A Performance Management Policy Approach: The Implementation Phase and Analysis of Institutional and Policy Changes

A performance management policy approach includes the systematic planning and analysis of the decision and implementation stages that follow the planning and evaluation stages. In Chapter 6, we developed an integrative framework for analyzing the ways in which specific performance management systems are created and implemented using the various streams of new institutionalism and explanations of public sector reforms. The framework helps explain processes of change and suggests strategies for overcoming barriers in the stages of policy making and implementation.

Performance management reforms may have many shapes and scopes depending on the breadth and depth ofthe change that entrepreneurs can and want to advance, and the willingness of decision makers to follow these directions. Reforms usually evolve as a response to crisis (Bouckaert and Halligan 2008; Moynihan 2008; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004). structural changes and social-economic processes translate into crisis in one or more of the operating systems of the country creating the basic atmosphere for change. This also creates a trigger for the evolution of institutional entrepreneurs. Another possible scenario is that incremental, and even latent, transformational processes gradually change the status quo, opening up the stage for new ideas. When structural changes do not rise to the level of acute crisis, national institutions and political culture become dominant.

Crises and negative policy outcomes create negative policy feedback. Here too the strength of the crisis reflects on the strength of the negative policy feedback. However, there are also intermediary players such as the media and public administrators who mediate between actual reality and the picture provided to the public. If these mediating agents have strong interests to keep the status quo, they create a strong lock-in effect, which means that they use direct and indirect ways to create the impression that the crisis is not so bad or that the alternatives are much worse. When the lock-in effect created by veto players is significant, only gradual and incremental institutional changes are possible, and institutional entrepreneurs rarely result. Rather, only when global influences, the diffusion of ideas, and economic slowdowns converge do institutional entrepreneurs gradually evolve, but even then they tend to adopt a conservative rather than radical approach.

Hence, in most cases the exact scope and characteristics of performance management systems is a function of the identity, interests, and capabilities of institutional entrepreneurs and the power relations they must negotiate. They may use a variety of strategies to advance their vision. In Chapter 6, we presented an analytical framework to explain and plan such strategies. In many cases, authoritative reformers who face significant internal and external veto players simply neglect the policy area, meaning that fewer resources are channeled into that area. This creates a drift process that weakens the objections of veto players, and the opportunities for additional reform measures arise (Mizrahi and Tevet 2014). The layering strategy is also evident in many performance management reforms that begin with the introduction of performance measurement mechanisms (Broadbent and Laughlin 2009). Based on this first layer, other layers are added, including the introduction of benchmarking, incentive schemes, working plans, and strategic management (Mizrahi 2013). In many cases, conversion also takes place, because the primary goals of public organizations are transformed from promoting social welfare to maximizing utility and effectiveness. Indeed, to a large extent this ideational transformation is the initial step toward performance management reforms (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004). Finally, revision usually characterizes the final stages of reforms after accumulating support through the former strategies (Mizrahi 2013).

Campbell (2004) highlights the central role that institutional entrepreneurs play in the processes of institutional change in various ways. First, they have a crucial role in articulating and framing problems in clear and simple terms. Second, entrepreneurs involved in social networks and organizations learn new ideas that they can transform into radical institutional changes. Third, successful entrepreneurs mobilize resources and allies, present evidence that the suggested changes have been succeeded elsewhere, and demonstrate how programs for innovation fit the interests and views of decision makers and accord with public sentiment.

To a large extent, senior public administrators have these kinds of capabilities and access, making them pivotal players in the processes of public sector reforms (Mizrahi 2013). Given the political and administrative barriers obstructing performance management reforms that we discussed previously, senior (and to limited extent also junior) public administrators emerge as the key players in initiating, and certainly in implementing, such reforms. The strategies they use and their ability to overcome barriers is therefore a main factor in explaining and planning the specific components of performance management reforms. This can be done only through a detailed mapping of the existing power relations and interests, an effort that can be achieved using rational choice institutionalism.

Hence, public officials have a key role in initiating, planning, maintaining, and implementing performance management reforms. This role is evident in planning performance management mechanisms in ways that address the potential risks of distortion and gaming, in using such mechanisms for learning and transforming organizational culture, as well as in active participation in planning and implementation processes. The involvement of public officials in these processes is vital for all aspects of the performance management policy approach. Furthermore, since all these processes and mechanisms improve accountability mechanisms and public responsibility, they have the potential of transforming the political culture and the essence of the relations between the different players in the democratic scene and between sectors and groups in society. The key role of public officials as institutional entrepreneurs in such dynamics and social transformations makes them agents of social change.

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