Open Performance Meetings

Once you have decided to be a more data-driven organization, have architected your framework, and have identified your initial datasets, you’re ready to prepare for open performance meetings. There are many ways to structure your meetings. It’s up to your team to determine the most useful approach.

Meeting frequency varies by government. The size of a government, the diversity of data being measured, and executive leadership are all factors to consider when deciding how often to hold meetings.

One approach is to empower the analyst, working within the framework put in place by an executive, to take the lead on organizing meetings. At these meetings, department leadership, the principal, and a panel of stakeholders will participate in a collaborative discussion of the data. This discussion is framed by data and visualizations prepared by the analyst and is led either by the principal or the performance lead. Here’s how one jurisdiction might prepare for this method.

“We launched the Performance Seattle platform. Now anyone in the public, or anyone online can go to our city website and see very entailed information about how crime is trending, about how the performance of government utilities is trending. And they can also get information that puts that information in context so that they understand what the mayor and the city are trying to do to improve those metrics.”

Michael MattmillerChief Technology Officer, City of Seattle, WA

Before the Meeting

Performance staff work together to determine priority meeting areas. Input from the department is also important when determining this starting point. An analyst may use indicator data to craft a meeting memo.

An analyst may prepare materials to guide the focus of the meeting. It’s important for an analyst to consider not only the areas addressed in the strategic framework, but also outside factors such as legislative cycles, current events, and pressing administrative issues.

It’s important for performance staff to:

  • Get to Know the Team — especially the department contact, at each contributing department

    Throughout the data collection phase, it’s helpful for the analyst to build strong working relationships with every department involved in the program.

    There should be one point of contact in the department that has direct access to the department head, is willing to roll up their sleeves, and understands the data. This person is typically a chief data officer or a chief performance officer.

  • Understand the Department

    An analyst should have a working knowledge of a department’s:

    • Strengths and weaknesses
    • Current priorities (policy and legislative)
    • Current budget
    • High-level, internal benchmarks and key calendar events

    The Open Performance tool provides access to data visualization tools. You can easily create charts, graphs, maps, and other visualizations of the data.

    Alternatively, meeting agendas can be led by departments, instead of an executive office. In this approach, a department has the ability to discuss the issues that are the most relevant with the larger performance team.

“Our OutcomeStat is based on our mayoral priorities: better schools, safer streets, cleaner city, healthier city and growing economy, and strong neighborhoods. She wants to grow the city by 10,000 families in 10 years and so we picked very specific metrics we felt that would improve our current residents’ lives and encourage people to want to move into the city.”

Heather HudsonChief Data Officer, City of Baltimore, MD

Meeting Memo Example

Determining who gets the memo before the initial Open Performance meeting depends on the goals of your program and your desired meeting format.

In some models, the memo is distributed to the principal and the panel, but not to the department leads. At the beginning of the meeting, department staff have an opportunity to open the discussion with good news and updates. Presentations are discouraged and the memo serves as the agenda for the discussion. This approach may be advantageous because it encourages an authentic conversation with department staff, while discouraging rehearsed presentations.

If the department knows what will be covered in the session, there is a possibility that it will have a diminishing effect on the productive conversation. In this model, it’s still important for the department to have a deep understanding of the data and a connection to the goal or framework, while being prepared to take part in an unscripted conversation. Potential benefits include:

  • Strengthened departmental engagement — department heads create internal stats and bring subject matter experts to the meetings, in preparation for any topics that may come up
  • Increased attention to data — when departments are prepared “blind,” data may receive more attention, in turn producing better analysis and additional departmental review

Consider these factors when deciding who will receive advanced meeting memos.

Open Performance Meeting Players

Principal: The principal should always attend the first session to set the tone. Some cities and counties schedule meetings in a way that allows the principal to attend every session. The principal’s attendance affirms the importance of the process and all of its parts: the participants, the data, and the dialogue.

Chief of Staff: The chief of staff or the operational supervisor of the department should always attend. It’s important that the department leader sees his or her supervisor at the table. This emphasizes the importance of the process and holds participants accountable.

Department Budget Analyst: The presence of this person allows for continuity between the performance management process and the budget process. This person adds enormous value. The budget analyst can also provide background on how decisions around budget were made, what priorities were protected through the budget process in the past, and how decisions around the current budget are being developed.

Legal Counsel: The principal’s or an independent counsel helps to expedite conversations where legal barriers or present, or perceived to be present. In addition to offering legal advice, this person may be able to recommend alternative solutions to issues.

Department Head and Key Staff: Depending on the topic of a meeting, it’s possible that 10 or more department staff members may attend to take part in these important conversations.

Frontline Departmental Staff: When staff members are able to observe the value of the data collected through their day-to-day work. It’s also helpful to invite staff from other departments that may have cross-over knowledge or collaborative solutions.

Stakeholders and General Public: Depending on the topics to be discussed, it can be helpful to invite stakeholder representatives.

Customize Your Approach

Decide how long your meeting will last and create a routine. Some governments find that productivity declines in a meeting lasting more than 90 minutes.
Decide who will lead your meetings. Every meeting should have a leader with authority to make decisions and keep the agenda moving.
Who will operate the presentation of data and visualizations? Effective meetings are driven by data.
Decide who will record your progress. A data analyst may make a good candidate for this function. After the meeting, who will prepare follow up materials with clear timeframes for outcomes and distribute?
Identify who will operate your meeting visuals. It’s helpful to contextualize any questions concerning the data, drive the data visualizations, and have access to the data for in-meeting analytics.
Decide if your meetings will be made public, streamed online, or archived.