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Thread: Performance measures for comprehensive planning activities

  1. #1
    Member
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    St. Louis County, MO
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    Performance measures for comprehensive planning activities

    We have a new COO here at the County who is very big on performance measures (he's ex-military, former director of our Highways & Public Works Departments). He's directed every department to come up with performance measures that will be reported on on a monthly basis (I imagine we'll stretch that to quarterly, but still).

    I'm wondering if anyone has any research help and/or experience in identifying, monitoring and reporting on performance measures for the sort of comprehensive/community planning that is more community action focused than on land use petitions, project review, etc.

    We do three levels of planning in my division:

    1) We do community/area plans for unincorporated areas.
    2) We do a lot of neighborhood/subdivision-level work with trustees, associations, residents. Much of this is in coordination with our other operation-oriented departments (Parks, Public Works, Highways, Human Services, Health).
    3) We are the policy arm of the County, developing the Countywide Strategic Plan, sit on TIF commissions, research on a variety of policy issues (TOD, TIF, community reinvestment, etc.)

    Any direction is much appreciated. No lead is too small.

    Thanks,
    Justin

  2. #2
    Cyburbian plnrgrl's avatar
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    My first thought is, how effective is it to generate a monthly performance report on a Comprehensive Plan? Some of those policies take years to achieve - hence the long-term nature of such a Plan. That report is something we generate when we update the Plan, every ten years or so. My advice is the most frequent you want that report to be is annually.

    You may be able to generate a report on monthly stakeholder meetings for your neighborhood plans, maybe including the minutes of your meetings an actions taken. If you have measurable criteria in your policies, then it is much easier to show the status of the performance. Not every policy will have a measurement cabability.

  3. #3
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    You know that. I know that. But it's not stopping our COO from demanding it. And I'm not talking about performance measures for our community plans so much, as we do annual monitoring reports, but for the sorts of community and neighborhood planning activities we do.

    I'm grasping at anything, really, but I suspect that the sorts of PMs we'll need to track would be around (internal) project management, rather than any (external) community change indicators. As you say, so much of what we do can take at least a year, or more likely years, to see any real results. I imagine we'll be doing things like number of neighborhood/community meetings, attendance of meetings, surveys sent out/returned, that sort of thing.

  4. #4
    I have nothing that will help you in this struggle. I just wanted to say that I have made great sacrifices in my career to avoid people just like that, and I don't regret it one bit.
    In my life, I have met men both good, and evil. I defend my self against them all...

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    Yikes, must be fairly recent military, I thought that system of management went out 10 eyars ago.

    I experienced something like that once, but we did most of our reporting on current planning cases. How many were submitted, what is the case load per planner, how long did it take to go to hearing, etc. Of course that created problems all of its own since no two cases are alike so someone with two cases can be putting in just as much work as someone with 30.

    As with the issues we had, it sounds like your new COO doesn't really know the details of how planning works in the real world (ie unlike Public Works, you can't set a goal and measure the number of pot holes filled every month). Maybe if you came up with something that would remind him of his military past (readiness rates)...ie. We worked 102% of the 1240 hours scehduled, we expended 86% of our allotted adverting budget for the month of June (course when you have a lot of projects that one will look really bad!), etc

    Good Luck!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Wildono's avatar
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    performance measurement

    We had a city-wide effort at performance measurement a few years back. The greatest challenge is that much of 'community development' is invariably pragmatic and dependent on known (i.e. small budgets) and unknown factors (i.e. personalities) that may ensure or thwart policy or plan implementation that fits some established framework of achievement. Specifically to your question, a suggestion was made to equate successful comprehensive planning performance with legislative action in favor of a staff recommendation on projects/plans.

    It is easier to focus on permit timelines, but even the variability among applications suggested in a response to this thread raises an excellent point that seems only answerable by having an excellent permit tracking system, and staff top to bottom dedicated to consistent data entry. The rub locally is that planning review performance measurement is dependent and confounded by the review of staff from other departments, particularly the public works and fire departments. So, instead there was a focus on volume of application intake and building valuation of permits in the pipeline. That approach seems more a measure of the local economic development situation - and doesn't really reflect what is getting built - which seems more important in the long run.
    "That guy handles the puck like a cow handles a gun!" - Mike Lange

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Mark's avatar
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    check Zucker Systems

    http://www.zuckersystems.com/new.shtml
    Ohhhh Mama, can this really be the end!

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I think Mark had an excellent source for you.

    We had the same problem in an agency I once worked for. We were asked to come up with performance standards. We could always come up with quantity review, by listing the number of projects handled and time required and number of backlog projects, but this was not answering the question of quality review.

    Did we stop in-depth review just to get the project out? Was it just a "scan" review to churn out volume and keep projects moving? How do you judge quality review? THAT should be the question.

    Were your review comments good decisions? How do you evaluate that?

    If your comments are recommendations, how many recommendations got over-turned or reversed or sent back for more information compared to number accepted?

    If these are final decisions, how many got challenged by arbitration or lawsuits, and how many were reversed?

    How many complaint letters have you received?

    How many commendation letters were received?

    What if your applicants all have good proposals - and you do not change any - are you doing your job? How much credit should you get?

    Performance? There is a difference between quantity and quality - obviously.

    I suggest a conference with your new leader once he better understands what you do, and ask him what he is looking for in terms of "performance."

    We never could get it resolved to meaningful satisfaction.

    Good luck!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Another approach to evaluating performance might be to send out questionaires with selected areas you want input on.

    You have the advantage of selecting which entities you want to respond, also.

    Some businesses such as building owners do this annually to their tenants, asking for responses on a 1 to 5 scale with 1 being poor, 3 average, and 5 excellent.

    Some things to evaluate come to mind:

    How clear are application instructions (did you need help to complete the form?)?

    Was the help from our office timely, helpful, clear, thorough, and without staff error requiring resubmission?

    Was the application staff response timely, clear, and in writing?

    If applicable, was the Public Hearing or other city approval process timely and clear?

    If you could change one thing about the process you have been through, what would it be?

    Other comments:

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