Strengthen Your Performance Program in 3 Steps

June 24, 2016 12:00 pm PST | Effective Governing

Editor’s Note: Jessica Carsten recently spoke on a panel at the Governing Summit on Performance and Innovation in Louisville, Ky. She was joined by Andrew Kleine, Budget Director for the City of Baltimore, Julie Steenson, Deputy Performance Officer of Kansas City, Mo., and moderator Julia Burrows, Director of e.Republic’s Washington, D.C.-based Governing Institute. Jessica offers three steps for governments to take to strengthen their performance programs.

1. Take a “data first” approach to setting goals.

Start with the data and then set goals. Setting goals without consulting the data first is like trying to give driving directions without knowing start or end points; without data, goals are vague and unhelpful because they lack context.

One county government publicly set a goal to improve the third grade reading level, but later discovered that they didn’t have jurisdiction over education programs and could in no way directly impact this goal through schools. They didn’t have the data and couldn’t track the goal.

2. Roll out your program in phases.

Performance programs take years to fully mature. The most successful programs are strategic and phase their roll out. Both Baltimore and Kansas City found success because they prioritized internal value first and developed a strategic plan.

Julie Steenson explained that Kansas City’s five-year plan is shared with city departments and aligns with the city’s existing business objectives. This plan enables department staff to consistently track progress against their goals at regular intervals.

3. Don’t let your performance fall victim to politics.

Of the dozens of performance programs that Socrata has supported across the country, most leaders — regardless of political affiliation — are committed to the same broad categories of goals, including: public health, public safety, economic development, and education. It’s okay for goal language used by an elected official to change.

Andrew Kleine also impressed the importance of performance-based budgeting to sustain programs through changes in leadership. Programs that take a data first approach have a stronger foundation; and often the actual tracked metrics won’t shift drastically from one administration to the next.

Lastly, lean process improvement is a very effective form of performance management carried out by frontline staff. Performance programs that embrace these practices at every level have both a top down and bottom up approach, increasing resiliency.

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