Challenging the Performance Movement

Accountability, Complexity, and Democratic Values

Beryl A. Radin

"[Radin] casts her experienced and perceptive eye across the landscape of recent attempts to make government more efficient and effective."
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"Accountability" is a watchword of our era. Dissatisfaction with a range of public and private institutions is widespread and often expressed in strong critical rhetoric. The reasons for these views are varied and difficult to translate into concrete action, but this hasn't deterred governments and nongovernmental organizations from putting into place formal processes for determining whether their own and others' goals have been achieved and problems with performance have been avoided.

In this thought-provoking book, government and public administration scholar Beryl Radin takes on many of the assumptions of the performance movement, arguing that evaluation relies too often on simplistic, one-size-fits-all solutions that are not always effective for dynamic organizations. Drawing on a wide range of ideas, including theories of intelligence and modes of thought, assumptions about numbers and information, and the nature of professionalism, Radin sheds light on the hidden complexities of creating standards to evaluate performance. She illustrates these problems by discussing a range of program areas, including health efforts as well as the education program, "No Child Left Behind."

Throughout, the author devotes particular attention to concerns about government standards, from accounting for issues of equity to allowing for complicated intergovernmental relationships and fragmentation of powers. She explores in detail how recent performance measurement efforts in the U.S. government have fared, and analyzes efforts by nongovernmental organizations both inside and outside of the United States to impose standards of integrity and equity on their governments. The examination concludes with alternative assumptions and lessons for those embarking on performance measurement activities.

Table of Contents

List of Tables

1. The Ubiquitous Nature of Performance

2. The Performance Mindset

3. One Size Fits All

4. Demeaning Professionals: Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater?

5. Competing Values: Can the Performance Movement Deal with Equity?

6. The Reality of Fragmentation: Power and Authority in the U.S. Political System

7. Intergovernmental Relationships: Power and Authority in the U.S. Political System

8. Information, Interests, and Ideology

9. Competing Values in a Global Context: Performance Activities in the World Bank

10. Conflicting Patterns of Assumptions: Where Do We Go From Here?



"[Radin] casts her experienced and perceptive eye across the landscape of recent attempts to make government more efficient and effective."—Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

"A highly distinct study that looks at the problems with performance management that are typically glossed over, in a way that will grab students' and scholars' attention and help bring balance to any discussion of the subject."—Burt S. Barnow, Associate Director for Research, Institute for Policy Studies, Johns Hopkins University

"Beryl Radin has produced an important and timely challenge to the current orthodoxy in some political and academic circles about performance measurement. The 'performance movement', especially in the US and other 'anglo' countries, has all too often relied on simplistic, overly rational, value-free and linear assumptions about what performance means in a public service context. Dr. Radin effectively challenges all these assumptions and shows the paradoxes that underpin them. Most importantly, she offers an alternative vision which does not reject performance measurement out of hand, as some have, but instead seeks to re-found it in a democratic, pluralistic and accountable context. A well grounded and enjoyable 'must read' for anyone interested in this field."—Colin Talbot, chair of Public Policy and Management, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester


Supplemental Materials


Winner of the 2008 Louis Brownlow Book Award of the National Academy of Public Administration

About the Author

Beryl A. Radin is a member of the faculty at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University. She was the recipient of the 2002 Donald Stone Outstanding Academic Award from the Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management of the American Society for Public Administration. Radin served as the president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management from 1995-96 and has been active in many professional organizations. She is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Radin is the author of numerous articles, book chapters, and books, including Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Comes of Age (Georgetown University Press). In 1996-98, she served as a special advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she was involved in performance measurement activities within that federal department.

270 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

Jun 2006

270 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN: 978-1-58901-091-8
Jun 2006

270 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-294-3
Jun 2006

Public Management and Change series
Beryl A. Radin, Series Editor

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