One of the best ways to create accountability is through measurements that track how well an organization is performing against established targets. These measures would provide a means of tracking, reporting, and improving the transparency and openness this initiative is intended to implement. This system of accountability should include:
Success or results measures – How do we measure success? What are the results we’re trying to achieve and how will we know we’ve produced those results? An example of a results measure is the final vote in an election. An example of a possible transparency and openness results measure is a public satisfaction index as measured by some type of survey or voting process. The desired result would be to achieve some target percentage of public satisfaction with the transparency and openness of the government. Another example would be the percentage of the American adult population who participated in the government process in some way – participating in a dialogue, providing feedback on some proposed action, visiting a website where these measures or proposed government actions are published, etc.
Performance or progress measures – How do we determine if we’re making progress towards success? How can determine if we’re on or off track in moving towards the success or results we are trying to create? A performance measure provides early visibility of progress that enables corrective action to be taken before the results are due. It should correlate as closely as possible to the results measure. A performance measure used to assess progress towards the election results measure is tracking polls. An example of a possible transparency and openness performance measure is the number or percentage of governmental organizations who have fully implemented the transparency and openness program defined by this initiative. Another example would be the percentage of government documents that have been made available to the public.
Reporting/publishing of the measures – Just like organizations often use a “dashboard” of measures to track their results and performance, the Federal government should maintain an online transparency and openness dashboard that allows both the government and the public to view results and performance.
Measures by organization as well as government-wide – Each major organization of the government should track its results and performance and report them on the dashboard website. These would be rolled into the overall government dashboard measures plus there could be some measurements done only at the overall government level.
Continuous improvement process – The primary purpose of measures inside an organization is to provide a feedback mechanism for an organization to know how well it’s doing so it can keep improving. The primary purpose for measures external to the organization is to hold the organization accountable for what it’s supposed to be doing and achieving. Both of these feedback mechanisms should result in the continuous improvement of the government’s transparency and openness. For example, when the target level of public satisfaction is reached, the government shouldn’t just be satisfied that it’s done all it can. It should “raise the bar” and strive for an even higher level of satisfaction and public feedback should ensure this happens.