by Brent Stockwell, assistant city manager, Scottsdale, Arizona

One of the things I love about attending the ICMA Annual Conference is networking with others passionate about effective local government leadership. Each time I am challenged about how I can become a better leader, and how I can help my organization adopt the latest innovations from others.

One of the ICMA Practices for Effective Local Government Leadership is Performance Measurement/Management and Quality Assurance, defined as "maintaining a consistently high level of quality in staff work, operational procedures, and service delivery."

Our ability to maintain consistently high-quality service is dependent on our ability to gain context about those services and the people who provide them to the public.

There are several ways to gain context on how well we are doing:

  1. Comparing to a goal or target we have set
  2. Comparing to how we have done in the past
  3. Comparing to other organizations similar to ours.

ICMA’s Open Access Benchmarking Key Performance Indicators can help with all three.

  1. If your community is just starting out with performance management, you can look at how your organization performs on these measures, discuss with your staff what might be an appropriate goal or target to reach for each measure, and then start tracking over time.
  2. If you have reported performance data to ICMA in the past, your data should already be included in the Open Access Benchmarking database, and you can track your trends on these measures over time.
  3. You can also identify similar communities to yours based on population, area, or organization size and evaluate service areas where you are similar. You can follow up with a call or email to another community that you think is doing particularly well to learn more about why they are achieving their level of performance. Perhaps this will give you a new solution to improve service for your community or help solve a problem you’ve been facing.

The ICMA Open Access Benchmarking Key Performance Indicators cover 16 service areas common to most local governments. They can help managers answer such questions as:

  • How many people died in traffic accidents? How many accidents involved alcohol? How many drinking and driving arrests were there?
  • How often was the spread of a fire limited to one room or object?
  • What percentage of cardiac patients were delivered to the hospital with a pulse?

All ICMA members should encourage their organizations to participate in this effort. It has benefits both for your community and for municipal leaders everywhere. Benchmarking is like a blood bank. If you wait until you need the data (or blood), it’s too late! We must each voluntarily donate so the information is there for everyone when we need it. The greater the level of participation, the greater the value.

The ICMA Performance Management Advisory Committee includes representatives from communities across the country. The committee worked with ICMA staff to develop a set of 80 key performance indicators for municipal governments and 54 for counties. The measures cover 16 service areas common to most governments. Definitions, instructions, and related data are available online—no charge, no deadlines, and no software requirements.

What are you waiting for?

Stockwell is chair of the ICMA Performance Management Advisory Committee, serves on the Arizona City/County Management Association’s board of directors, coordinates Scottsdale’s performance management effort, and founded the Valley Benchmark Cities network, which comprises the 11 largest cities in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Contact Brent at or 480-312-7288

And while you’re at the annual conference, go to the “Benchmarking Outside the Box” session on Tuesday, October 24, 4:10-4:40 pm, Room 221B.”



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