The Evolution of Performance Management in Philadelphia

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October 12, 2017

The public sector continues to search for an appropriate middle ground between rules and managerial autonomy to maintain transparency and accountability yet yield better outcomes for residents. In recent decades, governments enacted various management reforms with the promise of striking this balance. Performance management is one such reform gaining notoriety at the local, state, and national levels. As performance management systems are tested and refined, cities like Philadelphia must continue to hone their systems to improve their overall impact.

In his book, The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform (2008), Donald P. Moynihan outlines the performance management doctrine, which includes three stages of development. Most public management structures began prebureaucratic, with high managerial authority and a low focus on results. Naturally a system with such consolidated power and minimal scrutiny of outcomes was conducive for cronyism and corruption, or at minimum apathetic leadership. The logical progression is a shift to a more bureaucratic system, with rules limiting the discretionary power of government administrators. Such a bureaucratic system curbs managerial authority, but focuses on inputs, with little motivation to consider innovations or efficiency gains to improve outcomes. Finally, governments can move to performance-oriented systems. By reintroducing managers’ decision-making power, while simultaneously shifting the measure of success from inputs to results, performance management brings a potential for improved service delivery for citizens. 

This shift towards performance management made it to the forefront of United States government in the 1990s. At the national level, President Bill Clinton signed the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) in 1993. The act intended to shift managerial focus from inputs to results, and furthermore required agencies to undertake strategic planning and produce performance reports. In January of 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 to further enhance agencies’ performance management systems.

At the local level, the New York City Police Department created CompStat in 1994, a cutting-edge, data-driven performance management system. In the ensuing years, other New York City agencies embraced performance management. It was only a matter of time before the strategy would broaden from the agency level to a full municipal government entity. Under Mayor Martin O’Malley in 2000, Baltimore embraced CitiStat, the nation’s first citywide performance management strategy.

Here in Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter introduced the concept of performance management roughly ten years ago, and it was revived by Mayor Kenney after his election in 2015. Transparency, accountability, and performance improvement were key in Kenney’s transition plan, strengthening the city’s commitment to open data and performance management. His pledge to these fundamental principles was essential to distinguish Philadelphia from other cities which experienced setbacks in performance management paradigms during mayoral transitions in the preceding years.

By the time Mayor Kenney came to office, performance management had developed a reputation for being strong on transparency and accountability, but failing to be a unifying tool to improve processes and outcomes. Mayor Kenney’s team created the Office of Performance Management (OPM) to counter this reputation.

Per its mission, OPM embraces the need for transparency and accountability, and also furthers efforts towards supporting city departments in reaffirming their respective missions, visions, and values. As it works with departments, OPM supports the development of performance measures that are meaningful for internal department use, as well as for public consumption. Lastly, OPM directly supports process and program improvement for departments citywide. 

Performance management will only succeed if there is buy-in across the board. Early performance management in Philadelphia focused disproportionately on transparency, with the assumption that process improvement was the logical outcome. The City of Philadelphia’s current focus on performance management embraces the need for transparency, but is investing heavily in building a culture of strategic thinking and data-driven decision making within the city’s offices and departments. This department level capacity and dedication is essential for a sustainable and successful performance management environment.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326

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