Agencies find scorecard use a balancing act

Agencies find scorecard use a balancing act

By Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

Although the National Partnership for Reinventing Government published its performance measurement guide almost a year ago, agencies have been slow to adopt the balanced-scorecard method of measuring how they are doing.

'I don't think there's any one agency that has done it so completely I could say, 'Yes, they've absolutely implemented the balanced scorecard,' ' said Kathleen Monahan, an analyst in the Chief Financial Officer's Office at the Housing and Urban Development Department. 'But everybody is [doing performance measurement] at some level.' Monahan led the team that produced the guide.

The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 requires agencies to set strategic and performance goals, although some officials have expressed concern over the slow pace of GPRA implementation [GCN, April 17, Page 22].

Thirteen federal agencies and departments, including Monahan's office at HUD, loaned employees to the Balanced Measures Project team.

The NPR group also looked at state and local governments in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

The team found that most federal agencies are following some kind of balanced approach to measure their performance, Monahan said, but not all use the balanced scorecard designed in 1992 for private-sector organizations by two Harvard Business School professors.

The professors established categories of measurement criteria and set a method for giving value to the criteria.

Agencies have to strike a balance between the expectations of the citizens who receive their services and those of the taxpayers who fund them, Monahan said.

One of the most important findings of the NPR report was 'adapt, don't adopt,' she said, because every agency has a different organizational culture.

'If you focus only on achieving your mission and do not take into account involving your employees or your customer and stakeholder needs, you may achieve short-term success, but you're doomed to long-term failure,' Monahan said.

Jake Barkdoll, a former Food and Drug Administration associate commissioner who now is a practitioner at the Washington Center, the University of Southern California's School of Public Administration, said he frequently hears that the balanced scorecard 'has added some humanity to human performance management.'

Barkdoll, who has been studying GPRA for several years, said he has found 15 agencies that have one or more years of experience with applying balanced-scorecardlike initiatives.

Many of the federal balanced scorecards look very much like those of corporate America, 'which was quite a surprise to me,' he said, because agencies, unlike businesses, do not have a universal focus on the bottom line.''When you run a federal agency, you kind of have to make up the measures from scratch,' Barkdoll said.

The balanced scorecard is most useful in organizations with relatively homogeneous goals and programs, he said, and it is difficult if not impossible to apply to a diverse organization with wide-ranging goals.

Interest in the balanced scorecard will grow over the next few years, Barkdoll predicted. He said he has received inquiries from more than 30 agencies and may start an interest group at the USC center this fall.

The balanced-scorecard approach intersects with technology in the software agencies use to measure their performance.

Several vendors sell prepackaged applications that usually are installed on an agency's intranet, where employees and workgroups can see how they stack up against others, Monahan said.

'Nobody has any secrets,' she added.

The Veterans Benefits Administration implemented its balanced-scorecard process on an intranet at the start of fiscal 1999, said Dennis Thomas, team leader for planning in the agency's Office of Resource Management.

Thomas said the VBA scorecard has five measurements: customer satisfaction, speed, accuracy, cost, and employee satisfaction and development.

VBA has five main benefit programs, each with its own national scorecard. Similar scorecards exist for its nine service delivery networks, regional offices, and team and division levels. Employees can see the intranet scorecards for all levels.

The VBA scorecards are updated every month, although some performance metrics change less often, Thomas said. For example, VBA measures customer satisfaction through an annual survey.

E. Stephen Logan, a procurement analyst in the Energy Department's Office of Management Systems, said his office is one of several using a balanced-scorecard method to improve procurement.

Energy's scorecard use dates back to 1995, when Richard H. Hopf, a deputy assistant secretary for procurement, championed the method, Logan said. Energy headquarters annually collects procurement performance data in 25 areas and makes the compiled scores available to lower-level offices.

Yearly event

Procurement officials aren't using balanced-scorecard software because most of the data comes in only once a year, Logan said.

Audrey Borja, a member of the performance results staff in the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Regulatory Affairs, said her agency is looking at implementing a balanced-measures program, 'but we're really not there yet.'

The 1999 NPR report, Balancing Measures: Best Practices in Performance Management, is on the Web at www.npr.gov/library/papers/bkgrd/balmeasure.html.

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