By Data-Smart City Solutions • April 24, 2014

Fourteen years ago, then-Mayor of Baltimore Martin O’Malley pioneered CitiStat, an innovative performance management system centered around holding city officials accountable for their department’s results through the use of robust data and reporting on agency-specific performance indicators.

At regular, structured meetings, this data is presented and used to analyze the department’s recent performance, as well as to devise plans for future improvement.

After seeing that CitiStat was effective and led to substantial cost-savings, numerous other cities – within the United States and around the world – have since adopted the model (referred to more generally as “PerformanceStat” or “stat programs”), taking a similar approach to performance management.

If you are a city official considering bringing PerformanceStat to your city, here are some resources you might find helpful.

What All Mayors Would Like to Know About Baltimore’s CitiStat Performance Strategy,” a report released by the IBM Center for the Business of Government, addresses nearly every question you might have about setting up a PerformanceStat system, from “What are the key characteristics of the CitiStat room?” (page 25) to “How do agency and managers react to getting questions from their peers?” (page 34).

A Guide to Data-Driven Performance Reviews also answers many questions you might have and suggests a typical agenda for stat meetings (page 24):

  1. Introduction
  2. Review action items and outstanding issues from last meeting
  3. Discuss overall findings and leadership questions
  4. Discuss areas or indicators displaying particularly high or low performance relative to that expected
  5. Brainstorm next steps
  6. Identify the action items that the meeting findings indicate need to be done

A report by the Center for American Progress details the key elements needed for a successful program (pages 9-11), which include: commitment from political leadership, dedicated staff for planning and oversight, training, continuous review of data, integrated data collection and management, setting and meeting goals, and public disclosure of data.

This policy brief suggests the following are the big errors of stat programs that you should be careful to avoid:

  1. No clear purpose
  2. No one has specific responsibilities
  3. The meetings are held irregularly, infrequently, or randomly
  4. No one person authorized to run the meetings
  5. No dedicated analytic staff
  6. No follow-up
  7. No balance between the brutal and the bland

Many cities that use PerformanceStat make their performance reports available to the public. Consider the following models for ideas on how to present information in these reports:

While many stat programs rely on fairly basic technology like Microsoft Excel, cities have also found it useful to employ more advanced tools like GIS and software dedicated to performance management, such as Hyperion.

Finally, more resources are available under our Performance Measurement tag.