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Creating the missing bottomline through rFD
Dr. PrajaPati triveDi (Secretary Performance management, cabinet Secretariat, Government of india) tells Schweta chaturvedi about the revolution in government Performance management
ecretary, Performance Management, is like a blind man looking for a black cat in a dark room when the cat is not even there; and he keeps saying I have caught it, says Dr. Prajapati Trivedi as he conveys the big message upfront. Government performance management is like a three-legged stool with the three supports being – Strategy, Vision and ResultsFramework Document (RFD). So even if a single leg is missing, it cannot stand upright. As Dr. Trivedi terms RFD to be the missing bottomline in the government, he explains the gaps that the tool is going to bridge. Through an inter-linked process – implementation, development and follow up, he says, economic development depends on effective implementation of policies which in turn depends on effective follow up for which the government has formulated the policy of RFD. At present, 80 departments and around 800 responsibility centres under these departments are covered under RFD. He elaborates, countries can be divided on the basis of their ability to implement policies. Making policies is easy but implementation of policies and programmes is the key. Implementation is in turn the key to development. He further adds, implementation depends on effective follow up and monitoring. “Whatever is followed up gets implemented.” Ask him the most effective way to follow up and he says, “effective follow up depends on quality and not quantity of monitoring and evaluation. And effective evaluation requires explicit rankings. Therefore, the most important aspect of RFD is its use as an effective instrument for follow up.” According to him, evaluation techniques for management control in government are different from evaluation technique for strategic control. Dr. Trivedi terms evaluation as one of the three systems required for performance improvement; information and incentive system being the other two. The whole exercise turns futile if there are no consequences of evaluation. So, “consequences of evaluation must exist.” Stressing the need to change the current scenario, he points out the difference between performance evaluation, and performance explanation and performance monitoring. “Mixing evaluation with explanation creates a problem and we need to change that.” On prob36 The human facTor August 2011
lems facing the government agencies, he says: first, there are multiple principals who have multiple goals which are often conflicting. This leads to fuzziness in specifying goals and objectives. Second, the ‘Not Me’ syndrome or the tendency to pass the buck. “So, for every problem there are multiple fingers being pointed out at multiple people.” Third, is the ingrained tendency of cosmetic cure. One needs to understand that when one talks about determinants of performance, 20 per cent depends on the people while 80 per cent on the system.
Agreement for their Permanent Secretaries in the Government, known as chief executives’ of Government departments. So much so that they had put their Central Bank Governor on a Performance Contract. If inflation went up, his salary went down. No wonder, the country had the lowest inflation rates among OECD countries for almost 18 years. As a result of such reforms, dubbed as New Public Management, New Zealand is often treated as a model for both developing and developed nations. Likewise, in UK there is Public Service Agreement, and in the US, it is Performance Agreement. President George Bush had introduced a colour-coded PMA (Presidential Management Agenda) score card which was much appreciated. Joining the league, India has come up with RFD, prepared keeping in mind the nation’s own set of challenges. The RFD
one needs to understand that peformance of an organisation depends 20 per cent on the people and 80 per cent on the system
“People in government sector are generally first rate,” avers Dr. Trivedi and adds, within the people category, 80 per cent depends on leaders and 20 per cent on the rest. So, effective leadership and good systems are the key to improving performance of Government. Drawing the point home, he cites an example: “The Singapore Airlines is one of the best in world and it is a public sector firm. So it is not about ownership but about management. Thanks to the system of MoU, which is similar to RFDs in the Government, today our public enterprises are highly regarded internationally.” Giving an overview of global performance management system in the public sector, Dr. Trivedi points out that New Zealand has a system of Performance seeks to address three basic questions: first, what are your main objectives for the year? Second, what actions are proposed to achieve these objectives? And third, how to determine progress made in implementing these actions? Every ministry is supposed to have RFD on its website, says Dr. Trivedi. Section one of the RFD, has ministry’s vision, mission and objectives, while section two has criteria or success indicators. “RFD, for the first time, forces you to put weights without which you cannot evaluate. For example, if a government department meets targets for 12 out of 15 criteria, is it good performance? We can only answer this question if we know what was the relative importance of the three targets that were not achieved. By
assigning weights to each success indicator, RFDs help you answer this. “Similarly, if the target for building roads is 7000 Kms, and the department is able to build 6700 Kms, how are we to evaluate its performance? Well, if we do not have an ex-ante agreement, then the answer depends on the subjective judgment of the evaluator. If the evaluator likes the one being evaluated, he or she can say close enough. If not, then the evaluator can say something negative.” Hence, RFDs require the Departmental Secretaries to specify at the beginning of the year what level of achievement against the target will be considered excellent and what will be “poor”. Section three gives the trend value of success indicators. Here, one can judge the five-year trend. This is part of quality assurance that ensures targets are challenging. While section four explains definitions, section five focuses on specific requirement from other departments that are critical for delivering agreed results. Section six deals with outcome or impact of activities of department or ministry. “It is a non-threatening awareness about value adding to the society.” Announced in June 2009 by the government, the current Phase III (20112012) sees it being implemented in 80 departments, including the Railways. Three mandatory indicators in RFDs this year are: (a) To identify potential areas of corruption; (b) e-Office implementation in departments; (c) ISO-9001 certification of government departments. If a secretary gets 100 per cent score up to 40 per cent of basic salary can be the performance bonus! RFDs will identify non-performers and they will be sidelined. “As performance of a department is linked to many, so this year, Government is considering team targets, so it will be a team’s victory or thf loss,” he concludes.
The author has also been a visiting faculty at Harvard University since 1979. A St Stephen’s and London School of Economics product, Dr. Trivedi has written five major books, one of which is still used as a text book at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
August 2011 The human facTor
PHOTO: vikram kumar
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