Fostering a Culture of Performance Management

Posted on April 9, 2015

Phase I: Fostering a Culture of Performance Management

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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

10Olsen 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
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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.
  • 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
  • budgeting
  • measuring
  • monitoring
  • 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

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