An inquiry into the strategic-operational role of performance management in local government

Rodney McAdam, Tim Walker, Shirley Ann Hazlett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: The aim of this paper is to investigate the links and relationships between strategy and operations in local government improvement efforts under the umbrella of the Local Government Modernisation Agenda (LGMA) in England. More specifically, it explores the implementation of structured change methods and performance measurement and management initiatives that claim to have a linked strategic and operational focus through to stakeholder impact. Design/methodology/approach: This research adopts an interpretive multiple case approach (n=5), using in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus groups, as well as substantive archive information. Findings: The structured integration of strategic level policy-setting and its associated operational level activity in local authorities is often obscure and lacking in cohesiveness. Performance measurement and management at the strategic level is, for the most part, driven by emerging legislation and the need for compliance rather than improving service effectiveness. This has led to discontinuity, delays in implementing policy, and criticism of performance measures from service delivery staff. Practical implications: There is a need for improved integration across the strategic-operational divide, which requires improved understanding and translation approaches. Methods adopted from other sectors should be assessed critically and tailored to suit this need rather than adopting an off-the-shelf provision. Originality/value: There is a paucity of in-depth studies relating to performance measurement and management across the strategic-operational span in the public sector in general, and local government in particular. Increased understanding in this area is of critical importance in relation to implementing effectively the current and future modernisation and reform initiatives.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)303-324
    Number of pages22
    JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 May 2011

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • England
    • Local government
    • Performance measurement (quality)
    • Public sector organizations


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