Review of “Performance measurement in the public sector: the German experience” written by Dorothea Greiling

Dorothea Greiling, (2005) “Performance measurement in the public sector: the German experience”, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 54 Iss: 7, pp.551 – 567

This text is a research report which aims to review the use of performance measurement within the German public sector, to evaluate the state-of-the-art, and give recommendations for improvement. It is directed to people interested in public sector management or its effectiveness in Germany. It contains a lot of specialist terminology.

The article is divided into five parts. The first one is introduction, where the author explains us the meaning of performance measurement. The reader can come to the conclusion that performance measurement is crucial for good management (defining success and failure, motivating, and learning from mistakes) and successful improvement of ones actions. But it can work only if we use adequate indicators – different types of indicators are mentioned.
The second part is focused on intended purposes of performance measurement. It shows examples from the past and its changes over the past 50 years. According to the article nowadays performance measurement is seen as a tool for improving public budgeting and reporting systems and for modernizing public management. It improves external accountability and internal efficiency at the same time. The author mentions prestigious quality awards here that help to increase competition between public service providers and quality of services.
The third part tells us about the state-of-the-art in Germany. It contains an overview of important nation-wide and state-wide projects promoting performance measurement in the German public sector. The author compares projects that take place in different German states and on different range. She points out the meaning of strategic management systems and coming to more achievement-oriented allocation of public funds (for example: through signing service, quality, and financing agreements).
In the next part, we get to the evaluation of performance measurement in public sector in Germany. The first conclusion qualifies Germany as a late starter with respect to performance measurement. The second conclusion is that local governments and their associations have been more active than the “Länder” (states) and the “Bund” (federal government). On the level of the federal state, performance measurement is not commonly used. Thanks to cooperation with third parties (universities, NGO’s, private enterprises) the “Lӓnder” reveal as more active in establishing performance than the Bund, but local administration take the lead thanks to new a steering model which consists performance and target-based contracts. The reader can find information about purposes of “Bürgerbüros” (civil services) and comparison-circles. Next things compared are geographical location and level of active participation of states and particular cities in Germany. The author mentions also the effectiveness of performance measurement in addition to time factor and purpose factor. Mrs. Greiling comes to the conclusion that the most positive effects of using performance measurement will arise in the first years of participation. After that, indicators run down and the marginal rate of the benefit resulting from an extra year of participation declines. Some people are de-motivated to report because they are not sure about the purpose and use of this data. Use of data by politicians may result in informing citizens about real consequences of their actions, but it might be also used only as a tool to win an election. Another conclusion concerns obligation of taking part in comparison projects, gathering quality data. In Germany it is not obligatory to take part in inter-administrative comparison providing information about cost- and service quality and quantity.
The last part of the article is recommendations. The author suggests reforms of reporting and budget systems. Further research is needed in many fields. Performance measurement could be used as a tool improving transparency of government’s actions for the citizens. Much performance information now is not public, used as administrative “company secret” which is such a waste.

In my opinion this article is useful for scientists doing a research on performance measurement and people working in public administration. It explains the meaning of performance measurement and problems that it might face. The author oversees counterarguments and tries to show different points of views without redundant argue. She based her precise research on reliable sources. Everyone implementing performance measurement strategies into their company could profit from this text. It is clear and well written despite specialist terminology. The only thing not mentioned is which lessons we could learn from pioneers of performance measurement in the public sector. I find this article worth reading even if it’s not your field of studies.

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