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Playing the game of Outcomes-Based Performance Management. Is gamesmanship inevitable? Evidence from theory and practice

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Toby Lowe, Professor Rob WilsonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


This article presents the case for the need for a re-think in the prevailing orthodoxy of measurement approaches in the governance and management of public services. The paper explores the simplification of complex reality that Outcomes Based Performance Management (OBPM) requires in order to function, and the consequences of such simplification. It examines the evidence for and against the effectiveness of OBPM, and argues that both sets of evidence can be brought into a single explanatory story by understanding the theory of OBPM. The simplification required to measure and attribute ‘outcomes’ turns the organisation and delivery of social interventions into a game, the rules of which promote gamesmanship, distorting the behaviour of organisations, managers and practitioners who undertake it.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lowe T, Wilson R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Policy and Administration

Year: 2017

Volume: 51

Issue: 7

Pages: 981-1001

Online publication date: 27/12/2015

Acceptance date: 25/10/2015

Date deposited: 06/11/2015

ISSN (print): 0144-5596

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9515

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/spol.12205


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