Do we dare to engage in performance dialogue?

Even the performance measurement and management discipline has acknowledged how the so called ‘performance movement’ focuses extensively on provision of performance information.

Researchers and practitioners have listed various uses of performance information and recognized factors affecting its use but there still remains a lack of understanding and discussion on management practices that would enhance the use in practice.

The actual use of performance information is challenged by continuously evolving priorities and management philosophies. These alter the information flows and knowledge structures. They also influence our perception of the underlying phenomenon – performance. We need to find an agreement on this before proceeding to management tools and practices.

For example, public services are increasingly provided by networks and hybrid organizations, which adds ambiguity to public performance management (see my blog What defines performance of a service system?). Here, it is extremely important but also difficult to define and understand what the system should be doing, what resources are available and how those are used. Without a clear picture of these, the provided performance information does not have a solid interpretation frame, and it becomes useless.

I think that in many cases the complexity of the performance phenomenon questions the ability of an individual manager to master it. Integrative dialogue is needed. This is nothing new, a consensus seems to prevail on this – networking, collaboration and dialogue are increasingly discussed management topics.

However, what seems to be missing, still, is the focused and transparent dialogue on performance information. What have we accomplished and how can we improve? Yes, the management group discusses these issues, but in order to improve performance this is often not enough.

We do report results, but the analysis and discussion on them, whether good or bad, does not catch the whole organization. Performance is discussed indirectly whereas a better awareness might lead to better results. Based on my experiences there is a lot to do in advances performance dialogue; isn’t that what the management should do?

On my view this is the future of management control and performance management; the workplace together engages to goal-based learning. Seeking and finding better ways to accomplish even better results should be a joint effort.

Thus, I believe that the future of performance management builds on a dialogue. Dialogue based on performance information. Not for the sake of dialogue but to improve. This dialogue brings together different views that are needed because the performance as a phenomenon evolves along our expectations and requirements.

I will present some more of my ideas on the topic next week in Nice:

Laihonen, H. (2015), “Management control and performance dialogue in public administration”, 8th conference on performance measurement and management control, 30 September – 2 October, Nice, France.

 

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