Tag Archives: performance measures

Data is Top of Mind at ICMA 2013 Conference in Boston

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The ICMA Annual Conference was held in Boston this week.  Everywhere I turned someone was talking about data.  Seems the hot trend of data and data analytics is becoming top of mind for municipal leaders. During Monday’s keynote address, the NY Times best-selling author Daniel Pink inspired the audience by helping us realize we are all in sales!  WHAT! How can this be?   Municipal managers aren’t sales people.   However, in his research, Daniel asks people if their job involves, “convincing or persuading people to give up something of value in exchange for something you offer.”  His research indicates that 41% of all people say yes.   At 8:30 on Monday morning the packed room of 3,000 managers were all stunned to realize they were in sales.  As municipal managers, they knew an important element of their job is persuading, convincing and influencing department managers, employees, elected officials, business owners and citizens!    But no one in the room ever thought their job involved selling. So where does data fit into this discussion?  …

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Where is the Public Services Tipping Point?

Tipping Point

In a recent Governing.com article, The Public Safety Tipping Point: When Saving Money Loses, Mark Funkhouser raises the topic of the Public Safety Tipping Point.  His article revolves around a successful lifeguard rescue, despite a cutback in funds for lifeguards.  How will we know when we have gone too far cutting the public services provided by local governments? Most local governments have made some cuts to their services.  I mean cuts to the services offered, not just cuts to the cost of providing those service.  A survey conducted by Revelstone in 2012 indicated that only 10% of local municipalities had not cut services over the preceding five years.  The full survey report is available online here. While it is clear that there is a public outcry for government to be more affordable, it is not clear that the public realizes that this is achieved by reducing public services. Yet we do not seem to be faced with an uprising on the part of the public because of inadequate services.  Let’s consider several possible…

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Ready, Fire, Aim

There is an old story of a man shooting a gun. Over and over, he keeps firing but missing his target each time.  If you happen to notice him firing, you would assume that he was an expert marksman, never stopping and just firing away.  However, if you saw his target, you would see that nothing was hitting the target.  When his friend stops him to ask, “Why don’t you slow down and take aim before firing?” his reply, “No, I’m too busy firing and I don’t have time to aim.” This story is an old cliché, but one that is played out in municipal departments every day.  Workers are busy working, however, there is often no aiming going on and no targets or goals are being established.  If you ask your managers and workers to measure their progress or activity, the answer is always the same, “We are too busy delivering services for that.”  Yup, firing away and missing the target! However, if your workers started measuring their activities,…

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The Five Myths of Performance Management and Benchmarking Myth #5 – I don’t know where to begin

Performance management is not a new topic in municipal governments, yet its use is often limited to only the biggest of cities.  Through our research and working with municipalities of all sizes, we have identified The Five Myths of Performance Management that have plagued municipal leaders for decades.  At Revelstone, we are determined to help debunk these myths and demonstrate how you can start managing better with quantifiable metrics, depend less on anecdotal stories and help make data-driven decisions in your jurisdiction quickly, easily and cost effectively. Myth #5— I don’t know where to begin If you have read past blog posts here, you probably know that I spend a great deal of my time speaking with municipal leaders talking about performance management.  “I don’t know where to begin,” is probably the one phrase I hear most often, giving rise to this myth.  What I find interesting is that most municipal managers can extol the benefits of performance management: Communicating goals clearly both to the public and within the organization…

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What if they didn’t keep score at the Superbowl?

Can you imagine the Superbowl if they didn’t keep score?  What if the refs said, “Sorry, we’re too busy, we don’t have time to track the score”?  Would anyone find this acceptable?  How would we know who won the game?  How could you measure your success if the score wasn’t counted?  Let me ask you an important question about your jurisdiction—can you tell if you are delivering services well and making good decisions if you aren’t measuring the important activities and outcomes?  How often do you hear the same excuse, “Sorry, we don’t have time” from your workers when asked to measure or count performance? Someone famously said, “Football is a game of inches.”  Everything in football is measured and counted and we sports junkies track each and every stat.  The newspapers are filled with wonderful statistical analysis to slice and dice the entire game from quarterback passing yards, number of first downs, totally yards rushed, etc.  For fun, let’s imagine the Superbowl were managed the way most local government…

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“It’s easy to do nothing.”

I spend a great deal of my time speaking with leaders of local governments about improving performance of municipal operations.  This week, I was speaking with a business administrator of a small city and he acknowledged that it’s not uncommon for a town to be delivering services that could be improved or made more efficient.  What he said next, surprised me, as if exposing a dirty little secret of managers, “It’s easy to do nothing and just let it be, and that has been the strategy of many towns for the past 15 years.” Today, it’s a completely different story.  With revenue shortages and little ability to raise taxes to cover budget shortfalls, administrators must find new ways to become efficient or risk having to stop delivering a service.   I just learned of one New Jersey town that reduced garbage pickup to once a week.  As you might imagine, the residents are not happy and very concerned about the smells that will likely come, when the weather gets warm this…

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Is there a perfect measure?

Bob Behn, a cut-to-the-chase guy, whose work I have followed because of his longstanding efforts (and pithy comments) in promoting performance leadership, cautions not to get wrapped up in perfecting your measures.  Behn is known for promoting the Citi-Stat review model as a mechanism to improve performance in government. But as important as managing with data is, I believe the most important thing is to start measuring.  In the closing of Behn’s recent management report, focused on distortions that may be created by measures, http://www.hks.harvard.edu/thebehnreport/All%20Issues/August2011.pdf, Behn writes that there are no perfect measures.  He argues the best approach is to start with a few good measures, not perfect ones.  Be aware of their flaws. Expect your indicators to be criticized and improved while your organization learns about improving performance. I spend a great deal of my time thinking, developing and researching measures for inclusion in the Revelstone Compass system.  I’m trying to identify and develop measures that would be most relevant for small to moderate size municipalities, and to define…

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“What gets measured, gets done.”

Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets done.”  If you don’t measure results, you can’t tell success from failure, and if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage or improve it.  What eludes most local governments is how to create performance management systems that align measures with what they are trying to accomplish: How well are we doing? Are we meeting our goals? Are our citizens and stakeholders satisfied? What improvements or changes are necessary? So how do you get started?  It doesn’t have to be a daunting task!  Successful performance management systems adhere to the following guiding principles: Appoint a champion.  Leadership is critical in designing and deploying effective performance management systems. Identify the key activities and outcomes to measure.  Revelstone’s Compass makes it simple by providing a library of more than 500 key metrics to choose from. Involve the people who are responsible for the work to be measured and give them a sense of ownership. Establish accountability for results that is clearly assigned and well-understood. Establish…

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Lessons from Baggage Claim – What NOT to Measure

I recently took a business trip to the west coast where I had with me a small briefcase and my carry-on bag which would easily fit in the overhead compartment of the airplane.   I was not traveling on my usual airline, so I didn’t have any special boarding privileges.  However, since I was seated in a forward row, my section was the last to board. By the time my section began to board, the gate agents claimed that there was no space left in the overhead bins and I would have to check my bag, picking it up later in baggage claim.  Oh, what fun.  I was skeptical, but complied, nonetheless. I was somewhat surprised and slightly miffed when I boarded the aircraft to discover that there was plenty of room overhead.  Too late—the doors were closing.  Why would they have told me otherwise?  “Well,” I thought, “I’ll never let that happen again.” On the next leg of my trip I was in the same predicament (and traveling on the…

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The 26 Mile Goal

On Sunday I completed a life-long goal and ran the New York City Marathon.  Since I was 12, I’ve always wanted to run the NYC Marathon.  When I was younger I made all kinds of excuses about not having enough time to train, however, secretly, I just couldn’t imagine that I could actually run 26 miles.  It just seemed like an unachievable goal. A few years ago, with a milestone birthday, I was struck with a simple idea—run half a marathon.  It was sheer genius!  I convinced myself that if I could run a half marathon, then I could think about trying to run a full marathon. What I later realized was that I had set a realistic goal for myself.  Not so much intentionally, but what I had done was set a long-term goal, something almost unconceivable to accomplish and then set smaller goals that were achievable to measure my progress.  First I learned to run 5 miles, then 10 miles, then half a marathon.  After a year of…

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Does the Act of Measuring Itself Produce Results?

Does the act of measuring performance drive results, or must we wait until the data has been analyzed and decisions are made in order to realize improvement in our organizations?  I recently answered this question in one of my own organizations and was quite surprised by the results. One of my sales teams had been doing a great job of working deals through the sales pipeline and closing them.  However, our pipeline was weaker than it should be because they were not generating enough qualified leads.  We pleaded, then encouraged, then mandated that our sales people dedicate time each and every day to prospecting activities.  While they agreed in principle, they generally seemed to find other priorities that got in the way.  So, once deals in their pipeline were closed, they found themselves lacking in new deals to work. Eventually, we knew something had to change.  So, we began requiring that they get on a call at 8am each morning and report their previous day’s prospecting results.   We tracked: How…

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Big or Little—How do Municipalities Find Success with Performance Management?

The success of Performance Management has been achieved in some of the largest municipalities and some well-managed counties in the United States, but the transfer of this management technology to small and moderate-sized municipalities has been slow, at best.  Revelstone has resolved the technology issue by providing a practical solution that doesn’t demand a large multi-year project or significant IT costs with Compass—a web-based platform that contains a catalog of precisely defined measures.  Municipalities need only to choose a few of these measures to get started, and can add to them as their sophistication and needs grow.  From our experience talking to town managers and elected officials, the remaining stumbling block is the establishment and acceptance of the value proposition for Performance Management itself. While glowing statements of the general success of Performance Management projects, as well as promotion of the success of a particular model or process by consultants offering that solution, do exist, concrete examples that are undeniable are hard to find in published sources.  This is not…

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