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GOVT Week: Ted Kniker on Performance Measurement and Evaluation

My name is Ted Kniker and I am an executive consultant with the Federal Consulting Group, an organization comprised of federal employees who provide management consulting, executive coaching and customer satisfaction measurement to other federal agencies. Prior to this, I was the Director for Evaluation and Performance Measurement for Public Diplomacy and for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

One of the questions our customers frequently ask is “how should an organization integrate its evaluation and performance measurement?” This question has become especially relevant to federal agencies as they try to balance improving transparency and performance with mandated reporting requirements.

I explain that I see performance measurement as a compass – it tells us if we are heading in the direction we intended. I think of evaluation as a map – it provides a picture of our terrain, what’s in front of us, behind us, to the sides, and possible paths to reach our destination. Combined, these tools provide a powerful way to provide guidance on our direction, processes, outputs and outcomes.

Lesson Learned – Both evaluation and performance measurement are needed to drive organizational performance: In simplest terms, performance measurement tells an organization what is happening and evaluation provides why it is happening. Reliance on one without the other is similar to driving a car with only two wheels instead of four. I recently came across an equation, presented by Gary Klein, author of Streetlights and Shadows, which I adapted to explain the concept:

Performance = (the reduction of mistakes and variation) + (the increase of insight and expertise)

Performance measurement data in the context of continuous improvement activities, such as Lean and Six Sigma, are used to reduce errors and eliminate waste, and evaluation or assessment feedback, is used to increase our learning to form the basis for sound improvement strategies.

Lesson Learned – When not integrated, Evaluation and Performance Measurement tend to become compliance instead of learning activities: In my experience, managers who don’t evaluate are left without the tools to explain challenged performance, often leading to ineffective blame and shame performance management systems. Managers who evaluate without monitoring performance generally have evaluations that end up as credenza-ware.

Hot Tip: Align evaluation and performance measurement by using each to reinforce the other, as appropriate, in management systems and evaluation projects. At State, we integrated performance measurement and evaluation by including the key research and survey questions used to gather performance data in most, if not all, of our evaluations. This not only helped to verify the performance results, it allowed us to deeply explore how and why we were achieving specific results, so they could be reported and replicated.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Government Evaluation Week with our colleagues in the Government Evaluation AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our GOVT TIG members and you may wish to consider subscribing to our weekly headlines and resources list where we’ll be highlighting Government-focused evaluation resources. You can also learn more from the GOVT TIG via their many sessions at Evaluation 2010 this November in San Antonio.

2 thoughts on “GOVT Week: Ted Kniker on Performance Measurement and Evaluation”

  1. Ted! I am reading your contribution a tad late. but it’s still pertinent. Great use of analogy – illustrates some heard learned lessons. Thank you!

  2. Deborah Grodzicki

    Thank you for your contribution, Ted! I particularly enjoyed your analogy comparing performance measurement to a compass and evaluation to a map. It was beautifully written.

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