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Is this how we should use measures?

David Cameron is at the UN today arguing that they should focus on measureable outcomes.  The quote from Downing Street is: – “The prime minister wants to keep the focus on measurable concrete actions that would help you to alleviate poverty and keep the focus on being something people could judge whether or not we are delivering.”

Yesterday we had the debate about testing pregnant mothers for smoking at their first prenatal visit by measuring the levels of carbon monoxide in their bloodstream. The arguments for such at test are that it allows an honest discussion about how much a mother smokes and the benefits of this being reduced. The counter argument is that this is an invasion of privacy and we can have a grown up discussion without such a test.

So measurement certainly gives clarity to a situation and can hold people to account. Is this what we should be doing or is this giving measurement a bad name?

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Discussion

One thought on “Is this how we should use measures?

  1. So here are some interesting thoughts.

    Firstly, this week on our Recent Strategic Performance Management programme we had a heated debate about whether the external use of measures could keep politicians and bureaucrats focused on what they should be delivering. By making the measures explicit and reporting them, is this the first step in performance management.

    Secondly, one of our doctoral students is from Yemen and is looking at performance measurement in the public sector. The country is now having a national debate on how to govern itself in the future and there is a discussion as to what role performance measurement should play in that debate.

    However, excessive use of measurement reporting can undermine performance. We all make mistakes and if organisations don’t make mistakes they are not taking any risks or learning anything. This is detrimental to the organisation, the citizens they serve and society at large.
    So, although I can see situations where measures are a great benefit I can see situations where a maturity is reached when the in appropriate use of measurement is counterproductive. One of our MSc students is looking specifically at that issue in a large and complex organisation which already has sophisticated use of performance measurement.

    Mike

    Posted by Prof Mike Bourne | May 17, 2013, 11:45 am

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