What Two Data-Driven Cities Are Learning from Each Other

by Kaci Grant, Carmen Moreno-Rivera and Leah Tivoli

Local/ Local Government Fellows/ 2018/

On April 12 and 13, 2018, the Cities of Louisville and Seattle engaged in a peer exchange partnership project, spearheaded by Results for America’s Local Government Fellows Tina Walha, Director of Innovation and Performance for Seattle, and Daro Mott, Chief of Performance Improvement for Louisville. The peer exchange, supported by Results for America’s Local Government Fellowship program, was designed to share ideas and best practices for how to deliver the best results for the residents we serve. Both cities have made progress in recent years by putting evidence and data at the center of our efforts to improve services for the public, and we were eager to see whether lessons learned and strategies deployed in one city could help inform the policies and practices pursued in the other.

Background: Why is Seattle exploring new ways to facilitate collaborative problem solving?

Since taking office on November 28, 2017, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has led a tangible shift towards a results-driven management culture, focusing on managing city investments and personnel to result in better outcomes for residents. To advance her priorities, Mayor Durkan created seven subcabinets focused on issues including homelessness and good government, which warrant a refined approach to cross-departmental problem solving.

To sustain the progress of those subcabinets, Mayor Durkan is leveraging her Innovation & Performance (IP) unit as the lead resource. IP applies data analytics, human-centered design, and performance management approaches to design the desired future state for policies and programs, and then focuses on outcomes to drive forward progress in the areas we care most about. Designating the multi-disciplinary IP team as lead presents opportunities to use data and design hand-in-hand.

Learning: How does Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer orient Louisville Metro government to results?

During the peer exchange, Seattle learned how LouieStat provides a consistent mechanism to monitor results and keep departments accountable for performance across 26 departments and agencies.

Through LouieStat, each department uses data to help answer each one of the following three questions:

1. What are the key services the department performs?

2. How well are we performing?

3. How can we perform better?

Mayor Fischer, a Six Sigma Black Belt, and his leadership team led the early LouieStat meetings and helped instill a culture of inquiry. In the early stages, it was discovered that the budget deficit was driven by overtime spending. Root cause analysis of this overtime spending informed the first set of LouieStat metrics to include Sick Leave and Hours Lost. Six years later, the departments have matured to facilitate their quarterly LouieStat forums and the Mayor’s Chiefs have taken a more active role in the inquiry process.

LouieStat’s roadmap now incorporates Strategic Planning, Employee Engagement, Key Performance Indicators, Capital Projects, Equity Measures, Work Hours, Voice of the Customer, Customer Satisfaction Report, and Program Management. These components are being phased into a Performance Book that provides an overarching view into the breadth of performance for Louisville departments. Incorporating additional operational areas into LouieStat Forums will give Louisville Metro Government a more holistic view of departments and their critical work.

Mayor Fischer’s vision is for every employee to be empowered to solve problems to make Louisville Metro a more efficient and effective government. To that end, the Office of Performance Improvement (OPI) provides training and cross-functional opportunities in problem-solving methodology and other best practices to support daily work, continuous improvement and innovation or breakthrough work. The emphasis on capacity building –through training and executive leadership — for city employees reflects a commitment to invest in one of Louisville Metro’s greatest assets: their people.

LouieStat has helped change the way the Louisville team thinks about capacity building. In early stages, general trainings were given and the OPI team supported the enterprise as consultants, leading the majority of problem solving projects. As the enterprise has matured, OPI has shifted their approach by using LouieStat to identify opportunities to use continuous improvement methods and providing specific training that will solve a specific problem. This ensures that trained individuals are applying the training while learning so that they can take the lead on future projects within their departments. Before OPI would push most change and improvement initiatives, now the department is able to identify issues, request training, and learn to fix those issues on their own.

Applying the Learning: How will Seattle use what we learned from Louisville?

There are several insights that Seattle gleaned from Louisville Metro’s work that will be put into action on the three key areas of focus:

  1. Leverage elements of LouieStat for Mayor Durkan’s Subcabinets (e.g., Implement Plan, Do, Check, Act to embed continuous improvement into the advancement of priorities)
  2. Inform Performance Measures work to incorporate measures related to equity, overtime, and customer experience, which are priorities for Mayor Durkan as well
  3. Create a holistic vision for innovation and performance (e.g., Louisville Performance Book) that can be shared so that departments understand the strategy and can put the strategy to work

In addition, the Innovation & Performance unit is interested in developing an approach to capacity building and would like to use a similar hub and spoke model to Louisville. Louisville developed a central hub and then built capacity in departments — the spokes — by training Performance Analysts to support LouieStat and other performance work at the departmental level. Louisville has been thoughtful as to what training would make the Performance Analyst position successful and has developed a catalog of relevant coursework. Now, department Performance Analysts play a key role in LouieStat as an informed, but objective and impactful voice at the table in helping the City improve.

Background: Why is Louisville exploring new ways for data automation and infrastructure?

Louisville’s Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation (OPI) is exploring automation, enhanced data analysis techniques, and infrastructure options to take LouieStat, its performance management program, to the next level. OPI is currently developing a business case for a data warehouse and software that would allow for enhanced reporting. Departments need to have access to near real-time data for operational dashboards and better trending analysis. OPI would also like to tie performance metrics to budget outcomes.

Learning: How does Seattle approach data automation within their performance framework?

In Seattle, the Departmental Accountability Framework connects the Mayor’s strategic framework to the city-wide work plan. In addition to Subcabinets explained above, the Accountability Framework has introduced annual Performance Agreements between department directors and the Deputy Mayor that represent them. The agreements cover general management expectations, specific expectations at each line of business, Mayoral priorities and projects, and a refreshed set of performance measures. As Subcabinets become more defined, Performance Agreements will reflect these cross-functional priorities identified by Mayor Durkan and her Deputy Mayors. Seattle is also exploring how to connect performance, budget, and spending data and prototyped a way to do this in the 2018 Adopted Budget Book Performance Measure Pilot.

Seattle has learned over the past two years that in order for this performance work to be successful, there needs to be a way to reduce the amount of ongoing staff time necessary to update measures and increase the usefulness of measures to management. The mission of Seattle’s Innovation & Performance (IP) unit is to work with departmental partners to creatively solve problems and listen to the needs of departments to co-design a management solution. In response, IP partnered with City of Seattle’s Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) to:

1. build a performance data warehouse to automate data; and

2. standardize and support visualization tools to connect to this data.

This partnership resulted in the co-management of a Business Intelligence Developer position who support IP-sponsored projects and the procurement, standardization, and staffing of two data visualization tools. The co-management of the Business Intelligence Developer position was critical to assure Seattle IT that IP was not doing work in isolation and was developing tools that could be maintained by other Developers. The strong foundation of a data warehouse meant that data visualization tools could be swapped out at any point as software evolves.

The result of the Seattle IT partnership was a reduction in the number of manual touches on data and an increase in use of data. The other advantage of the visualization tools and connected data is the ability to drill down into the underlying information. In the past, aggregate, disconnected data was used to populate high level performance measures and it required more time to dig into the data to understand the root causes.

Now, data is organized around lines of business and updated in near real-time so that individuals can easily access and analyze what matters to their work and be more proactive. These simple tools support process improvement and departments and work teams are encouraged to attend interdepartmental show-and-tell sessions to share their learnings with the tools.

Applying the Learning: How will Louisville use what we learned from Seattle?

These are the immediate actions that the Louisville team will take as a result of this peer exchange:

  1. OPI employees will review the information and methodology from Seattle IT’s playbook and its templates. These will help the team develop procedures, project templates, etc. for data collection and analysis throughout project work.
  2. OPI will also review Seattle’s budget book and explore opportunities to connect performance metrics to budget requests and outcomes.
  3. Lastly, OPI will explore how to adopt Seattle’s methodology for building KPIs that are connected to departmental performance as documented through performance agreements.

Want to Learn More?

1. Review Seattle’s Template for tracking performance measures and related data

2. Read Seattle’s Data Automation presentation

3. Read Louisville’s Office of Performance Improvement Strategic Plan

Kaci Grant is a Senior Organizational Development Consultant in the Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation for Louisville city government. Carmen Moreno-Rivera is a Senior Process Consultant in the Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation for Louisville city government. Leah Tivoli is the Organizational Performance Manager for Seattle city government.