This paper analyses the implementation of the ‘dual system’ in Dutch municipalities which was part of a package of New Public Management-reforms. This system was stimulated by Dutch central government and called for more accountability for performance of municipal managers and the board of mayor and aldermen, as well as for the use of more output and outcome information. Interviews of participants on four different hierarchical levels in 12 municipalities show that the practices of output management at different hierarchical levels are only loosely coupled to each other (‘vertical loose coupling’). We also found some degree of ‘horizontal loose coupling’ at each hierarchical level between result orientation, the development of output indicators and the use of output information for performance evaluation. The paper analyses the reasons why municipalities encounter difficulties in designing a comprehensive and coherent performance management system.