Performance Management Framework

1. Purpose

The primary purpose of this framework is to give managers the framework, support and tools with which to make systematic, continuous improvements to the social work service delivered to children, young people and their families in Kent. It supports the achievement of better outcomes for children, young people, parents and families. Its secondary purpose is to enable the service to be publicly accountable for its performance and to allow any other person or organization with an interest in the social work service to children, young people and their families to see and understand how we will work to improve that service and how they can contribute.

A key sign of a strong, self-confident organisation is one that manages its performance effectively. Performance management should be at the heart of any organisation’s drive to secure continuous improvement in delivering quality, efficient, and user-focused services.

2. Performance Management

2.1 What is Performance Management?

Performance management is taking action to make outcomes better than they would otherwise be. It means taking action in response to actual performance, which might be at an individual, team, service, corporate, or community level. To ensure performance management is essential an effective process must be in place and staff must understand their role within the process. 

  • To know what action to take, performance has to be monitored;
  • To know how to judge performance, criteria have to be agreed (aims, objectives, targets etc);
  • To know how to assess performance against the criteria, there has to be a method (for example performance indicators);
  • Applying this to a whole organisation requires some systematic action and co-ordination.

Performance management is more than the monitoring of key performance indicators. It embraces all activities that are designed to support the effective delivery of services.

Specialist Children’s Services must adopt a broad approach to performance management which incorporates the following characteristics:

  • Real-time, regular and robust performance data turned into useful intelligence to support decision making;
  • Can-do culture inspired by strong leadership;
  • Accountability and transparency;
  • Clear performance management review, combining challenge and support.

In a performance oriented organisation:

  • Each member of staff is aware of their performance and targets and their performance against targets is regularly discussed in supervision with their managers;
  • Lead members and senior managers lead with a clear vision, focus on strategic issues, service quality, customer feedback and citizens needs and manage through values;
  • Decisions are based on robust data and intelligence;
  • Approved plans, strategies, service reviews and policy objectives are measurable and impact focused;
  • New ideas and best practice elsewhere are constantly sought and tried when necessary;
  • There is openness to internal and external challenge and a willingness to take and stick to tough decisions and tackle difficult problems;
  • Managers keep the council’s vision and objectives in mind when determining actions and communicate this context to their staff;
  • People see a direct connection between what they do and how it benefits the community through a clear performance management framework;
  • Managers drive performance improvement and engage their employees;
  • Performance management and performance improvement are treated as core business within the Council rather than an add-on;
  • Performance monitoring facilitates performance management and performance management drives performance improvement;
  • There is a lot of cross-functional working and interdepartmental communication focused on achieving agreed objectives;
  • Everyone has a sense of responsibility for the performance of the authority and accountability for results is clear.

2.2 The Dimensions of Good Performance Management

Performance management is about good management, ensuring that your community, organisation and team goals are achieved. It helps to:

  • Ensure children, young people, their families and carers to access high quality services that improve their quality of life;
  • Prioritise what gets done and ensure there are sufficient resources to do it;
  • Ensure value for money;
  • Motivate and manage staff;
  • Identify and rectify poor performance at an early stage;
  • Learn from past performance and improve future performance;
  • Increase user and public satisfaction.

For this performance framework to be effective, clarity is required as to who services are being developed for and what change (outcomes and impact) is intended. 

Measurable starting points and clear and measurable targets are a key aspect a confident assessment of the extent to which aims are achieved. 

2.3 Performance Management Principles

  1. Achieving Strategic Clarity
    • An overriding strategy is clear, everyone pulls in the same direction and will be more likely to focus on what matters the most to produce real results;
    • A holistic picture of strategy clearly outlines the overall aims, outcomes, outputs, as well as enablers of performance;
    • Staff are involved in strategy development and know their contributions;
    • Strategy is depicted as a highly visual plan, or value creation map, with all its components on a single piece of paper.
  2. Collect Meaningful Performance Indicators
    • The right indicators to assess impact are identified - these are the benchmarks by which success (and failure) can be measured. Good data (and other information) is collected to assess performance starting points and impacts. Meaningful insights and management information is extracted that helps learning and improves performance;
    • Relevant and meaningful indicators are tightly and directly linked to the strategic objectives of an organisation to help measure the things that matter the most;
    • Experimentation with measurement is allowed as is encouraging innovative ways of data collection;
    • Informed attention is paid to the reliability, validity and data quality and any issues on these made clear if indicators are published.
  3. Applying Performance Management Analytics
    • Good information supports critical decision-making;
    • A range of analytical tools and techniques are used to make best use of accessible data and intelligence create;
    • Time and effort is spent converting data sources into relevant information and knowledge - e.g. how things may need to change to improve success against key goals.
  4. Creating a Positive Learning Culture
    • Performance Management takes place in an environment of learning. In a positive learning culture, performance data is discussed openly and honestly and used by everybody to make better-informed decisions, and to take actions that positively affect future performance;
    • Performance information is used to empower people and enable self-management;
    • Performance information and ‘contextualised’ feedback is proactively provided to everyone in the organisation, with a special emphasis on middle management and front-line staff.
  5. Gaining Cross-Organisational Buy-In
    • Everyone at all levels of the organisation knows what they are aiming for, and why, so they are much more likely to get there;
    • Buy-in from top-level, as well as from middle managers and front-line staff - to make Performance management an integral part of the organisation’s daily routines.
  6. Ensuring Organisational Alignment
    • A strategic Performance Management system guides and aligns other organisational processes - such as budgeting, performance reporting, the management of projects and programmes and the management of risks;
    • Risk and performance indicators are closely aligned - performance indicators allow organisations to understand whether they are delivering the designated performance levels, and risk indicators allow organisations to understand the risks of not being able to deliver performance.
  7. Keeping the System Fresh
    • As organisation’s strategy and goals are developed / refined, so too is the Performance Management strategy - to be flexible;
    • Measures being tracked are as relevant today and tomorrow as they were when the system was first devised;
    • Organisations regularly reviews and renews their strategy, typically following an annual planning cycle.
  8. Reporting and Communicating Performance Information Appropriately
    • Performance reporting uses different formats for different audiences based on current best practice - making extensive use of visual aids (such as strategic maps, graphs and charts) supported by numerical information, and using narratives and verbal communication formats to complement, contextualise and provide meaningful interpretation;
    • Organisations place much more emphasis on communicating performance information in words, both written and verbal, and less in numbers. After all, the underlying messages and insights the numbers generate are what really count;
    • Staff members are able to understand the ‘so what’ implications for their own roles in the organisation, e.g. ‘How does this affect me?’ and ‘What do I/we need to do differently in future?’
  9. Implementing Appropriate Software
    • The right software is in place and is being using it appropriately;
    • The risks that the organisation relies too heavily on letting the software do the thinking or that performance becomes an IT project (instead of a management priority) are well managed and avoided;
    • The right software application allows the organisation to integrate data, communicate performance appropriately and allow performance to be analysed by everyone. Used broadly, more people are drawn into the process, engaging everyone in managing and measuring performance.
  10. Dedicating Resources and Time
    • The organisation takes performance management seriously as a discipline, and devotes adequate time and resources to it;
    • Current best practice proposes a dedicated team with resources and time to perform the role of facilitating performance management activities. This team performs the tasks such as facilitating the strategy design and mapping process, designing and reviewing performance indicators, collecting and analysing performance data, reporting performance, facilitating the cascade and the performance review processes, maintaining the performance management software system as well as training people in the performance management process. This is a broad remit and requires a permanent, cross-functional team.

3. How Does It Fit Together in Kent?

3.1 The Performance Management Cycle

Effective performance management is based on a continual process which has the following key elements:

  1. Agree or reaffirm a set of PRIORITIES, AIMS and OBJECTIVES;
  2. ASK what needs to be achieved and how will you know when it is achieved;
  3. PLAN (Answer) what needs to be done to achieve those aims and objectives;
  4. DO (act) what’s in the Plan;
  5. MONITOR and EVALUATE progress and performance;
  6. REVIEW what has gone well or want could have been better, has there been a difference?
  7. REFLECT on the information and make any necessary changes.

Click here to view Performance Management Cycle Flowchart.

3.2 The Performance Management Process?

Click here to view Performance Management Process Flowchart.

4. Governance and Accountability

4.1 Roles and Responsibilities

Elected Members:

  • Strategic oversight of the effectiveness of performance management in Specialist Children’s Services;
  • Agree with FSC (Families and Social Care) Directorate Management, the strategic direction and performance improvement priorities;
  • Scrutinise and challenge performance and service improvement initiatives;
  • Contribute towards the identification of strategic performance management issues and assessment of key risks;
  • Ensuring that key strategic and service linkages are made across member responsibility areas in order to ensure appropriate challenge and cooperation around cross cutting performance issues;
  • Hold Senior Managers (MD and Directors) to account for the performance of those matters for which they are responsible - via CSIP, SCSPOSC, Cabinet, Scrutiny.

CMT - Managing Director and Directors (individually and/or collectively):

Are responsible for ensuring that Specialist Children’s Services manages performance effectively and achieves the standards set by elected Members, Government, Legislation, Professional Bodies and the Audit Commission(1), and to:

  • Advise Members, regarding the setting of strategic direction and performance improvement priorities;
  • Set appropriate outcome based targets and standards for performance;
  • Identify and manage strategic and cross cutting performance issues and opportunities facing Specialist Children’s Services;
  • Address issues identified within the Risk Register, ensuring that clear action is taken to mitigate risks and that there is clear accountability for taking this forward and reporting back on progress;
  • Ensure the robustness of Specialist Children’s Services contribution to the Performance Assurance Team (PAT) and Delivery Assurance Team (DAT) including reports on key strategic performance issues the Annual Report, and Quarterly Balanced Scorecards and supporting Performance Report, including action taken to address areas of weak performance;
  • Ensure the integration of performance management into the culture of the Specialist Children’s Services.

All Heads of Service:

Are responsible for ensuring that performance is effectively managed and continuously improved within all areas of their service to standards expected by our customers and community. They have a key role to: 

  • Promote and embed a performance management culture within their respective areas of service;
  • Hold managers to account for the performance of their areas of responsibility;
  • Identify, analyse and understand and continuously improve service performance; 
  • Report as required to Members, CMT and DMT on their service area performance through the scrutiny of strategic service plans and budgets;
  • Monitor service standards and performance;
  • Ensure the collection and input of all national and local data requirements, relating to their areas of responsibility including ensuring returns are validated for Specialist Children’s Services;
  • Communicate the importance of the related Specialist Children’s Services national and local indicators and measures and ensure data quality;
  • Ensure required inspection evidence and documentation is made available;
  • Provide annual assurance on the effectiveness of controls in place to mitigate/reduce poor performance within their service;
  • Maintain awareness of and promote the approved Performance Management Framework to all relevant staff;
  • Ensure performance management is integrated into the service planning process and personal performance plans (PPP’s);
  • Ensure that the quality assurance framework is understood by all staff in the service;
  • Ensure that the actions contained within the quality assurance framework are undertaken and the resulting actions to improve practice and processes are carried out and the impact of any action/activity monitored/evaluated routinely;
  • Incorporate results of community consultations, customer feedback and complaints into service performance;
  • Ensure the involvement of front-line staff in setting SMART and stretching targets;
  • Work with colleagues across FSC and KCC to inform, challenge and improve performance in key cross cutting areas.

All other Managers:

Are responsible to manage and improve performance effectively in their particular service area:

  • Identify, analyse, profile and improve service performance;
  • Maintain awareness of and promote the Performance Management Framework to all relevant staff and contribute to the development and embedding of Specialist Children’s Services and KCC’s performance management culture;
  • Ensure performance management is integrated into the team planning and TRP process;
  • Ensure performance management is a regular item in team meetings and in 1:1’s and allows review, challenge and innovation;
  • Ensure performance data is captured.

Management Information Unit and Business Strategy and Support Unit:

Are responsible to support and act as critical friend to the FSC/SCS DivMT and its service areas in the effective development, implementation and review of the Performance Management Framework, Quality Assurance Framework, Operational Performance Management Framework, Data Quality Framework and the Reporting Standard:

  • Promote a culture of performance management within the organisation;
  • Develop the Performance Management Framework with arrangements for regular review;
  • Support the implementation of the Performance Management Framework across Specialist Children’s Services;
  • Co ordinate the provision of performance management profiles and information to all key stakeholders;
  • Feed back learning from customer and service surveys and ensure that this is utilised to scrutinise, inform and challenge performance provision of Specialist Children’s Services and service based advice, support and training as required;
  • Assist the operational unit to co-ordinate, develop and review the service planning process and corporate improvement plans, representing the requirements and issues for Specialist Children’s Services in order to strengthen performance management across KCC;
  • Produce and maintain the Specialist Children’s Services thematic and service balanced scorecard;
  • Promote and review the Specialist Children’s Services Data Quality Strategy and Reporting Standards;
  • Oversee the KCC’s audits of data integrity;
  • Oversee the updating of the Risk Register, ensuring FSC DMT oversight of risks and agreement on action required;
  • Support project and service evaluations as required.

Safeguarding Unit

  • Support operational service in embedding the quality assurance framework and provide an off line check and balance regarding the effectiveness of the quality assurance function Develop the Quality Assurance Framework and supporting tools;
  • Undertake agreed Audits, Deep Dives and provide learning from Serious Case Reviews;
  • Provide a review, challenge and support function for service and business plans;
  • Manage the process of externally audited performance and thematic assessments and inspections for KCC.

Internal Audit (as agreed by Kent County Council)

  • Support the data integrity and audit of national and local performance indicators and measures through focused investigations and general advice;
  • Provide an independent review of the FSC approach to performance management, Data Quality and compliance.

All Staff Members:

  • Are responsible to contribute to and manage performance effectively in their job;
  • Are responsible for being aware of their performance and for managing their performance effectively;
  • Maintain awareness of performance management and contribute to performance control and development processes where appropriate. For example; the collation of performance indicators and contribute to customer satisfaction levels for the service;
  • Maintain awareness of corporate priorities and adhere to data quality principles;
  • Contributing to providing documentary evidence for collation for internal and external audits, attending workshops and contributing to a pool of information gathered for the annual FSC performance report;
  • Contribute to performance improvement and achievement within service.

5. Linked Performance Management Policies and Procedures

This Performance Management and Monitoring Framework should be read in conjunction with the Specialist Children’s Services Operational Performance Management Framework, Quality Assurance Framework, Data Quality Framework and the Reporting, Data Analysis Framework the Kent County Council Internal Control Management Framework and the Performance Management Statements of Required Practice (SORPs)

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is a term that embraces all activity that contributes to service improvement through satisfying the organisation that agreed standards are being met and outcomes for safeguarding children are being achieved. Quality assurance is a continual and dynamic process by which we set standards, monitor our achievements against those standards, use the information we have to improve services and undertake ongoing review. Quality assurance is more than meeting targets and counting activity, it is a qualitative approach, which measures standards and identifies areas for improvement. It should be both systematic and themed, cross agency and sole agency.

A quality assurance framework is an organisation’s systematic plan that defines what quality is, how it will be measured and how it will be improved. The Specialist Children’s Services framework for quality assurance and service improvement is both reflective and pro-active. By examining past service delivery against good practice standards and considering service users views about the services received, we can measure the impact and quality of service delivery. By providing training, mentoring, supervision and support to our staff we will anticipate and identify potential problems in practice standards and seek to resolve them before they become embedded as poor practice. In addition, the various layers of management and scrutiny can only add to the sense that standards are adhered to.

Data Quality

Specialist Children’s Services requires reliable, accurate and timely information. To be confident that effort is being focused in the right places Specialist Children’s Services need to be assured that reported information reflects actual performance. The risk in not identifying and addressing weaknesses in data quality is that information may be misleading which in turn may mean that decision making is flawed, and resources may be mis-directed. There is also a possibility that poor services and poor performance are not correctly identified preventing additional support from being provided to aid service improvement. External users of Specialist Children’s Services data also require assurance that the data with which they have been provided with is accurate before making judgements about the Authority’s performance and governance.  

Performance Monitoring Reporting

Specialist Children’s Services performance monitoring reports will:

  • Be short and to the point: concise reports, which exclude unnecessary material;
  • Avoid the use of jargon and acronyms;
  • Provide an overview of key performance indicators;
  • Provide an overview of performance improvement plan outcomes and impact tested through audits, survey results, and customer feedback;
  • Provide a strong steer on the key issues for scrutiny; 
  • Facilitate a good understanding of the stories behind the data, informing debate and challenge and leading to agreed action;
  • Provide appropriate levels of evidence to back up any assertions made; 
  • Establish and monitor appropriate outcome based targets and measures against agreed tolerance levels (in order to measure progress or not).

When presenting performance information the report must:

  • Use data that is relevant to the issue;
  • Make sure the data can be understood;
  • Use up to date information.

Systems Management and Development

Information Technology Systems holding Specialist Children’s Services data will be managed via an agreed method of change control will be fit for practice and will ensure the data is held securely. Related policy and procedure in respect to the management of systems and systems development will reflect the International and National controls in respect to Change Control, Data Management, Information Sharing and Systems Management.

6. Internal Council Boards, Partnership Boards, Cooperate Boards and External Scrutiny

Kent County Council’s internal control management framework of SORP’s is built upon the principal-agent model of accountability. Elected members act as the public’s Principals. They made decision in the public interest for the benefit of the County as a whole. The Leader of the Council is the “Principal of Principals” and the Managing Director is his “Agent of Agents”. The Corporate Management Team (CMT) are the “Agents” of the Managing Director (MD) and are responsible to the MD and are also responsible to the respective Cabinet portfolio holder. The performance management structures to support the deliver of the internal controls management framework include the: the Performance Assurance Team (PAT) a subgroup of CMT which seeks to oversee progress against the authorities stated priorities, as set out in the MTP, Bold Steps for Kent, as well as other major programmes, to drive performance improvement and ensure effective risk management. The Delivery Assurance Team (DAT) seeks to ensure the delivery and co-ordination of a large number of potentially conflicting agendas and demands on support services in the authority. CMT via the PAT and DAT’s have a key function in ensuring the Council as a whole has oversight of performance, quality of practice delivery, service delivery and pressures within Specialist Children’s Service and act as critical friend, challenger and supporter.

The Kent Safeguarding Children Partnership has a statutory role in ensuring that single agency and multi-agency work in child protection is of a good standard. It receives regular reports on the performance of agencies in the professional network. An Independent Chair of the Board provides appropriate and independent challenge to all member agencies. Lay members are due to be appointed in 2011, and will add another layer of public scrutiny of the Board’s work.

The QEF Performance Monitoring Sub Group of Kent Safeguarding Children Multi-Agency Partnership (KSCMP) is responsible for commissioning multi-agency audits and the audit schedule is determined by the Board, with the agreement of Board partners. All multi-agency audits are presented to Kent Safeguarding Children Partnership. The Performance Monitoring Sub Group monitors the implementation of the resulting action plans

All Local Authorities are required to have a Corporate Parenting Board whose role is to ensure that the Local Authority and its partners are being effective corporate parents to the Children in Care for whom they are responsible. They are responsible for the scrutiny of all aspects of the life of a Child in Care and the quality of services they receive from the Local Authority and its partners.

The role of the Policy Overview and Scrutiny is to ensure that Members of the County Council have the information available to ask the questions that challenge in order to support service improvement. Scrutiny has a direct link to Cabinet, and will make recommendations for decisions or actions to be reviewed.   

OFSTED is the regulatory body that has responsibility for inspection of local authority children’s homes, fostering, adoption and private fostering arrangements, as well as the unannounced inspection of contact/assessment services. It is also responsible for three-yearly inspection of safeguarding and Children in Care services.

7. Performance Management Training

All Specialist Children’s Services staff members, Senior KCC Managers and Kent County Council Members must have an understanding of this performance management framework and its application in practice. To assist this understanding induction programmes and Personal Development Plans should consider the following topic areas (in addition to current practice and management programmes):

  • Creation of SMART targets and Action plan;
  • How to read and use data effectively;
  • Data Quality and Tolerance Levels;
  • Information Sharing and Data management.

(1) Nominated to be disbanded