Performance indicator

DEFINITION 1: Performance indicator refers to the means by which an objective can be judged to have been achieved or not achieved. Indicators are therefore tied to goals and objectives and serve simply as ‘yardsticks’ by which to measure the degree of success in goal achievement. Performance indicators are quantitative tools and are usually expressed as a rate, ratio or percentage.

SOURCE: Key Performance Indicators for New Zealand’s Mental Health Services .The New Zealand Ministry of Health, New Zealand, 2004.



DEFINITION 2: Performance indicators for VET are aimed at informing whether a policy or programme does what it is intended to do and whether it does it well. […] Inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes are the building blocks for performance indicators.
COMMENT: Performance indicators may be used at three levels within the VET subsystem;

- At the policy level, indicators are used for monitoring how effectively and efficiently public resources are used to meet VET providers, social partners and learners’’ needs.
- At the service management level, indicators give feedback on local programme strategy.
- At the provider level, indicators are used to judge the degree to which programmes are meeting the needs of both learners and the labour market.

SOURCE: Adapted from Key Performance Indicator Framework for New Zealand Mental Health and Addiction Services. Phase II: Live Test of the Framework Benchmarking Participation Manual PART 2 Basic concepts to guide indicator development Desirable attributes of performance measurement systems, 2009.



DEFINITION 3: A particular characteristic or dimension used to measure intended changes defined by an organizational unit’s results framework. Performance indicators are used to observe progress and to measure actual results compared to expected results. They serve to answer “how” or “whether” a unit is progressing towards its objectives, rather than “why” or “why not” such progress is being made. Performance indicators are usually expressed in quantifiable terms, and should be objective and measurable (e.g., numeric values, percentages, scores, and indices).

SOURCE: Handbook on Monitoring and Evaluating for Results. United Nations Development Programme, Evaluation Office, NY, 2002.


DEFINITION 4: Indicators are signposts of change along the path to development.They describe the way to track intended results and are critical for monitoring and evaluation. Good performance indicators are a critical part of the results framework. In particular, indicators can help to:

  • Inform decision making for ongoing programme or project management
  • Measure progress and achievements, as understood by the different stakeholders
  • Clarify consistency between activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts
  • Ensure legitimacy and accountability to all stakeholders by demonstrating progress
  • Assess project and staff performance

SOURCE: UNDP(2009). Handbook on planning, monitoring and evaluating for development results, United Nations, USA.


RELATED TERMS: educational indicator, input indicator, outcome indicator, output indicator, proxy indicator, quality indicator, statistical indicatorsupplementary indicator

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