Despite the wide-ranging use of performance measures within the public sector and the growing use of performance bonuses to recognize performance achievements, the use of formal performance standards adjustment procedures in public performance measurement systems is relatively rare. Burt S. Barnow of Johns Hopkins University and Carolyn J. Heinrich of the University of Wisconsin–Madison set forth the basic arguments in favor of and against the use of formal or informal procedures for adjusting performance expectations. They describe how performance standards adjustments processes are currently (or have been) in use, review the evidence of their effectiveness or problems encountered in their application, and explore the consequences of the inadequacy of performance standards adjustments. The authors offer recommendations for the improvement of public sector performance measurement systems and conclude why this area remains fruitful for future research experimentation.

The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.

—Andrew S. Tannenbaum