New Ash Center Book Examines the Potential of “PerformanceStat” to help public executives produce real results

October 22, 2014
New Ash Center Book Examines the Potential of “PerformanceStat” to help public executives produce real results

Cambridge, Mass. – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Brookings Institution Press are pleased to announce the publication of Robert Behn’s latest book:

The PerformanceStat Potential: A Leadership Strategy for Producing Results

Two decades ago, the New York City Police Department created CompStat. The objective was to mobilize the entire organization to achieve a specific result – reduce crime – by using data to identify problems and then to motivate individuals and teams to solve them.

Soon, this leadership strategy jumped to police departments across the country, and next to other public agencies in New York (for example, JobStat) and then elsewhere (for example, Wisconsin’s KidStat).

Then, it was adapted by entire jurisdictions. For example, Baltimore created CitiStat – the first application of this performance strategy to a city.

Several agencies in the US Federal Government developed their own adaptations – including HUDStat and FDA-Track.

Today, governments at all levels have their own “PerformanceStat,” the name Robert Behn, a senior lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School, coined to cover the multiple adaptations of this strategy for producing results.

PerformanceStat, argues Behn, is a focused effort to exploit the power of purpose and motivation, responsibility and discretion, data and meetings, analysis and learning, feedback and follow-up – all to improve the performance of public agencies and government jurisdictions. Robert Behn analyzes the leadership behaviors at the core of PerformanceStat to identify and explain how they work to produce results. He examines how the leaders of public organizations employ the strategy – for example, how the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services uses its DPSSTATS to promote economic independence, how the city of New Orleans uses its BlightStat to eradicate urban blight, and how the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses its FEMAStat to capture and apply lessons from each crisis response, recovery, and mitigation.

Advance praise for The PerformanceStat Potential includes:

William J. Bratton
Police Commissioner, New York City

“Bob Behn gets it. Sure, he sees what most people see at any PerformanceStat session – data and analysis, meetings with questions. Behn, however, sees more. He sees the feedback and the follow-up; the focus on purpose plus the delegation of discretion; the necessity of adaptation combined with a commitment to results. Most significantly, Behn sees the leadership. At CompStat meetings, most visitors never see any leadership. But Behn gets it: PerformanceStat is all about the leadership."

Martin O’Malley
Governor of Maryland

“In The PerformanceStat Potential, Bob Behn sees with great insight and clarity the historic changes under way in self-governance. He contrasts the old ways of leadership that were ideological, hierarchical, and bureaucratic with new models that are fundamentally entrepreneurial, operationally collaborative, and relentlessly performance-driven. As command-and-control gives way to effective collaboration, Behn heralds the rise of open, transparent, real-time, and real fast governance."

Mary Bryna Sanger
Deputy Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, The New School

“Driving change is hard. Bob Behn’s The PerformanceStat Potential demonstrates that achieving important public purposes requires leadership commitment, a set of critical operational components, and a new way of working. These are hard to pull off, and even dangerous for a public executive. Through a series of cases of PerformanceStat efforts, Behn teaches deep and enduring leadership lessons about what it takes to “Reach the New Order of Things” and why it’s worth the risk."

Eugene Bardach
Professor of Public Policy, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California-Berkeley

“This is an excellent and ambitious book. It digs deeply into understanding how dedicated efforts at performance measurement can dramatically improve service quality in public agencies. At a superficial level, it’s a matter of getting the metrics right and tracking them in real time. But at a deeper level, these numbers need to be monitored by managers who know and care about achieving results and who can lead others in their organizations in the same direction."

Robert Behn is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and serves as the faculty chair of the School's executive-education program, Driving Government Performance: Leadership Strategies that Produce Results. Behn focuses his research, teaching, consulting, and thinking on the leadership challenge of improving the performance of public agencies. He also writes the online monthly Bob Behn's Performance Leadership Report.

Behn’s previous books include Rethinking Democratic Accountability (Brookings), Leadership Counts: Lessons for Public Managers (Harvard University Press), and Innovation in American Government (Brookings, coedited with Alan Altshuler).

The PerformanceStat Potential is the seventh volume in the Innovative Governance in the 21st Century series, a project that examines important issues of governance, public policy, and administration, highlighting innovative practices and original research worldwide, co-published by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Brookings Institution Press.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications and Government Relations
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

Robert Behn can be reached at 617-495-9874 or

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence and innovation in governance and public policy through research, education, and public discussion. Three major programs support our mission: the Program on Democratic Governance, the Innovations in Government Program, and the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia. For more information, visit

About the Brookings Institution Press
The Brookings Institution Press is the book- and journal-publishing arm of the Brookings Institution. All new Brookings Press titles are published in a variety of formats, and the Press is working vigorously to digitize its extensive backlist. With an eye to serving the global marketplace and increasing the worldwide impact of its publications, the Press aggressively promotes and distributes its work in international as well as domestic markets, licenses translation rights to foreign publishers, and partners with digital aggregators and e-retailers. The Press also provides sales and distribution services to a number of other research organizations around the globe. For more information, visit