5 Performance Management Lessons Learned from KCStat

March 9, 2016 11:15 am PST | Effective Governing

More government agencies are not only tracking their performance, but setting goals publicly and sharing their progress and challenges openly with the public. Kansas City, Mo., has been a leader in efforts to build open performance management into the fabric of their city. KCStat, a data-driven, publicly accessible performance program focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of city services, was launched under Mayor James. Kate Bender, the Deputy Performance Officer at Kansas City, has been there to guide the program from the start and a few weeks ago joined me for a webinar where she shared best practices discovered along the way as KCStat evolved into the nation-leading program it is today. Here are five of the lessons learned from KCStat that can help bolster open data performance management results: 

Create the Right Team with a Purpose

When the KCStat team was initially formed, Kate Bender says that a lengthy period of research was conducted to ensure it was set up for success. They found that having a clear purpose, dedicated staff, predictable and regular meetings, a strong follow-up process, and a collaborative model were all imperative to build a program that would be sustainable and successful.

They also found that it was possible to get started successfully without a huge team by focusing closely on bringing the right people into the mix. A typical meeting is held with someone to lead the effort, the person charged with running the agency being analyzed, legal counsel, IT, and subject matter experts.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 5.24.07 PM
It’s easy to monitor Kansas City’s performance on KCStat.

Develop a Framework

As the city’s use of data has evolved, so has KCStat. Over time, the city used the KCStat process to create and adopt a five year citywide business plan consisting of the city’s highest strategic priorities and goals. After the creation of the plan, ongoing KCStat meetings now ensure that the plan is a living document, with performance targets set to achieving the goals of the plan, and the plan itself evolving over time as more data and information comes to light through the sessions. Kate Bender notes that not having to define an agenda from scratch for each meeting has made KCStat much more relevant for the department leaders and staff. Department staff members pay closer attention to the goals and objectives because they are asked to speak to their strategies and progress at regular intervals.

Prioritize the Data

When Kansas City first began their performance management program, they started with budgetary information and 311 data. While that transactional data is still tremendously important to tracking city outcomes, they have recently begun incorporating citizen surveys into their process so that they can better align their performance framework with the needs of city residents. This innovative approach earned them the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Bright Ideas award. By using the resident survey data in KCStat, they are not only finding areas where they need to re-prioritize resident concerns, but also testing their thesis that they can improve their resident’s view of the work of government over time by focusing on the issues that matter most to them.

Set Goals

Goal setting can be a difficult process for many governments. Goals need to be clearly defined to track measurable impacts, but too often they can be vague, qualitative, impossible to measure, or lack a timeframe within which to assess progress. KCStat is a model for setting well-defined, measurable goals that matter to city residents. In addition to the goals, they are providing the context that helps to tell the story of the goals they measure, their progress over time, and the strategies in place to achieve those goals.

In addition, Kate also discussed other tools at their disposal, such as their employee survey, which they soon realized was necessary to understand employee engagement and concerns as well. For example, if residents are concerned that trash pickup is not happening regularly, they may end up discovering that they have too many open positions in the department or some other factor that is causing interruptions. Employee engagement survey data can help to better seek out the root causes of this kind of issue.

Keep Citizens Engaged

Kansas City is also doing what they can to make KCStat as accessible to residents as possible. They livestream KCStat meetings on the web, publish their meeting calendar publicly, and broadcast meetings on the local government television station. More recently, they started incorporating social media into their meetings, not only to live broadcast meeting activities, but to open the floor to residents who send in their questions using Twitter, picking up and answering resident concerns in real-time. In addition, the Kansas City communications team works with KCStat to identify and push out data for broader communications plans such as making residents aware of building demolitions plans in a specific neighborhood, further extending the reach and impact of their performance program.

Want to learn more? Check out our new Open Data Performance Guide that curates the best advice from even more cities, counties, and states running successful measurement programs, or watch the webinar with Kate Bender, Deputy Performance Officer at Kansas City.

Watch the webinar



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