“What gets measured gets done.”
Scorecard (Noun): an organized set of performance measures, grouped according to various aspects of performance (Frost); (Noun) a report or indication of the status, condition, or success of something or someone (Merriam Webster).
The use of Scorecards to support performance improvement efforts are important because they provide a visual representation of past and current efforts. This clear visualization allows people to more quickly understand which efforts are working and which ones need to change. When built successfully, the use of Scorecards can facilitate communication between different departments in an organization, help create alignment, and help groups make smarter budgeting decisions.
There are several important tips you need to consider when creating a powerful and informative Scorecard that continues to provide insights in evaluating and improving programs. The following tips will help get anyone started building a performance Scorecard for their program or community:
1. Organizational Leaders Should be Involved in Scorecard Development and Ongoing Use.
“More than half (55 percent) of organizations [believe] their executives are not fully engaged with performance management. When…leaders are not engaged in performance management, employee goals risk being out of alignment with business goals. And without executive engagement, managers are not held accountable to course-correct the misalignment and to remain committed to developing their employees.” (Loew, 2014).
Leaders from different sectors in the community need to be involved in the creation of the scorecard and the selection of population results and indicators and program performance measures. Scorecard updates should be regularly reviewed by the leaders in the community and within each organization.
2. The Scorecard Should be Linked to Organizational Goals.
“The focus in strategic planning is often on getting the plan written. However, the purpose of planning is not to develop goals but to accomplish them. One way to know whether you have accomplished a goal is to measure performance.” (The Pennsylvania State University).
Programs and performance measures must be directly linked to overarching strategies articulated in the annual strategic plan and budget. A scorecard can provide insight into the ongoing progress of strategy execution by tracking program performance measures and corresponding actions. Looking at the history and future forecast for each trend line helps users to ask the question, “If we do nothing differently, is that OK?” If the answer is no, it can often create the inspiration needed for individuals and partners to take action together. Each performance measure included in your Scorecard should be linked to the program it evaluates, and each program should be linked to the community-level strategy it is a part of.
3. Indicators and Performance Measures Should be Clearly Defined
The Doctor and the Nurse
Imagine you’re getting surgery and the doctors aren’t using the same language as the nurses assisting them. What the doctor calls “scalpel”, the nurse calls “surgical scissors.” What the nurse calls an “artery” the doctor calls a “vein”. This would be a pretty dangerous situation, right? The consequences are varied. Perhaps the doctor and nurse have to waste time explaining what they mean by each term. In some cases this could lead to a pretty nasty outcome for you. Well, the community and program work we do together is every bit as complicated as performing surgery. Unless we agree on the meaning of the words we use, it is impossible to make progress (Friedman, 2015).
Creating a common language is essential to any performance measurement effort. In the most useful Scorecards, each indicator or performance measure should have a clear definition, agreed on by leaders in the community or within the organization. Definitions of performance measures should appear in the description of each measure (commonly referred to as “notes” in digital Scorecards.
4. Context Should be Provided Along with the Raw Data.
Poor performance doesn’t always justify cutting a program’s funding.
Performance measurement and the factors affecting each aspect of performance are complex. Therefore, it is essential to provide context behind each performance measure. Otherwise, grave misunderstandings may occur. For example, if a performance trendline for a program is worse than the same time last year, the program may be deemed unsuccessful and be cut from the budget. But, perhaps there were significant external factors inhibiting progress and performance was actually remarkable considering these limiting factors. Poor performance doesn’t always justify ending a program. For example, if a fire department has poor performance….we don’t get rid of the fire department. We fix it! For each measure, provide background information explaining the trend data and outline action strategies to ensure the data is not taken at face value.
5. Presentation and Information are Simple and Easy to Understand.
The key to success is not innovation; it is “simplicity and diligence” applied with fierce devotion to our highest priorities. – Jim Collins
Limiting the number of performance measures for each program and using nontechnical language that is familiar to all partners and the community ensures that anyone interested in the program’s performance can understand the data and the story it tells. You could potentially create an endless number of performance measures for each program, but we recommend creating 3 – 4 “headline” measures that constitute the most important pieces of information describing the performance of a program, agency, or service-system. At least one of these measures should describe the impact of the program or service on the client population.
6. The Scorecard Should be Easily Accessed and Shared.
Publicly-accessible datasets represent a catalyst for the enhancement of health care systems through the ability to conduct policy- and clinically-relevant health services research (Saleh, Alameddine, and El-Jardali, 2009).
Sharing of data increases transparency, inspires confidence with funders, and motivates partners and volunteers to collaborate to create measurable impact. Make your Scorecard or parts of your Scorecard visible on your website or hang up posters for specific performance measures you want your staff to focus on. Check out some examples of publicly shared scorecards that have been organized by Marlboro College in Vermont.
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