At about 4 square miles large, with a population of about 80,000, Somerville shows other smaller jurisdictions that don’t need to be a big city to have a sophisticated performance improvement focus. For larger jurisdictions, including our biggest U.S. cities, Somerville’s experience presents a challenge: If it can develop such a robust data-driven management focus, then cities with much larger resources should be able to as well.
Among Somerville’s innovations, probably the best known is SomerStat. It has a staff of four who study financial, personnel, and operational data to understand what’s happening within city departments. Then, about every two months for bigger agencies (I mistakenly said weeks in the video intro), and less frequently for smaller agencies, each department leadership team comes to a SomerStat meeting to meet with the mayor’s staff—often including the mayor himself—to review detailed performance data and discuss ways to improve.
In the meetings, the department director stands behind a podium and presents a PowerPoint presentation on detailed aspects of department performance to the mayor and his staff. It’s not a one-sided presentation, but rather a lively and detailed discussion involving questions and direction for that department leader and his or her senior staff in the room.
To learn more about SomerStat, we’re joined by Joseph Curtatone (@JoeCurtatone), the mayor of Somerville, who launched SomerStat after being first elected in 2004. Today he is in his fifth term.
Web extra: To better understand SomerStat, here are some example presentations from actual SomerStat meetings from previous years. They are from departments relating to capital projects, constituent services, fire, IT, police, and recreation.