Three Pieces of Advice

What are your top three pieces of advice to agencies just getting started with Performance Management?

1. Start Small! – It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you are first starting to put your PM program together.  Start by tracking 1 or 2 measures in each division. 2. Celebrate Your Successes – Often times PM is looked at as a way to find out what’s going wrong.  However, in most cases, you will find that your programs are operating as designed or even better than expected.  Celebrate these successes with your staff.  This will help to develop buy-in and support regarding your PM efforts. 3. Make Sure Your Data is Reliable and Accurate – The goal of implementing PM is to collect data, analyze the data, and make informed decisions.  The data you collect is going to tell you a story.  You have to be able to trust your data and believe the story it’s telling you so that you can make the correct decisions. – Chad Brown, Licking County Health Department


1. Start somewhere, 2. Keep it simple, and 3. Use the data. Designing a performance management system can feel daunting amid multiple definitions, theoretical frameworks, and IT systems marketed to local health departments. It is important to start somewhere, even if that means capturing data for only a handful of measures. Performance data should provide an indication of the overall health of the department- that is, that changes or trends will provide an indication of whether the department needs to change course. One might ask, “What 1-3 measures, would help us to know how we are performing”? Generally, a health department might want to consider basic infrastructure or administrative performance, such as monitoring the budget, as well as programmatic measures, such as the number of inspections performed. Consider looking for performance measures in current reports or plans, rather than developing new measures. By starting somewhere, even by measuring only a few measures, agencies can add transparency to goals and performance which can be a powerful catalyst for culture change. – Emily Frantz, ALPHA


1. Identify where you are at and start there. Start with data you already have or start with the priorities identified in your strategic plan. Remember, Rome was not built in one day and neither will your PM system. My first thought was that performance management was all about dashboards. The more I was involved, the more expanded my understanding became around the concept of it being a system. I grew with it as I learned and so will you. PHAB isn’t looking for perfection but the fact that you have a starting point. 2. Utilize the various resources that are out there. 3. Don’t buy a technology “system” as the solution to creating a PM system. Take time to develop the best PM system framework for your agency and then, if you need it, purchase a technology platform that supports what you are trying to accomplish.  In the long run, this is more cost effective and efficient than trying to build a system around a technological product. – Laurie Dietsch, Columbus Public Health


 1. Active and visible involvement of health department leadership (I.e., health commissioner, administrators, and senior leaders) is critical in both creating and implementing an effective performance management system. 2. Choose a clear and cohesive performance management framework that everyone at all levels of the agency can understand. 3. Align your performance management system with your overall management processes (i.e., how you run the agency’s operations) and your performance measures with your agency’s overall goals (i.e., how you know if your health department  is successfully meeting its mission). It doesn’t have to measure everything in the world- just the few, most important things! – Anne Goon, Public health consultant and former health commissioner at Henry County Health Department 


1. Don’t worry about the tool at the start of your PM journey! A performance management tracking tool/dashboard alone (whether excel based, web-based, or even by pen and paper) will not result in a successful PM system. You need a defined process for the collection of data, reporting results, and managing responsibilities. If your workplace culture doesn’t support these actions and processes, the fanciest tool or dashboard in the world won’t help build a robust PM system at your agency. 2. Don’t be afraid to fail! If you determine that the data gathered from a performance measure isn’t actionable, or doesn’t tell you what you expected, that’s okay! Performance management isn’t about the static collection of data. It’s about using collected data to inform changes in your agency. Remember, just because you can collect data on something doesn’t mean you should. And just because the data you collect doesn’t tell you what you thought it would, doesn’t mean its bad data or a bad performance measure (you may learn something you didn’t consider before). Adjusting over time both what you are tracking and how you are analyzing it are key aspects of performance management. 3. Start small! You don’t have to develop an organizational-level set of performance measures right away. Pick an area of your department where you can pilot the performance management process you eventually want to build into an agency-wide culture. It’s okay to pick an area that will give you easy wins at first (both considering staff buy-in and what will be tracked). While you might roll out performance measure development, tracking, and related concepts to different staff groups over time, you should definitely have your full leadership engaged in performance management from the start. Making sure leadership understands what performance management is (that it isn’t just a software tool to display fancy graphs), how it can benefit each programmatic area, and ensuring they are trained in basic concepts first will help you roll out a full PM system to all staff in your agency. Leadership buy-in and participation is fundamental to the success of any PM system. Strategic Plans make excellent starting points for developing and tracking performance measures (indeed, your SP should be a key component of your PM system). –Brandon Palinski, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department


1. Keep it simple – pick a few key indicators and start there.  2. It is never going to be perfect , and you can always work at making it better. 3. It takes time – be patient. It is a culture shift for many organizations. – Melissa Sever, Columbus Public Health


Next Question: What tools are most useful when developing a Performance Management system?