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Annex 8: Pragmatism - what's possible and probable

The idea of a ‘magic bullet’ that will fix all performance management problems is an unrealistic aspiration. The complexity of the environment that APS agencies operate in means that a one-size fits all approach to performance management is not appropriate and organisations will need to develop systems that respond to their individual circumstances and challenges (Blackman et al., 2012).

Similar points were previously made in a major report on performance management in the APS: “although there may be many common elements, performance management frameworks are diverse and what works best in a particular organisation will depend on a range of environmental factors” (Management Advisory Committee, 2001, p.9). Thus, a critical foundation element for this performance framework is pragmatism.

Pragmatism highlights the need for organisations to adopt practices generally that are “fit for purpose”. These practices need to fit organisations’ contexts and capacities (including people and financial resources). It is important to be realistic about what is possible and probable.

The performance principles presented in this framework will underpin a Diagnostic that will encourage organisations to question the extent to which each principle is evident in their specific context. In doing so, it is also important for organisations to identify where effective practices are already evident, to build on these areas of strength, and to identify where gaps exist. Because of differences across organisations, in terms of size, mission, function and levels of performance management maturity, each will have different requirements and varying levels of capacity, as will the groups within them. This means that the prioritisation of the principles is likely to vary across, and possibly within, organisations.