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Performance management in Canadian public organizations: findings of a multi-case study


  • Swee Chua Goh
  • Catherine Elliott
  • Greg Richards


Purpose - – Performance management (PM) is now clearly a well-established practice in public sector organizations. However, increasingly scholars have been questioning its efficacy in improving organizational performance. Research has shown that the presumed benefits remain questionable and that there are many barriers, challenges and problems in implementing PM. The purpose of this paper is to report and discuss the findings of a multi-case study that examines in more depth how five Canadian public sector organizations are implementing PM. Design/methodology/approach - – A qualitative multi-case study approach was used in this study. Structured interviews were carried out in each public sector organization and the interview data were analyzed using NVivo8. Individual case profiles were also written. A cross-case analysis was carried out using data from these five cases. Findings - – The cross-case analysis of the data focussed on the major themes emerging from the data with respect to challenges and barriers, success factors, context and implications for practice for PM in public sector organizations. Three contextual factors are identified and discussed in explaining some of the findings. Conclusions are drawn for making PM more effective in achieving performance improvement in public sector organizations and future directions for research. Research limitations/implications - – The research findings and implications for practice are based on five Canadian public sector organizations so may limit its generalizability to public sector organizations in other countries. Practical implications - – Some practical implications are discussed with respect to implementing PM more successfully in public sector organizations. This included the better integration of PM to corporate strategy, leadership in developing a positive PM culture and employee buy-in and commitment to the process. Originality/value - – This qualitative multi-case study of PM in Canadian public sector organizations has not previously been done. This approach allows for a more close-up look at PM in public sector organizations especially how it is implemented and the experiences of organizational members. The paper also presents new insights on context as an important variable in explaining the findings from the cross-case analysis and points to future new directions for research and in developing a contingency theory approach to PM.

Suggested Citation

  • Swee Chua Goh & Catherine Elliott & Greg Richards, 2015. "Performance management in Canadian public organizations: findings of a multi-case study," International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 64(2), pages 157-174, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:ijppmp:v:64:y:2015:i:2:p:157-174

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