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Using Data to Manage for Performance at Public Universities


  • Thomas M. Rabovsky

    1. Indiana University Bloomington
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    • Thomas M. Rabovsky is assistant professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington, where he teaches public management. His research largely focuses on accountability, performance management, managerial values and decision making, and higher education policy. E-mail:


As performance-oriented reforms have become more commonplace in recent years, questions about the factors that drive organizational adoption and use of performance systems for internal management are of central importance. This article uses data taken from a survey of presidents at public universities to advance our understanding about the use of data and performance management strategies within public organizations. The central research question is, why do public administrators choose to employ performance management strategies? In addition, the author also explores variation in the extent to which public universities use performance management strategies for three tasks that are central to public management: (1) strategic planning, (2) evaluating employees, and (3) interacting with external stakeholders. Findings indicate that public universities often use performance data to help manage, but many of the causal factors that lead to data use vary across management functions.