Transportation agencies are increasingly using performance measurement to solve complex management challenges. As applications of performance measurement have increased among state departments of transportation (DOTs), senior managers and technical staff have increased their interest in learning from the performance of their peer agencies that share similar goals and objectives. Comparative performance measurement offers a way to share DOT performance data and knowledge about best practices among agencies, and in turn to enhance managers' ability to judge their own agencies' effectiveness in program and system management. Identifying "best-in-class" practices and "lessons learned" facilitates managers' efforts to learn from experience.
The NCHRP 20-24(37) project series was requested by state DOT CEOs, who recognize that comparative performance measurement is a tool with potential to help improve their organizations. The initial development of the series explored the concept, opportunities, and obstacles for comparative performance measurement through discussions in a series of regional workshops held in summer 2004 that brought together representatives of DOTs from across the country and in interviews with senior DOT staff in selected states . A subsequent test of actual comparative measurement engaged seven volunteer states and served as the prototype for the project series.
The approach that emerged from the workshops, interviews and prototype testing relies on groups of volunteer state DOTs working together to establish meaningful performance measures and then sharing data to enable an individual agency to compare its own performance to the range of experience represented in the data set. Analysis of the data set is typically undertaken to identify typical- and best-performance experience without identifying the specific performance experience of any particular agency. Guiding principles for the program include a strong emphasis on overall integrity of comparisons, reliance on existing data, and avoidance of additional bureaucracy. The agency's final report describing the activities that led to the NCHRP 20-24(37) series has been published by AASHTO and is available on the website of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Quality. <http://quality.transportation.org/sites/quality/docs/MeasuringPerformance.pdf>
Each of the projects in the NCHRP 20-24(37) series is selected to address a single important aspect of performance or to provide the framework for a consistent approach to state DOT's measurement and reporting of performance. NCHRP works with the AASHTO Standing Committee on Performance to ensure that performance measurement is an informative and effective management tool for DOT officials, transportation system users, and the public.