Friday, July 2, 2010
A Federal Highway Administration international “scanning” team has identified a large number of important performance management lessons from mature systems in Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and Sweden.
At a time when the Office of Management and Budget is asking federal executives and managers to place even more attention on performance management activities, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration has released a scanning study of how transportation agencies in Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and Sweden apply performance management. “Linking Transportation Performance and Accountability” documents how transportation agencies with mature performance management systems demonstrated accountability to elected officials and the public. In addition, the report shows how these transportation agencies use goal setting and performance measures to manage, explain, deliver, and adjust their transportation budgets and internal activities.
Despite the diversity of their applications, the performance management systems had five universal components, or steps:
1.               Articulate a limited number of high-level national transportation policy goals that are linked to a clear set of measures and targets.
2.               Negotiate intergovernmental agreements on how state, regional and local agencies will achieve the national goals while translating them into local context and priorities.
3.               Evaluate performance by tracking the measures and reporting them in clear language appropriate for the audience.
4.               Collaborate with state, regional and local agencies to achieve the targets by emphasizing incentives, training and support – instead of penalties – as the preferred way to achieve performance.
5.               Perpetuate long-term improvement by understanding that the real value of performance management is an improved decision-making and investment process not the achievement of many arbitrary, short-term targets.
A key finding is that federal-state relationships found abroad were more akin to coach-player relationships than to umpire-player relationships. It was common to find different levels of government jointly setting a target, then collaborating on way to achieve it. 
The scan team also found that the true value of performance management was in achieving steady long-term progress. Many officials stressed that another important benefit of their performance management systems was the transparency they created. The transparency improved understanding about transportation issues and led to greater degrees of trust. Striving for long-term accomplishment created collaboration among levels of government, not contention.
The report contains many insightful findings and a list of sixteen “key lessons learned” which will be helpful to any agency working to strengthen its own performance management system.