Interagency Performance Targets: A Case Study of New Zealand’s Results Programme

 

Interagency Performance Targets: A Case Study of New Zealand’s Results Programme

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 - 16:00
Around the world, governments divide their operations into smaller administrative units (also known as agencies).

Each agency has a narrower focus and is therefore thought to be easier to manage. However, some problems cross boundaries and addressing them requires agencies to work together. Most governments struggle to do this effectively. That’s why New Zealand is a pertinent case study for exploring this phenomenon, as it has a large number of single-purpose agencies which have historically found it difficult to effectively collaborate.

Governments also look for different ways to improve the performance of each agency. Performance targets have been shown to be effective at improving performance in a variety of contexts. However, they are also criticized for promoting siloed working and discouraging cooperation with others. Helping others often doesn’t help achieve an agency’s own targets; as a result, agencies respond by turning inward.

In 2012, the New Zealand government tried something new. The aftereffects of the 2008 global financial crisis constrained spending and New Zealand’s government needed to find ways to make public services more effective without spending more money. Government leaders were frustrated by persistent cross-agency problems, and they wanted to push public servants to actively and creatively overcome the challenges of collaboration.

The New Zealand government created a system of interagency performance targets. Ministers chose ten crosscutting problems that were important to New Zealanders, each with challenging five-year targets. Crucially, they then held the leaders of relevant agencies collectively responsible for achieving those targets. It has been described as the most significant change to how government services were delivered in New Zealand in twenty years.

The changes that the government was looking for became known as the 10 Results.

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