NYC mayor cleans up a crowded dashboard

So NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg — a guy who knows a thing or two about data from his last job — is under fire because he took a huge book with 2,500 statistical indicators that help his staff and the public assess the performance of 45 mayoral agencies and decided to eliminate the outdated, irrelevant ones and put many of the remaining ones online for people to see.

Bulldog Simplicity praises the mayor’s efforts to actually make his dashboard actionable and outcome-based, two of the most important reasons to compile information like this.  That the naysayers are out complaining about the indicators he dropped isn’t a surprise, and the response from his Director of Operations was great:  “Just because a data element has been collected for 30 years doesn’t make it a useful data element.  We inherited about 2,500 indicators.  We then pared it down to about 1,200.  And that’s pretty much what we have today.”

I have to believe that by the time the mayor and his staff got through analyzing the 2,500 indicators, the information was outdated and it was time to get the next report out.  He’s moved from “widget counting” to focusing on outcomes.  For example, he replaced the percentage of potholes that are fixed within 30 days indicator with one showing the average time to fix one (2.4 days).  The new indicator makes far more sense and is far more relevant to the citizen wondering when the pothole in front of his apartment will be fixed. 

Even better, the data is updated monthly and the Mayor has made the current data accessible online.  That’s terrific!

I’ve been involved in a few efforts like this in the past, trying to consolidate performance indicators across business units.  We got everyone’s input, put out the new report, and then got a call within minutes from someone who can’t live without his or her “special number.”   That sort of thing undermines efforts to create a template and ultimately results in variations that get you away from the real goal of focusing on what’s actionable…and important to your customers and employees.

We should all embrace the mayor’s push to keep the actionable data, identify new indicators that assess the quality of services his agencies provide, and eliminate the rest so his people can focus on actually acting on the data that indicates there’s a problem. 

When was the last time you took a look at your key performance indicators and assessed whether they are still relevant and whether even more important data is missing or housed somewhere else?  And are you sharing that data with your employees and using it to drive improvements to the way you serve customers?

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