visionary thinking

Accountability Key Performance Indicators - KPI's

How do you know when you have achieved your goal?

In order for you to know you require some form or means of measurement, a yardstick to check against. And having measured, that measurement once taken can then be used to demonstrate achievement and to communicate that achievement or success to others.

In the world of governance and management an often used yardstick is a Key Performance Indicator "KPI".

This is where a KPI is often included in an employment contract as a means to measure performance and apply accountability. Achieve the KPI and get a bonus. Fail to achieve the KPI and there is no bonus and possibly no job.

So the important part to measuring performance and accountability is the writing of the KPI.

Is the KPI looking at the right information, will it measure the correct parameters? or be too general and only capture a big picture? Is it the right big picture or should we be looking differently?

We obviously are interested in capturing the correct KPI parameters to understand and measure performance against our goals. Should the performance be below expectation then the measurement parameters need to tell us what corrective action to deploy. It is for these reasons I do not support KPI's as the means for determining the distribution of rewards or punishments. The use of KPI's in this way with parties you are seeking accountability from, they are then incentivised to obscure factual information and encouraged to manipulate the outcome.

A hot topic currently is the Resource Management Act 1991 and the timely processing of consents.

Let's look at how the Ministry of Environment, the body responsible for monitoring the Act undertakes this function.

The monitoring has been undertaken through two yearly surveys. The Ministry has progressively reviewed and updated its methodology for each survey. The two yearly survey was deemed insufficient and has been replaced with guidance from the "A National Monitoring System for the Resource Management Act 1991" requiring yearly reporting. The results of these surveys and monitoring can be found on the Ministry of Environment website under the RMA tab.

The reporting is clearly collecting data that is demonstrating high levels of performance and progressive improvement.

However, if as the data suggests our consenting systems are working successfully, why then do we have reports of delayed consenting and productivity flat lining?

So instead of a Local Governance compliance view, let us consider a few points the private sector might like to see added to the reporting.

1. How many consents were issued as "Permitted Activities"?

2. What share of all consents were "Permitted Activities"?

3. In how many consents was "Permitted Activity" status the dominant planning control?

4. What was the value of the consents in each of the following categories, Permitted, Controlled, Restricted Discretionary, Discretionary, Non-complying and Prohibited?

What is meant by "Permitted Activity" status?

In RMA terms, it means that provided you demonstrate compliance, you will get consent.

All District Plans include zoning maps and for each zone there are activity tables with each activity categorised as Permitted, Controlled, Restricted Discretionary, Discretionary, Non-complying or Prohibited. For example; in a single house zone, the zoning will permit the construction of a single residential dwelling.

However there will be details to address, in establishing the new dwelling earthworks will be required. If the volume of the earthworks required exceeds the limit set in the plan then the activity status changes and a resource consent will be required. The new lot may have a slope and even if the proposed new dwelling is within the boundary setbacks, the building may breach the height in relation to boundary controls, again requiring a resource consent.

The trend in current subdivision design is to shrink the lot sizes, reduce the road reserve width while the homes are the same or larger than before. It is inevitable that more consents will breach the plan rules to the extent that "Permitted Activity" status no longer has much meaning.

The data recorded provides no answers to these questions. Without data we do not know whether or not the threshold levels are set correctly or development is being hindered or assisted. There is no accountability around this aspect of the RMA with The Ministry of Environment and Local Council's focusing on compliance KPI's rather than looking to understand how the administration of the RMA is hampering productivity.

And that is the key difference.

The private sector is interested in compliance and productivity.

The accountability provisions only exist to ensure we achieve that goal.