Sierra Leone Finance Minister Kaifala Marah said: “The acid test of change lies in the strength and vision of leadership…and in the flexibility to review and adopt new ideas. While we may have inherited the past, the present is the only opportunity we have to shape the future…by drawing lessons and not being afraid to introduce new thinking.”
The leader as evaluator needs to analyze, not just describe things. Political will is augmented by objective assessment of policy, program, service, and administrative options. Leaders are expected to think critically, analyze systematically, and explain why something was analyzed in the way chosen. They develop rigorous analytical capabilities in problem solving and decision making.
The search for optimal solutions in the public interest is about identifying issues, proposing remedies, managing implementation, and measuring effects. Three analytical frameworks have dominated notions of good practice in public management:
• Results Based Management. Treasury Board says, “RBM is a life-cycle approach to management that integrates strategy, people, resources, processes, and measurements to improve decision-making, transparency, and accountability. The approach focuses on achieving outcomes, implementing performance measurement, learning and changing, and reporting performance.” RBM pushes analysis beyond traditional boundaries and closes the strategic management loop.
• Balanced Scorecard. There are numerous spin-offs of Kaplan and Norton’s 1992 original. Managers use this performance management tool to track and monitor the consequences of organizational activities. The focus is on the strategic agenda, a small number of data items to monitor, and a mix of financial and non-financial measures.
• Performance Contracting. Service agreements have budgetary import when Ministers buy outputs and outcomes according to negotiated standards and pricing and agencies work on cost recovery. Service delivery is transformed by committing to use information as a common and binding currency for intragovernmental trade and public accountability.
Meaningful, dependable, actionable evaluation is inquisitive, rational, and measurable. Modern measurement systems engage staff, represent stakeholder interests, forecast the future, promote continuous improvement, and motivate performance. Good behaviours communicate high expectations in setting goals, planning improvements, picking key performance indicators, sharing performance data, and celebrating achievements.
Poor behaviours communicate low expectations, which see organizations underperform. Leaders are challenged to cut through the jargon, ask the right questions, discern valid measurement information, and exact genuine accountability. The power of analysis is learned, not delegated.