Performance Measurement
October 8, 2013

Planning for performance: A snapshot of the PPX symposium

Managing for results has gained significant momentum in the public sector over the past two decades, strengthening the disciplines of strategic planning, risk management, audit, evaluation, and performance measurement and reporting. These reforms are being implemented by skilled professionals, who continue to face many challenges. It is this community that the Performance and Planning Exchange (PPX) serves, as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting results-based management (RBM) across the public sector.

The 17th Annual PPX Symposium in May recognized the central place of planning in measuring and reporting performance, through good times and bad with the theme, “Planning for Performance Throughout the Business Cycle.” It was a hugely successful event that attracted close to 200 participants as well as our sponsor Interis/BDO, and exhibitors Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Landmark Intersol, ITWorx, Delta Partners and the Financial Management Institute.

Following a day of pre-symposium training entitled RBM-101, there were two days of plenary and workshop sessions. PPX also paid tribute to John Mayne, a leader in the field of RBM, who received the first PPX Lifetime Achievement Award.

The opening plenary addressed the annual cycle of performance reporting in the context of the changing regime for parliamentary review of spending. Bill Matthews from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat gave an insider’s view of the response to the recent recommendations of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. In particular, he noted the development of a model for program activity reporting, and presented the new Expenditure Database.

A workshop included examples of the key success factors required to align planning, performance measurement and reporting in the Canada Border Services Agency. Another session explored how performance management and evaluation can collaborate and engage with program managers. The third demonstrated how Fisheries and Oceans was embedding performance measurement in decision-making.

The luncheon address from Bill Baker, former Commissioner and CEO of the Canada Revenue Agency, offered a deputy minister’s perspective on managing for results. He gave an often humorous and always insightful account of the trials and tribulations faced over the course of a distinguished public service career.

Other concurrent sessions covered risk management, internal services and evaluation. Participants learned how Health Canada has integrated risk management, performance measurement and planning functions. And officials from the Office of the Auditor General and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat presented key issues and opportunities for the federal evaluation function.

Given the current interest in measuring program efficiency, Evert Lindquist, professor of public administration from the University of Victoria, presented a plenary session on efficiency indicators. His well-informed overview gave cause for reflection on the complexities of government initiatives in this area, and in particular, the need to distinguish between efficiency and cost measures.

The second day began with Kevin Page, Canada’s first Parliamentary Budget Officer, who spoke convincingly about the need for greater transparency in government. Openness, he said, is necessary to maintain the public’s trust in government, and is likely to be an issue in the next general election. In this regard, making all reports publicly available, a practice that has been followed by the PBO, is important to gauge the performance of government organizations.

Concurrent workshops provided insights into regulatory performance measurement, planning methodology, and the relationship between audit and evaluation. Participants heard about the results-based approach to environmental regulation undertaken by Saskatchewan’s Environment Ministry. In another session, leading practitioners from audit and evaluation talked realistically about the extent of collaboration between the two disciplines and discussed opportunities for working more closely together.

Maria Barrados, former president of the Public Service Commission and the second day’s luncheon speaker, provided insights into the realities and complexities of performance measurement. She took participants through the Commission’s challenges in accurately measuring and reporting government-wide progress in employment equity.

A presentation on the key role of public opinion in performance closed the symposium. Nik Nanos, a well-known pollster, gave a thoughtful and entertaining account of the uses and abuses of survey research in performance measurement.

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