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Learning from Performance Feedback: Performance Information, Aspiration Levels, and Managerial Priorities

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While performance management is increasingly widespread, we still know little about how performance information generates learning and affects organizational responses. Recent work on performance information and learning in private business organizations, however, suggests that perceived negative performance triggers important strategic responses related to problem identification, search, and change. In turn, how performance is perceived depends on whether performance falls short of aspiration levels that are based on an organization’s historical performance and the performance of peer organizations. This article adapts this model to a public sector context and tests one implication of the model, namely that public managers will increase their prioritization of goals that are currently performing below aspirations. This is a central question to the study of public organizations pursuing multiple and democratically contested goals. Empirical findings based on administrative performance data and a survey of Danish school principals support this prediction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration
Pages (from-to)142-160
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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