Off target?

May 14, 2009

The latest Vanguard News – May 2009  contains a link to a report in the Economist of 10 May 2009  about the failure of performance targets and comments that “It is good on the problems but not so good on what we should measure”. The Economist report is actually based upon an academic study (Ordonez et al, 2009, Academy of Management Perspectives) that has been reproduced in a number of places, including this one at the Wharton Business School.
Perhaps until we come up with an answer for this perennial issue that government will swallow, we will be plagued with targets? I think they have to take trust onboard and witness successful lean change for themselves…

The matter of targets was also jumped on by the editorial in the current edition of ‘Public Sector Executive’ (March/April 2009) under the title ‘Death by a thousand targets’, so we are not alone.


If you are interested and, preferably, in UK local government please complete the survey, it doesn’t take long at all. I’ll keep feeding back through these pages, which are also covered by and PSF.


The power of information

February 3, 2009

On the 1st February 2009 the Power of Information Taskforce (an independent taskforce advising the UK government – – its draft report, including a set of twenty five recommendations. Other than a number of recommendations regarding mapping, OS licensing and that area, which I wouldn’t disagree with, many are not new for local government but demonstrate how far ahead of the central lot we are. Number 16 about publishing notices electronically, is incredibly old hat in local government terms and was probably one of the first things done by many authorities over eight years ago…They’re also still going on about ‘Show us a better way’, when a number of the ideas were operational across the 410 local authorities in England and Wales. A new one is a Power of Information beacon award for local government (No. 17) – to which I say, not another bloody award! What is needed at central government is some central control on all the initiatives enforced upon local government, so that they are vetted and form into a core plan. With information security and Government Connect security constraints coming from one side, the information commissioner from another and requests to open up from another, councils are being thoroughly confused.

Another new web site is a Vanguard one aimed at the public sector:

It wasn’t working in MS Internet Explorer 6 and not the prettiest one I’ve seen but its the content that counts!

Promises, pledges and satisfaction

October 6, 2008

One of my regular correspondents, even if he doesn’t respond on the blog, is Angus Doulton of EiP, who I am presenting with at their annual conference in November.

Angus had been considering my conference paper and was criticising my proposal about using ‘satisfaction’ as a measure! I admitted that I had come to agree with that – its use for things like the Place survey had reduced any value it once had, citizens probably provide the quality of their last experience with the organization as a value, not an average figure or something of use!

A very current paper by Oliver James of the University of Exeter entitled “Evaluating the Expectations Disconfirmationand Expectations Anchoring Approaches to Citizen Satisfaction with Local Public Services’ supports this approach. Moving on from the classic work by Parasuraman et al and also Van Ryzin’s practical testing of it, James’ conclusion is that managing expectations and perceived outcomes is very important. He also reflects upon the binary measures of dissatisfaction and satisfaction.

Hence, perhaps slightly in parallel with Angus, I am getting a stronger perception that the value comes in collating dissatisfaction and measuring it as a binary by channel to consider channel use, migration and transfer. We need to have anchored expectations and determine what the gap is between that and what is delivered, these should be the variations that flag up when service improvement is required.

Vanguard (John Seddon and associates) in their latest report on National Indicator 14 (avoidable contact) make the statement that “managing value is the key to removing failure and that in managing value you need measures that relate to purpose from the customers’ point of view.”

Angus himself has proffered ‘service promises’ as a solution, which seems, coincidentally, to reflect a proposal in the new future of policing Green Paper about a policing pledge! These are not too far away the anchored expectations gap, the question is: what do we use for the actual metric for the range of services and channels, can promises or pledges be set for them all, or do we seek out dissatisfaction and cure it?

At the EiP conference we will be trying to clarify potential measures derived from promises and pledges and produce something of use to practitioners and of value to the citizen.

James, O. (2007). “Evaluating the Expectations Disconfirmation and Expectations Anchoring Approaches to Citizen Satisfaction with LocalPublic Services.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: 1 – 17.

Van Ryzin, G. G., Immerwahr, S., (2007). “Importance-Performance Analysis of Citizen Satisfaction Surveys.” Public Administration 85(1): 215 – 226.

Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, V.A., Berry, L.L., (1988). “SERVQUAL: A multiple-item scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality.” Journal of Retailing 64(1 Spring): 12-40.