From Governing:

BY: | June 19, 2013

“Stat” programs have emerged as one of the most important government operational reforms of the last 20 years. Just five years after Police Commissioner William Bratton and his deputy Jack Maple launched the New York City Police Department’s CompStat in 1994, more than 170 law enforcement agencies around the country had implemented the performance improvement program. And stat programs have spread far beyond law enforcement as governments around the country have built on efforts exemplified by former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s CitiStat, which he launched in 2001 and, after becoming governor, built on to create Maryland’s StateStat in 2007.

But while many public entities now have programs designed to use performance metrics to drive change, not all of them succeed at being more than just a reporting system and actually changing employee behavior. Louisville’s LouieStat, on the other hand, is an initiative that not only has improved the performance of the Kentucky city’s government but also has transformed its operational culture.

LouieStat has accomplished that culture change by combining several approaches, including linking performance to strategy; giving employees not only the discretion and authority to produce results but also the training they need; and welcoming community input. Mayor Greg Fischer combined a major open data effort with an innovation office and the data-driven approach he had used so successfully in the private sector.

Fischer began by developing a six-year plan that set 21 overarching city goals. He then ordered agency heads to develop departmental strategic plans. Agency employees were given the opportunity to develop internal goals, outline departmental plans to achieve those goals, and work on specialized teams that support collaborative partnerships both inside and outside city government. Staff members have a vested interest in the outcomes because they help to develop the processes to achieve them.

Louisville also linked employee skills to performance by using data to target employee training plans aimed at continuous improvement. Before LouieStat, for example, more than 300 inaccurate inmate fingerprints were being returned from the state each month. Agency staff initially thought the problem stemmed from the hardware and software used in processing the fingerprints. But after looking at the shifts with the highest return rates, the corrections department realized that its staff had not received formal fingerprinting training. Now every shift has at least one trained technician, the city is training more, and the return rate has dropped from more than 300 to less than 10 a month.

The mayor incorporated employee recognition as another important tool for driving performance. Last September, Louisville hosted a “Day of Celebration” to recognize more than 220 city employees as early adopters and leaders in innovation and continuous improvement, and more than 50 awards for particularly exemplary work were given out to city workers nominated by their co-workers.

LouieStat has changed the way the city interacts with its residents. Public forums on particular topics are attended by agency representatives who present LouieStat data with the objective of identifying creative solutions to city challenges. Officials collect public-feedback cards, which are incorporated into the dialogue. In addition to transparency and accountability, the forums provide a platform for innovative problem-solving.

As “stat” programs proliferate across the country, Louisville’s model — establishing a clear purpose, providing agencies and staff with autonomy, supporting targeted training, recognizing achievement, and increasing transparency and accountability through a collaborative process — demonstrates the potential these initiatives have for creating better, faster, cheaper government.