Organisational performance management in the public sector : influences on success

  • Lewis Hawke

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Governments have implemented policies and practices to manage organisational performance for more than 70 years. However, successful performance management has proved to be elusive for most administrations. Many countries have refined and adjusted performance management policies in search of better results but still fall short of achieving their desired outcomes.

    The academic and practitioner literature has examined public sector performance management, especially during the last 20 years, but the sources of success, or lack of it, remain unclear. Nonetheless, there is increasing convergence in the identification of common success factors.
    This thesis aims to identify the common factors affecting success of public sector organisational performance and examine their significance and impact with reference to two country case studies. The central research proposition is that there are six elements that influence the success of public sector organisational performance management: behavioural; institutional and structural; leadership and management; technical; external; and cultural (BILTEC). All six BILTEC influences are important for the success of public sector organisational performance management.

    The methodology adopts a critical realist approach to examining the influences and their impacts, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. It draws on previous academic and practitioner research in the field and considers the relevance of various theoretical streams applied to public sector performance.

    The methodology applies an interpretivist rather than a positivist epistemology for analysis, which offers a more open, dynamic and flexible foundation for the methodology than many of the previous studies in this field. The methods for obtaining data and undertaking analysis allow for the research questions to be approached from a variety of perspectives, taking into consideration the theoretical principles and insights from previous research findings.

    The two countries studied for this thesis were Australia and the Philippines. These countries offer a useful basis for examining performance management success for many reasons. They both have a long tradition of performance management, allowing for assessment of mature systems with well-established procedures and performance culture, and long experience of setting goals and measuring short- and medium-term results. There are also important differences that offer the potential to demonstrate the implications of alternative combinations of the six elements examined in the thesis. For instance, the Philippines is a unitary state while Australia is a federation with many service delivery functions performed by independent state and territory governments. Economic, historical and cultural characteristics of both countries are quite different. The external, institutional and structural arrangements are therefore significantly different, allowing for a broader examination of the impact of such variations than use of a single country case study.

    The surveys conducted in this research cover more than 20 percent of national government organisations in both countries. Through the use of questionnaires and follow-up interviews, the study examines a diverse range of performance management characteristics, actions and impacts considered to be relevant in previous studies. The study identifies the main influences on success in both countries, and analyses the possible reasons why those influences may have been important.

    Application of the methodology to case studies provides new insights into the functioning of performance management systems in situations exhibiting many features relevant to the various impacts on success. The results and analysis identify areas for further research and can be used to inform public policy development.

    The thesis supports the proposition that the BILTEC elements are strong influences on the success of performance management in the two case study countries. It finds many similarities in the effects of each element at the aggregate level in both countries. At the same time, there are substantial differences between organisations within and between the two case studies. The thesis examines the effects of each element and the relationships between elements that can intensify or offset the impact of individual elements in isolation. The thesis notes that, although the elements remain important over time, their nature and significance can change, resulting in different impacts. In conclusion, the thesis highlights the importance of considering each organisation separately when seeking to improve performance management success because the nature, significance, context and timing of action is crucial in making improvements.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMonir Mir (Supervisor) & John Halligan (Supervisor)

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