Arapahoe County, Colorado is home to over 650,000 residents south of Denver. The county has over 2,300 full-time employees working across 17 offices, and acts through a five-member board of city commissioners who serve as the policymaking body of the county. Because the county is governed by this administrative board, rather than a single city administrator, these elected officials are heavily involved in county management.
Laura Mazur, one-half of the mighty team of two in the Strategy and Performance Department, discusses facilitating the county’s performance management program with Ted Jackson, ClearPoint Strategy co-founder.
Watch the full conversation here!
When Arapahoe County first launched their Performance Management Program in 2016, it was about getting as much data as possible. The county wasn’t tracking data in any wide-scale way, and the data that was tracked, wasn’t kept together. It was difficult for employees to know where data was and what it meant. The program has evolved since then, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Before, they were just inputting data to input it.”
Previously, the data wasn’t helping departments to make short- or long-term operational decisions or be strategic about resource allocation. Now, the county has been able to evaluate what data is useful and how those measures can be expanded upon, versus what is not and what should be archived.
In ClearPoint, Arapahoe County organizes scorecards into County, Department, and Division levels. The overall county scorecard houses 20 “Index Measures,” which include contributions from multiple departments. These measures give departments the opportunity to present data at an aggregate level. Department sizes vary (Mazur’s department of two, for example), so larger departments' responsibilities are further split into divisions. Department “parent” scorecards branch into division “child” scorecards, and data rolls up from low levels to high, allowing all three levels of data to interact.
Data interaction at the division level involves day-to-day tasks. From there, divisions are able to come together to see their impact as a department. Mazur notes that the offices with solid performance management programs tend to have operational performance measures for divisions and more strategic measures for departments.
“Departments have reported out on how they’ve become successful and integrated performance management and process improvement programs.”
Reporting cadences exist at all three levels. Generally, quarterly reports occur during meetings among program owners and staff, while larger departments’ meetings include division managers. Departments may also report monthly depending on size or how specific measures are performing. Each month, the county hosts meetings open to the public, coined “Align Arapahoe,” showcasing performance measures tied to the overall strategic plan. Additionally, the county’s external dashboard, launched in 2018, and county-level report-outs are updated quarterly. The county worked closely with departments in the dashboard's development and has received positive feedback from internal stakeholders. In 2023, Mazur is excited to further market to the public to gain feedback from external stakeholders as well.
Mazur states that 50% of her job is relationship-building, which is put into practice in identifying “Champions” within county departments. The opportunity to present on success - how the department found it and how they will maintain it - at Align Arapahoe meetings serves as a great motivator for process improvement and buy-in. Mazur finds that the county’s “freeform” reporting approach gets employees more excited to interact with the data that matters to them, rather than being forced to discuss it at certain intervals. Participation at the Director level, however, is a part of annual performance reviews with the board, which promotes top-down level engagement.
One champion’s efforts are seen in the county’s Utility Use measure, which tracks electricity, natural gas, and water usage. While the department is technically on-target, the department champions actively try to lower usage to prevent rising costs for the county. In ClearPoint, Mazur will open thriving divisional or departmental scorecards to share exemplary structures with the rest of the organization.
Arapahoe County has seen significant improvement in their reporting practices since implementing ClearPoint. Mazur’s advice for organizations who may be struggling with performance management? Celebrate small wins, start small, and find those champions. Build upon individuals who will help build on an organizational level.
Special thanks to Laura Mazur for sharing Arapahoe County’s best practices in performance management. Click to view the rest of ClearPoint’s Community Advisory Board!