By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

What's hot on campus? Performance measurement

Spring semester is just beginning at the Kennedy School, and two days ago I got an email from my colleague Bob Behn, who teaches a course on performance measurement in government. "At the moment, I have 57 students registered for [my performance measurement course]. Is this all your fault?"

He was referring to the fact that at the end of my fall-semester management and leadership survey course for our first-year Master's in Public Policy students, I give students recommendations for upper-level courses in management and leadership they might be interested in taking, and I mention Bob's course as one I like. However, I've done that in the past as well -- no change this year.

I asked Bob further about this, and it turns out there has been a big upturn in student interest in this course this year. (Actually, since he wrote the initial email, course enrollment is up to 64, and that is not counting a number of cross-registrants from Harvard's schools of education and public health who have said they would like to take the course as well.) In 2008 and 2009 the number of enrollees was 17 and 28 respectively. Since the course started in 2001, it has always had fewer than 30 students, except in 2006 and 2007, when enrollment was approximately 50.

As I always tell my master’s students, my hope is that using performance measures to improve organizational performance becomes as common and taken-for-granted among their generation of public and non-profit managers as it already is for managers in the business world. My colleague's enrollment figures for this year suggest that this important management tool for improving organizational performance is gaining traction with our next generation of public leaders.

Incidentally, blog readers should also know that Professor Behn -- who, it should be noted, is a fantastic teacher -- also teaches a one-week executive education program called "Driving Government Performance," which focuses on using performance measures to improve performance. Here's a link to the program, in case any readers (or people you know) might want to consider taking this course.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jan 28, 2010 at 12:08 PM


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