“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” This management mantra has been attributed to corporate guru Peter Drucker and others. At the heart it emphasizes the need for managers to develop good measurement tools in order to know how well their operation is performing. In the case of the City of Hamilton, council recently turned thumbs down on a staff recommendation to develop the kind of performance management system that was recently adopted by Burlington and has been in place in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Fredericton for a while.

The Edmonton performance management system measures 65 different performance measures under the broad headings of”

* Transportation

* Liveability

* Environment

* Urban form

* Economy

* Finance

The pictured “dashboard” is the Environmental category for the City of Edmonton providing 13 separate areas of measurement.

Citizens and city management can click on any one of the boxes and get much more detailed information on the performance of their community. There is an explanation of the methodology for arriving at each target. So, in the example; if one clicks on the Watershed Contaminant box in the upper left of the grid, which measures contaminants released into the North Saskatchewan River from the City of Edmonton one will be told that the city has not reached the desired target. In the biosolids disposal box (upper right) we see that, at 33,904 tonnes disposed of, the city is on target.

Under the plan the Hamilton staff recommended, the city would have hired two full time performance auditors whose job it would have been to develop a performance measurement system for Hamilton similar to the ones used in Edmonton and elsewhere. With this information they would be able to

conduct Value for Money Audits aimed at saving taxpayer’s money and improving the efficiency of every aspect of City service delivery. The staff report noted, “A…performance measurement system needs to be put into place so the benefits can be measured, analyzed and reported…this is where the true value of the organization is realized.” The report also predicted that the benefits of such a system “would far outweigh the costs.”

The staff report acknowledged that “transforming the organization to one that includes consistent and meaningful performance measurement will be a significant cultural exchange for the organization.” Apparently council agreed, opting instead for a temporary extension of a value for money program that has already had much of its resources sidetracked into projects like another investigation into the operation of DARTS.

Providing a fresh perspective for Hamilton and Burlington

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