How can we measure program performance when we don’t have the time, money, or staff to do it? How can we ensure the effort will produce information we can really use? These questions are often the first ones that public health and human service professionals bring up when they seek evidence for the results and impacts of their programs.

“Part of the difficulty for program managers is the tremendous amount of information they have to find, consolidate, and learn to measure program performance in the ways their funders expect” says Kevin Callahan, visiting faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This work can overwhelm them to the point that they end up doing the absolute minimum, or they put off performance measurement indefinitely.”  

In some cases, however, the opposite is true. Callahan notes, “Sometimes a program manager’s interest in measuring performance is hampered by too little information rather than too much. Although some performance measurement resources have simplified performance measurement tremendously, and others have improved the tools for using performance data to strengthen program performance, none of them contained all of the information I and others needed to measure and improve performance.”  

To address these obstacles, Callahan has written a guide entitled The Busy Person’s Guide to Measuring and Improving Program Performance. Designed for public health and human service professionals who have little time and even fewer resources for performance measurement and improvement, the guide consolidates the best information on an approach to measuring and improving performance known as results-based accountability. “Results-based accountability is a simpler and more practical approach to measuring performance. This guide retains those aspects of results-based accountability but adds information that many public health and human service professionals need to measure their programs well, such as information about collecting data and measuring effectiveness."

The guide also includes tools and methods for uncovering the root causes of performance problems and the hidden biases and assumptions that fool us into overlooking these causes. These biases and assumptions are more common than we realize. As a result, we tend to focus on things that don’t have much impact on performance, and we don’t even know it.”  

Learn more about The Busy Person’s Guide to Measuring and Improving Program Performance here.