Developing the right reporting strategy to communicate organizational performance is a hot topic in local government. I talk to dozens of government agencies every month, and the number one reason they come to Envisio is because they’re struggling with reporting on performance.
Which is understandable.
It’s not easy to regularly produce reports that show progress against strategic goals for three very different audiences—elected officials, staff and citizens. Each audience requires a different level of detail, in a different format, communicated on a different schedule.
Most of the local government organizations I speak with spend a huge amount of time pulling together their reports in spreadsheets or crafting PDFs by hand. They also usually suffer from at least one of two problems:
1. Too many performance measures and not enough clarity or resources to tailor those measures into reports for different groups; and/or,
2. Too few meaningful performance measures that actually give an indication of progress or community impact. These are typically what we call workload measures. They answer questions such as: “how many parking permits did we issue?”, “how many traffic studies were completed?” “how many meetings were held?” Useful in some circumstances but, on their own, they don’t provide insight into the efficiency or effectiveness of the organization.
Both scenarios result in unwieldy reports that take hours to put together and no-one reads. A whole lot of effort for nothing. (And if that sounds familiar, you should know that you’re not alone.)
So reporting gets a pretty bad rap. Not only can it be a long, thankless box-ticking exercise for council, but it can also feed a culture of blame. Naming and shaming people who miss status updates, or who fail to meet a deadline. No-one sets out to build a culture like that, but it happens.
We think about reporting a little differently at Envisio.
For starters, we don’t think reporting should just be about being accountable to your council, board or the public (although that’s super important of course). If you’re managing a complex plan, then reports are really one of the best ways to manage your plan.
Your own overdue items, departmental actions that are about to start, projects experiencing disruptions… an effective reporting strategy should tell you where to focus your attention, help you to troubleshoot problems and prioritize your workload.
In our recent webinar with the City of Ferndale, Joe Gacioch the Assistant City Manager explained how they had learned that a missed progress update or a “no progress” update in a report is usually a symptom of a bigger problem. As a result, the team at Ferndale have been able to identify many problems early on and address them through better resource management, re-prioritization or greater collaboration. It’s a cool example of how regular, consistent reporting can help you manage your plan and influence outcomes.
Reports should also be used to keep things moving forward, get folks aligned around a goal and to make everyone feel good about the progress made.
So rather than only create reports that show where there is disruption or that measure overall plan status, why not also generate reports such as “what’s scheduled to start this month?” or “what’s been achieved so far this year?”. Use those reports to build excitement or give kudos to teams that are performing well. That’s exactly how we use organizational performance reporting internally at Envisio.
OK, so I know what you’re thinking. That all sounds great. But what does an effective performance reporting framework actually look like?
We’ve put together a recommended reporting framework (with examples), influenced by our work with hundreds of different government agencies.
All of these reports can be automatically generated and scheduled with Envisio of course, but many could also be built in spreadsheets or other tools.
So whether or not you use Envisio, I hope this is a useful reporting framework for your city, county, town or school district. Please feel free to copy or share any aspect of it.
(And if you want it in a handy, downloadable cheat sheet, you can grab that right here.)
Hope it helps :)
Reports for your council:
- Council Strategic Plan Progress Summary: Summarize all activity supporting the strategic plan, by department and by strategic goal. Recommended Cadence: Monthly.
- Council Strategic Goal Report: A deep dive into all actions and metrics supporting a single strategic goal (Economic Vitality, for example). Recommended Cadence: Monthly.
- Economic Development Project Summary Report for Council: The current status of all Economic Development projects supporting the strategic plan.
Recommended Cadence: Quarterly.
Reports for your executive team:
- Action Plan Progress Update - Actions by Parent Strategy: Executive team review of all strategies and their actions. All action statuses included.
Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Action Plan Progress Update - Actions by Department: Understand workload and performance by reviewing how many actions each department currently has in progress, and the status for each action. Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Disruptions Report - Disrupted Actions by Department: An early warning system. Review all actions that have been reported as at risk. Recommended Cadence: Weekly
- Completed Strategic Actions: Share regularly with staff, council and the community, all actions that have been completed in the previous month, quarter or calendar year (you choose). Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Actions Coming Due in the Next 60 Days by Department: Avoid surprises by reviewing all actions scheduled to be completed in the next 60 days and ensure they are on track.
Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Actions Scheduled to Start in the Next 90 Days: Ensure managers are prepared and resources are allocated toward items that are planned to start in the next 30, 60 or 90 days. Recommended Cadence: Quarterly.
- Police Department Scorecard Report: Select measures from internal dashboards to report out as a department scorecard. Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Parks & Recreation Strategies, Actions & Measures: An example department-specific report, including all strategies, actions and measures the department is responsible for.
Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- My Department’s At Risk Items: All strategic actions experiencing disruption, including reasons (updates), progress and the last update date.
Recommended Cadence: Monthly or weekly
- Actions I Own & Contribute To: For each person in your organization involved in strategy execution to see everything they own and contribute to.
Recommended Cadence: Weekly or biweekly
- My Overdue Actions: For individual managers to be notified of their overdue actions.
Recommended Cadence: Weekly
- My Items Requiring an Update in the Current Reporting Period: For individuals to be notified of their actions that have not been updated in the current reporting period. Recommended Cadence: Monthly, 7 days before report due date
- Citizen Satisfaction Survey Report: Report & visualize citizen satisfaction (or other survey results) and share them with the public. Recommended Cadence: Annual
- Actions Pending Updates in the Current Reporting Period: Identify all actions that have not been updated in the current reporting period and share them with the individuals responsible for updating them. Recommended Cadence: 7 & 3 days before report due date.
- Actions Pending a Status Update: All Actions that have started according to the planned start date but are yet to be updated. Recommended Cadence: Monthly
- Capital Improvement Plan Project & Budget Status: Track and report on the progress of all capital improvement plan projects including the actual spend, budgeted spend and variance for each project, and overall for the department. Share with your council, executive team and department directors. Recommended Cadence: Monthly
P.S. Our framework doesn’t include many reports for citizens because we believe the best way to communicate performance to your community is via public dashboards. More on that soon.
Also, if you’re considering a more holistic performance management program in your organization, check out our Guide to Performance Management for Local Government. Enjoy!