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Showing posts from January, 2008

Performance Benchmarks, Standards and Goals

How is your court or court system performing? How should it perform? Answering these two questions requires different methods: the first, performance measurement; and the second, the establishment of standards, benchmarks or goals to serve as norms or models for others.

A court should strive to answer both questions, but it should not delay answering the first because it is uncertain about the answer to the second. Unfortunately, this is not how things have happened.

Points of Reference Versus Standards

Difficulties arise when certain points of reference required to answer the first question are unnecessarily burdened with the weight of serving as performance benchmarks, standards and goals.

For example, the Oregon Court of Appeals measures the timeliness of its processing of land use cases against the point of reference of 91 days. The Court defines the metric of on-time case processing of land use cases as the percent of cases disposed or otherwise resolved within 91 days. Similarly, th…

Performance Review Meetings: An Essential Part of Performance Management

Measures without meetings are meaningless

Performance data that are not used – by definition – are useless. Yet, an alarming number of courts and court systems ignore this simple lesson.

Many individual courts and state court systems have made vast investments in securing the right sponsorships and resources for performance management initiatives, creating the right metrics and standardizing their meaning, and even building pricey performance dashboards and business intelligence technology to deliver the performance data. But, after all that, they fail to ensure that the performance data is actually used to drive strategy and success.

This is a shame because many solutions, like a simple performance review meeting can help to integrate performance measurement into the very fabric of a court’s leadership, management and everyday operations. All it takes the decision to do it. By making performance monitoring, analysis, and management a standing item on the agenda of regular executive meet…

Putting Out Fires

The most important thing a court manager can do is to communicate what the court should accomplish, what results are desired, and why that’s important – the theory of the court’s “business.” Performance management with effective performance measure and indicators – like those of the National Center for State Court’s CourTools -- that are understandable, broadly applicable, uniformly interpreted, and practical to apply, are a court managers best tool for doing this.

Recently, a court manager described his job to me as putting out fires. He said it consumes most of his time and energies. He said it with pride.

This would be a good thing, but only if he were running a fire department instead of a court system. That would demonstrate clarity and strategic focus. After all, no one would question that putting out fires is “mission critical” for fire departments.

Court leaders and managers must focus – and be seen to focus – on the court’s mission and its fundamental obligations. Saying that yo…