~ 18 MIN READ
Strategy & Performance in Olathe, KS and Durham, NC
At the 2019 Transforming Local Government Conference, our own Laura Chandler had the opportunity to participate in a podcast with Ed Foley from the City of Olathe and Josh Edwards from the City of Durham to discuss how they manage performance, track data, and more to achieve their strategic visions.
At the 2019 Transforming Local Government Conference in Reno, Nevada, Kirsten Wyatt, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Engaging Local Government Leadership (ELGL) network, sat down with ClearPoint’s Director of Community, Laura Chandler, for an episode of ELGL’s podcast, GovLove. They were joined by Ed Foley, Performance Management Leader in the Management and Budget Services Department at the City of Olathe, Kansas, and Josh Edwards, Assistant Budget Director of Strategy & Performance at the City of Durham, North Carolina, to learn how Olathe and Durham manage performance, track data, and more to achieve their strategic visions.
After tackling some warm up questions (like “what food did you hate as a kid that you love now?”), conversation quickly turned to how Olathe and Durham are tracking performance and measuring strategic outcomes. Edwards expressed that having a system like ClearPoint for housing strategic performance data has helped Durham to facilitate conversations with departments about areas in which they excel and challenges that need to be addressed for the city to achieve its goals. Foley, too, expressed the importance of dialogue around data at Olathe, and described their journey of narrowing in on fewer performance measures in order to cover them in more depth.
Beyond those internal conversations, Edwards and Foley appreciate how the community of cities using ClearPoint has encouraged them to grow and evolve their strategy management practices. Chandler has been leading ClearPoint’s efforts to foster engagement in the ClearPoint Community by connecting performance driven governments with each other and with experts in the space. Between ClearPoint’s regional community meetings, where adjacent cities and counties using ClearPoint can connect and share best practices, and the ClearPoint Measure Library, which makes it easier than ever to benchmark in the ClearPoint software platform, Edwards and Foley remarked that there are more opportunities than ever before to connect and learn from one another in the local government space. Not only that, but building these connections leads to positive relationships that extend beyond work – Edwards and Foley have even exchanged Christmas cards!
The ClearPoint team is so energized by all the great conversations we had at the TLG conference and is thrilled to play a part in the performance management journey at amazing cities like Durham and Olathe. We can’t wait to continue sharing in these successes and sharing our learnings along the way!
We’ve also transcribed the podcast below if you’d rather skim it!
Enjoy, and reach out to our team if you’re interested in learning more about tracking your performance in ClearPoint!
The podcast: transcribed
Kirsten Wyatt: [0:09]
Coming to you from the Transforming Local Government, or TLG conference in Reno, Nevada, this is GovLove, a podcast about local government.
GovLove is produced by ELGL, The Engaging Local Government Leaders network, and we engage the brightest minds in local government. I'm Kirsten Wyatt and today we're talking performance, strategy, and community with Ed Foley from Olathe, Kansas, Laura Chandler from ClearPoint Strategy, and Josh Edwards from the city of Durham, North Carolina. Welcome to GovLove!
Ed Foley, Laura Chandler, Josh Edwards: [0:17]
Kirsten Wyatt: [0:39]
So, we're going to get started with our signature lightning round and today we have a grab bag of lightning round questions. I'd like you to select a question and answer it please. Okay, we're going to get started with our first lightning round question with Josh Edwards.
Josh Edwards: [0:54]
All right, great. This is exciting. Here I go. Question is, what food did you hate as a kid that you love now? You know, I like this question. It actually hits home because I've got young kids now. One thing I hated as a kid was fish. But that's changed. I used to like, gag reflex, and just beg for mac and cheese as a kid. Even though salmon is really good for you, I thought it was disgusting. Now I love it. My kids are very much the same. So, I hope that eventually they like fish too.
Kirsten Wyatt: [1:30]
Great. And Ed, why don't you take the next lightning round question.
Ed Foley: [1:32]
All right. Thank you. Yes. I'm excited to be here. All right. What did you want to be when you were 10 years old? I always used to say that I wanted to be a banker because I liked money.
Kirsten Wyatt: [1:45]
Okay great job, great job. Alright, so let's dive right into what brought us all here today, which is a shared interest in keeping track of our performance and measuring and tracking our strategy as it relates to our local governments. So, Ed and Josh, why don't you dive in and explain to us how you are accomplishing that with your respective cities?
Josh Edwards: [2:49]
Yeah, it's something that's near and dear to my heart. Having gone to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and studying under the great Dr. David Ammons. I can't wait to see his last masterpiece coming. I hear some people have seen it. And I'm very, very jealous.
Laura Chandler: [2:52]
It is amazing. And it is everything you hoped it would be.
Josh Edwards: [3:09]
I'll be in line for a copy of that. So, for me it started in grad school, really learning why performance measurement is important. Each place I've worked, I've tried to grow a skill set to further develop an understanding of how it can be used practically. With the goal of, you know, we hear that buzzword, data driven decision making, what does that really mean?
It means different things for different organizations, but I've tried to apply that and see it work in the organizations I've been a part of Fairfax County, Town of Cary, and now the city of Durham for the last five years. As we've worked on that, and as we've thought about how to do that well, one thing we've learned, the main thing we've learned, is you've got to talk about the data. You've got to have conversations, in person conversations. In the city of Durham, Shari Metcalfe is our performance manager and leads all the things I'm about ready to talk about. She's amazing, just not here at the conference, but couldn't do it without her.
Our goal is to get people in a room talking about the data and we use ClearPoint to do that. We have something that we just rolled out last year, the Durham Strategy and Performance meetings. That's a light Stat model. Think The Wire in Baltimore Stat. One of my favorite shows. What we're trying to do is get everybody that's working on the strategic plan and the key initiatives, the priorities for our city, in a room talking about how well it's going. You can't talk about how well or how bad is going without data. We're trying to use that mechanism twice a year so that each of our strategic plan goal teams dive into the barriers and the things they're struggling with, so they can achieve the things that we need to achieve, to be the city we want to be.
We use data for that. We use performance measures for that. We use ClearPoint for our departmental budget meetings, for the same reason. If the data is in the system and people are talking about it related to the budget request they're asking for, then you're driving that performance conversation. You're using the data, you're using the performance measures and people are talking about whether it's working or not. So, as we think about our performance management system, those conversations about improvement are what we're trying to focus in on and we tie that to our strategic plan, which is the vision of the organization.
Kristen Wyatt: [5:39]
What about in Olathe? Tell us more about how you do that, Ed.
Ed Foley: [5:42]
Sure. We make it a very strong commitment within our culture to also try to make fact-based database decisions. The key thing that I try to always look at is, what is a way that you can have good, consistent, repetition and continue to build that process so that you're always having those conversations and engaging in that dialogue? And how can you make it something that just starts embedding itself into your culture? Josh was talking about how they're doing these types of Stat meetings, and we have been doing that as well. It's evolved in a really powerful way for us.
Our executive team stepped back and really looked at the process, where we were going at, what I would describe as, a mile wide and an inch deep. We had about 100 measures, that we would go through basically every quarter, and we would talk about primarily the ones that were maybe red or yellow. That was a pretty long discussion that you would have, but you would be talking very quickly about each one. So now we've gone a mile deep and an inch wide. We take one to two measures every quarter and we go really thoroughly into them. The departments who are the primary owners of those measures will be the ones that I will work with, [and they are the ones] we will build the discussion around, and then they will lead that discussion.
The major thing too about that is you've got this room full of people who are so knowledgeable and are very skilled in lots of different ways. But you want to get them talking and interacting and bringing their fresh perspectives to things that they might not always be dealing with day to day. That's what this new format has allowed us to do. I's really helped us evolve. And I think that's the key thing that I try to always look at, how can you continue to evolve?
When I started with the performance management efforts at the city almost seven years ago so many things were happening in the whole area of performance management, but it's just taken massive leaps forward in terms of open data, and efforts to engage citizens, and having these discussions internally. So, it's exciting time to be here and it's just been a great thing to partner with ClearPoint and be able to see the evolution of the ClearPoint system that's been right there with us.
Kirsten Wyatt: [6:19]
How has working with ClearPoint stepped up your game when it comes to the measures that you're using? I mean, I think you know, we remember from David Allen's class that anyone can do output measures but, it takes a lot more to really turn your operations into a true performance management game. What is it about ClearPoint and your current efforts that you're working on that have taken you to that next level that we all strive for?
Josh Edwards: [8:38]
I think in the evolution of ClearPoint and the tool, one thing that came along with that is the ecosystem of the different cities and counties that are using it across the country. One thing we really enjoyed about it was, over the years having used it, is it's designed for government, right? You can tell that the people that designed it know government, and that that's what they're using it for. And so, the people that we've met along the way, the people we've learned from and learned how they're using it, are people in local government.
I think of Fort Collins and Lawrence Pollock and some of the presentations he's done that we've learned from and how that's helped us think about our performance measures. I think about Fort Lauderdale, their structural Innovation Group, and how they use the tool. We learned a lot from them. The actual ecosystem of cities has helped us think about our performance measures.
If you think about the tool itself and how we use it, we think through the hierarchy of measures, and we use the tool [ClearPoint] to help departments do that. So, every department and every person's got access. The people that are collecting the data and reporting on it go right into the system and that’s the same place they build their budget PowerPoints and everything. When we think about the hierarchy of measures, I think that's helped us as an organization where we've encouraged departments to say, hey, if you have a workload and measures, those input, output measures that you talked about, you can put those in there, we're not going to look at it as for you, you know that if you like it that much, so you want to put everything in there, you can do that, but we're not going to require it.
What we do then is we really encourage what we call core measures and strategic measures. We want the outcome measures, we want to know if something's working, we want to know what that impact is. And so, the core measures are really more focused in on a department level, if you have a departmental strategic plan. How do you know as a department that you're doing your job, and you're doing it well? We want to see this, and we tie into the departmental strategic plan, which is then aligned to the city-wide strategic plan. The strategic measures are those in the strategic plan. To Ed's point, we do have way too many measures. We get less and less every year, but we still have a lot because we have all these levels of measures. But, what we're trying to do is to focus in on the higher-level ones that tell the story and let us know and help tell our residents understand whether were doing a good job or not.
Ed Foley: [10:55]
I would just say it's really sort of a walk down memory lane for me here at TLG. This is where I met ClearPoint six years ago and we have had this journey that was fairly near to when ClearPoint became a presence on the market. And wouldn't you know it, it was Fort Collins that introduced us and so I met them here, in person, at this conference, and the rest has been history. ClearPoint has stayed step by step with us and have been a great partner to push us as well. When we see the various efforts that are happening – they do a wonderful, I think it's about every six weeks, not podcasts, but webinars that are just great and are continuing to evolve and show you what opportunities you can be doing. We're probably still only scratching the surface of what we can do with the tool. But it has been a very, very influential piece, especially to managing those meetings and having those discussions that are just at the core of what having performance management and a successful program is about, in my opinion.
Kirsten Wyatt: [12:10]
Let's talk about this sense of community that is built into what could be perceived as a technical tool. Obviously, you know, Josh and Ed are both referencing how much local governments can learn from one another. We certainly know that to be true to ELGL and our mission to share really good information so we're not recreating the wheel all the time. Talk to us about ClearPoint's vision and values related to the community that you're building on top of also building a software product.
Laura Chandler: [12:43]
Yeah. Just listening to Josh and Ed, is really very exciting because the ClearPoint Community has in very many ways, been happening organically, you know? This past year we really stepped back and said, "Okay, how can we help foster this community that is already very active with one another?”, and “how can we tie it together to connect them with their peers in a more effective way, or with experts?” So that's really the goal of the ClearPoint Community is just to establish and create and develop this robust, active community where we have the ability to affect their engagement and deepen their engagement, and maybe assist in taking them from good to great. We can assist in accelerating that progress. That's really the goal of the ClearPoint Community. I came on board last year in the fall in September – I was actually a former client, so I was super passionate about it.
We have subsequently done a number of things and we're really honing in on our regional presence. A lot of our communities have a number of clients that are located in close proximity to one another. We started out with regional meetings and North Carolina. We've also seen – Fort Collins and Arvada, and some other folks [in Colorado], and we've subsequently done the same thing. Much like what ELGL is doing with your supper clubs and some of the other activities, but it's bringing together a lot of our community members around, you know, strategy and performance management and sharing best practices and learning from one another.
It's wonderful to watch and see folks as they connect, because we just had an event in Fort Lauderdale. Even though they're in close proximity to each other, oftentimes the only time they get together is maybe at TLG, right? To help them begin the process of really connecting on a more frequent basis, again, just to help accelerate their progress. So that's really sort of the vision behind the community piece. It's been a joy, I'm super passionate about it and it's just nice to be around others that are that are the same. You can tell.
Kirsten Wyatt: [15:16]
Tell me more about the benchmarking group? How does that play out? How does that benefit local government? And is that something that local governments of any size can participate in? Or, benefit from?
Laura Chandler: [15:30]
When I first started with ClearPoint last year, I spent the first several months just on reconnaissance. Really sort of understanding my clients, ClearPoint, and their needs.
One of the things that I love, that I have heard some of our owners talk about, is we're very customer driven, not competitor driven, you know? Its customer driven. We want to understand exactly what their needs are and the design a tool to be able to meet those needs.
And so a lot of our communities are beginning the process (or maybe they are even more sophisticated and have been doing it for a while) of focusing in on benchmarking. Benchmarking is something that different communities define in different ways. Oftentimes, what we find is there are organized groups around benchmarking, who are sitting down, and they're sort of establishing, “Okay, who are we comparing ourselves with? What are those four corners? If we're going to measure, what are those measures, and how are we going to measure it?” because no two organizations or local government bodies measure in the same way. All in the name of accelerating their progress and identifying those best practices.
We've had clients that are involved in the Florida Benchmarking Consortium, and clients who are involved in the Municipal Benchmarking Network of Canada. Also, we've been super fortunate to be at the ground level with the Kansas City Regional Benchmarking Initiative. So, Kansas City and Olathe, and Johnson County, and Ed can probably talk a little bit more about that, but we have supported them. But in the same sense, we've learned so much from this process just in the tool itself and how to better customize it to be able to accommodate their needs as it relates to benchmarking and peer-to-peer sharing.
Ed Foley: [17:24]
Sure, there’s been a really, really tremendous effort put forth by the core four in the Kansas City area, which is Wyandotte County, Johnson County, Kansas City, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas. They are the ones that established the initial vision for the Regional Benchmarking Initiative in Kansas City, and I'm just happy Olathe is a part of it. Through a couple of us in the consortium, we are using ClearPoint. And ClearPoint had an interest in getting involved in this and has come alongside to support this effort. It's continuing to progress and we're excited about that.
I would also just like to add something, though. And that is, within the ClearPoint Community itself, ClearPoint has established a measures library, which allows you as a user to share your measures with anyone else in the ClearPoint system. You can essentially benchmark that way against one another. One final point I want to make is, you really know something is taking a major step forward when things start happening organically. And there has been a connection point where me and two other municipalities have actually begun doing screen shares and showing each other what we're doing within our system and really looking under the hood. That's when you know things are really starting to take a major step forward. It's been a really beneficial thing to see how many unique ways the system can be leveraged to the benefit of the uniqueness of each organization.
Josh Edwards: [19:06]
Just building off that, I think Laura mentioned the regional meetings, and we got a lot of benefit from just getting in the room with some of our neighbors. Like the city, Raleigh, Durham County, and then a couple people from Mooresville, outside of Charlotte, made the drive to Durham. We all sit in our innovation lab, put up ClearPoint, talk about how we're using it, what benefit we're getting from it, and then what we can learn from each other. So, we're actually in the system showing how we're using it and thinking of new ways we can use it together. So, I think that's one of the benefits.
With the benchmarking piece, I think what a lot of us in local government are trying to figure out is, “how do you make it as easy as possible?” Having spent a lot of time working in organizations that do the North Carolina benchmarking project, and you know, back in the day, when I was at Fairfax, I was the ICM, a benchmarking person, there was a lot of work involved in that. And so, you have to weigh the work versus the reward. If we can make it easy to compare peer-to-peer, then I think it's a different ball game. I think that's something that we're all hoping for and wanting to see.
I think it starts with meeting with people in person, learning how they're using the system in terms of ClearPoint and then if we're all using the system in similar ways, we could then begin to benchmark against each other at certain measures. I think that's key. The other thing about the group and the community – this is going to be super cheesy, but Ben Kittleston's here, so I want to make sure to throw the cheese on because I know he loves it and his eye rolls are classic – so I get a Christmas card from Ed every year now. And Ed writes the best Christmas cards.
Ed Foley: [20:45]
[Laughter.] Sometimes I get one back from Josh, but not always. [Laughter.]
Josh Edwards: [20:47]
I'm a slacker. I'm a slacker! Getting your card usually inspires us to say "hey, how many of these should we get made at Costco? Let's go do this quick." My family is not as prepared. Yes, that's on me. I feel that. But now I know Ed from Olathe and anybody that ever asked me about performance management and has questions for me, I usually steer them to him as well. We've become friends. And I think that's a statement.
Kristen Wyatt: [21:14]
Well, and I will also pile on the cheese because that is how I am wired. This really is an amazing time to be working in local government, that there are so many ways that we can connect and learn from each other. The days of having these, you know, segmented out “these cities can only talk to each other because there are certain population” or “they’re a certain form of government” or, you know, “they’re are city but this is a county,” I mean, those days can be behind us because of ways that we can connect through communities that we build ourselves.
Whether it's through ELGL, whether it's through the ClearPoint Community, it really is an amazing time to be working in this field, because of how much we can learn from each other. You know, we can get Christmas cards from each other, but we can also find out the very best performance measures we can be using for communities that are like us or that we aspire to. I guess that's not even a question that's just maybe cheesy as well. But thank you for getting me started. [Laughter.]
Kirsten Wyatt: [22:11]
Any other stories about how you're using the tool, any findings, reporting that has been particularly impactful or meaningful to your local government operations?
Josh Edwards: [22:24]
I think one thing for us is, we do an annual resident survey, and that survey touches many of the aspects of the strategic plan. It's very hard to measure mission and vision and if you're actually accomplishing that, as a community. So, we have specific questions in the residence survey that really tackle that. And then we drill down into specific service areas that we're trying to improve.
Some of those things are really tied to strategic plan initiatives that we really want to know about. We make sure that we develop kind of a KPI for our resident survey that then has action plans from departments. So, we connect all that through ClearPoint, but we're taking the statistics, the statistically significant data we're getting from the survey, and we're putting it into ClearPoint. We're developing action plans with the departments so that they can talk using the trend history, how well it’s going, what changes were behind that positive or negative swing, and then we're able to kind of connect the strategic plan to higher level mission/vision to the work that's happening in the departments.
Ed Foley: [23:27]
I would say the thing that I would reference in this regard is when you start seeing your internal partners initiating a utilization of the system, for their benefit, with you. We have just been gaining so much momentum every year with the impact that these internal dashboards and quick storytelling mechanisms through the ClearPoint system, that it has become a powerful benefit to our departments.
The other major piece I would say is whenever you can make things as simple and as straightforward as possible you should. You can make things really straightforward through data loading information and automating the flow of information, which ClearPoint allows you to do through a Data Loader system or through SQL queries. Now you've just taken it a whole other notch up in simplification. So, we've really just been thrilled at the way our departments have begun to initiate, on their own, ways that they would like to see their data brought to life with this system [ClearPoint] now.
Josh Edwards: [24:49]
I think for us another example would be our strategic plan goal teams. So, we have five strategic plan goals, and there could be, in any goal, about 20 strategic plan initiatives. We report on all those initiatives. ClearPoint is a great reporting tool, not just for performance measures, but actual projects, initiatives, because you can see what's going well and what's not. There's also plenty of room for text. Sometimes if you're only putting data in and you're not telling the story with it, it’s not as useful. Thinking about the words and capturing, from the team itself, how it's going is really important for us. And that's an area we've grown in.
Now the initiative lead is the person putting in the information. We've evolved, it used to be five people had a license. Now we've got departments asking us for licenses. We've got… I can't even count how many licenses we have now, I'm sure ClearPoint loves that. But it's because people wanted access, they wanted to be the ones to put the information in, that curated the information because we use it so often. And so, giving that tool to the person leading the initiative, is a way for them to make sure the story is told accurately, and to make sure that the updates are happening often. It's not just a once a year, twice a year type of thing. We're really trying to make it more of a monthly, possibly twice a month type repetition and build that habit.
Kirsten Wyatt: [26:13]
All right. One last difficult question for each of you. If you could be the DJ of this episode, what song would you pick? Laura can get started on this one.
Laura Chandler: [26:25]
I actually asked my son this question before I left. He's nine and he said "Mommy, Imagine Dragons: Machine."
Josh Edwards: [26:38]
I've been listening to a lot of Weezer lately because it's always wonderful and you feel old when a band you loved as a kid comes back and it's cool again due to YouTube cover songs. They still got it. I know you know that. And so, I think The Sweater Song is always one that would be a good ending. I'm kind of with the original album, Pinkerton so I'll go with Say It Ain’t So. Maybe, you know, a combo song, maybe a little bit of both. You got to cut out some parts, you know, but yeah.
Ed Foley: [27:10]
Here's what sticks in my mind. I was watching the NCAA championship and Tony Bennett, in his acceptance speech, mentioned a song by Torrance Wells called Hills and Valleys. That's what's coming to me right now. This is a journey, this whole performance management work, this local government work, you are going to have hills and valleys, but if you keep the faith, you'll get through it and it's a great ride. So that's what I'd say.
Laura Chandler: [27:36]
That's a great answer.
Kirsten Wyatt: [27:37]
Well, thanks to all three of you for joining us today.
Ed Foley, Laura Chandler and Josh Edwards: [27:40]
Kirsten Wyatt: [27:41]
GovLove is hosted and produced by a rotating cast of awesome ELGL volunteers. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network, a social startup with the mission of engaging the brightest minds in local government. You can join ELGL for $30 a year and that includes access to our job board, the members-only Facebook discussion forums, all of our great content and events, activities and networking events. You can find them at elgl.org. And a last reminder if you have a story idea for GovLove, we want to hear it. Send us a message on Twitter or email Ben at elgl.org, Thanks for listening. This has been GovLove, a podcast about local government.
*Transcription has been edited for clarity.