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Public service productivity: how to capture outputs?

Aki Jääskeläinen (Department of Industrial Management, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)
Antti Lönnqvist (Department of Business Information Management and Logistics, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 31 May 2011



This paper aims to investigate the micro‐level (managerial) measurement of service productivity in the context of public services, in particular, the role of different output elements.


Current knowledge on the issue is summarised based on the existing literature on service productivity and public sector performance. Measurement challenges and potential solutions are studied in four different services of the city of Helsinki, Finland.


The case study demonstrates that complex service outputs can be divided into components (both tangible and intangible) that can be utilised in designing more sophisticated productivity measures. The findings add to the existing understanding about issues related to public service output definition.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides knowledge to support the application of a disaggregated approach to service productivity measurement. However, more research is needed in order to fully utilise this approach in practice.

Practical implications

The findings of the study may help managers identify service output components in public/social services. This can be used as a starting point for developing novel productivity measures.


A key challenge in examining service productivity relates to the intangible nature of services; it is especially difficult to define the actual outputs produced. The challenges seem to be most severe in the public sector due to its specific characteristics. Many of the existing studies examine the issue at macro level. In large multi‐service organisations there is a managerial need to gather micro‐level information on productivity. This paper demonstrates how a disaggregated approach presented in the earlier literature can be operationalised. The approach yields a detailed understanding of different output components, which is a necessary step in designing relevant productivity measures for operative‐level management.



Jääskeläinen, A. and Lönnqvist, A. (2011), "Public service productivity: how to capture outputs?", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 289-302.



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