Kittens are Evil : Heresies in Public Policy – outcomes management questioned?

One Evil Kitten!

Further to our previous post drawing your attention to the criticisms of outcomes-based management proposed by such as Toby Lowe and Helen Miller, news of a  major national conference on payment by results and outcomes based commissioning to be held Wednesday 6th March, 10am- 4.00pm, King’s House Conference Centre,  Manchester.

Are you moving away from using numerical targets and crude outputs to manage your
performance? Have you started using outcome measures instead? Does this feel like a step in the right direction?
Measuring the results of your work and understanding its impact on the people you serve is surely a no brainer. Arguing otherwise would be as preposterous as saying that kittens are evil. When you are spending public or charity money, it’s vital to demonstrate the worth of every penny to commissioners, funders and politicians. It’s not an exact science, but measuring outcomes is a good start. Isn’t it?
Or, is the focus on outcomes and results bad? Heretic Toby Lowe thinks so.
Toby Lowe, visiting Fellow at Newcastle University Business School, will argue that Payment By Results and outcomes based commissioning models are inherently flawed and create unwelcome paradoxes. Instead of improving the lives of service users, his evidence suggests that focusing on outcomes and results distorts both the priorities and practice of organisations, leading to poorer results for those most in need.
So, if not outcomes, what should we measure instead?
The Practical Bit
In the second part of the day, hear from 3 innovative charities and local authorities who measure the things that actually matter to services users. What do they measure instead? And what do their commissioners and bosses make of it?
Next, hear about the test of a good measure from Andy Brogan from Vanguard Consulting. What’s the difference between a measure used to learn and a measure used to comply? Is producing numbers to keep the hierarchy happy a necessary evil? Or can we work with commissioners and funders to do something else instead?
The Campaign
Toby Lowe will end the day by launching a new campaign, calling for an end to bad
performance management in the voluntary and public sectors, calling instead for a more
authentic, proportionate and meaningful approach to improving what we do.
We will be endeavouring to get some of our supporters there. To be honest we’re still not sure anything good can come out of a Business School. Prejudiced though we may be, as ever we are open to persuasion!

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