Ash Center: Recognizing Public Value

May 22, 2013
Ash Center: Recognizing Public Value
Author Mark Moore is the Hauser Professor of Nonprofit Organizations, Harvard Kennedy School

By Mark Moore, Harvard University Press

Mark Moore’s 1997 book Creating Public Value, widely acknowledged as a groundbreaking work in the field of public management, provides public sector executives with a practical framework for improving the performance of government agencies by focusing their attention on the changing external environment of political aspirations and substantive, material challenges, and helping them to imagine, test, and pursue a value-creating strategy through a series of political and operational innovations.

In his sequel, Recognizing Public Value, Moore focuses on helping public managers develop and use performance measurement and management systems to help animate and guide their value-creating efforts. The book introduces readers to two new key instruments—the Public Value Account and the Public Value Scorecard. The Public Value Account is designed to help public managers construct something like the private sector’s financial “bottom line” for empirically capturing the “public value” that is being created (or lost) by a public agency. The Public Value Scorecard is designed to help managers keep their attention focused on the concrete tasks that have to be undertaken in both the world of political mobilization and operational management to execute a future-oriented strategy for a government agency. The concepts are illustrated with cases from policing and crime control, the management of urban services, tax collecting, contracting for welfare to work programs, solid waste management, the promotion of economic competitiveness, and child protective services.

Moore argues that past efforts to build and deploy effective performance measurement and management systems have produced disappointing results, because they have treated the problem primarily as a technical problem in finding good measures. Technical work to develop and test measures is surely an important part of building a strong, performance management system. But Moore puts a great deal of emphasis on the philosophical, political, and managerial parts of this work as well.

At the philosophical level, he argues that the “bottom line” customer satisfaction models of the private sector do not always translate to the public sector. Moore claims that public value consists of achieving social outcomes, acting justly and fairly, as well as satisfying individual clients of government. At the political level, he asserts that performance measurement systems have to be aligned with the aspirations and values of citizens and their representatives, or they will fail to have the kind of moral weight and behavioral power that can make the systems useful guides to public organizations. At the managerial level, the challenge is not only to enable both external and internal accountability, but also to enable learning.

“The development and use of public value scorecards may help bring us all closer to understanding the purposes we want to accomplish together, and how we might be able to push the frontier of what seems possible in pursuit of a good and just society,” he summarizes in the book’s introduction.