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How You Can Apply The CitiStat Model To Your Agency
The CitiStat model is highly regarded in local government. Find out how you can apply the model in your city successfully.
If you’re in the municipal space, you’ve almost certainly heard of CitiStat. This data-driven agency was created by Martin O’Malley after he was elected mayor of Baltimore in 1999, and it was an almost-instant success. Modeled after the popular New York CompStat—which help the NYPD get their crime rates down—CitiStat Baltimore was created to help the city fix some of many internal and city-wide issues. CitiStat helped reduce the amount of absenteeism among city staff by tracking HR metrics, and it also helped solve external city issues by measuring things like crime rates and waste reduction.
Many other large cities across the U.S.—including Washington D.C, Los Angeles, and Austin—began their own STAT programs based on CitiStat’s success. When O’Malley became governor of Maryland in 2007, he set up Maryland StateStat, which is still operating successfully.
In this article, we’ll walk through what a general STAT model should look like and a few things to keep in mind when you create one in your municipality.
What Does A CitiStat Model Look Like?
For a STAT meeting to be successful, every department contributes metrics or data that is important to the city’s overall health and well-being. Department-specific meetings are held at the group level, and each department is rotated in every 6-12 weeks for their turn on the “hot seat” presenting to leadership.
In the meeting, there’s a department head, any assistant department heads, and an analyst or two from the department. These individuals present to top management like the mayor, deputy mayor, city administrator, and whatever person runs the overall STAT program. (Those are the people who are asking the important questions within the departments.)
The objective of a STAT meeting is to look at the key measures of each of the departments and talk through any issues in an effort to resolve them and stay on target. (This article walks through an outline for a STAT program.) If STAT meetings are done successfully, the city is able to drill down into detail on any given issue in a timely manner and solve problems before they affect strategy.
Considerations For CitiStat Model Application
- Leadership Buy-In
One of the reasons that CitiStat was successful for so long in Baltimore was that it was the mayor’s “baby.” (Department heads aren’t going to argue if the mayor is telling them something is important!) Early on in CitiStat’s history, O’Malley was attending every meeting, demonstrating that it was of high importance to him. Thus, if you want your STAT program to be a success, you can see that leadership buy-in is incredibly important.
- Size Of Team
Any city with over 200,000 residents probably has at least one (and up to three or four) team members focusing solely on the STAT program. In other words, if you are looking for a successful STAT program, you need team members who take the program very seriously and can devote quality time to it.
- Great Questions
It’s really important to ask a lot of really great questions. Otherwise, STAT meetings will be spent on simple things like, “Robberies are down 3%, and accidents are up 2%.” The key to STAT meetings is discussing why those things are happening. Relentless questioning helps to get to the root cause so you can propose some solutions to try to impact those stats in a positive way.
- The Right Software
For a successful meeting, you’ll want to be using some kind of software to present your statistics, data, charts, or maps. Many report generation software options—like Tableau and QlikView, or ClearPoint—might work well. You can also use Excel (but beware of some of the issues that may come with it!)
The benefit to having software is that you can have accurate information that you know is up to date. If you want your CitiStat model to be successful, you can’t just present your data and never talk about it again. It has to be something that you integrate into your daily life at the department level, and software can help make that a reality.
It’s important to note that recently, some issues with the current CitiStat program have been called to light. There has been a lot of staff turnover and resignation in Baltimore in the last couple of years, and its successes seem to have halted. This excerpt from a Baltimore Sun article gives some background:
“In 2014, the agency lost data analysis staff, failed to publish any department reports and canceled a third of the meetings that were the backbone of a process still being replicated in other U.S. cities. Some groups have not held data reviews for four months. Meanwhile, the CitiStat budget has doubled from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2014, to $1 million.”
Why CitiStat is no longer a successful model in Baltimore is up for debate, but it likely has to do with the changing leadership, or perhaps after 15 years, they’ve simply forgotten how helpful it could be. Whatever the reason, it is still a successful and proven model when managed correctly. It helps hold people accountable for their data and statistics, which is the quickest way to see success in your STAT meeting.