
- Fixed assets and inventory
- Sexual harassment policies
- Equal opportunity
- Data processing controls
- Acceptable uses of information technology
- Develop policy specific to your program's goals and objectives as well.
- Be certain that policies are consistent with statutory provisions.
- Get advice from your executive director and department staff as you develop policy statements.
- Once policies are set, develop procedures to guide your staff in the implementation and day-to-day decision making relevant to your program's goals and objectives.
- Keep procedures updated.
- Perhaps the most important advice that comes out of our performance audit experience is that program policies:
- need to be in writing,
- need to be distributed and readily available to all interested parties,
- need to be kept current through regular review and updating, and
- above all, need to be adhered to.
Implementing Good Data Management
Data's value is in usefulness. To assess performance, you will probably use input, output, and outcome data. Input data quantify your resources (staff, equipment, funding). Output data show what you have produced with your resources and help you assess whether you are achieving short-term goals. Outcome data show the end results or effect of your efforts and help assess progress toward long-term performance goals.Recommended Best Practices
- Determine what data are needed to accurately reflect program operations over time and to assist management in making good decisions.
- Collect data that facilitate performance measurement and evaluation.
- Data collection activities should:
- Provide needed data in a reliable, timely manner
- Contribute to making good management decisions
- Be linked to your goals and objectives
- Be protected by physical and electronic security controls
- Balance the cost of data collection efforts against the need to ensure that data are complete, accurate, and consistent.
- Use collected data to assess efficiency (input vs. output) and effectiveness (outcomes).
- Evaluate performance data and make needed interim changes to meet goals and objectives.
- Promote accountability by providing performance data to the legislative and executive branches, clients, and customers. Remember that these are ongoing processes that should recur after your performance measurement system is put in place.
Implementing Human Resource Management
It has been said that employees are the most crucial resource in state government. Keep this in mind and develop and follow good human resource management policies and procedures.Recommended Best Practices
- Work with your HR representative or with the state's Department of Human Resource
Management to determine the following:
- The specific skills needed for your program to succeed
- The skills and capabilities needed to cope with external factors affecting your program
- The level of qualifications of your current staff relevant to accomplishing goals and objectives
- The staffing levels needed to optimize efficiency
- The skills to look for in recruits
- Determine what recruitment, retention, and separation strategies are needed to maximize program success.
- Develop a comprehensive program of human resource management to guide the screening and hiring, training, developing, and compensating of your employees.
- Implement a clear, fair, and systematic employee performance appraisal program.
- Develop employee and management training programs based on a needs assessment of program personnel.
- Consider career development programs that benefit both employees and the organization.
- Maintain access to counseling and employee assistance programs and develop appropriate discipline policies.
- Consider quality of work-life approaches, such as flexible schedules, work teams, or participative management as ways to increase productivity and decrease employee turnover.
Evaluating Means Measuring Performance
Using collected data to measure how well the program is achieving its goals and objectives is the central best practice in the evaluation stage of the management control cycle. Remember that your data must be relevant, sufficient, and reliable.Key Definition Performance Measurement:
The American Society of Public Administration (ASPA) defines performance measurement as method of measuring the progress of a public program or activity in achieving the results or outcomes that clients, customers, or stakeholders expect. Performance measures are indicators of how well the organization is achieving a specific goal or objective. Performance measures also show where programs are strong and where improvements are necessary. ASPA states that performance measurement is an important aspect of accountability in government.Measuring Performance
Here are some characteristics of good performance measures. Ideal measures should be:
- Results oriented (focus on outcomes)
- Relevant (logically and directly relate to objectives)
- Responsive (reflect changes in performance)
- Valid (capture the information intended)
- Reliable (provide accurate, consistent data over time)
- Economical (justify the cost of collecting the data)
- Useful (provide information of value to the program)
- Comparable (allow direct comparison of performance with performance at different points in time)
- Compatible (match data included in existing systems)
- Clear (present information so that it is understood)
- Monitor program performance on a continuous basis.
- Choose the essential few measures and focus your efforts there.
- Determine whether you are meeting the standards or benchmarks of similar programs. If not, analyze why.
- Evaluate whether the program is achieving its objectives. What effect would various interventions have?
- Assess whether the program is operating efficiently, effectively and in compliance with legislative intent.
- Develop methods to assess program productivity.
- Determine whether the program's financial benefits outweigh the costs. What is the return on investment? Conduct life-cycle cost analysis over the life of the program.
- Implement process analysis to assess whether the system operates efficiently per expectations. Flow chart or document processes; identify opportunities for improvement or streamlining.
- Use customer satisfaction surveys/comment cards to see if customers are satisfied. Conduct regular surveys. What about focus groups, interviews, or other methods for feedback?
Performance measures are tools that can help improve your effectiveness and efficiency. Use the best practices above to evaluate your performance and accomplish your goals and objectives.