Chapter 3
Other Essential
Best Practices
e guts of a performance report consist of its performance metrics—the goals and
measures. A report that falls short here will have little value no matter how good its
additional content. At the same time, however, good performance metrics alone do
not guarantee a good report. is chapter describes other attributes that are impor-
tant to achieving effective performance reporting.
Two of these are self-evident: accessibility and readability. Since we are deal-
ing with reporting to the public, it is essential that members of the public can
easily locate, navigate, and understand the report. A report with outstanding
substantive content is wasted in terms of the general public if ordinary citi-
zens cannot nd it or make sense of it. Equally important, the report must be
supported by adequate, credible data. Additionally, reports should go beyond
simply reciting performance results. e better reports candidly analyze the
organization’s results, particularly performance shortfalls, and explain improve-
ment strategies. Doing so indicates that the organization is not just reporting
for reporting’s sake but actually uses the reports data to influence and improve
its performance.
Reports also should link budget costs to performance results. e ultimate
objective of such linkages is to provide a solid basis for performance-based budget-
ing. In other words, what level of performance results can be achieved for what
60 ◾  Government Performance and Results
level of investment? While performancecost linkage is still in its early stages at
the federal level, some agencies have begun to develop potential best practices in
this area.
Finally, analyzing performance results and developing improvement strate-
gies are not limited to an organizations program performance. Large public orga-
nizations face significant management challenges that can adversely affect their
ability to accomplish their missions or leave them vulnerable to fraud, waste, and
abuse. is is certainly true of federal government agencies. For example, the U.S.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified 30 high-risk areas across
the federal government that present major economy, efficiency, or effectiveness
challenges (GAO 2009a, 1–3). Some of these areas represent government-wide
problems such as human capital management and information systems security;
others are agency specific. Additionally, federal agency inspectors general identify
serious management challenges at their agencies each year. Given the importance
of such problems, federal agency performance reports are required by law to address
major management challenges (31 USC 3516(d)).
is chapter discusses each of the aspects of performance reporting men-
tioned above.
Access to performance information is critical because public accountability can
only be achieved if members of the public are actually able nd out what benefits an
organization provides. e organizations performance report should be easily avail-
able to the public, other stakeholders, and the media. Ideally, this means that the
home page of the organizations web site displays a link clearly guiding the reader
to the most recent report. If one has to be an expert on performance management,
the organizations internal structure, or the structure of the organizations web site
to locate the report, the spirit of accountability to the public is not satisfied. If the
report is lengthy (as most federal agency reports are), it should be divided into sec-
tions for more convenient reading and downloading. Making the report available
in multiple formats is also desirable since readers’ needs vary and each format has
its advantages and disadvantages (e.g., ease of printing, searching, etc.). Finally, the
organization should include contact information so that people can mail, phone, or
email questions, comments, or requests for a hard copy of the report.
Over the ten years that we reviewed federal agency performance reports, acces-
sibility proved to be one of the areas of greatest improvement. For the first round of
reports we reviewed, covering fiscal year 1999, only four of the 24 agencies posted
their reports online in a way that clearly identified the document as the annual
performance report and made it easy to find. For scal year 2008 (and indeed
for several preceding years), almost all agencies posted reports in a timely fashion
online, creating a direct home page link to the report, permitting downloads in

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