Developing the right reporting strategy to communicate organizational performance is a hot topic in local government. I talk to dozens of government agencies every month, and the number one reason they come to Envisio is because they’re struggling with reporting on performance.
It’s not easy to regularly produce reports that show progress against strategic goals for three very different audiences—elected officials, staff and citizens. Each audience requires a different level of detail, in a different format, communicated on a different schedule.
Most of the local government organizations I speak with spend a huge amount of time pulling together their reports in spreadsheets or crafting PDFs by hand. They also usually suffer from at least one of two problems:
- Too many performance measures and not enough clarity or resources to tailor those measures into reports for different groups; and/or,
- Too few meaningful performance measures that actually give an indication of progress or community impact. These less-meaningful measures are typically what we call workload measures. They answer questions such as: “how many parking permits did we issue?”, “how many traffic studies were completed?” “how many meetings were held?” Useful in some circumstances but, on their own, they don’t provide insight into the efficiency or effectiveness of the organization.
Both scenarios result in unwieldy reports that take hours to put together and no-one reads. (And if that sounds familiar, you should know that you’re not alone.)
So reporting gets a bad rap. Not only can it be a long, thankless box-ticking exercise for council, but it can also feed a culture of blame. Naming and shaming people who miss status updates, or who fail to meet a deadline. No-one sets out to build a culture like that, but it happens.
We think about reporting a little differently.
For starters, we don’t think reporting should just be about being accountable to your council, board or the public.
If you’re managing a complex plan, then reports are really one of the best ways to manage your plan.
Your own overdue items, departmental actions that are about to start, projects experiencing disruptions… an effective reporting strategy should tell you where to focus your attention, help you to troubleshoot problems and prioritize your workload.
In our recent webinar with the City of Ferndale, Joe Gacioch the Assistant City Manager explained how they had learned that a missed progress update or a “no progress” update in a report is usually a symptom of a bigger problem. As a result, the team at Ferndale have been able to identify many problems early on and address them through better resource management, re-prioritization or greater collaboration. It’s a cool example of how regular, consistent reporting can help you manage your plan and influence outcomes.
Reports should also be used to keep things moving forward, get folks aligned around a goal and to make everyone feel good about the progress made.
So rather than only create reports that show where there is disruption or that measure overall plan status, why not also generate reports such as “what’s scheduled to start this month?” or “what’s been achieved so far this year?”. Use those reports to build excitement or give kudos to teams that are performing well. That’s exactly how we use organizational performance reporting internally at Envisio.
So what does an effective performance reporting framework actually look like?
We’ve put together a recommended reporting framework (with examples), influenced by our work with hundreds of different government agencies.
All of these reports can be automatically generated and scheduled with Envisio, but many could also be built in spreadsheets or other tools.
So whether or not you use Envisio, I hope this is a useful reporting framework for your city, county, town or school district. Please feel free to copy or share any aspect of it.
(And if you want it in a handy, downloadable cheat sheet, you can grab that right here.)
Hope it helps 🙂
Reports for your council:
- City-wide Performance Report for Council: Summary of the city’s four strategic goals which are Economic Vitality, Sustainable Government, Sense of Community, and Quality of Life. Each Strategic Goal is tied to specific measurable outcomes and meaningful action plans to ensure the city is committed to fulfilling its promises to residents of Bayview.
- Departmental Progress Summary for Council: Summarize all activity supporting the strategic plan, by department and by strategic goal. Recommended Cadence: Quarterly.
- Strategic Goal Report for Council: A deep dive into all actions and metrics supporting a single strategic goal (Economic Vitality, for example). Recommended Cadence: Quarterly.
- Economic Development Project Summary Report for Council: The current status of all Economic Development projects and key performance measures supporting the city’s strategic plan.
Recommended Cadence: Quarterly.
Reports for your executive team:
- City-wide Operational Progress Report – Actions by Parent Objective: Executive team review of all objectives and their actions. All action statuses included.
Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Departmental Operational Progress Report – Actions by Department: Understand workload and performance by reviewing how many actions each department currently has in progress and the status for each action. Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Departmental At-Risk Report – Disrupted Actions by Department: An early warning system. Review all actions that have been reported as at risk. Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Departmental Completed Actions Report: Share regularly with staff, council and the community, all actions that have been completed in the previous month, quarter, or calendar year (you choose). Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Police Strategic Plan & Performance Report: Select measures from internal dashboards to report out as a department scorecard. Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan & Performance Report: An example department-specific report, including all strategies, actions and measures the department is responsible for.
Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Public Works Performance Report: An example of a departmental performance analytics dashboard with data visualizations to support evidence-based decision making and drive operational efficiency.
Reports to share publically with residents:
- Citizen Satisfaction Survey Results Report: Report & visualize citizen satisfaction (or other survey results) and share them with the public. Recommended Cadence: Annual
- Departmental Performance Scorecard Report: Report focused on establishing, benchmarking, and tracking progress on performance metrics across city departments in support of continuous improvement efforts to enhance the delivery of public outcomes, operational efficiencies, and customer service. Recommended Cadence: Quarterly
- City-wide Performance Dashboard: Dashboard to share progress towards the city’s plans and showcases performance data. Recommended Cadence: Quarterly
- Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Project & Budget Status: Track and report on the progress of all Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects including the actual spend, budgeted spend and variance for each project, and overall for the department. Share with your council, executive team, and department directors. Recommended Cadence: Quarterly
P.S. Our framework doesn’t include many reports for citizens because we believe the best way to communicate performance to your community is via public dashboards. More on that soon.
Also, if you’re considering a more holistic performance management program in your organization, check out our Guide to Performance Management for Local Government.