Use performance measures wisely in managing nonprofits

Use performance measures wisely in managing nonprofits Performance measures are essential for good management. But sometimes measures are used in ways that harm rather than improve performance. The Atlantic Magazine article (see link below) illustrates the problems using customer satisfaction in hospital management. These problems apply to other performance measures as well. Some thoughts on avoiding these problems: Consider the possible unintended consequences of using a performance measure. Identify ways improving one…

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Public administration and what the public wants

I have often been critical of public policy and public administration schools although I am the product of one (Lafollette School of Public Affairs).  The problem is that most focus on policy and neglect management and execution. Most people working in government are implementing laws and policies, not making them. It is in the execution of policy that much public controversy arises. The executive and management leadership gap is apparent…

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Government HR reform — add value and manage talent

Let's improve public sector performance through government HR reform We should be concerned about government HR reform.  A recent column in Governing Magazine, Getting More Value out of the Government HR Department, makes good suggestions for change.   I have long experienced government human resource departments focused on administration and legal compliance. The top priority is avoiding legal and regulatory mistakes. This leads to rigid rules and processes for hiring, compensation, and discipline.…

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Government technology project failures and solutions

The article from the Brookings Institution, Doomed: Challenges and solutions to government IT projects, has some helpful thoughts on why government technology projects fail and what can be done to improve the chances of success. The article is consistent with my experience in government and my involvement with large and small IT projects. Government at all levels needs a better approach to adopting and implementing technology to improve service and…

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Core Concepts in Measuring Performance in Nonprofit and Government Agencies

The diagram below summarizes concepts that have been useful to me in working with organizations on measuring performance and managing performance. There are many approaches to measuring performance proposed by different experts and consultants. There is value in many of them but it can get confusing and complicated when you go to implement. Here I boil things down to a few core concepts.     Measuring the performance of nonprofit…

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Nonprofit effectiveness and volunteering

We should all be concerned about the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations in providing value.  The private sector has it easy in some respects. If a company doesn't provide value -- a service or product a customer values and is willing to pay for -- they eventually go out of business. The feedback loop for nonprofit organizations is less direct and longer. Good intentions are often given more weight than real results. A recent column…

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Healthcare outcome measures

This article by Michael Porter in the New England Journal of Medicine (Standardizing Patient Outcome Measurement) stresses the importance of developing outcome measures for healthcare.  Too often I see organizations, not just healthcare, focus on input and process measures and neglect outcome measures. But process and input measures have little value when we haven't agreed on what outcome we want to achieve and have some way of measuring those outcomes.        

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The important stuff can’t be measured vs Peter Drucker

I found a picture while preparing for a recent talk that raised an interesting point about measuring performance.  Peter Drucker's statement "If you can't measure it you can't manage it" is portrayed as dogma. It is contrasted with the statement that "The important stuff can't be measured" which was portrayed as truth. I have heard this argument many times.  It is applied to measuring what people do in organizations and the outcomes or results the…

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Nonprofit ownership — who owns a nonprofit and why is ownership important?

Who owns a Non-Profit and Why is Ownership Important? Nonprofit ownership is a concept boards can struggle with.  It is commonl for a board to believe it is acting properly without having a good conceptual or operational understanding of who their owners are and what those owners expect from the organization.  Identifying the owners for these organizations can be complex and some common errors can occur.  Following are a few…

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