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Town Performance: How Can We Measure It?

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By Emily Portner, on June 3, 2010

Hello All! It’s been a week since I’ve started my internship at the Town of Chapel Hill and it is fair to say that I’ve hit the ground running (I had a night council meeting on my first day!).

The main focus of my internship thus far has been on a pilot performance measurement project. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of performance measurement as a management and budgeting tool for local governments, check out the International City/County Management Association (ICMA)’s Center for Performance Measurement for some great background.

The performance measures process at the Town was initiated by Town Manager Roger Stancil as a means to track the efficiency and effectiveness of Town services. Roger decided that he wanted to begin this project in the Town by choosing 5 pilot departments: parking services, fleet services, information technology (IT), current development review (planning), and fire. Throughout the past year these departments have established goals and objectives, then devised performance measures and targets as means to track and improve upon these objectives.

Dr. David Ammons of our own School of Government was brought in as a consultant on this project because of his extensive experience helping local governments in North Carolina institute a performance measurement system. Dr. Ammons is well known for his publications regarding performance measures: Assessing Local Performance and Establishing Community Standards (Sage Publications, 2001) and Leading Performance Management in Local Government (ICMA, 2008).

The process of the Town’s performance measurement project is as follows:

  1. The pilot units develop their goals and objectives. These goals and objectives are usually derived from a departmental vision statement.
  2. The “G and O’s” are sent to Dr. Ammons who provides suggestions for improvement, often citing examples of how local governments elsewhere are tracking similar objectives.
  3. The departments process Dr. Ammons’ comments and adapt suggestions where they deem appropriate. Departments then begin developing performance measures which correspond to specific objectives. An example of a performance measure may look like: “% of time advisory board agendas and supporting materials are posted online at least 4 working days prior to meeting: ___%”
  4. Dr. Ammons provides a second round of feedback, this time focusing on the extent to which the derived performance measures accurately measure exactly what the department would like to measure.
  5. Pilot departments meet with the Town’s Performance Measures Committee, and the Town Manager, Deputy Town Manager, and Assistant Town Manager to discuss the process and end result.

The Town is currently at step 5 in this process. The pilot units will meet with Town management in the next couple of weeks to discuss their experience.

Following this discussion, Roger would like to extend the performance measures project to other departments. It will be one of my essential duties in this internship to aid the Committee in determining what the next steps are and which departments are next! I can’t wait to get going.

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2 Responses to “Town Performance: How Can We Measure It?”

  1. Jennifer Butler

    Emily, it is so exciting to see this project moving forward for the Town. I am thrilled to know you will be a part of its next steps. It is such a great opportunity for you and the Town. I’m glad to know another MPA intern is on the job!


    • Emily Portner

      Jennifer, thank you so much for your kind words! Its strange to me that you were in my shoes last year, I keep hearing all about the work you did last summer and I’m actually reading through a lot of your research!

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