Five Elements of City Performance Improvement

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.

Recommendations include:

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.

 from report prepared Jan. 6, 2015 by Ariana Denney, Avery Pickard & Jeff Tryens
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One thought on “Five Elements of City Performance Improvement

  1. Fostering a Culture of Performance Management
    09 April 2015

    Phase I: Fostering a Culture of Performance Management

    Carlton Banner
    By: Avery Pickard and Ariana Denney
    How does a small city in Oregon approach development and integration of a performance management system? For Carlton (population 2,023) the keys were sourcing expertise and supporting creativity according to Carlton, Oregon city manager Chad Olsen.
    Olsen, who currently chairs the Oregon Public Performance Measurement Association (OPPMA), had an interest in structuring a dynamic performance management approach that would work for his small organization and would be scalable for other small cities. Olsen says that,
    “I wanted to start the process of tailoring a performance management program to fit a small city operation in the hope that we could provide a model for other small Oregon cities. I knew that my team at Carlton could embrace such a program, and we’ve also had the support of our city council. What we needed was a task force to work with us and the council on what performance management would look like in Carlton. Now our whole city organization and leadership are getting into the performance management mindset.”
    Let’s Get It Started
    Olsen engaged former Oregon Progress Board director and performance management consultant Jeff Tryens, who subsequently assembled a Carlton Performance Improvement Project team including PSU MPA graduate Ariana Denney and current PSU MPA students Ben Fitch and Avery Pickard. Under Tryens’ guidance, the team has undertaken a two-phase process with the intent of supporting Carlton’s hard working city organization. Engaging students under the guidance of an experienced performance manager allows the City to minimize consulting costs while providing emerging local government leaders with a unique internship experience that has a real impact.
    Tryens points out,
    “Performance management is not just for big cities. It’s important for all local governments to incorporate performance improvement into their operations. This is an ongoing process that allows government to align with its City’s mission and values by establishing goals, developing strategies for achieving those goals and measuring performance. These elements are then built into the budgeting process, so the City’s resource allocation supports its performance aims. Frankly our MPA volunteers are what make this process possible for a small city like Carlton [2,023].”
    Under a strong system of performance management, a results oriented focus permeates a City’s strategic planning, budgeting, measuring, reporting and managing. The City works to achieve its mission and goals while regularly monitoring and reporting on performance information. Management, staff and policymakers use that information to help guide their decision-making.
    Initial Components of the Project
    carlton community
    After meeting with Carlton’s City staff and leadership and affirming the City’s interest, the team began work on the initial components of the project.
    An online survey was designed and deployed to a representative sample of Carlton community stakeholders. The survey, previously published on the ELGL website, asked respondents to rate the quality of key City services, the quality of interactions with City staff, and also solicited feedback with several open-ended questions about the strengths and weaknesses of the City government.
    The team also analyzed the City’s current practices against best practices for performance management in the public sector. This involved reviewing City planning and performance information contained in numerous City documents, and analyzing the information against best practice criteria the team had identified. The team drew from two sources for its criteria: a report by the National Performance Advisory Commission and an audit report by the City of Portland Auditor’s Office, Managing for Results.
    Based on their analysis and the results of the survey, the team developed recommendations for the City, which are summarized in the report posted on the City’s website.
    Finally, the team reviewed leading practices in performance management among other local governments nation-wide. This research in addition to other online resources are intended to help the City as it moves forward with improving its approach to performance management. These resources may also be useful for other local governments looking to improve their results and are summarized in the appendix of the team’s report.
    Developing a Fully Integrated Approach
    downtown carltonThe team presented findings and recommendations from Phase I to City leadership at the close of 2014. The team proposed that the City build upon its existing framework of a performance management system to establish a fully integrated approach tying five key components together:
    strategic planning
    reporting and managing
    Under the team’s proposal, the City would engage the community in developing a new strategic plan later this year. The plan would connect the City’s vision, mission and long-term goals with key strategies and performance measures assessing the City’s progress in achieving those goals.
    The team also recommended the City implement performance based budgeting, and expand the role of its citizen budget advisory committee to include performance. It was recommended that the committee could partner with a public administration program for help in regularly reporting on performance measurement trends, and for developing an annual performance report in advance of the City’s budget development process. The team also stressed the importance that, ultimately, the City adopt a culture of performance improvement, with management, staff and policy makers focused on achieving the City’s mission and goals, and continually using performance information in their decision-making.

    City policymakers and staff are currently working with the team to begin transitioning towards performance based budgeting in the upcoming FY16 budget cycle. At a budget kick off meeting in February, the team provided Council with an orientation for performance based budget development and facilitated Council’s prioritization of City projects in alignment with interim City goals.
    In addition to proposing additional performance measures for the City’s requested budget, the team is offering management technical assistance as they work to link spending to City goals and Council’s FY16 priorities in their department requested budgets. In April, the team is scheduled to provide a training for the budget committee members for engaging in their added responsibilities of monitoring and reporting on the City’s performance.

    Supplemental Reading

    An interview with Jeff Tryens, New York City Mayor’s Office
    The Oregon Progress Board Experience – OECD
    City of Carlton Opinion Leaders Satisfaction Survey
    Great little town on the go

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