Reporting on outcomes: Setting performance expectations and telling performance stories

This paper by John Mayne provides a practical guide to telling performance stories and setting expectations about what level of performance was expected.

This resource and the following information was contributed by Jo Hall.

Authors and their affiliation

Mayne, John

Key features

Particularly useful for ‘telling performance stories’.

A good performance story covers the following elements:

  • What is the context?
  • What was expected to be accomplished at what cost?
  • What was accomplished in light of these expectations?
  • What was learned and what will be done next?
  • What was done to assure quality data?

The main story line of a performance story is how well has the program performed in relation to what was expected and what will now be done differently to better ensure future performance. 

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

This resource page is an output of the Global Partnership for Better Monitoring - a co-creation and research project supported by UNICEF. BetterEvaluation is working with UNICEF to try and improve our collective understanding and practice of the monitoring function. The initiative focuses on trying to elevate the monitoring function to make it more visible and to provide information about how to plan, conduct and use monitoring activities well. You can read more about this initiative on the Monitoring thematic page.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

A common pitfall is reporting indicators, particularly quantitative indicators, without context, which renders them meaningless. I have frequently used ‘telling the performance story’ in practice and in training sessions, to at least incorporate a sense of judgement or significance in the narrative of a report. Was constructing 47 wells (for example) a significant achievement in the context or compared to expectations?

I also like the fact that John includes ‘at what cost’, as this is also often missing from the considerations about how worthwhile the achievements were.


Maynard, J. (2004). Reporting on outcomes: Setting performance expectations and telling performance stories. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 19(1), 31-60. Retrieved from:

'Reporting on outcomes: Setting performance expectations and telling performance stories' is referenced in: