Document Name: Primer on Performance Measurement
Date: 02/28/95
Owner: OMB Training
Title: Primer on Performance Measurement

Author: OMB Training

Date: February 28, 1995

This primer was initially developed for OMB training

purposes and may be revised again in the future.

Forward comments and suggestions to Walter Groszyk

via internet at GROSZYK_W@A1.EOP.GOV (1 in A1 is

numerical) or to "Norm Gunderson" on FedWorld

(703-321-8020 or TELNET FEDWORLD.GOV).


(Revised February 28, 1995)

This "primer" defines several performance

measurement terms, outlines areas or functions where

performance measurement may be difficult, and

provides examples of different types of performance


I. Definition of Terms

No standard definitions currently exist. In

this primer, the definitions of output and outcome

measures are those set out in GPRA. Input measures

and impact measures are not defined in GPRA. As

GPRA is directed at establishing performance goals

and targets, the definitions are prospective in

nature. Variations or divisions of these

definitions can be found in other Federal programs

as well as non-Federal measurement taxonomies. For

example, a measurement effort which retrospectively

reports on performance might define "input" as

resources consumed, rather than resources available.

The nomenclature of measures cannot be rigidly

applied; one agency's output measure (e.g.,

products produced) could be another agency's input

measure (e.g., products received).

Outcome Measure

GPRA Definition: An assessment of the results of a

program compared to its intended purpose.


Outcome measurement cannot be done until the

results expected from a program or activity have

been first defined. As such, an outcome is a

statement of basic expectations, often grounded in a

statute, directive, or other document. (In GPRA,

the required strategic plan would be a primary means

of defining or identifying expected outcomes.)

Outcome measurement also cannot be done until

a program (of fixed duration) is completed, or until

a program (which is continuing indefinitely) has

reached a point of maturity or steady state


While the preferred measure, outcomes are

often not susceptible to annual measurement. (For

example, an outcome goal setting a target of by

2005, collecting 94 percent of all income taxes

annually owed cannot be measured, as an outcome,

until that year.) Also, managers are more likely to

primarily manage against outputs rather than


- The measurement of incremental progress

toward a specific outcome goal is sometimes referred

to as an intermediate outcome. (Using the example

above, a target of collecting 88 percent of taxes

owed in 2002 might be characterized as an

intermediate outcome.)

Output Measure

GPRA Definition: A tabulation, calculation, or

recording of activity or effort that can be

expressed in a quantitative or qualitative manner.


The GPRA definition of output measure is very

broad, covering all performance measures except

input, outcome or impact measures. Thus it covers

output, per se, as well as other measures. -

Strictly defined, output is the goods and services

produced by a program or organization and provided

to the public or to other programs or organizations.

- Other measures include process measures

(e.g., paperflow, consultation), attribute measures

(e.g., timeliness, accuracy, customer satisfaction),

and measures of efficiency or effectiveness. -

Output may be measured either as the total quantity

of a good or service produced, or may be limited to

those goods or services with certain attributes

(e.g., number of timely and accurate benefit


Some output measures are developed and used

independent of any outcome measure.

All outputs can be measured annually or more

frequently. The number of output measures will

generally exceed the number of outcome measures.

In GPRA, both outcome and output measures are

set out as performance goals or performance


- GPRA defines a performance goal as a

target level of performance expressed as a tangible,

measurable objective, against which actual

performance can be compared, including a goal

expressed as a quantitative standard, value, or

rate. e.g., A goal might be stated as "Improve

maternal and child health on tribal reservations to

meet 95 percent of the national standards for

healthy mothers and children by 1998". (Note that

this goal would rely on performance indicators (see

below) to be measured effectively.)

- GPRA defines a performance indicator as

a particular value or characteristic used to measure

output or outcome. e.g., Indicators for the maternal

and child health goal above might include morbidity

and mortality rates for this population cohort,

median infant birth weights, percentages of tribal

children receiving full immunization shot series,

frequency of pediatric checkups, etc.

- Performance goals which are

self-measuring do not require separate indicators.

e.g., A performance goal stating that the FAA

would staff 300 airport control towers on a 24 hour

basis in FY 1996.

Impact Measure

Definition: These are measures of the direct or

indirect effects or consequences resulting from

achieving program goals. An example of an impact is

the comparison of actual program outcomes with

estimates of the outcomes that would have

occurred in the absence of the program.


Measuring program impact often is done by

comparing program outcomes with estimates of the

outcomes that would have occurred in the absence of

the program.

- One example of measuring direct impact

is to compare the outcome for a randomly assigned

group receiving a service with the outcome for a

randomly assigned group not receiving the service.

If the impacts are central to the purpose of a

program, these effects may be stated or included in

the outcome measure itself.

- Impacts can be indirect, and some

impacts are often factored into cost-benefit

analyses. An outcome goal might be to complete

construction of a large dam; the impact of

the completed dam might be reduced incidence of

damaging floods, additional acreage converted to

agricultural use, and increased storage of clean

water supplies, etc.

The measurement of impact is generally done

through special comparison-type studies, and not

simply by using data regularly collected through

program information systems.

Input Measure

Definition: Measures of what an agency or manager

has available to carry out the program or activity:

i.e., achieve an outcome or output. These can

include: employees (FTE), funding, equipment or

facilities, supplies on hand, goods or services

received, work processes or rules. When

calculating efficiency, input is defined as the

resources used.


Inputs used to produce particular outputs may

be identified through cost accounting. In a less

detailed correlation, significant input costs can be

associated with outputs by charging them to the

appropriate program budget account.

Often, a physical or human resource base

(e.g., land acreage, square footage of owned

buildings, number of enrollees) at the start of the

measurement period is characterized as an input.

- Changes to the resource base (e.g., purchase

of additional land) or actions taken with respect to

the resource base (e.g., modernize x square footage,

convert y enrollees to a different plan) are

classified as outputs or outcomes.

An Example of Outcome, Output, Impact, and Input

Measures for a hypothetical disease eradication


Outcome: Completely eradicate tropical spastic

paraparesis (which is a real disease

transmitted by human-to-human contact) by


Outputs: 1.) Confine incidence in 1996 to only

three countries in South America, and no

more than 5,000 reported cases. (Some

would characterize this step toward

eradication as an intermediate outcome.)

2.) Complete vaccination against this

retrovirus in 84 percent of the Western

hemispheric population by December 1995.

Inputs: 1.) 17 million doses of vaccine

2.) 150 health professionals

3.) $30 million in FY 1996


Impact: Eliminate a disease that affects 1 in

every 1,000 people living in infested areas, which

is progressively and completing disabling, and with

annual treatment costs of $1,600 per case.

An Example of Outcome, Output, Impact, and Input

Measures for a job training program:

Outcome: 40 percent of welfare recipients

receiving job training are employed three months

after receiving job training.

Output: Annually provide job training and job

search assistance to 1 million welfare recipients

within two months of their initial receipt of

welfare assistance.

Input: $300 million in appropriations

Impact: Job training increases the employment

rate of welfare recipients from 30 percent (the

employment level of comparable welfare recipients

who did not receive job training) to 40 percent (the

employment rate of those welfare recipients who did

receive job training).

An Example of Outcome, Output, Impact, and Input

Measures for a technology program:

Outcome: Orbit a manned spacecraft around Mars

for 30 days in 2010 and return crew and retrieved

Martian surface and subsurface material safely to


Output: (For FY 2007) Successfully complete a

900 day inhabited flight test of the Mars Mission

Module in lunar orbit in the third quarter of CY


Input: Delivery of 36 EU-funded Mars Surface

Sample Return probes from the Max Planck Institute

in Germany.

Impact: A comprehensive understanding of the

biochemical, physical and geological properties of

the Martian surface and subsurface to a 35 meter

depth. Detection of any aerobic or anaerobic life

forms (including non-carbon based, non-oxygen

dependent forms) in the Martian surface crust.

An Example of Outcome, Output, Impact, and Input

Measures for an environmental resources program:

Outcome: Restore the 653,000 square hectare

Kolbyduke Paleoartic Biome Reserve to a pre-

Mesolthic state, and preserve it in that state.

Output: (In FY 2002) Eradication on all

non-native plants from

51,000 square hectares, for a

cumulative eradication of non-native plants from 38

percent of the Reserve.

Input: (In FY 2002) Donation of 22,000

volunteer workhours from four wildlife


Impact: The protection of this biome as one of

three internationally-designated Paleoartic biomes

and perpetuating it as a research site for studies

of the pre-historic ecological equilibrium.

II. Complexities of Measurement

A. Functional Areas. Some types of

programs or activities are particularly difficult to


Basic Research, because often:

- likely outcomes are not calculable

(can't be quantified) in advance;

- knowledge gained is not always of

immediate value or application

- results are more serendipitous than


- there is a high percentage of negative

determinations or findings;

- the unknown cannot be measured.

- (Applied research, applied technology,

or the "D" in R&D is more readily measurable because

it usually is directed toward a specific goal or


Foreign Affairs, especially for outcomes, to

the extent that:

- the leaders and electorate of other

nations properly act in their own national interest,

which may differ from those of the United States

(e.g., Free Territory of Memel does not agree with

US policy goal of reducing US annual trade deficit

with Memel to $1 billion);

- US objectives are stated as policy

principles, recognizing the impracticality of their

universal achievement;

- goal achievement relies mainly on

actions by other countries (e.g., by 1999, Mayaland

will reduce the volume of illegal opiates being

transhipped through Mayaland to the US by 65 percent

from current levels of 1250 metric tons).

Policy Advice, because often:

- it is difficult to calculate the

quality or value of the advice;

- advice consists of presenting competing

views by different parties with different


- policy advice may be at odds with the

practicalities of political advice.

Block Grants, to the extent that:

- funds are not targeted to particular

programs or purposes;

- the recipient has great latitude or

choice in how the money will be spent;

- there is little reporting on what the

funds were used for or what was accomplished.

B. By Type of Measure. Some measures are harder

to measure than others. Some of the difficulties


For outcome, output, and impact measures

- Direct Federal accountability is

lessened because non-Federal parties (other than

those under a procurement contract) are responsible

for the administration or operation of the program.

- The magnitude and/or intrusiveness of

the performance reporting burden.

- The nature and extent of performance

validation or verification requires a substantial


- Individual accountability or

responsibility is diffuse.

For outcome measures

- Timetable or dates for achievement may

be sporadic.

- Achievement often lags by several years

or more after the funds are spent.

- Results frequently are not immediately

evident, and can be determined only through a formal

program evaluation.

- Accomplishment is interrupted because

of intervening factors, changes in priorities, etc.

- Changing basepoints can impede

achievement (e.g., recalculation of eligible


- Achievement depends on a major change

in public behavior.

- The outcome is for a cross-agency

program or policy, and assigning relative contributions or

responsibilities to individual agencies is a complex


For output measures

- Equal-appearing outputs are not always

equal (e.g., the time and cost of overhauling one type

of jet engine can be very different from another type of jet


- It may be difficult to weight outputs

to allow different (but similar appearing) outputs to be

combined in a larger aggregate.

- Many efficiency and effectiveness

measures depend on agencies having cost accounting systems

and the capability to allocate and cumulate costs on a

unit basis.

For impact measures

- Impacts are often difficult to measure.

- A large number of other variables or

factors contribute to or affect the impact, and which can be

difficult to separate out when determining causality.

- Federal funding or Federal program

efforts are of secondary or even more marginal significance to

the achieved outcome.

- Determining the impact can be very

expensive, and not commensurate with the value received

from a policy or political standpoint.

- Holding a manager accountable for

impacts can be a formidable challenge.

For input measures

- The measurement itself should not be

complicated, but the alignment of inputs with outputs can be


III. Emphasized Measures in GPRA

A. GPRA emphasizes the use and reporting of

performance measures that managers use to manage. There are

several reasons for this emphasis:

GPRA increases the accountability of

managers for producing results.

Underscores that these measures are

central to an agency's capacity and approach for administering

programs and conducting operations.

- Because of this, the amount of

additional resources to develop and improve

performance measurement and reporting systems should be

rather limited.

- The conundrum is that agencies

requesting large amounts of additional resources

would be conceding either that their programs were

not being managed, or were being managed using an

inappropriate or poor set of performance measures.

B. As output measures are more readily and easily

developed than outcome measures, more of these are expected

initially in the GPRA-required performance plans, but agencies

should move toward increasing the number and quality of outcome


IV. Selected Examples of Various Types of

Performance Measures

Please Note: For the purpose of these examples:

Some of the outcome measures are much more

narrowly defined than would otherwise be appropriate or expected.

Some of the outcome measures are not

inherently measurable, and would require use of supplementary

performance indicators to set specific performance targets and

determine whether these were achieved.

Some measures include several aspects of

performance. Italics are used to feature the particular

characteristic of that example.

Many of the examples of output measures are

process or attribute measures.


Production Output: Manufacture and deliver 35,000

rounds of armor-piercing 120mm projectiles

shells in FY 1997.

Outcome: Produce sufficient 120 mm

armor-piercing projectiles to achieve a 60 day combat use

supply level by 1999 for all Army and Marine Corps

tank battalions.

Transaction processing

Output: Process 3.75 million payment

vouchers in FY 1995.

Outcome: Ensure that 99.5 percent of

payment vouchers are paid within 30 days of receipt.


Output: Update earnings records for 45

million employee contributors to Social Security

Trust Fund.

Outcome: Ensure that all earnings records

are posted and current within 60 days of the end

of the previous quarter.

Service Volume

Output: Provide meals and temporary

shelter for up to 18 months for 35,000 homeless

individuals for up to 18 months following the Short Beach

tsunami disaster.

Outcome: Maintain a capacity to provide,

nationally, meals and temporary shelter for an

indefinite period for up to 100,000 individuals who are

homeless as a result of major disasters.

Workload (Not otherwise categorized)

Output: Annually inspect 3200 grain


Outcome: Through periodic grain elevator

inspection, reduce the incidence of grain dust

explosions resulting in catastrophic loss or fatalities

to zero.

Frequency rates

Output: Issue 90 day national temperature

and precipitation forecasts every six weeks.

Outcome: Provide users of meteorological

forecasts with advance information sufficiently

updated to be useful for agricultural, utility, and

transportation planning.

Inventory fill

Output: Store a minimum of 3.5 million

barrels of petroleum stock.

Outcome: Petroleum stocks shall be

maintained at a level sufficient to provide a 60 day

supply at normal daily drawdown.


Utilization rates

Output: Operate all tactical fighter

aircraft simulator training facilities at not less

than 85 percent of rated capacity.

Outcome: Ensure optimized operation of all

simulator facilities to provide all active

duty tactical fighter aircraft pilots with a

minimum of 80 hours of simulator training every 12


Out-of-service conditions

Output: All Corps of Engineer locks on

the Showme River basin shall be operational during at

least 22 of every consecutive 24 hours.


Ensure no significant delays in

commercial traffic transiting through the Showme

River basin system.

Maintenance and Repair Intervals

Output: All out-of-service aircraft

requiring unscheduled repairs shall be repaired within

72 hours.

Outcome: The Forest Service will maintain

90 percent of its 135 firefighting aircraft in an

immediately deployable status during forest

fire season.


Defect rates

Output: Not more than 1.25 percent of 120

mm armorpiercing projectiles shall be rejected as


Outcome: No armor-piercing ammunition

projectiles fired in combat shall fail to explode on


Mean Failure rates

Output: Premature space Shuttle main

engine shutdown shall not occur more than once in every

200 flight cycles.

Outcome: Space Shuttle shall be maintained

and operated so that 99.95 percent of all flights

safely reach orbit.


Output: The initial monthly estimate of

the previous month's value of exports shall be within

one percent of the revised final value.

Outcome: All preliminary, periodic

estimates of economic activity shall be within three

percent of the final value.

Error Rates

Output: Not more than four percent of

initial determinations of the monthly entitled benefit

amount shall be incorrectly calculated.

Outcome: (Not commonly measured as an




Output: Not more than 2.5 percent of

individuals seeking information will subsequently

re-request the same information because the initial

response was incomplete.

Outcome: (Not commonly measured as an


Customer Satisfaction Levels (Output and outcome

measures may often be indistinguishable.)

Output: In 1998, at least 75 percent of

individuals receiving a service will rate the service

delivery as good to excellent.

Outcome: At least 90 percent of recipients

will rate the service delivery as good to



Response times

Output: Adjudicative decision on all

claim disallowances will be made within 120 days of appeal


Outcome: Provide every claimant with

timely dispositive determination on claims filed.

Adherence to schedule

Output: Operate 95 percent of all

passenger trains within 10 minutes of scheduled arrival


Outcome: Provide rail passengers with

reliable and predictable train service.


Output: 98 percent of notices to the

Department of Transportation of navigational

hazards will result both in an on-site inspection of

the hazard and Notice to Mariners within 48

hours of receipt of the notice

Outcome: Ensure prompt response to

potential public safety concerns in the navigation of

coastal and off-shore waters.



Output: Annual transaction

costs/production costs/delivery of service costs projected on a

per unit basis. Produce 35,000 rounds of armor-piercing

ammunition at a cost of $17.75 per round.

Outcome: (Not commonly measured as an



Output: IN FY 1999, not more than 7,000

in-patients in military hospitals will be

readmitted, post discharge, for further treatment

of the same dignosed illness at the time of

initial admission.

Outcome: Annually, initial treatment will

be therapeutically successful for 85 percent of all

hospital admissions.


Milestone and activity schedules

Output: Complete 85 percent of required

flight-worthiness testing for Z-2000 bomber by July

30, 1999.

Outcome: The Z-2000 bomber will be

flight-certified and operational by December 1, 2000.

Design Specifications

Output: Imaging cameras on Generation X

observational satellite will have resolution of

0.1 arc second.

Outcome: Generation X observational

satellite will successfully map 100 percent

terrain of six Jovian moons to a resolution of 100


Status of conditions

Output: In 1995, repair and maintain

1,400 pavement miles of Federally-owned highways to a

rating of "good".

Outcome: By 2000, 35 percent of all

Federally-owned highway pavement miles shall be rated as

being in good condition.

Percentage coverage

Output: Provide doses of vaccine to

27,000 pre-school children living on tribal


Outcome: 100 percent of children living on

tribal reservations will be fully immunized before

beginning school.
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