Purpose – The paper aims to explore the implementation of performance-oriented civil service reforms (CSRs) in Kenya, noting hurdles and opportunities for improvement and to suggest a robust model to imbed a performance-oriented reforms culture. Design/methodology/approach – The article is informed by a review of the literature on civil service reforms and applications of performance measurements in civil service reforms in Africa in general and specifically in Kenya. Current performance-oriented reforms/practices and challenges are documented, obstacles/gaps to effective implementation identified, opportunities for improvement isolated and a robust model to inculcate a performance-oriented culture suggested for application. Findings – While noticeable progress has been made in implementation of CSRs in Kenya, there evidently remain obstacles in the implementation of performance-oriented civil service reforms. Civil service reforms ought to revolve around performance measurements; rewarding good performance and realigning resources to support desired changes, while simultaneously stimulating competition amongst public entities so as to support superior public service delivery. Originality/value – The paper provides a succinct account of the state of civil service reforms in Kenya and particularly the drive towards performance-oriented reforms. It suggests a holistic approach to engraining a performance-oriented culture.