Improving Public Sector Performance


Exceeding Government Targets


“The best way to predict the future is to… …create it!”

The best way to exceed Public Sector Government targets is not to focus on the targets themselves, but to develop and implement the changes necessary to improve the effectiveness of the services that the targets are meant to be monitoring. Then, with a little careful planning, the targets will take care of themselves.

The alternative, which is to assess the level of performance of Public Sector Services purely on the number of government targets that they meet, is the path to disaster. For example, the 2001 annual report on the performance of the, now defunct, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food proudly claimed that it had achieved ten out of its thirteen main targets. However, one of the targets it failed to achieve was to prevent serious outbreaks of disease. In the event, the outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease in 2001 was the worst ever recorded world-wide, at a total cost to the UK economy that has been estimated by the UK Government to be in excess of £6 billion.

Unfortunately, the task of improving the level of performance in the highly complex situations in which most Public Sector Organisations find themselves, does not easily lend itself to the traditional improvement approaches that can be successful in simpler situations. Usually, major Public Sector Service Improvement Projects require a radically different approach if they are to have a high level of certainty of success.

The traditional route to improvement typically starts by identifying the current measure of performance, and then planning forward in time, to identify the activities that are predicted necessary to bring about the changes that could, in turn, improve the measured level of service from the current level of performance.

The Perception Dynamics approach works in completely the opposite way. It starts by identifying the Needs that the service will successfully fulfil in the future. It then defines the measures of those aspects of the future service that are critical to the success of fulfilling those needs. The whole focus of the approach is to work backwards from the future in order to identify the critical states that need to be achieved in order to maximise the certainty of success in fulfilling that need. In order to maximise level of certainty of success, the approach takes into account how to overcome the uncertainties caused by people, processes, resources targets etc.

Planning backwards may seem very odd to many. Yet, in critical, uncertain situations, it is the only way to plan. For example, consider the situation where you had to attend a meeting in a country that you had never visited before. In such a situation, you would have to plan back from the time and place of the meeting. Continuing to plan backwards, you would have to find the location of the destination airport and the latest time you could arrive there. Again, planning backwards, you would find the latest possible flight that would arrive at the destination and work back to identify what time to leave home.