Salt Lake County is learning about performance management from Baltimore and Montgomery County
Part Two of a Three-Part Series
On January 31st and February 1st, 2019, the County of Salt Lake engaged in a double peer exchange, first with the City of Baltimore and then with the County of Montgomery (MD), supported by Results for America’s Local Government Fellowship program. These exchanges were organized by Results for America Local Government Fellows Megan Hillyard, Director of Administrative Services for Salt Lake County, and Robert Cenname, Budget Director for Baltimore City, and Dave Gottesman, CountyStat Manager for Montgomery County. Salt Lake County was interested in learning more about Outcome Budgeting, performance management, and performance dashboards from both Baltimore and Montgomery County. In turn, Salt Lake County shared information on recent expungement work that is creating employment and better housing opportunities for Salt Lake County residents. This is the second part of a three-part Medium post detailing the learnings of the three jurisdictions over the course of the two-day exchange.
Background: Why is Salt Lake County looking for performance management and “CountyStat” best practices from Montgomery County?
Salt Lake County aims to be a data-driven and transparent government. While data is used among many county agencies for decision-making, some agencies have better access to data and data analysts than others. Additionally, there are opportunities to more effectively share data both internally and externally, use visuals to transform data into compelling stories, and make data more readily available to the public. Salt Lake County’s current CountyStat is in its infancy. As this tool is developed and matured, Salt Lake County wants to learn from pioneers and leaders in this space.
Learning: In Baltimore, Salt Lake County sat down with Baltimore’s Mayor’s Office of Sustainable Solutions and had a conversation led by Ekua Malonde, Deputy Director of Baltimore CitiStat. In Montgomery County, Salt Lake County received an overview of the CountyStat office by CountyStat Manager and RFA Local Government Fellow, Dave Gottesman. Dave walked the group through a history and overview of CountyStat, including an impressive deck of data visualization examples where the CountyStat Office has collaborated with Montgomery County agencies to visualize data. Highlights from both sessions include:
- The use of data is contagious and with the right approach, it becomes part of the fabric of the county culture. Both Montgomery County and Baltimore shared examples of departments wanting to engage in the performance management processes. They spoke of seeing the power of data visualization when requesting resources and/or illustrating a challenge. However, data can also be overwhelming, so it is important to be clear about what data is wanted and for what purpose. Excessive data in spreadsheets does not serve anyone.
- Executive Leadership’s Priorities must be established and known. Both Montgomery County and Baltimore spoke of the importance of established Mayoral and County Executive priorities. Without these, there is nothing universal to map outcomes and priorities to. Both jurisdictions have used consultants to help refine these priorities.
- Relationship management is the key to a successful CountyStat or performance office. Both Montgomery County and Baltimore drove home the point that CitiStat/CountyStat offices need to establish the right kind of reputation out the gate. Montgomery County’s CountyStat office’s first order of business was to “build trust and reputation.” Building trust and a good reputation requires establishing relationships over time. Invest up front and it will pay off in the long run.
- Hire the right people. Montgomery County shared information about their hiring process, which they emphasized as critical. While individuals need to have the technical know-how, having curiosity, patience, a dedication to improvement and the ability to build relationships make all the difference.
- Establishing partnerships, whether they be academic, peer or otherwise, are critical for expanding bandwidth and knowledge transfer. Both jurisdictions use local academic institutions to further their work. Whether it was for survey development, establishing performance measures or studying a specific initiative, both jurisdictions leverage the resources of top-notch academic institutions.
- Tools do not have to be expensive. All jurisdictions are doing a lot of work with commonplace and inexpensive tools such as Power BI, Tableau, and Excel.
- Routine community surveys are critical. Baltimore started administering a community survey many years ago. They believe that positive external service surveys should be reflective of quality internal services. This baseline data has been key to focusing on which programs are working and where to adjust. Additionally, it is useful to include the residents’ perspective in the display of information. Montgomery County recommitted to conducting a bi-annual resident satisfaction survey in 2017.
Applying the Learning: Salt Lake County is on the verge of hiring a new data analyst, expanding the Office of Data and Innovation team to three members. Montgomery County was willing to share hiring best practices, including interview questions to aid Salt Lake County in the best possible hire.