Complexity of Performance Information Use: Experiments with Stakeholders

"Performance Information Use: Experiments on Performance Dimensions, Communication and Data Sources in Education and Solid Waste Recycling” was led by Professor Richard M. WALKER, Dr M. Jin LEE, and Professor Samuel M. Y. HO from City University, Professor Peter HILLS at The University of Hong Kong, Dr Yetta WONG at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor Oliver JAMES at Exeter University, Professor Joshua Ka-ho MOK at Lingnan University, and Dr Alfred Muluan WU at The Education University of Hong Kong. The research reported in the article was funded by the Public Policy Funding Scheme of the Central Policy Unit of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (project number 2014.A1.010.14E)


Governments present information on their performance to a range of stakeholders. Performance data are provided so that governments can be held to account for their actions, and to allow stakeholders to voice their views, be they positive or negative. This approach is referred to as performance information use. Performance information use is complex because of the multidimensional nature of performance, the number of stakeholders that make judgments, and the varying ways that performance information can be measured. To better understand this, two linked experimental studies were conducted.

The first study examined which dimension of performance stakeholders find most important: efficiency or equity. The second study looked at the types of performance data (perceptual or archival) and the source of the data (from inside the organisation or from an external source) to see if it influenced stakeholder assessments.

Each study asked these questions of two groups of stakeholders – experts (or managers) and citizens – in two policy areas: secondary education and solid waste recycling. 554 subjects were recruited from My Citizens Panel ( and completed the online survey.

Major findings

The first study found different preferences for types of performance dimensions from different stakeholders in secondary education, but not solid waste recycling. The second study clearly showed that all stakeholders in education and solid waste recycling had a strong preference for archival and external data. These findings have implications for the Hong Kong government’s performance information use practice:

  • Public service organisations should consider providing targeted and appropriate performance information that suits the needs of stakeholder groups.

  • The effect of providing information about effectiveness depends on its combination with information about efficiency and equity. Providing information about efficiency as well as effectiveness reduced perceived performance in the case of secondary education.

  • Whenever possible, public service organisations should communicate external and archival performance information to stakeholder groups.

Publications and achievements

Walker, R. M., Jin Lee, M., James, O., & Ho, S. M. Y. (2018). Analyzing the Complexity of Performance Information Use: Experiments with Stakeholders to Disaggregate Dimensions of Performance, Data Sources, and Data Types. Public Administration Review. DOI: 10.1111/puar.12920