Shifting from Output to Outcome Measurement in Public Administration-Arguments Revisited

Part of the System Dynamics for Performance Management book series (SDPM, volume 2)


Moving to outcome-based measurement systems in the public sector has been difficult. In this article, we examine the contingent decision-making arguments stimulating output instead of outcome measurement in public management. Based on an argumentative literature review, we conclude that there exist several contingent arguments encouraging politicians and public managers to stick with outputs while ignoring outcomes in performance measurement. Mapping out these arguments contributes to understanding the difficulties in implementation of outcome-based measurement and management systems. This understanding is highly useful in performance management research and policy practice. We also suggest that these contingent arguments may be considered proposals for the future research in the area of public financial management and public sector performance measurement.


Outcomes Outcome-based performance measurement systems Politicians Public managers Contingent arguments 


  1. Agranoff, R., & McGuire, M. (2001). American federalism and the search for models of management. Public Administration Review, 61(6), 671–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, G. F., Hurst, J., Hussey, P. S., & Jee-Hughes, M. (2000). Health spending and outcomes: Trends in OECD countries, 1960–1998. Health Affairs, 19(3), 150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anthony, R. N., & Young, D. W. (1988). Management control in nonprofit organizations. Homewood, IL: Irwin.Google Scholar
  4. Ashforth, B. E., & Gibbs, B. W. (1990). The double-edge of organizational legitimation. Organization Science, 1(2), 177–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bandy, G. (2011). Financial management and accounting in the public sector. Abingdon, OX: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bouckaert, G. (1993). Measurement and meaningful management. Public Productivity and Management Review, 17(1), 31–43.Google Scholar
  7. Bovaird, T. (2014). Attributing outcomes to social policy interventions—‘Gold standard’ or ‘fool’s gold’ in public policy and management? Social Policy and Administration, 48(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryan, F. M. (2010). Real democracy: The New England town meeting and how it works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Carlin, T., & Guthrie, J. (2003). Accrual output based budgeting systems in Australia The rhetoric-reality gap. Public Management Review, 5(2), 145–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chalmers, D. (2008). Indicators of university teaching and learning quality. Canberra: Australian Learning and Teaching Council, the Australian Government Department of Education.Google Scholar
  11. Chan, Y. C. (2004). Performance measurement and adoption of balanced scorecards: A survey of municipal governments in the USA and Canada. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 17(3), 204–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chaston, I. (2011). Public sector management: Mission impossible? Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cunningham, G. M., & Harris, J. E. (2001). A heuristic framework for accountability of governmental subunits. Public Management Review, 3(2), 145–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Curristine, T., Park, C. K., & Emery, R. (2008). Budgeting in Portugal. OECD Journal on Budgeting, 8(3), 7.Google Scholar
  15. Dervin, B. (1983). Information as a user construct: The relevance of perceived information needs to synthesis and interpretation. In S. Ward & L. Reed (Eds.), Knowledge structure and use: Implications for synthesis and interpretation (pp. 153–184). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Dugan, R. E., & Hernon, P. (2002). Outcomes assessment: Not synonymous with inputs and outputs. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 28(6), 376–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ferlie, E., Pollitt, C., & Lynn, L. E. (2005). The Oxford handbook of public management. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. General Accounting Office. (1997). Managing for results: Opportunities for continued improvements in agencies performance plans. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. GAO/AIMD-99-215.Google Scholar
  19. Gleason, J. M., & Barnum, D. T. (1982). Toward valid measures of public sector productivity: Performance measures in urban transit. Management Science, 28(4), 379–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Greenwood, R., Hinings, C. R., & Ranson, S. (1977). The politics of the budgetary process in English local government. Political Studies, 25(1), 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grizzle, G. A., & Pettijohn, C. D. (2002). Implementing performance based programme budgeting. A System-Dynamics Perspectives, Public Administration Review, 62(1), 51–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1998). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd edn., pp. 191–215). Thousand oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  23. Hahn, M., Lawson, R., & Lee, Y. G. (1992). The effects of time pressure and information load on decision quality. Psychology and Marketing, 9, 365–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harrison, J., Rouse, P., & De Villiers, C. J. (2012). Accountability and performance measurement: A stakeholder perspective. Journal of Centrum Cathedra: The Business and Economics Research Journal, 5(2), 243–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hatry, H. P. (1997). Where the rubber meets the road: Performance measurement for state and local public agencies. New Directions for Evaluation, 1997(75), 31–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hatry, H. P. (2006). Performance measurement: Getting results. The Urban Institute: Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  27. Hatry, H. P. (2005). Results matter: Suggestions for developing country’s early outcome measurement effort. In A. Shah (Ed.), Handbook on public sector performance review. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  28. Heinrich, C. J. (2002). Outcomes–based performance management in the public sector: Implications for government accountability and effectiveness. Public Administration Review, 62(6), 712–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hodges, R. (2012). Joined-up government and the challenges to accounting and accountability researchers. Financial Accountability and Management, 28(1), 26–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hogwood, B. W., & Gunn, L. A. (1992). Policy analysis for the real world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hood, C. (2007). What happens when transparency meets blame-avoidance? Public Management Review, 9(2), 191–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Irwin, T. (1996). An analysis of New Zealand’s new system of public sector management. Public management occasional papers no 9. Performance management in government. Contemporary Illustrations. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Google Scholar
  33. Jackson, P. (2012). Value for money and international development: Deconstructing myths to promote a more constructive discussion. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.Google Scholar
  34. Kennedy, M. M. (2007). Defining a literature. Educational Researcher, 36(3), 139–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivating reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 480–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Keevers, L., Treleaven, L., Sykes, C., & Darcy, M. (2012). Made to measure: Taming practices with results-based accountability. Organization Studies, 33(1), 97–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kristensen, J. K., Groszyk, W., & Bühler, B. (2002). Outcome-focused management and budgeting. OECD Journal on Budgeting, 1(4), 7–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kurunmaki, L., Miller, P., Keen, J., & Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. (2003). Health act flexibilities: Partnerships in health and social care. London: Centre for Business Performance.Google Scholar
  39. Kurunmaki, L., & Miller, P. (2011). Regulatory hybrids: Partnerships, budgeting and modernising government. Management Accounting Research, 22(4), 220–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lewin, Kurt. (1936). Principles of topological psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lowe, T. (2013). New development: The paradox of outcomes—the more we measure, the less we understand. Public Money and Management, 33(3), 213–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Marks, M. M. (2005). In S. Mathison (Ed.), Encyclopedia of evaluation (287). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. Martin, L. L. (1997). Outcome budgeting: A new entrepreneurial approach to budgeting. Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management, 9(1), 108.Google Scholar
  44. Mascarenhas, R. C. (1996). Searching for efficiency in the public sector: Interim evaluation of performance budgeting in New Zealand. Public Budgeting and Finance, 16, 13–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mayne, J. (2001). Addressing attribution through contribution analysis: Using performance measures sensibly. The Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 16(1), 1.Google Scholar
  46. Mayne, J. (2007). Challenges and lessons in implementing results-based management. Evaluation, 13(1), 87–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McGill, R. (2001). Performance budgeting. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 14(5), 376–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McPhee, I. (2005). Outcomes and outputs: Are we managing better as a result?. In CPA National Public Sector Convention, 20.Google Scholar
  49. Miller, H. T., & Fox, C. J. (2007). Postmodern public administration. New York: M.E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  50. Midwinter, A. (2009). New development: Scotland’s Concordat—An assessment of the new financial framework in central–local relations. Public Money and Management, 29(1), 65–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Modell, S. (2001). Performance measurement and institutional processes: A study of managerial responses to public sector reform. Management Accounting Research, 12(4), 437–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Morowitz, H. J. (2002). The emergence of everything: How the world became complex. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Newcomer, K. E. (2007). Measuring government performance. International Journal of Public Administration, 30(3), 307–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Newcomer, K. E. (2015). From outputs to outcomes. In Guy & Rubin (Eds.) Public administration evolving: From foundations to the future (pp. 125–158). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. OECD. (2013). Together for better outcomes: Engaging and involving SME taxpayers and stakeholders. Paris: Author.Google Scholar
  56. Peirce, C. S. (1998). The essential Peirce selected philosophical writings. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Pollitt, C., & Bouckaert, G. (2004). Public management reform: A comparative analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Robichau, R. W., & Lynn, L. E., Jr. (2009). The implementation of public policy: Still the missing link. Policy Studies Journal, 37(1), 21–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rosen, E. D. (1993). Improving public sector productivity: Concepts and practice. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rossi, P. (1997). Program 0utcomes: Conceptual and measurement issues. In E. Mullen & J. Magnabosco (Eds.), Outcomes measurement in human services (pp. 20–34). Washington, DC: NASW Press.Google Scholar
  61. Rousseau, J. J. (1772/1985). The government of Poland, translated, with an introduction and notes by Willmoore Kendall, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  62. Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(4), 296–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ryan, C., & Walsh, P. (2004). Collaboration of public sector agencies: Reporting and accountability challenges. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 17(7), 621–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Schalock, R. L. (2001). Outcome-based evaluation. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.Google Scholar
  65. Smith, P. (1995). On the unintended consequences of publishing performance data in the public sector. International Journal of Public Administration, 18(2–3), 277–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Smith, P. C. (1996). Measuring outcome in the public sector. New York: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  67. Snell, S. A. (1992). Control theory in strategic human resource management: The mediating effect of administrative information. Academy of Management Journal, 35(2), 292–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Spoon, J. J., & Klüver, H. (2014). Do parties respond? How electoral context influences party responsiveness. Electoral Studies, 35, 48–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Stewart, J., & Walsh, K. (1994). Performance measurement: When performance can never be finally defined. Public Money and Management, 14(2), 45–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610.Google Scholar
  71. Talbot, C. (2010). Theories of Performance: Organizational and service improvement in the public domain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Taro, Kulli. (2015). The attribution problem in performance measurement in the public sector: Lessons from performance audits in Estonia. Tallinna: TUT Press.Google Scholar
  73. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1992). Advances in prospect theory: Cumulative representation of uncertainty. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 5(4), 297–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1997). Strategic Plan. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  75. Van Dooren, W., & de Walle, Van. (2008). Performance information in the public sector: How it is used. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Van de Walle, S., & Van Dooren, W. (2010). How is information used to improve performance in the public sector? Exploring the dynamics of performance information. In K. Walshe, G. Harvey, & P. Jas (Eds.), Connecting knowledge and performance in public services: From knowing to doing (pp. 33–55). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Van der Valk, W., & Van Iwaarden, J. (2011). Monitoring in service triads consisting of buyers, subcontractors and end customers. Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 17(3), 198–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization. Cambridge, Mass: M.I.T.Google Scholar
  79. Van Thiel, S., & Leeuw, F. L. (2002). The performance paradox in the public sector. Public Performance and Management Review, 25(3), 267–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Vedung, E. (1997). Public policy and program evaluation. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  81. Weaver, R. K. (1986). The politics of blame avoidance. Journal of Public Policy, 6(04), 371–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wholey, J. S., & Hatry, H. P. (1992). The case for performance monitoring. Public Administration Review, 52, 604–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Yeung, O. M., & Mathieson, J. A. (1998). Global benchmarks: Comprehensive measures of development. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  84. Zimmerman, M. A., & Zeitz, G. J. (2002). Beyond survival: Achieving new venture growth by building legitimacy. Academy of Management Review, 27(3), 414–431.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementUniversity of TampereTampereFinland

Personalised recommendations