As the use of performance indicators has spread throughout the UK public sector, academic writing has tended to focus on the implications and consequences. The concerns of practitioners, on the other hand, have often been centred on the technical qualities of the indicators and the costs of implementation and operation. Much less has so far been publicly discussed about the application of indicators and their effect, or what officials and managers have learned so far about devising, implementing and using them.
The early lessons outlined below are based on discussions and written feedback from over 500 middle- and senior-grade managers from all parts of the public sector. The text is illustrated by quotations from some of the written responses to requests for comments on the list, which has been tested and refined in the light of comments and suggestions from 20 groups of officials and managers over the same period. Problems of confidentiality (and potential embarrassment) mean that only some of the quotations and examples are attributed to organizations. In other cases the sector is identified, but not the organization.
A number of caveats are necessary in interpreting the list: