The City of Carlton, Oregon engaged a team to establish a performance management approach that improves Carlton City government results. Under the new approach, the City would continually focus on its mission and goals and use performance information in management and policy decision-making. A results-oriented focus would permeate the City government’s strategic planning, budgeting, measuring, reporting and management.
The Report looks at five key components of a strong performance management system:
Strategic Planning: A strategic plan integrates the organization’s vision, mission and goals with the strategies used to achieve those goals. Goals and strategies should be clearly linked to meaningful performance measures.
Budgeting: A performance budget articulates the connection between spending and the organization’s priorities, goals and strategies. Performance budgeting activities include: forecasting financial resources; soliciting citizen and stakeholder input; setting funding priorities to support strategic planning strategies; and allocating resources based on priorities.
Measuring: Performance measures should provide a practical and reliable method for continually monitoring and reporting on an organization’s progress toward achieving its goals and objectives. They are a quantifiable expression of the amount, cost, or result of activities indicating how well services are provided. Measurements of effectiveness or efficiency are standard.
Reporting: Performance information should be reported regularly both internally and externally in a manner that is unbiased, clear and accessible to users of the information and the public.
Managing: Managing performance becomes part of a City government’s culture. Strategic Planning, Budgeting, Measuring and Reporting are the tools that make managing for performance possible. Developing a culture of high performance makes it happen.
Strategic Planning: Building on the 2003 Sight Seer plan, create a new, integrated strategic plan using the City’s existing mission and vision to clearly connect goals to strategies and performance measures. In developing its plan, the City should provide multiple opportunities for citizens and other stakeholders to provide input.
Key: Clarify “Goals” vs. “Actions”& Make Progress Toward Goals Measureable
Multiple disconnected planning processes have created a muddled approach to developing strategies and performance measures.
The City has not consistently identified long- and short-term goals. The seven City goals emerging from the 2009 Council work session meet the current best practice definition of a goal. However, the yearly goals referred to in “FY15 Goals and Project Status Report” are actions and projects, not general ends towards which the City may direct its efforts. The partially updated strategic plan, dated 2014, identifying ten “Critical Focus Areas” intermingles City goals with descriptions of desired outcomes and strategies making it difficult to distinguish the goals.
City goals are not aligned with department goals. The budget document includes a mission for each department and fund, and all departments and several funds list goals and objectives. However, the items listed are largely actions that change from year to year, not actual goals or objectives.
The City has not consistently used goals as the basis for developing strategies and performance measures. The Sight Seer process identified a prioritized list of actions without identifying goals. While Council developed strategies relevant to goals during its 2009 planning workshop, the subsequent partially updated strategic plan takes a different approach, grouping goals, strategies and performance measures under focus areas, rather than clearly connecting strategies to specific goals. Many of the items called ‘measures’ in the updated plan are not quantifiable. They are, instead, desired results. Some measures are included under metrics in the updated plan, but those measures do not appear to assess progress in achieving related goals.
While the City continues to lean on the 2003 Sight Seer strategic plan for guidance, few of today’s opinion leaders (26%) have even heard of the plan or its 2009 progeny. And those that are familiar with it, overwhelmingly believe that the Sight Seer should be updated.
Budgeting: Implement a performance based budgeting approach and extend the role of the citizen budget advisory committee to include performance monitoring.
Key: Use Budget to measure progress toward strategic priorities
The current budget, despite its recent recognition for presentation from the Government Finance Officers Association, contains very little performance information besides expenditure levels. The stratifications of funds types and departments are many, yet the ways the City could know how well it is doing in achieving its strategic priorities are few. A budget should provide useful information about the effectiveness of the City’s strategies.
The City budget does not clearly connect spending to priorities, goals and strategies. The actions listed in the budget as the City’s goals for the upcoming fiscal year are not clearly based on a set of pre-established priorities, nor are they connected to actual goals. While the FY15 adopted budget assigns each action to one or more of ten critical focus areas, the actions are not clearly linked to specific goals. Performance information should be used during the budget process to help inform decision-makers in their effort to optimally allocate resources to accomplish the City’s goals.
Measuring: Increase the number and quality of the City’s performance measures including analysis discussing the significance of the information.
Key: Performance measures should be well aligned with goals
The City’s current performance measures are limited and not clearly based on goals. The updated strategic plan includes the headings, ‘measures’ and ‘metrics’, when many of the items listed are not really performance measures.
The measures in the updated strategic plan differ from those in the FY15 adopted budget. While data is provided for measures in the budget, the measures are not comparable to targets or other programs, and most do not measure effectiveness or efficiency.
Without a robust system of performance measurement based on the City’s goals, the City is not able to assess how well it is accomplishing those goals. This inhibits the City’s ability to address performance issues, and effectively determine whether to continue its plans and actions. Relevant measures from the plan should be included in the budget document with performance information. Analysis of performance measures, trends, target attainment, and, eventually, comparability to like jurisdictions, should be included in any presentation of performance measure data.
Reporting: In conjunction with the reconstituted citizen budget and performance advisory committee, create an annual performance report which would become a component of the City’s budget development process.
Key: How is our City government performing?
An interested citizen, public official or city manager needs somewhere to go when attempting to answer this question. While some data, like project status in the FY15 Goals and Status Report can be found, no analysis is provided to allow for interpretation of the small amount of data that is available. Of the six customer service characteristics of staff presented in the recent Opinion Leaders’ Survey, provision of information had the lowest rating with approximately 20% of respondents disagreeing with the statement that City employees make information easily available. While not directly related to performance reporting, the relatively low score in making information easily available is signal that communication of all kinds should be a priority in the next few years. Carlton should work with a reconstituted citizen budget and performance advisory committee to develop an annual performance report in advance of the City’s annual budget development process. At a minimum the report should present multi-year trend information for performance measures accompanied by analysis and suggest performance targets for the upcoming two years.
Managing: Create a culture of performance improvement in the organization, with policymakers, management and staff regularly using performance information to assess existing approaches or develop new ones.
Key: Use performance information to implement, monitor and adjust plans and actions in order to best accomplish goals.
After the City has developed a new strategic plan with clear goals, strategies and performance measures, management and staff must be prepared to implement, manage and adjust the strategies identified in the plan. City leaders should strive to have every employee, every elected and appointed official and every community advisory board member conversant in the City’s goals and its performance improvement strategies. Citizen Survey results showed relatively weak ratings for Building Permits, Planning/Zoning and Water departments. Near term, find out why these services rated so poorly with opinion leaders. Long term, make sure the City presents a uniformly knowledgeable and effective service to the citizens, across all departments and other places of citizen contact. City leaders, managers and staff should meet regularly to discuss performance information and use the information to help determine whether to continue programs and activities or try new strategies. In order to use performance information to drive improvement, the information should be linked to past performance, include targets and be comparable other jurisdictions.
Citizen “opinion leaders” were surveyed on City Direction, Government Mission, Government Services & Government leaders. The Survey found:
Carlton, generally, ranks high in all the attributes measured – General Direction; Mission; Service Provision; Leadership; Customer Service and Departmental Service.
A vocal minority of respondents disagrees with the majority’s view in General Direction; Mission; Service; and Leadership.
Two regulatory functions, planning/zoning and building permits, scored much lower than other departments.
Not surprisingly, government’s ability to communicate with its citizens is both the most mentioned positive quality and seen as the most needed improvement.
The other most discussed issues were perceived controversial attributes of Carlton’s elected leaders and infrastructure issues, especially water/sewer.