Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, November 3, 2011

Moynihan sharing analysis of use of federal performance data with GAO

Professor Donald Moynihan and co-author Stéphane Lavertu are meeting with an official from the U.S. Government Accountability Office in November to discuss new research on the federal government's use of performance management data.

Their research drew notice from a blogger for the IBM Center for the Business of Government in October.

Their work explores the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and the George W. Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). "Moynihan and Lavertu dig behind the data to find out why the first and second efforts to embed the use of performance information into the government faltered, and offer hints as to whether the most recent effort – the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 - will do any better," notes blogger John M. Kamensky, a senior fellow with the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

"The law and the tool established new routines intended to foster performance management practices," Moynihan says. "However, the results of two Government Accountability Office surveys we analyzed show that involvement of agency employees with PART reviews and GPRA processes generally had little direct effect on the use of performance information, once other factors are accounted for."

Moynihan and Lavertu did determine that involvement in GPRA processes and PART reviews did encourage employees to use performance data to refine measures and goals. This finding reflects the limits of government-wide reform efforts that depend upon bureaucratic behavior that is difficult to observe. "We find that organizational factors —leadership commitment to results, learning routines led by supervisors, the motivational nature of the task, and the ability to link measures to actions—are positive predictors of performance information use," Moynihan says.

The apparent failures of the GPRA and PART have spurred the Obama administration and Congress to increase the use of performance information through the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010, which establishes a new set of routines. "These new routines focus less on data creation and dissemination," Moynihan says, "and observers hope they will more directly encourage purposeful use of performance data. However, they may face problems."

Moynihan and Lavertu's research is forthcoming in the journal Public Administration Review. It is available as La Follette School Working Paper No. 2011-017, "Does Involvement in Performance Management Routines Encourage Performance Information Use? Evaluating GPRA and PART."

Getting Government to Use Performance Data, October 11, 2011, IBM Center for The Business of Government