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Getting Started with Performance Analytics: A Refresher Course

This month we’re launching our new GovEx training center, offering government staff worldwide a series of online and on-site courses ranging from data management, to community engagement, to analytics, and beyond. Everyone at GovEx is looking forward to formalizing what we’ve already been doing since 2015–providing expert training to municipal employees. After training more than 2,000 individuals, working in more than 100 cities, and finishing three years of What Works Cities engagements, we wanted to ensure all our course offerings were updated to reflect our learnings and insights. Working to refresh content in our Getting Started with Performance Analytics course, I was excited to put myself in the shoes of a future participant, and view the information through a completely different lens. As I began, I found myself taking a “refresher course” of sorts because I learned some new things, too. Here are three key items that I hope will be helpful to you and your city.

  1. Goal-setting isn’t just a good idea, there’s a lot of research proving its effectiveness for organizations and employees alike. Goal-setting theory states that a lofty goal leads to higher performance than an easy goal, a general goal, or no goal at all. If someone has the ability and commitment, the higher the goal, the higher the performance. This is true in both the private and public sectors. More than 90% of studies show a positive effect on an employee’s or team’s performance when goals have been set. Goal setting is even more effective when accompanying performance metrics speak to the employee or team.

  2. Performance analytics can easily become focused on semantics and terminology, but it should be about reaching stated outcomes. When drafting the lesson on choosing the right performance metrics, I was struck by how many terms there are for a performance metric. Key performance indicator, measure, datapoint, and the list goes one. When working with city partners, we try to match our language to the current consensus and make it clear that it doesn’t really matter what terminology you’re using. It’s more important to make progress and strive for your goals than to argue about whether a statement is a strategic priority or an outcome. GovEx has a great video to help you resolve these discussions.

  3. There are numerous ways to ask the same question. Asking the right question is key in performance analytics. During our projects with cities, we talk about appreciative inquiry, asking questions in a way that doesn’t trigger the responder’s amygdala response and leave them feeling defensive or self-consciousness. Working on the course re-introduced me to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Frequently used in educational settings, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a tiered model that classifies learning objectives and can be used to guide assessments and questions. We saw this as a great opportunity to give a framework for how to ask questions about data analysis in line with appreciative inquiry practices. Here’s an example of one of the six Bloom categories:
Analyze: draw connections among ideas 
Key WordsQuestionsSample Questions for Analysis Exploration
analyze, break down, categorize, classify, compare, contrast, diagram, differentiate, discover, dissect, distinguish, divide, examine, inspect, relationship, simplify, survey, theme, inference, assumption, conclusionHow is _______ related to… ?
Why do you think… ?
What inference can you make… ?
What conclusions can you draw… ?
How would you categorize… ?
What evidence can you find… ?
What is the relationship between… ?
Can you make a distinction between… ?
What ideas justify… ?
How is time of year related to calls for street repair and traffic violations?

How would you categorize the community survey responses to our plan for downtown revitalization compared to the public comments at the last council meeting?

What assumptions do we need to address when considering allocation of resources equitably across the city?

Working on this course has been well worth it. Please consider taking our Performance Analytics course, or one of our other online courses, which begin on June 27, 2018. The application process is available through May 25.   

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