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The PerformanceStat Potential

A Leadership Strategy for Producing Results

Robert D. Behn

Publication Year: 2014

It started two decades ago with CompStat in the New York City Police Department, and quickly jumped to police agencies across the U.S. and other nations. It was adapted by Baltimore, which created CitiStat—the first application of this leadership strategy to an entire jurisdiction. Today, governments at all levels employ PerformanceStat: a focused effort by public executives to exploit the power of purpose and motivation, responsibility and discretion, data and meetings, analysis and learning, feedback and follow-up—all to improve government's performance.

Here, Harvard leadership and management guru Robert Behn analyzes the leadership behaviors at the core of PerformanceStat to identify how they work to produce results. He examines how the leaders of a variety of public organizations employ the strategy—the way the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services uses its DPSSTATS to promote economic independence, how the City of New Orleans uses its BlightStat to eradicate blight in city neighborhoods, and what the Federal Emergency Management Agency does with its FEMAStat to ensure that the lessons from each crisis response, recovery, and mitigation are applied in the future. How best to harness the strategy's full capacity? The PerformanceStat Potential explains all.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Series: Brookings / Ash Center Series, "Innovative Governance in the 21st Century"

Front Cover

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Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments: Years in the Making, a Cast of Thousands

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pp. ix-xiv

Years in the making? Literally. On February 9, 2001, I was at Boston Police Headquarters to observe its Crime Analysis Meeting (which, over the years evolved into the city’s CompStat). Three months later, I was in Lowell, Massachusetts, for its CompStat session. ...

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pp. xv-xvi

Why does poor performance get so much attention in public policy?” This question has been raised by Åge Johnsen of Oslo and Akershus University College. He noticed “the preoccupation with poor performance” of government, the “dysfunctional effects of performance measurement,” and “the strategy of naming, blaming and shaming” the poor performers. ...

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1. CompStat and Its PerformanceStat Progeny

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pp. 1-11

One night in the winter of 1994, Jack Maple was sitting in Elaine’s—an expensive, four-star restaurant and celebrity hangout on the Upper East Side of Manhattan—drinking. As befits any urban legend, the reports on what he was drinking differ. As Maple remembered the night, he was on his third glass of champagne.3 ...

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2. Searching for PerformanceStat

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pp. 12-25

PerformanceStat” covers all of the CompStats, CitiStats, and other variants and adaptations of NYPD’s original performance strategy. Some of these are “AgencyStats,” designed to improve the performance of a single public agency. Others are “JurisdictionStats,” designed to improve performance throughout an entire government. ...

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3. Clarifying PerformanceStat

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pp. 26-42

What exactly is CompStat? Or CitiStat? How could anyone recognize an effective PerformanceStat? How could anyone tell whether something that a governmental jurisdiction or a public agency claimed was its very own, apparently unique, performance-enhancing, results-producing “SomethingStat” was the real thing? Or merely mindless mimicry? ...

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4. Distinguishing CompStat's Impact

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pp. 43-58

In the 1990s, crime in the United States “fell sharply,”3 “dropped precipitously,”4 “plummeted.”5 This decline was “very rapid,”6 “unique, unexpected, dramatic,”7 “remarkable,”8 “sudden, unexpected,”9 “unprecedented.”10 Criminologists, civic leaders, even the police were surprised by “the crime ‘bust’ of the 1990s.”11 ...

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5. Committing to a Purpose

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pp. 59-77

In 1994, when William Bratton first became New York’s police commissioner, he pledged to reduce the city’s crime by 40 percent in three years.3 This was a specific purpose—a significant commitment. When Governing magazine gave Bratton one of its “Public Officials of the Year” awards, it noted: “Most criminologists considered it a crazy idea—undoable, career suicide.”4 ...

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6. Establishing Responsibilities Plus Discretion

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pp. 78-94

In 2007, Lisa Nuñez retired as the chief deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, and Sheryl Spiller succeeded her. Inevitably, a major change within a leadership team brings other changes. And Spiller made one consequential change: who was primarily responsible for the department’s performance. ...

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7. Distinguishing PerformanceStat's Effects

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pp. 95-122

On May 3, 2010, Mitch Landrieu became mayor of New Orleans. Unfortunately, concluded David Osborne (of Reinventing Government fame), Landrieu “inherited the least competent city government I’d ever seen in this country and the most corrupt.”3 On his second day in office, the mayor appointed Andy Kopplin to be his first deputy mayor. ...

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8. Collecting the Data

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pp. 123-144

As mayor of New York City, Ed Koch asked friends, as well as citizens on the streets, “How’m I doing?”3 Koch was looking for data—data to assess his performance as mayor, to reveal where his performance deficits might be, and to suggest opportunities for improvement. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any obvious source of data to help answer these questions. ...

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9. Analyzing and Learning from the Data

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pp. 145-171

Robert Dunford, superintendent-in-chief of the Boston Police Department, opened the department’s biweekly CompStat session with a question: “What’s going on on the street?” Shootings in Boston were off, and Dunford wanted to learn why. As he told the department’s 50 top managers, “If we can identify what we are doing, we can replicate it.” ...

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10. Conducting the Meetings

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pp. 172-192

Attention on deck!” a man in uniform bellows. Everyone stands. In from the back room, strides the New York City commissioner of correction. It is 8:00 on a Thursday morning in a double-wide trailer on Rikers Island—the beginning of the monthly meeting of “CorrectionStat.” ...

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11. Carrying Out the Feedback and Follow-Up

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pp. 193-206

As part of JobStat, the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA) requires its 29 Job Centers to conduct their own, monthly Center-Stat—their own mini-JobStat. At one CenterStat, there were 11 people in the room. Two were representatives from a vendor that found jobs for welfare recipients; ...

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12. Creating Organizational Competence and Commitment

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pp. 207-226

With a CompStat meeting two days away, the zone commander and his three key deputies sat down to prepare: What questions would they be asked? And, what answers should they give? ...

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13. Learning to Make the Necessary Adaptations

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pp. 227-244

Slumerville.” That’s what people called Massachusetts’s densest city, known for its rundown housing, abandoned industrial buildings, and political corruption.3 Not anymore. Today, Somerville is hot, funky—the place where “hipsters,” the young adults whom Richard Florida of the University of Toronto labeled the “creative class”4—want to live.5 ...

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14. Thinking about Cause and Effect

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pp. 245-260

In 2006, the Scottish Executive (now called the Scottish Government) released a report on six experiments with a CitiStat strategy: “What Do We Measure and Why? An Evaluation of the CitiStat Model of Performance Management and Its Applicability to the Scottish Public Sector.”3 As I read the report, I was surprised. ...

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15. Appreciating Leadership's Causal Behaviors

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pp. 261-281

In 1937, Luther Gulick and Lyndall Urwick published their classic Papers on the Science of Administration. In the opening essay, Gulick—a leader in the effort to make public administration more, well, scientific—asked: “What is the work of the chief executive? What does he do?” Gulick’s answer was POSDCORB, an acronym for: Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Co-Ordinating, Reporting, and Budgeting. ...

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16. Making the Leadership Commitment

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pp. 282-302

In 1993, Congress enacted and President Bill Clinton signed the Government Performance and Results Act or GPRA, which sought to “improve Federal program effectiveness and public accountability by promoting a new focus on results.” It was also designed to “help Federal managers improve service delivery, by requiring that they plan for meeting program objectives.” ...

Appendix A. Eight Possible Societal Explanations for Crime Decline

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pp. 303-310

Appendix B. Operational Issues for Regular PerformanceStat Meetings

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pp. 311-315

Appendix C. The Motivational Consequences of Feedback and Rewards

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pp. 316-318

Appendix D. Causal Contributors to the Missing Competences

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pp. 319-322


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pp. 323-400


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pp. 401-414

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815725282
E-ISBN-10: 0815725280
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815725275
Print-ISBN-10: 0815725272

Page Count: 413
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Brookings / Ash Center Series, "Innovative Governance in the 21st Century"

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Public administration -- United States.
  • Administrative agencies -- United States -- Management.
  • Political planning -- United States.
  • Organizational change -- United States.
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