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Annex 7: Evidence and data: communicate performance trends and targets to inform decision making

The move towards high performance requires a shift in thinking from a compliance to a continuous improvement orientation. This can be facilitated through the provision of performance data directly relevant to goal attainment. This performance information can then be used to inform strategic and operational decision making.

Fundamental to the willingness and ability of an organisation to use performance information is the focus on a minimum number of key performance indicators (KPIs). The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) (2013), however, found that there are an excessive number of KPIs that made it difficult to review the performance of programs. The Australian National Audit Office (2013) concluded that focused and clear outcome statements and well-defined program objectives are critical for realising improvements in this area. This supports work undertaken in the United States (see Metzenbaum, 2009).

Performance information needs to be accessible and communicated throughout the organisation. By simplifying and communicating performance data, groups / organisations can increase goal clarity for managers and employees, increase their alignment with higher-level goals and increase their accountability for achieving targets. This is likely to reduce the focus on compliance and excessive reporting. This shift also involves using performance data as a means to track progress against performance goals, targets and long-term outcomes and to review patterns in performance outcomes (see Principle 4). Such a shift has been advocated by the ANAO (2013) who have encouraged the APS to focus on reviewing progress towards longer-term objectives.

The tracking of progress involves the utilisation of qualitative and quantitative measures to identify progress against goals and as a tool for reflective practice and meaningful discussions. This will encourage organisations and groups to develop an understanding of why target(s) may or may not be achieved, and to identify when an intervention is necessary to overcome obstacles to goal attainment. This is also useful for identifying extraneous factors that affect target attainment, interdependencies with other groups / organisations, and for understanding how their work affects goal attainment (see Metzenbaum, 2009). By conducting regular status reviews, groups / organisations can also assess progress and anticipate problems before they emerge.