The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(020) [Completed]

Using Performance Measures to Manage Change in State Departments of Transportation
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Research Agency: TransTech Management, Inc..
Principal Investigator: John Cameron
Effective Date: 4/16/2002
Completion Date: 7/31/2003

Background: State departments of transportation are operating in an environment of unprecedented change. Evolving demands for transportation services, new technologies, workforce composition, stakeholders' concerns, and a constantly changing political environment create continuing demands for institutional change. To address these challenges, the role of strategic planning is increasing in significance and importance. However, many CEOs find that the process often breaks down in the implementation phase -- creating buy-in and "institutionalization" of key changes. In response, DOTs are employing innovative solutions such as an increased focus on stakeholder consultation and customer needs, targeting resources to achieve strategic objectives, setting performance goals, and implementing appropriate performance measurement systems to evaluate success.

NCHRP Synthesis 238 (1997) identified a wide range of performance goals in use by state DOTs. NCHRP Report 446 presented a "Guidebook for Performance-Based Transportation Planning." A current NCHRP Project 20-53 is examining ways that DOTs use customer needs to drive transportation decisions. A recent scan conducted under NCHRP Project 20-24(14) identified a number of examples where DOTs were effectively integrating the use of performance measures into the management and strategic planning process. The research clearly suggests that performance measures are perceived as more useful when they are created out of a genuine commitment to manage programs more effectively, rather than simply to comply with reporting requirements. There is a need to review existing literature and current best practices in order to provide CEOs with concise, practical guidance on performance measures and their use.

Objective: The objective of this project is to develop a simple and practical guidebook aimed at CEOs of state Departments of Transportation outlining ways to implement best practices for incorporating the use of performance measures into management practices and strategic planning.


1. Conduct a review of current best practices with respect to the use of performance measures. This should be accomplished by a review of current and recently published studies, such as those noted above, and a more in-depth analysis of 5-10 DOTs that are particularly advanced in their implementation of performance measures. Identify future plans of DOTs to enhance or augment their use of performance-based planning. Conduct a limited review of best practices in the use of performance measures in the private sector and in government agencies other than DOTs.

2. Identify a menu of performance measures that have proven to be particularly effective. The menu should include performance measures relating to a range of goals, including but not limited to engineering, construction, maintenance, operation, economic, social, behavioral and environmental. The measures should emphasize outcomes (e.g. improvements to the economy or customer satisfaction), but also include more traditional action-based measures of performance (e.g. miles of pavement resurfaced). To the extent possible, selectively identify measures that could be standardized for use by all DOTs for purposes of regional and/or state by state comparisons.

3. Develop recommendations on the most effective format or methods to present the results of typical performance measures identified in Task 2. The presentation methods should make effective use of graphics and be easily understood by decision-makers and the general public.

4. This task, which is the main focus of the project, is to develop recommendations on how best to successfully integrate performance measures with the state DOT strategic/business planning process to achieve overall agency mission and goals. Identify factors that impede the effective use of performance measures, and strategies to overcome these factors. Develop a generalized framework that addresses the relationship between agency mission, strategic planning and performance measurement.

5. Deliver an interim report that summarizes the results of Tasks 1-4.

6. Prepare and deliver a concise, practical Guidebook aimed at CEOs that uses the results of all previous tasks to provide clear guidance on best practices for incorporating the use of performance measures into management practices and strategic/business planning.

7. Distribute the draft Guidebook to the appropriate staff in two or more state DOTs for review. Revise and refine the Guidebook accordingly based on the feedback from the DOTs.

8. Submit a final report that documents the entire research effort and includes the Task 5 Guidebook as a stand-alone document.

Status: Completed

Product availability: The final report has been published by AASHTO and is available from that organization on request by contacting Erin Grady at (202) 624-8182 or by e-mail at egrady@aashto.org. The report is also available on the AASHTO website at https://downloads.transportation.org/Quality-CEOHandbook.pdf.

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