Part 6: Main measures and targets for impacts and outcomes

Statements of intent: Examples of reporting practice.

Main measures and targets for impacts and outcomes are essential for the user to know whether the entity is making progress. We expect entities to have a wide range of measures for internal management purposes, but legislation requires that SOIs report only main measures and standards. This section of the SOI should focus on the vital few measures of achievement and the more significant targets, enabling users to see the “big picture” of the entity’s strategic intent, without being overwhelmed by detail.

As part of that big picture, the SOI should show where the entity intends to have its most direct impact. Impact measures and targets should be included wherever relevant and practicable. Impacts refer to the lower-level effects of output delivery; as intervening factors they contribute to higher-level outcomes. Impacts are important because they describe the direct, or more immediate, effect of the entity’s interventions. Some impacts can be directly attributable to an entity’s outputs if the cause-and-effect relationship is tight enough. However, most impacts represent the low-level outcomes over which the entity has significant influence or considerable (but not total) control through its service delivery.

There is a temptation for entities to focus on things that are easy to measure, but this is unlikely to provide a relevant or balanced basis for demonstrating the entity’s progress towards achieving its strategic outcomes.

Impact and outcomes targets must cover the full period of the SOI (a minimum of three years). This should not be problematic, because managing for outcomes requires a medium-to-long-term outlook.

For achievement targets to be meaningful to the user, enough context is needed to explain the entity’s direction. Comparative data can help provide this context, for example: past and future targets; past results; cross-sectional comparisons with other organisations, countries, regions, or national averages; trend information; and baseline data or other forms of benchmarking. This gives users essential information for judging the appropriateness of the entity’s targets.

In its SOI, MAF explains what it will measure to demonstrate success (Example 11). However, such a discussion, standing alone, falls short of what is required for specifying main measures and targets. The discussion needs context to inform the user about the current situation, the history, and the projected future. Discussions like these need to describe not just what will be measured, but also the criteria by which success will be measured (performance measures), the current state, and the direction and extent of the targeted level of change.

Te Māngai Pāho (Example 12) provides reasonably precise indicators of outcome achievement (based on survey data) but, in this example, provides no targets or data on the current state of affairs or trends.

The New Zealand Fire Service Commission (Fire Service) and Retirement Commission do better than most other entities when disclosing main measures and targets. Despite there being room for improvement, they have provided specific measures and targets for the desired achievement of outcomes (Examples 13 and 14).

The Fire Service provides a useful set of data giving outcomes information about fire-related incidents. This could be enriched by providing the user with information about how its targets for the present SOI period compare with the current state and with historical trends.

The Fire Service has also provided useful impact targets relating to the public’s knowledge and behaviour. One measure captures beliefs, another memory recall, and the third, action. It is implied that if these impacts on the public are achieved there will be positive outcomes for fire-related incidents. Again, the Fire Service could usefully add comparable trend information to these impact measures to put the extent of change sought into context.

Although the Retirement Commission has more work to do to identify appropriate measures and targets for its outcomes, it has made good progress in identifying specific and measurable targets. The discussion of its intended impacts acknowledges that some are not easy to measure and, to its credit, it has not resorted to trying to present only the easily measured aspects. Rather than avoiding the more difficult measures, the Commission has attempted to apply a similar level of detail and care to all of its significant outcomes.

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