For over a decade, the Mayor and City Council of Albuquerque, New Mexico, have been approving “community goals” and related “desired community conditions” or outcomes after they have been tested in public forums and surveys to be sure they are important to citizens. In that time, the city government has incrementally built a performance management system that is well aligned to focus strategies, services, performance measures, and budgeted resources on achieving those desired community conditions.
Alignment from Desired Community Conditions to City Strategies, Policy, and Services
Albuquerque’s managing for results system is organized around eightbroad “community goals” that represent major public issues (e.g., “Human and Family Development,” “Public Safety,” “Sustainable Community Development,” “Economic Vitality”). While full statements spell out what the goals mean for Albuquerque, what really brings the community goals to life are “desired community conditions” and associated “goal progress indicators” that together articulate specific outcomes important to Albuquerque as a community and measurable indicators that provide a sense of progress. The community goals, desired conditions, and goal progress indicators represent the top level of performance alignment in Albuquerque, which is focused externally on community outcomes that residents see and feel, not on government actions.
A city performance plan organized by the community goals internalizes the alignment in a strategic way by identifying, for each desired community condition, specific program strategies intended to achieve the condition and the respective departments responsible for implementation and achieving results. The performance plan also includes:
- Resources dedicated to each strategy
- Goal progress indicators the strategy is attempting to influence (the “strategy outcome”)
- Service activities that comprise each strategy
- Measures and projections of performance of each service activity
Program strategies often represent organizational structure, but the city is trying to make them groupings of services that share a common purpose to create a marriage of programs and strategy.
The performance plan is a major component of the annual budget. The other major component, the financial plan, is aligned with the system by organizing program strategies by fund and by implementing department. This alignment enables policy makers and operations managers to link department strategies, services, projected performance levels, and associated financial allocations to desired community outcomes, by fund and by organization responsible for implementation. As the program strategy is the appropriation level of the city budget, the link between funding and strategic performance is clear.
An Example of Alignment
The desired community condition, safe, decent, affordable housing is available, an intended outcome of the “Human and Family Development” goal, provides a clear example of alignment. This desired condition has one goal progress indicator for tracking progress, households paying more than 30% of their income for housing, calculated as an annual percentage of households. One of the program strategies to address this condition is Develop Affordable Housing, which is most closely associated with Albuquerque’s Department of Family and Community Services. As part of that strategy, the department has several service activities, involving, for example, developing affordable housing units using a variety of available programs and funding sources, and helping low income families receive federal rental assistance. Specific performance measures for each service activity are generally output measures, such as the number of affordable housing units developed (for each relevant program), the number of families receiving down payment assistance, and the number of families receiving rent assistance vouchers. Some performance measures involve how effectively available resources are being used, such as utilization rate for public housing units available for rent to eligible households. (Some other desired community conditions and strategies include measures of service quality, such as ratings of customer satisfaction.) By examining reported data for performance measures for each strategy, citizens and policy makers will know what the city government is doing to try to ensure that safe, decent, affordable housing is available. This kind of information on all strategies for this community condition, and external data on the private housing market and resident incomes, can help policy makers decide whether to increase city investments in this condition, ask service managers to try to make more effective use of existing resources, or develop new strategies to achieve desired results.
Goals and Desired Community Conditions Affirmed Through Citizen Involvement
Albuquerque’s aligned performance management system is a product of efforts that have been in motion since 1994, when the Mayor and City Council passed a set of community goals that emerged from a citizen engagement process. The next year, multi-department staff teams, who received training, facilitation, and consulting assistance from Epstein & Fass Associates, developed Albuquerque’s first set of desired community conditions and outcome measures associated with each goal. City staff produced the first Albuquerque Progress Report in 1996, using indicators of the desired conditions. Over the years, alignment of desired outcomes with service performance has gradually been strengthened, and periodic citizen involvement has kept the goals and desired conditions relevant to community concerns.
Since 1998, a formal approach to oversee goal development has been led by the Indicators Progress Commission (IPC), a citizen body appointed by the mayor and city council. The process involves open “goal forums” held every four years that attract several hundred community members to discuss their ideas for Albuquerque’s future. The IPC uses the goal forum results to craft specific community goals and desired community conditions, and prepares a resolution for the mayor and city council to adopt the goals and conditions. Upon their formal approval, the goals and conditions become the basis for performance alignment. In another key alignment step, the IPC works with city departments to flesh out the most practical and appropriate goal progress indicators to measure progress towards the desired conditions. In 2001 the City formalized these developments by revising its budget ordinance to integrate the processes for goal development, performance planning, and measurement with pre-existing program budgeting.
One-Year and Four-Year Performance Feedback Cycles
Performance data for measures in performance plans are reported as part of the annual budget process, providing comparisons of actual annual performance against projected performance and prior years. This annual performance feedback focuses most on service performance measures, which tend to be “leading indicators” because city departments generally can influence these measures from year to year through allocation and management of resources. Feedback of data for these measures could lead to short-term operational or resource allocation adjustments to help departments meet priority projections. However, the goal progress indicators that measure desired community conditions are often “lagging indicators” in that they tend to take longer to change and often depend on actions of many players, which may include multiple city departments and other organizations and individuals in several sectors.
Albuquerque’s Progress Report, issued publicly every four years by the IPC, focuses on trends in the goal progress indicators and also compares Albuquerque’s results with state or national trends or trends of comparable cities. It is seen as a report card on how Albuquerque is doing in improving desired community conditions. The Progress Report tells Albuquerque citizens and elected officials whether the many efforts of the community and city departments on their strategies and service activities have been enough to “move the needle” on the goal progress indicators. Reported results can lead citizens and officials to examine why progress was or was not made toward these desired outcomes: Did departments fail to meet their performance projections, or were most service performance projections on, say, the affordable housing strategy met, but it was still not enough to reduce the percent of households paying over 30 percent of their income on housing? If the latter, was the city simply not trying to do enough, so increased city investment in housing development and other strategies could make the difference? Or were large scale trends in the local economy and housing market overwhelming any feasible city efforts during volatile economic times?
One particular desired community condition can generate another set of questions with both policy and measurement implications. Under the “Community and Cultural Engagement” goal, the desired condition, residents are well informed of current community conditions is measured by how accurately residents respond to survey questions about conditions. Albuquerque’s 2004 Progress Report presented comparisons of resident perceptions against other, presumably more objective indicators of progress for seven community conditions. A mismatch between resident perceptions and other data for the same condition can lead policy makers to consider key questions, such as: Will citizens support public policy or investment decisions suggested by other indicators? Is Albuquerque measuring the right goal progress indicators, or are the indicators accurate reflections of conditions but residents need more time to notice changes? These tests of how citizens relate to the indicators provide an important tool Albuquerque can use to keep improving how results are measured and achieved over time. The 2008 Progress Report will add this dimension for each desired condition. The IPC has concluded that if citizens’ understanding of a particular condition deviates from what the data say about the condition, the community’s ability to respond appropriately becomes restricted and citizens become less empowered to participate in policy development.