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Performance Measures in High Performance Organizations


Olathe's High Performance Organization Tools

Performance measures are a key tool for organizations committed to high performance. That point was emphasized consistently by presenters in the recent ICMA Coaching Program webinar “Thriving as a High Performance Organization.”

Viewers agreed. Polls taken throughout the webinar revealed that 67% of the more than 1,000 viewers utilize a citizen survey; 64% use performance measures; and 43% use benchmarks as tools to assess performance. And 73% indicated that “defined key performance indicators and process improvement” would be useful for their organization. Three presenters explained their approaches.

A Culture of Credibility

Clay Phillips, city manager, Coppell, Texas, described a dual path to high performance. In addition to using traditional performance indicators, the city is focusing on its organizational culture and pursuing performance-related recognitions for its activities. It is also working with a consortium in North Texas to select metrics for comparison in such areas as public safety services.

Coppell has developed a process called “4C Success”: Cultivating Coppell’s Core Competencies. A strong focus is the development of a “culture of credibility” throughout the organization. Tangible and anecdotal evidence indicates that the city’s performance improvement strategy is working—the city has positive citizen survey results, recognitions for police, fire, financial practices, libraries, and parks and recreation, plus multiple listings as one of the “Best Places to Live.”

A Three-Dimensional Performance View

Susan Sherman, assistant city manager, Olathe, Kansas, also emphasized the importance of organizational culture and described performance management as a journey requiring a three-dimensional performance view—“look back, look around, and look to the future.” Also important is a willingness to learn from others. Performance management tools in Olathe include a citizen survey, benchmarking against other cities in the Kansas City Metro area, performance measures, and an organizational scorecard showing progress against council priorities and goals.

Mapping citizen satisfaction ratings has helped pinpoint areas for improvement. For example, Olathe found pockets of dissatisfaction with street lighting. Puzzled, staff visited the areas and found that there was nothing wrong with the lights—but overgrown trees were obstructing them.

A core group of staff meet quarterly to discuss trends revealed in the performance scorecard. And sometimes they find that several departments are involved in addressing a problem and its solution. The police accident rate was higher than target. But many factors affecting the accident rate are not related to the police department: speed limits, road condition, vehicle condition, and signage, for example.

Quality Management and Lessons Learned

Lee Feldman, city manager, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, described the city’s journey to ISO 9001 certification, a quality management standard used primarily in the private sector. The city’s strategic management system, FL²STAT, incorporates the city’s vision and strategic plan, the commission’s annual action plan, a performance management system, and a process improvement program. And they found that the ISO 9001 standard could be adapted for the public sector.

The city’s mission is “We Build Community,” where residents are considered “neighbors” and employees are considered “community builders.” The city says it provides high quality public services through addressing community priorities; departmental collaboration to achieve shared goals; accountability, transparency, measured results, and process improvement; streamlining services to increase value and reduce waste; and developing and improving its professional competencies.

Feldman summarized lessons learned:

  • Stay focused on what the neighbor wants
  • You can’t manage what you don’t measure
  • Set key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure objectives and processes; they ensure you provide quality results
  • Establish a system that avoids things falling through the cracks
  • Employees want reliable and easily available procedures
  • Build a culture of continual improvement where there is no fear of failure.

Coppell, Olathe, and Fort Lauderdale are participants in ICMA Insights™ a performance management and analytics platform developed with SAS®. The webinar was one of a series presented by the ICMA Coaching Program with support from ICMA-RC (platinum sponsor), Cal-ICMA (gold sponsor), and 24 state association coaching partners. It was moderated Don Maruska, Master Certified Coach and director of the ICMA Coaching Program. The full presentation is available as a video, podcast, or PDF through the “Agendas & Archives” tab on the Coaching Program Webinars website page.

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