Program Performance Evaluation: Judgment Versus Measurement

  • Charles F. Bingman Johns Hopkins University


When attempting to evaluate the performance of public programs, there is a big difference between what can be measured and what needs to be known.  To begin with, measurement cannot deal with the external forces that managers and executives must deal with, and they do so by using their own judgment and experience.  In addition, some of the most important considerations that drove program design and policy are sufficiently complex and sophisticated that they defy measurement.  Measurement seeks to be rational in an often irrational world.  Those who advocate performance measurement can rightly claim that they aid in the formulation of judgment, but they can’t claim that measurement is a substitute for judgment.  This is especially true in public programs which must function within a political system.  The realities of government budgeting and political decision-making may totally refute the “facts” arising out of even the most disciplined performance measurement.