States, Localities Inspire Federal Data-Driven Management

The New York City Police Department launched it vaunted CompSTAT more than a decade ago. This data-driven management approach inspired dozens of other cities and several states to adopt it to run their operations as well. Now it is being pioneered in federal agencies and will likely spread quickly with the encouragement of Congress and the White House.

A new report by Harry Hatry and Elizabeth Davies, “A Guide to Data-Driven Federal Performance Reviews,” examines federal agencies that are pioneering data-driven performance reviews to improve agency effectiveness and effi­ciency. This review approach, sometimes called “PerformanceStat,” draws from practices of a wide range of government agencies, including state and local governments.

The GPRA (Government Performance and Results Act) Modernization Act of 2010 requires agencies to conduct quarterly performance reviews of their most important goals. The law says that these reviews must: be led by the agency’s chief operating officer, assess progress toward priority goals, and use the results to change direction if needed.

The report serves as a “how to” guide for setting up and run­ning data-driven performance reviews. It lays out who needs to be involved, how to organize the meetings, what kinds of perfor­mance information should be collected, how to run the meet­ings, and how to follow up afterwards. It includes case studies of three pioneering agencies using this process: the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Food and Drug Administration.

What is PerformanceStat?

According to Harvard professor Bob Behn, a long-time observer of the evolution of the PerformanceStat movement in states and localities, PerformanceStat has several characteristics:

“A jurisdiction or agency is employing a PerformanceSTAT leadership strategy if, in an effort to achieve specific public purposes, its leadership team persists in holding an ongoing series of regular, frequent, integrated meetings during which the chief executive and/or the principal members of the chief executive’s leadership team plus the director (and the top managers) of different subunits use current data to analyze specific, previously defined aspects of each unit’s past performance; to provide feedback on recent progress compared with targets; to follow-up on previous decisions and commitments to produce results; to examine and learn from each unit’s efforts to improve performance; to identify and solve performance-deficit problems; and to set and achieve the next performance targets.

How Do You Do It?

The Hatry-Davies guide provides a step-by-step guide for how you organize, conduct, and follow up on a data-driven performance review meeting. Their guide answers a series of questions:

The core team: What type of leadership is needed? Who should be included in the meetings, and what type of staff is needed to organize and run the meetings?

The meeting structure: should meetings be focused on organizational units or on programmatic themes? How frequently should meetings be held? How long should the meetings last?

The performance indicators: Which measures should be included in reviews? Does existing technology support real-time reporting of measures?

Meeting preparation: What kind (and how much) pre-meeting preparation is needed for an effective session? Should the reporting unit leaders be apprised of major issues and questions in advance of the meeting?

Running the meeting: Should meetings be open to people outside the agency? What is the typical agenda of such meetings? What should be the tone and physical set up of the meeting?

Follow up after the meeting: What kind of follow up is appropriate?

Sustaining the process: Who needed to be the champion of the overall review process? Does the review process actually deliver improved services and cost savings?

Who Is Doing It?

According to OMB, all major agencies have begun conducting quarterly performance reviews of the progress of their high priority goals, in accordance with the new GPRA law. In fact, the OMB-led Performance Improvement Council has created a working group to develop best practices for conducting data-driven performance reviews.

One agency highlighted in the Hatry report – the Department of Housing and Urban Development– is also highlighted on OMB’s new performance.gov website for the level of analysis it conducts in relation to its high priority goal of reducing homelessness among veterans. HUD-Stat has been used to both understand the problems of homelessness among veterans as well as to target resources in ways that have significantly reduced the homeless population, and HUD is doing this jointly with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hatry says this approach isn’t just something that is for high-level agency leaders. He notes that it can be used at operational levels as well. For example, in the City of Baltimore, the mayor’s regular CitiStat performance review meeting has been replicated within different city departments as their way to lead, as well.

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