Case Study – KCStat: Customer-focused Performance Measurement

Overview

  • Full-time KCStat staff: 3
  • Launched: December 2011
  • Leadership structure: joint effort of Mayor and City Manager’s Offices

Expanding Existing Efforts

In 2007, Kansas City, Missouri launched its 311 line to connect citizens to municipal services. As calls began rolling in, staff in the City Manager’s Office reviewed the call data and identified the most frequent issues. The performance measurement effort gained steam when City Manager, Troy Schulte, a former budget officer who understood the necessity of doing more with less, made it a big priority to push improvements in specific city services based on the call data.

Four years later, when Mayor Sly James, who ran on a campaign platform of creating a stat program, took office, KCStat was launched. The defining moment came in December 2011, when the first open performance meeting was held. Using the 311 data, the meetings focused on the areas that the city received the most public complaints about: street maintenance, water line maintenance, water billing/customer service, code enforcement, and animal control.

Cross Collaboration

The Mayor’s Office and the City Manager’s Office continue to work together and allow the program to evolve as the City’s use of data improves. In 2013, KCStat began monitoring progress toward the City Council’s strategic priorities, which were incorporated into Kansas City’s Five-Year Citywide Business Plan. Since 2014, KCStat has continued to track these goals and objectives in the six areas of: neighborhoods and healthy communities, finance and governance, infrastructure and transportation, economic development, public safety, and customer service.

Since the site launch, KCStat meets monthly to address one of the six areas. Both the Mayor and City Manager attend the monthly meetings.

Engage Citizens and Measure Progress

Citizens are encouraged to attend in person or stream the meetings online in real-time. Past meetings are also available online for on-demand rebroadcast.

Kate Bender, KCStat Deputy Performance Officer, says that civic engagement varies by the meeting topic. The city’s bike and pedestrian community is an active participant in the KCStat process, often using social media to ask questions during and after meetings.

Another example of civic engagement took place when the city was reviewing budget cuts. Through the KCStat meeting materials, it was revealed that the new budget proposal called for the elimination of five inspectors from the City’s code enforcement division, which fights blight.

Stakeholders were able to review the concrete data and testify during City budget deliberations, citing statistics from KCStat. Their use of statistics, combined with their advocacy, positioned the group as a credible voice, and the budget was eventually altered to preserve the five positions. KCStat continues to focus on linking important data with stakeholders, to allow citizens to play an active role in the future of their city.

Guiding Principles

KCStat credits their success to ongoing executive leadership and an environment of collaboration. Kate Bender says that instead of driving accountability through “gotcha” sessions, her team focuses on building trust and finding points of connection between departments, staff, and community members. A collaborative approach, that doesn’t put people on the spot in meetings, has enabled the program to make cross-disciplinary improvements.

While some executives might be cautious of setting a bar too high and failing, Kansas City doesn’t shy away from ambitious goals. City leadership is committed to transparency of both goals and progress. In some cases, that means that a City webpage may show that a goal is not being met.

While this could be a deterrent to some governments, Kansas City understands the value to their citizens and government employees in sharing accurate data. Narratives help to “soften the edges” of targets that are not being met, by explaining what is being done to meet these goals and how the city measures up against its peers.

As a final piece of advice, Kate Bender emphasizes the importance of meeting regularity, saying “we can’t afford to miss the meetings.” In their city, the meeting schedule is made public a year in advance and meetings are rarely cancelled.

Accolades

  • Recognized as part of the 2015 Bright Ideas program by The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • Results for America added Mayor Sly James to its Moneyball for Government All-Star Team