Performance Management: Improving State Systems through Information-Based Decisionmaking


Today’s economic climate mandates and rewards cost-effective, performance-driven management. From large corporations and small nonprofits to State and Federal agencies, organizations are expected to demonstrate positive outcomes for the dollars they expend. Performance management—a data-driven process to help improve services and outcomes—provides a structure that promotes the development and delivery of high-quality products and services.

In the substance abuse treatment field, the Single State Agencies (SSAs) are uniquely positioned to infuse performance management throughout the substance abuse treatment system to improve the quality of services, client satisfaction, and outcomes. Current State data systems provide a foundation on which to build a performance management approach to improve treatment results.

Because it is grounded in systematically measured data, a performance management approach allows SSAs to answer key questions from their management, staff, service providers, legislators, clients, and public constituents, among them:

  • Are we getting what we are paying for?
  • Are clients receiving the care appropriate for their needs?
  • Has client retention improved?
  • Is client substance use declining?
  • Is there an increase in the number of clients employed and/or an increase in client income
  • Is school performance/ attendance/retention improving for youth?
  • Is crime being reduced, measured by arrests and/or other crime indicators?

In SSAs currently implementing data-driven performance management, administrators have found they ask better questions and make better decisions. Performance management reflects a change of emphasis in organizations from command-and-control toward a facilitation model of leadership. This change is accompanied by recognition of the importance of relating staff, provider and State performance to the strategic, long-term, overarching mission of the system as a whole.

Clinicians’ goals and objectives, derived from their own programs, in turn, support the mission and goals of the overall system, thereby improving the system at all levels. The performance management process enables provider agencies and performance managers (either at the State or sub-State level) to discuss program goals and together to create a plan to achieve those goals. Individual program plans should contribute to system-wide goals and the goals of each provider agency. The planning process also must consider the changing environment.