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How Louisville Embedded Performance Management Into City Departments

By planning strategically and measuring critical operations, the city has improved service delivery.

This article originally appeared as part of a paper on What Works Cities’ Certification program. To download the paper as a PDF, please click here.

The City of Louisville, Kentucky’s performance management system, LouieStat, sets the bar for city government performance improvement. Mayor Greg Fischer united lessons from his business background with existing government stat models and unveiled LouieStat in 2012 to focus on two areas: planning and operations. “We needed to figure out how to plan, and we created consistent guidelines and language and a single coordinated strategic planning process that would help us measure the strategic areas of focus,” said Daro Mott, Chief of Performance Improvement in Louisville. “We also needed something that was more operational, which would have us measure the critical business processes—the processes that deliver the core of citizen services. We really needed to create a program that could answer the question of how Louisville could continuously improve on service delivery.”

Mott said that breaking the work into distinct strategic and operational categories was critical for the success of the system. “Operations should flow from the strategy of the city…If you start with data that you already have, you may not develop the right performance measures. You need to ask, ‘What are we planning to do and what data will help us understand how well we’re doing the work?’” This way, a city’s performance management efforts will center around its strategic priorities, rather than boosting performance on arbitrary metrics.

As a part of the planning process, Mayor Fischer developed a six-year plan with 21 city goals and asked each agency to develop its own goals and plans to achieve them. The Mayor’s senior leadership meets with senior staff from 18 of 20 departments four times a year and with other staff members between these forums. In these meetings, attendees discuss progress, look at metrics for the department and identify areas of weakness, evaluate the impact of city programs, and make data-driven decisions about where and how to best allocate resources. The Mayor attends many of these forums himself, and also meets with Mott on a regular basis to analyze Louisville’s performance on a citywide level. Mayor Fischer said what he calls a “weakness orientation” is key to making these meetings productive instead of punitive: “Bad stat programs are human- and people-focused and create more of a blaming culture. Ours is a celebration culture, focused on identifying broken processes or bad data and then fixing that and celebrating the people who do the work.”

In order to promote buy-in from so many departments, LouieStat from the beginning sought to demonstrate its utility to agencies. According to Mott, “What really got us more buy-in was facilitating process discovery workshops with departments by which we documented the critical business processes of each department and talked about measures linked to these processes.” In doing so, the Mayor’s Office introduced departments to performance management—and showed how performance management could help identify and track metrics to improve service delivery.

The performance management culture has become increasingly embedded in Louisville’s agencies. Mayor Fischer points to this as a critical aspect of developing a culture of performance; he said, “We provided training for people to understand how to solve problems, which has given them a sense of not just empowerment, but fulfillment and hopefully joy in their work, where now they feel they are in control of making things better.” The Office of Performance Improvement has trained at least one staff member in each agency to lead the LouieStat process and analyze that department’s data. Most data analysis now happens at the departmental level, and agencies have come to embrace a performance-based approach, learning to adapt LouieStat to their various needs.

Stephen Goldsmith is the Derek Bok Professor of the Practice of Urban Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and director of Data-Smart City Solutions at the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University. He previously served as Deputy Mayor of New York and Mayor of Indianapolis, where he earned a reputation as one of the country's leaders in public-private partnerships, competition and privatization. Stephen was also the chief domestic policy advisor to the George W. Bush campaign in 2000, the Chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the district attorney for Marion County, Indiana from 1979 to 1990. He has written The Power of Social Innovation; Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector; Putting Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work through Grassroots Citizenship; The Twenty-First Century City: Resurrecting Urban America; The Responsive City: Engaging Communities through Data-Smart Governance; and A New City O/S.