From Compliance to Performance: The 16th Annual PPX Symposium
The theme of the Sixteenth PPX Annual Symposium – From a Compliance Mindset to a Performance Culture – gets to the heart of the challenge posed by results-based management (RBM) but … is RBM still relevant in Government?
That was the provocative question addressed in a lively and entertaining panel debate at the conclusion of the Symposium. Not surprisingly, given the audience demographic, the audience poled a resounding ‘yes’ at the end of the debate – RBM is relevant.
However, the main counter-argument was interesting, amounting to the view that RBM is based on the illusion that public servants have some control over the agenda when, in fact, it is politics that dictate policy. Beyond that, so the argument goes, the large social objectives worth pursuing are not amenable to results measurement.
This may be so, but we have to try. Otherwise, …
(I’ll leave it to the reader to complete this sentence).
Cynicism notwithstanding, the Symposium revealed to me that there has been some progress over the past ten years.
The Past and Future of MAF
First, Management Accountability Framework (MAF) assessments have evolved to evaluation of results as opposed to questions of strategy and planning (presentation by Paule Labbé).
MAF was introduced almost ten years ago to strengthen accountability for management as assessed on an annual basis. Although the Framework itself (10 Areas of Management (AoM)) has remained stable, the assessment criteria (questions about the 10 AoM) have evolved over time. In the beginning, TBS tended to be satisfied if plans and procedures were in place – whereas lately, assessments have included more questions about results. This development of the assessment process represents a growing Public Service maturity with respect to results-based management.
Humans Are the Problem
Second, there is encouraging recognition of the fact that human and cultural issues – not procedural and technical issues – are what get in the way of effective RBM (presentation by Paul Thomas).
This recognition encourages acceptance of a number of ‘hints’ for building a performance culture. These include:
- avoid a ‘blaming and shaming’ attitude toward performance measurement;
- adopt a participatory approach to measurement, interpretation and use of performance data; and,
- align the reward system with desired behaviours.
Third, there are success stories such as the case presented by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), where they used a participatory process to develop and implement a program level planning, measurement and reporting framework (presentation by Bart Bilmer and Francis Loughheed).
Another case study looked at the work done by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regarding their Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework that utilized a top down approach. (presented by Sue Milks, Ryan Zeigler, and Lisa Woodward)
The takeaway from both of these examples is that neither a “top down” nor a “bottom up” approach is necessarily better than the other. Rather, corporate reporting in the RPP and DPR needs to be linked to program level indicators and reports, with a re-use of indicators and performance stories for both.
Success comes from reducing the reporting burden.
Culture Grows Up
Finally, it is encouraging to note that eyes no longer glaze over when the subject of organizational culture comes up.
This brings me to the result of our demonstration exercise, where we invited Symposium attendees to test their own culture type preference against a couple of relevant benchmarks. The collective result for the seventeen individuals who took the test is shown in the table below.
Not surprisingly, the preference exhibited by the PPX attendees mirror those of the ‘ideal’ from the perspective of support for results-based management.
Culture change is a long-term proposition. Although there is still a ways to go in the shift from a compliance mindset to a performance culture, I have seen signs of progress in the twenty years since I began working with the Public Service – a perception that was reinforced by what I saw and heard at the Symposium.
Were you at the Symposium? Are your perceptions of the event similar to mine? Let us know in the comments.