Origination and History of Balanced Measures Approach

Location: Coral Springs, Florida
Contact Name: Ellen Liston
Position: Assistant City Manager
Researcher: Patti Stevens, Fairfax County, Virginia Department of Systems Management for Human Services

The City of Coral Springs launched its quality initiative in 1993, with a mission to be "the premier city in Florida in which to live, work and raise a family." From the mission, the City commission developed six strategic priorities to focus the daily efforts of all City employees and renewed its efforts to collect data on a variety of performance measures. Three years ago they developed their first business plan flowing from these priorities.

As Coral Springs applied and was being reviewed for the Sterling Award, Florida’s equivalent to Baldrige Award, they realized that their performance measurement was too heavily weighted towards customer "perceptions" and not enough on results. While Coral Springs continues to track feedback from citizens through a community wide survey, as well as transactional surveys of service satisfaction, they have worked over the past three years to develop a balanced set of "key intended outcomes" (or KIOs) for each of their strategic priorities. They are now reporting annually a total of 29 KIOs, as well as several important measures of success for each department.

The strategic priorities are reviewed by the City Commission every two years, in formal Strategic Planning Workshops. In the last improvement cycle, staff expanded the input into the strategic planning process in order to best prepare the City Commission before it is asked to determine its highest priorities. Input is now collected from management as well as line employees, volunteers on advisory boards and commissions, as well as financial and demographic data and projections, customer surveys on desires and perceptions, customer input through neighborhood town meetings and, or course, performance results. The six priorities are: Customer Focused Government; Neighborhood Vitality, Excellence in Education, Family, Youth and Community Values; Respect for Ethnic & Religious Diversity; and Financial Health & Economic Development.

From these priorities, the City develops a business plan with initiatives that put the priorities into action. The Business Plan has several key components: an environmental scan, gleaned from the input developed for the Strategic Planning Workshop; departmental initiatives that will put the six priorities into action; a financial plan; and a system of measurement. The measurement section includes all of the KIOs, and also includes a "Composite Index." The composite index was developed to provide a simple "stock price" for the city. Because no other cities have a comparable index, it does not measure Coral Springs’ success against others; rather, it measures its success against itself. The composite index includes ten performance measurements most critical to the City’s customers — including residential property values, school overcrowding, crime rate and an overall customer satisfaction rating.

The use of performance measures has changed dramatically over the fifteen or so years they have been employed in Coral Springs. In general, the changes have been to include employees in their determination, and especially to simplify the process. There are now 29 KIOs as well as four to ten results measures for each department. The KIOs are measures which the City Commission has determined are critical to the community’s success. The departmental measures ensure a focus on results -- and accountability for those results. Department Directors meet with the City Manager on a quarterly basis to present and discuss their performance measures.

Coral Springs participates in the Performance Measurement Consortium of the International City/County Management Association. Collecting and reporting data on ICMA’s templates enables Coral Springs to compare their outcomes against a large number of other communities. A quarterly report tracks progress on all departmental objectives. To minimize staff burden for reporting requirements, much of the work has been automated. Each department enters their data into on-line folders. Once all the data has been entered, the report is simply printed and distributed to staff and the City Commission. An annual Service Efforts and Accomplishments (SEA) Report is produced at the end of the year.

Communicating and Using the Data

Coral Springs has invested significantly in sharing their performance results with internal and external stakeholders. The State of the City report is released annually at the "State of the City" dinner. City Commissioners, and all members of city advisory committees, boards and commissions are invited to the dinner to hear reports on progress in each of the Strategic Priorities, and plans for improvement and innovation in coming years. In addition to this public celebration, there is an annual Quality Fest for employees, where outstanding individual and team accomplishments are recognized. A bimonthly news magazine goes to every household and often holds progress reports in reaching the city’s KIOs. The KIOs are posted on the city’s web site, along with a description of other quality initiatives and awards — including their 1997 Sterling Award, and most recent first place award in the 1998 Florida Team Showcase.

How the Balanced Measures are Used and Why they are Valuable to the Organization

The strategic priorities and KIOs drive the development of the Business Plan, and of departmental budgets. Each employee develops personal objectives that tie back to the KIOs, thus connecting them to the strategic priorities. Employee reviews include feedback from customers and supervisors. Supervisors’ reviews include surveys of their employees.

This linkage of each City employee to the strategic priorities through KIOs and the development of departmental initiatives which target resources and focus efforts on the strategic priorities are two elements which have been key to making the City’s strategic priorities "real" in the everyday activities of all City employees.

A balanced measures approach has given them accurate trend data and a more well-rounded picture. This allows their planning and budgeting to be more proactive, rather than the previous approach which was largely reactive to current customer comments.

Lessons Learned and Next Steps

Assistant City Manager Ellen Liston notes that they have learned from these success and state and local recognition and attention, but have also learned from the bumps along the road. The Sterling Award examiners’ feedback in their initial Sterling application was critical to moving Coral Springs towards a more balanced approach to performance measurement. Making the extra effort to try out new approaches like the quarterly performance reporting and the ICMA consortium has helped them develop expertise and fine tune their overall quality initiatives. It has taken time and significant investment in training to get to where they are now.

One of the most important lessons for Coral Springs has been that, for them, simpler has been better. They have dramatically streamlined the performance measurement process, tracking fewer but higher quality indicators. The Strategic Plan and Business Plan are short, easy to read documents. Even the Budget has become lighter and more user-friendly.

Ellen also pointed out that Florida has one of the "brightest" of the Sunshine Laws, requiring all of their performance data, including employee progress reviews, with employee and public feedback on their individual report cards. While initially employees were very uncomfortable with this level of visibility, overall city management decided it was a risk they were willing to take to build accountability and public confidence and trust in the process.

Coral Springs Contact Information:
Ellen Liston
Assistant City Manager
Web Site:

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