South Bend’s Performance Management Program

by Danielle Fulmer

This piece is also featured on the City’s Transparency & Performance Website. Check it out!

In early 2017, we reimagined the way that performance management works in the City. Historically, performance management in Cities has been reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs), which are important but may not tell the whole story of a program, service, or initiative. We saw that focusing exclusively on KPIs was doing little to promote constructive discussion and problem-solving around our biggest challenges. The City’s Business Analytics team, housed in the Department of Innovation & Technology, was charged with helping departments dive deep on the underlying, persistent challenges that prevent them from meeting their goals. We help departments use data — both quantitative and qualitative — to understand challenges in their fields and work with them to craft solutions with measurable outcomes.

About SB Stat

The SB Stat program serves four focus areas, which are selected by department leadership in coordination with the Mayor’s office. The types of challenges that are a good fit for SB Stat include working with departments and leaders from across the City to:

  • Improve processes within and between departments
  • Use data to better target limited resources
  • Understand and address issues of equity in program and resource access
  • Promote employee input in decision-making
  • Measure the need for new programs and monitor and evaluate their implementation
  • Update internal processes and structures to support employees and improve services
  • Promote financial integrity and best practices

The program is successful because of the engagement, creativity, and enthusiasm of department leadership. Our City leaders have fostered a culture of data-driven decision making, continuous improvement, and innovation. SB Stat builds on these strengths by creating a space where this culture of collaborative problem solving, backed up by accountability and rigor, can thrive.

A Typical SB Stat Meeting

Each participating department has separate SB Stat meetings held on a regular basis. If you were a fly on the wall in a typical SB Stat meeting, you would see something like this:

Before you even arrive, lots of work has gone into preparing for the meeting itself. In the weeks leading up to the Stat meeting, the lead Business Analyst for the meeting works closely with department leadership to analyze data, understand processes, and develop potential responses to the focus area for that meeting. The Business Analyst and department leadership also collect updates on projects initiated in previous SB Stat meetings, analyze the outcomes of changes to the department’s strategy or operations, and identify any adjustments to reflect on these with the group.

The make-up of a Stat meeting is very important. Meetings usually have about 15 participants, which includes representatives such as:

  • The Mayor and other representatives from his office, such as the Chief of Staff and Diversity and Inclusion Officer
  • The department head and his or her deputy
  • Mid-level managers, division directors, and other employees involved in the meeting focus area
  • Representatives of central departments like Human Resources, Legal, Innovation and Technology, and Finance, who provide subject-matter expertise and weigh in on decisions
  • If the meeting covers an inter-departmental topic, department heads from other affected departments are also invited to participate

The meeting always starts with a welcome from the Mayor and a round of introductions if there are any new faces in the room. We move quickly into the agenda, beginning with updates on projects initiated in previous Stat meetings for that department. We discuss progress against goals and timeline, any tweaks that have been made and why, challenges encountered, and share data to evaluate the outcomes of our changes.

Soon we are onto the main topic of the meeting. Usually we discuss a new challenge at each meeting, although some topics require multiple meetings to review sufficiently. The Business Analyst and department leadership present the challenge and supporting data and draw out key insights. Department representatives involved with the focus area can provide important contextual information that better frames the challenge and helps the group envision appropriate solutions.

The meeting always ends with one or more recommendations, which can range from small adjustments to a current process to implementing an entirely new process or program. We identify how we will measure the outcomes of our work and agree as a group on one change to prioritize over the upcoming months. The Business Analyst and department leadership work together to accomplish action items following the meeting.

The documents that we share on our Transparency & Performance Page include the data and content from actual meetings, with minimal updates for clarity. We hope you will explore them to learn more about how the City is using data, accountability, and collaborative problem-solving to drive innovation and continuous improvement.

Danielle Fulmer is the Director of Business Analytics at the City of South Bend’s Department of Innovation and Technology.