The recent recession has radically changed how governments must do business to survive.
When we talk, it can not be in government "doublespeak" or in generalities; we need to have clear goals and objectives. We need to define what we are doing in objective, measurable ways. Essentially, we must perform on par with the best private sector businesses, and seek new ways to provide services with existing resources. That is the key to our survival and to successful performance-based management.
Sources of funding and citizen expectations are much different than they were even two years ago. The time of "invisible" public services based on stable, multi-year funding is gone; instead a dynamic marketplace has emerged, where our community's willingness to pay for services, as well as their their service expectations are very different from what they've been in past. We must continuously pursue the most cost effective way to provide acceptable services and then show the community exactly how we are spending their money. As costs escalate beyond available revenue, we must communicate the options to our community and learn to provide fewer services at lower service levels. We must be willing to change - now!
This change is neither simple to embrace nor quick to implement. Vancouver has been working for nearly a decade on making these changes, accelerating our efforts in the last two years. While the act of quantifying and communicating our performance is often uncomfortable to City employees, we recognize that it is essential.
As a result of our efforts, Vancouver is viewed by most benchmarking organizations as an exceptionally lean, but effective, government organization. We are not where we want to be in all areas of the city yet, but we are making consistent progress.
Even the best performance measurement program will only tell us what needs to be done and suggest how to do it. Raw numbers should not drive the decision process, but objective data can inform it. A well integrated performance management program gives us information that is meaningful and reliable, not just "data" and charts. With meaningful information, we can make more sound decisions based on all three sources of knowledge: objective data, observation and political realities.
The best leaders make decisions based on a consistent process that is informed by data - then they motivate and steer their organizations to do what must be done, and in turn are exceptionally successful in the long term.
What is often called "Continuous Quality Improvement" or the “Deming Cycle” is central to many successful organizations. It is simply a continuous process “Plan – Do – Check – Act”. We avoid using fancy labels and performance jargon as much as possible to describe the process. We don’t give it a title - it is simply how we do business.
It is known by many names, but no matter what you call it a system of continuous improvement is essential - especially as funding becomes more scarce and the cost to provide services increase.
Click on each term below to see how each aspect is represented in our performance program.
> Manager Appraisals: Our web-based annual appraisal system has been in place since 2006, and provides a regular system of goal setting and employee feedback for the management group.
> Non-manager Appraisals: In 2007 we completed annual performance appraisals for all eligible employees. Currently a paper-based system of a variety of forms and formats, we will transition them to a more standardized electronic system over the next few years. Non-represented employees will be the highest priority, but represented employees will be transitioned as appropriate.