Organizational Performance: Measurement Theory and an Application: Or, Common Source Bias, the Achilles Heel of Public Management Research

37 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 31 Aug 2010

See all articles by Kenneth J. Meier

Kenneth J. Meier

American University; Cardiff University; Leiden University - Institute of Public Administration

Laurence J. O'Toole

University of Georgia - Department of Public Administration and Policy

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

The measurement of public organizations’ performance is a central issue in public administration both in the U.S. (Moynihan 2008) and numerous other countries (Pollitt and Bourckaert 2000). Missing in the rush to performance appraisal and performance management is any effort to tie empirical efforts to the extensive literature on measurement theory (Ghiselli et al. 1981; Shultz 2005; Hand 2004). This paper uses measurement theory to assess the potential problems in measuring organizational performance. It deals with both subjective and data-based measures as well as measures internal to the organization and those imposed by external stakeholders. Because organizations can be evaluated on multiple dimensions of performance (Boyne 2002), the paper also illustrates how adding dimensions multiplies the number of technical issues that need to be resolved. The paper also provides an illustration of the insights of measurement theory by an analysis of performance indicators for several hundred public organizations based on an original survey conducted in 2009. The empirical illustration shows three internal perceptive measures relate to three external data-based measures of performance and the factors that lead to greater divergence of the measures from each other. These empirical results along with the theoretical discussion will then be used to provide guidelines for the assessment of organizational performance for both scholars and practitioners.

Suggested Citation

Meier, Kenneth J. and O'Toole, Laurence J., Organizational Performance: Measurement Theory and an Application: Or, Common Source Bias, the Achilles Heel of Public Management Research (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1642740

Kenneth J. Meier (Contact Author)

American University ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Cardiff University ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, Wales CF10 3EU
United Kingdom

Leiden University - Institute of Public Administration ( email )

P.O. Box 13228
Den Haag, 2501 EE
Netherlands

Laurence J. O'Toole

University of Georgia - Department of Public Administration and Policy ( email )

Athens, GA 30602
United States

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