Lighting a Bonfire of Performance Measures

Guest blog from Lorraine Gillies, Audit Scotland


I recently participated in a fishbowl as part of the Fire Starter Festival.  A bunch of disruptors who recognise that sometimes the system is broken got together in the beautiful Dome of New Register House.  Surrounded by data on every single individual in Scotland since records began, we had a chat about measuring performance – what matters to me.  We think that sometimes we measure the wrong things and sometimes that makes us do the wrong things (or at least not the right ones) and we wanted to say what we feel, out loud. 

performance-fish-bowlThere were a varied cast of characters helping us with that discussion ranging from housing professionals to tenants; health journalists to people with disabilities, national politicians and local activists, auditors and not auditors…

While some of us stayed in the fishbowl, we were joined throughout the session by people with something to say.  Some of the things they said about how the system feels to them were breathtaking. Best example for me was when ‘Anne’ a tenant and activist from a Housing Association in a large city in Scotland described her horrendous attempts over a significant length of time to convince her landlord that her home wasn’t fit (including photos of the rat in her close)  and was finally met with a response that her house was fine because “the stats said so“.

So, you can have brilliant stats, charter marks, professional awards and all of that jazz but rats in closes and poor outcomes for tenants aren’t in your line of sight!?

Is this what happens when you focus on the wrong things? ‘Anne’ thinks so. And so do a whole bunch of others who also attended this session.

We emerged out of our fishbowl with 7 things to think about:

1.      Evidence – anecdotes/stories into the mix, not just the loudest voices, consider the validity:

a.      National Performance Framework

b.      Still need a focus on outcomes

c.      How do we use them? Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) need to be meaningful

d.      Need a mix of stories and numbers

2.      Trust and transparency

a.      A need for compassionate leadership emerging in Scotland

3.      Who’s this for?

a.      The people of Scotland

b.      Compassionate leadership needed in all measurements areas

c.      People still need to be able to scrutinise

4.      How do we achieve change and solutions? If we do nothing, will it fix itself? What is our role?

5.      Need understanding across the system

a.      We are all (real) people

b.      Look at the whole system

c.      Why don’t we bring our authentic selves to work?

d.      Think differently or just think!

6.      What do we still need to measure?

7.      What’s next?

a.      Quality shifts – from quality control to quality assurance to quality of life

b.      Trust, both internally and externally

c.      Be courageous, design a public service based on what’s needed today!

So, now that we have a fully functioning self-organising group of disruptors, what’s our next mission?

We’d like to start to challenge some of the cogs in the system and think we might start with the finance community. Elaine from NHS Education for Scotland ; Lorna from NHS Information Services Division and Lorraine from Audit Scotland are interested in developing a session with colleagues around measurement in a finance setting and what that means for new understanding around performance.

Chris from NHS Lothian and Sarah from NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland are keen to link up with the Scottish Youth Parliament other youth networks to get different sorts of perspectives on what matters to them. Des from NHS Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Dot from Improvement Service want to take a further look at public health and housing.

Lots for us to think about!

Let us know if there is anything in this list of things you would like to get involved with or make some suggestions – please, it’s by disrupting together that we will make the biggest splash!

Guest blog by Lorraine Gillies, Audit Scotland

If you are interested in being part of the conversation about performance you can contact Lorriane:


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