Performance measurement in the Flemish public sector: a supply and demand approach


The PhD studies performance measurement in the public sector organisations. We made a distinction between the production process of performance information (the supply side) and the utilisation of performance information (the demand side). Four research questions were studied. (1) Why are organisations measuring performance? (2) Does administrative supply and political demand match, and is there a difference between policy sectors? (3) What are the design characteristics for different uses of performance information? And (4), what are the effects of measurement on organisational behaviour? We also included an extensive literature study and an historical overview of measurement in the public sector. A sample of conclusions is represented in this brief summary. The historical study showed that measurement in the public sector is of all times. Performance measurement as a concept is not a novelty of the New Public Management Movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Yet, troughout time, there has been an increasing integration of measurement in all aspects of the public sector. Thus, although the conceptual design did not change much, the quantity of measurement did alter. The literature study showed, amongst others, that descriptions of optimal peformance measurement do not relate measurement to a specific demand/purpose. The underlying logic is that there is a ‘one best way’ to design a performance measurement system. The third research question of the doctoral thesis attempts to prove that the best way to do performance measurement depends on the way of utilization. The first research chapter, what makes organisations measure, tests six hypotheses on why organisations would measure. We made a disctinction between the adoption of measurement and the implementation of measurement. One counterintuitive finding is that the lack of resources is not affecting adoption of implementation. Many organisations experience a lack of resources, in particular human resources. Some cope with it, others do not. The second research chapter looks into the administrative supply and political demand of performance information. We found that the alleged political desinterest in performance information is not reflected in the MP’s questions. 52% of the questions ask for indicators on policy issues. There are significant differences between policy sectors. We look at some characteristics of the policy sector to explain these differences. The third research chapter looks at the system requirements for different uses of performance information. We point to the complementarities and contradictions in the design of a measurement system. The fourth research chapter looks at the effects of measurement. Again, we coupled the effects to the use of information. The empirical research did not point to accountability use driving out the use for research and learning. A multi track development thus is feasible. Finally, we suggest some prospective directions for the study of performance measurement. We propose to combine theories on organization with theories on information, to reckognize more explicitly the differences between policy sectors, and to use reform theories to explain macro dynamics.

(doctoral dissertation). Katholieke Universiteit Leuven