Government Accounting Standards Board - GASB34
Purpose of the Project
The purpose of this project is to gather additional information about the effects performance measures have on governments that currently use or have used them for strategic planning, budgeting, management or external reporting. We will also determine the extent to which governments are ensuring the relevance and reliability of performance measures (generally, through audits).
Site Visits and Information Gathering
During 1998 and 1999, GASB staff members will visit at least thirty state and local governments identified in the survey. They will gather additional information about the reasons those governments are using performance measures, the effect of those measures on the decision-making process, and any changes that may be planned. GASB staff members will use these visits to identify successful and unsuccessful strategies and approaches to performance measures reporting. The staff will also identify reasons for various levels of success. Special emphasis will be placed on gathering information about the auditing and reporting of performance measures.
Based on this research, a report will be prepared that will include selected examples of governments' experiences developing, using and reporting performance measures. The report will also include suggestions about how to make the processes as effective as possible. The planned publication date is the end of 1999.
Approach and Strategies
This project will take a "best-practices" approach; that is, the project will focus on the efforts around the country that are most successful at using performance measures to improve decision making. The goal will be to obtain the useful information set forth in the project objectives, with the project itself a vehicle for developing the capacity of governments to make decisions based on performance information. The demonstration of that capacity is an important intermediate step in meeting the long-term objectives of the Sloan Foundation grant.
A significant investment of staff resources will be necessary early in this project. This investment involves selecting which governments the GASB will visit and determining what kinds of information will be necessary to profile best practices.
Careful attention will be given to active listening and to facilitating conversations that will uncover the root causes of success. Much can also be learned from unsuccessful experimentation with performance measurement. Careful consideration will be given to the combination of whom to interview, what core work to examine, and what evidence to consider. An important output of the process will be the dialogue itself.
A key component in the design of this project is building on the work of others through the use of a technical advisory team of experts engaged in performance measure practice and research. This team will provide counsel on research design, pilot selection, analysis and reporting.
New technology will play a key role throughout the entire project, from collection of the data to analysis, and then to reporting. Use of the Internet and the performance measures website being developed as part of this grant offers an exciting medium for showcasing each of the best practices and for communicating the results of the project.
Continuous reporting of information about the project from its inception and throughout its design, execution, evaluation and reporting of results is an important action item for this project. Preparing an environment to learn from the results of the research will be an essential factor for its successful outcome.
The project has enormous potential to contribute to the body of knowledge concerning the use of performance measures for governmental decision making. Generating thirty best-practices profiles and a core group of mentors who can demonstrate how to link performance information to the decision-making process is a desired outcome for this project.
Having concrete examples of best practices that demonstrate desired behaviors on the part of governmental decision makers could significantly accelerate the ability of state and local governments to provide information to citizens about the results of government programs. The information should be sufficient for citizens to determine whether government programs are accomplishing their purpose and how the results affect the well-being of citizens.
Using a best-practices showcase provides opportunities to demonstrate a different kind of experimentation and offers an opportunity to build the reporting process around dialogue.