Target-setting is undermining public sector performance

The
current ‘obsession’ with target-setting in the public sector works against good
people management and undermines performance, new research claims.

The
report, ‘People and Public Services: Why Central Targets Miss the Mark’ from
the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), says the public
sector needs to rethink its ‘top-down’ approach to public service reform.

The
research shows that local leadership capable of energising and enabling people
is the key to transformational change in the public sector.

Mike
Emmott, CIPD head of employee relations, said focusing on targets can undermine
the trust needed for high performance and slow down the process of change.

"Targets
are, at best, an imperfect tool for managing change. By definition, many
stretching targets are going to be missed but this does not mean an
organisation is necessarily ‘failing’," he said.

Michael
Barber, head of the Prime Minister’s delivery unit, in written evidence to the
House of Commons’ Public Administration select committee this week, said:
"Any target that is shown not to be contributing to better performance
should be reviewed or dropped." 

The
report argues the Government should replace the existing framework for reform
with one that:

 – reduces the number of centralised targets

 – increases consultation on the targets that
are set

 – allows greater managerial discretion at
local level over pay-setting

 – puts people management at the very heart of
the reform process by shifting from a command-and-control style of management
to a high-performance model based on autonomy and trust.

By Michael Millar

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