Introduction: why information is not always used Poorly performing organisations probably do so for a reason. The logic behind many initiatives to improve the performance of public organisations has been to enhance the quality and availability of information about their performance, and the data-use skills within them. Knowledge about where performance fails is seen as a key factor for getting organisations back on track. By making the organisation and its environment more transparent, more known, it is argued, organisations can find new ways to reinvent themselves. Such an approach is built on a number of assumptions. One is that this information unambiguously contributes to the identification of trouble spots and to the solution of these problems. Information, in such an approach, is seen as something that reduces uncertainty. This assumption is especially strong in the theory of evidence-based management, where it is assumed that the ‘current best evidence’ or the ‘best available evidence’ will be used in a ‘conscientious, explicit and judicious’ way (Nutley and Webb 2000; Stewart 2002), and that the information will actually lead to answers. Unfortunately, evidence-based management and policy has difficulties dealing with ‘wicked’ problems, and often fails to see that more (and better) information does not necessarily reduce uncertainty (Learmonth and Harding 2006). Indeed, more information may do little to improve our understanding of social problems (Tsoukas 1997). A second assumption is that the mere existence of information will lead to its use by decision-makers. This assumption reflects an instrumental approach to information as neutral.

dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511762000.004, hdl.handle.net/1765/85965
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Van de Walle, S.G.J, & van Van Dooren, B. (2010). How is information used to improve performance in the public sector? Exploring the dynamics of performance information. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511762000.004