Disparate Measures: Public Managers and Performance-Measurement Strategies


Sean Nicholson-Crotty is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and a faculty research fellow in the Institute for Public Policy at the University of Missouri–Columbia. His primary research interests include public management, intergovernmental relations, and bureaucratic politics. E-mail:nicholsoncrottys@missouri.edu.

Nick A. Theobald is a lecturer at the University of Kansas. His research includes work on state budgeting decisions, education finance reform, representation, and organizational performance. E-mail:nickt@ku.edu.

Jill Nicholson-Crotty is an assistant professor at the Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri–Columbia. Her research focuses on the management of public and nonprofit organizations and the interaction of these sectors in the implementation of public policy. E-mail:nicholsoncrottyj@missouri.edu.


Over the past two decades, many studies have investigated the scope and significance of performance measurement in public organizations. Nonetheless, there is more to learn about the challenges facing public managers who want to measure organizational outputs and use the feedback to improve performance. Specifically, managers are often faced with redundant measures of the same output, each of which may be preferred by a different political principal or stakeholder. Furthermore, a manager's choice of measures can have serious consequences for both the estimation of agency problems and the success of programmatic solutions. We test these assertions in an analysis of educational organizations in Texas. We find that managers’ assessments of organizational performance and decisions regarding solutions depend on the choice of performance measures.