Friday July 01, 2022

Governance management

January 06, 2021

The role of performance management is to give shape and direction on how public-sector organizations achieve desired outcomes.

Primarily, it is a management style with the purpose to set goals and to ensure achievements of such targets through a planning and control cycle to improve overall governance. With this in view, Prime Minister Imran Khan while addressing a ceremony to sign the ‘Performance Agreements of the Federal Government for the year 2020-21’ stressed the need for improved governance performance, and termed it as “a step in the right direction”.

One of the key issues in public-sector organizations today is the steady decline and erosion of performance. Low performance is mostly attributed to management style and more often compared with the growth and profitability of private-sector organizations which follow a strategic planning and management model than their public-sector counterparts. The effectiveness of strategic management and planning in the public sector is not much known due to the challenges involved in designing and implementing; however, it has received increased interest in public-sector organizations.

The emergence of a performance management framework in the domain of the public sector is a recent phenomenon. It has managed to get a considerable place during the last three decades in the public sector as a fundamental and important requirement. This has been implemented in different countries to varying degrees. Literature on performance management reveals that it not only helps improve functioning, performance and effectiveness of an organization, but also provides a short- and long-term sense of direction to the organization to achieve goals promoting cohesion and consistency.

Traditionally, strategic planning thrusts on an ‘end-ways-means’ model. According to this model, cooperative objectives (ends) are determined first, and with those objectives in view, a strategy (ends) is formulated. Last comes the required resources (means). With this regard, the main challenge is how to put in practice the private-sector strategic model, the core of private organizations, into a public-sector context as it is becoming increasingly relevant in public-sector organizations for improved governance performance.

This move for a change in management style is mostly attributed to the introduction of New Public Management (NPM) in the public sector. New Public Management, which is used to describe various reforms in the domain of the public sector, is a broad and complex term. The basic premise for adopting this approach is to make public employees of an organization accountable in connection with organizational performance and allows an organization to focus on its goals.

As an important part of planning and strategy, the performance management tool is widely used by various organizations. It defines the direction of the organization and helps set priorities to achieve the desired level of objectives in a systematic way in a rapidly changing environment. It is a useful way to determine the position of an organization regarding its mission and how to attain its goals and objectives. It helps improve performance and allows the management to step back, review and assess progress, and subsequently decide the further course of action.

The performance management framework is also considered a road map to move forward with a clear and explicit vision. It also improves decision-making in the organization and helps identify strength and weakness as well. The management can also gauge opportunities and threats easily once they have a plan.

However, the bearing of these practices to the public sector is a matter of debate as it is not easy to move strategically due to complexity in the governance system involving both the political and administrative sphere. In contrast to private-sector organizations, public-sector organizations are large and complex and also subject to internal and external environments. There are many stakeholders in public-sector organizations. The objectives are mostly driven and set by the public representatives who play a key role in fixing priorities for the government. This leaves little discretion for public-sector organizations than private ones to follow their own strategic aims and objectives. This limited discretion may involve certain constraints like political, legal and regulatory factors.

The strategic management approach focuses on a long-term perspective, improved decision-making, greater organizational performance and enhanced responsiveness to change. These highly important ingredients in the economy for profit, non-profit or government entities can only be achieved through highly interpersonal skills, information processing and decision-making. Equally important is personal integrity, good negotiation skills and characteristics of patience and tolerance. This blend of skills is crucially important for performance management of public-sector organizations when applied with confidence and sensitivity.

Likewise, the management in a public-sector environment is very challenging because of its unpredictability, as it has evolved in a political climate. Public servants experience contradictions, tensions and failures in implementing policies. There is a need on the part of government functionaries for a good holistic understanding of the system they work in. Only quantitative performance management indicators alone are not sufficient to reach such an understanding; they also need a qualitative insight of others involved in the system.

Similarly, there is complexity in public services, which have enormous storms and tides. Overly rigid approaches to performance management and strategic management can be highly dysfunctional in the public context. This takes further the articulation of a method of management practice that can cope with the stark realities of the complex and unpredictable public policy world. This requires pragmatic governance performance management that may lead to coherence and stability for greater public good.

The writer is the secretary of the Department of Culture, Tourism & Archaeology, Balochistan