PSG II: Performance in the Public Sector

Performance

Thematic orientation

The EGPA Study Group on Performance in the Public Sector studies aspects of public sector performance. The study group’s main activity is the meeting during the EGPA Annual Conferences.

Occasional meetings have been and will be organised at other conferences. Public sector performance topics in the past have included the politics of performance, the use of performance information, performance and austerity, performance and trust, etc.

Study Group chairs are Jostein Askim (Oslo University), Wouter Van Dooren (University of Antwerp) and Kai Wegrich (Hertie School of Governance, Berlin).

The study group specifies one theme in each year’s call for papers. In addition the group covers three standing themes, i.e. themes that through our previous sessions have proven to be of general importance to the study of performance in the public sector:

The politics of performance: What is the role of politics in performance management? Relevant topics include, among others: framing contests in the development of performance measurement and management systems, turf wars in the decision-making about performance, negotiations between principals and agents about the indicators to be used to measure performance, progress, compliance etc. in contracts, networks, or policies. Also: evidence about the scope and real effects of coping strategies developed in reaction to indicators systems, and political-administrative dynamics that performance management engenders in organizations.

The use of performance information: Public administrations have been measuring performance for quite some time now. But is this information actually used, or is performance measurement mainly a ritualistic exercise detached from organisational reality and policy-making? Who is (not) using performance measurement information, where, when, why and how?

The behavioral effects of performance management: The selection and design of the indicators, the organisation of the measurement process and the way measurement is embedded in modes of control and accountability matter a lot for how the affected parties react to such systems. Behavioural coping strategies such as ‘gaming’ and ‘crowding out’ effects (i.e. teaching to the test) have been widely reported and discussed, although their overall significance is contested.

 

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