AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Nov/16

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PE CoE Week: Jonathan Pearson on proposing government programs design performance with more selfishness in mind

I am Jonathan Pearson, a senior manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s government performance practice. I support government health programs overseas and right here at home to develop and implement program performance systems.

I’m here to tell you that government programs should be more “selfish.”  Yes, “selfish.”  At least when it comes to the design of their performance frameworks. They put in the work to create frameworks and systems to gather and report data, but rarely do those performance frameworks give back equally. Let’s just say it’s not a symbiotic relationship.

After all, what’s the purpose of government performance systems? To check the box? To be compliant with GPRAMA? Compliance is obviously important, but it’s also pretty low bar given the exciting things performance systems can achieve for government. So why not dream big? Why shouldn’t government expect more of its performance frameworks? Well, they should!

Hot Tip #1: Think about who determines your funding and what they are expecting from your program. What’s the lifeblood of government programs?  Sustainable funding is! Those that hold the purse strings want to know about the impact their investments are making.  So why not incorporate the information needs of funders into government performance systems in the first place? Do some research into congressional inquiries about your programs.  What about senior agency leadership? What do they want to know? Use your performance systems to brag about your programs to specific stakeholders that influence your financing. And give them something to tweet, not only the 200-page evaluation report.

Rad Resource: Search congress.gov or gao.gov to find inquiries and reports about your program.

Hot Tip #2: Empower your programs. What’s just about as important as sustainable funding?  Providing high-quality services! So why not design performance metrics that give program leaders the information they need to measure and improve the performance of their programs? Seems obvious, right? Except sometimes it’s not.  Metrics should identify positive (and negative) outliers and measure achievements across the logic model.  Interview your program managers to see what their critical business questions are and convert their responses into measures.  Empower the program managers!

Hot Tip #3: Avoid confusing implementers on the ground with irrelevant data clutter. You can develop spectacular technical guidance (and you should), but what really sends a clear message about program priorities are performance measures.  Implementers at the state and local level interpret measures as the priority activities for the program. Because programs wouldn’t collect performance measures on something that wasn’t a program priority, right? Right. So let’s use measures to clearly communicate program priorities to implementers and not distract them with irrelevant data clutter.

Voila!

The American Evaluation Association is Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Program Evaluation Center of Excellence (PE CoE) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from PE CoE team members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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