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Blogs / Performance Management / From the Annual Conference: Getting to Outcomes

From the Annual Conference: Getting to Outcomes

You had to be there.  Well, not necessarily.

There are plenty of experiences at the ICMA Conference that are one-of-a-kind – from hearing Alex Haley talk about community character in his Des Moines keynote years ago, to singing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir after 9/11, and sampling the local barbecue in Kansas City.  Fortunately, many of the highlights from ICMA’s 102nd Annual Conference are summarized on the ICMA website or are available as part of virtual conference registrations.

One type of session you still needed to be there for, however, was the roundtable discussions.  These unscripted and unplugged dialogues allowed all attendees to participate and share their ideas around a given topic.  As a sampling of those, here are some notes from the session on “Getting to Outcomes”:

  • If the performance outcomes you’re trying to achieve are difficult to measure, start by measuring progress on each of your interim strategies or processes.  These may be indirect or proxy measures, but they can help bridge the gap until better metrics can be developed.
  • If you have a strategic plan in place, consider both working your way “up from the widgets” and “down from the goals,” as some of the best measures may only reveal themselves as building blocks from one direction or the other.
  • Involve your staff in regular presentations of performance results to elected officials – to reinforce a performance culture, foster a dialogue around next steps, and instill greater departmental ownership in the process.
  • Consider measuring (and improving) satisfaction not only via occasional citizen surveys, but also via the creation of social media groups to foster neighborhood cohesion and engagement around new programs or facilities.  This may take the form of off-the-shelf applications (e.g., or targeted outreach to non-English-speaking populations.
  • Segment the data you’re collecting to ensure you’re seeing the positive and negative outcomes separately.  For example, when evaluating strategies to target homelessness, segment the various reasons people might depart a jurisdiction-supported housing program (e.g., successfully obtained housing or employment elsewhere vs. being asked to leave based on disqualifying behaviors).  Or, if you’re tracking employee turnover as an indicator of satisfaction with jurisdiction employment, you may want to separate those who left for another job from those who retired after long-term employment.
  • Where staffing level or program structure has been altered, consider changes in targets as well.  One attendee shared an example of planning staff receiving unsatisfactory performance reviews (and experiencing declining morale) after staff cuts led to the inability to maintain pre-existing turnaround time expectations.
  • Follow up on decision packages at least annually after implementation to evaluate performance against adopted goals and to critique and re-calibrate those measures to ensure they’re capturing the outcomes you thought they would.

If you have other suggestions on how to move your performance measurements from inputs and outputs to outcomes, please reply here.

And if you want to take part in next year's discussions, we look forward to seeing you in San Antonio.

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Thomas Miller

Great to see the discussion of outcomes get at meaningful actions that you can take. I'm also interested in how jurisdictions deal with the difficulty of accepting responsibility for outcomes. By this I mean that it's easier to control process measures - number of employees, cost for services, service efficiencies - but many outcomes tend to be "bigger" and can come from diverse directions - quality of life, ease of mobility, feeling safe, place to raise children. Will transportation managers, who eagerly take responsibility for street maintenance, also sign up for handling (with others) the quality of "mobility" as a community outcome, which may require many departments' interventions to control?

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