The Origins of StateStat
Excerpted from then-Mayor Martin O'Malley's Address to the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, ARCO Forum, April 19, 2001
Thank you for inviting me to join you today to talk about how Baltimore, through CitiStat, is changing the way city governments do business. As Governing magazine described our efforts this month, we are: "tracking performance on a scale never seen before in local government."
We are lucky to have Jack Maple with us here tonight. He is my spiritual guru and the creator the “Comstat/CitiStat school of management.”
There is no reason the lessons we are learning can't be applied to managing state and federal government, too - or any large, relatively unmanaged organization. You would know better than I if universities fall into that category.
Given the off-the-shelf technology that is readily available, and the vast experience that can be drawn from the private and public sectors, government can and should be better managed.
Boston Scientific Corporation, down the road in Natick, has 13,000 employees and $2.6 billion in revenues. Payless Shoes has 26,000 employees and $2 billion in revenues. And Amazon.com, at least for today, has 9,000 employees and $2.7 billion in sales.
I guarantee all of these organizations:
- Know how many vehicles they have in their fleet,
- Know how many buildings they own,
- Have precise measures of how productive their workforce is, and
- Strictly enforce company policies.
In short, managers have a good handle on their assets and personnel, and they are able to make short and long-term strategic and tactical decisions based on accurate information. And, in turn, employees have a clear understanding of what is expected from them.
When I received my office key, a little over a year ago, to assume management of a 16,000-person, $2 billion organization - Baltimore City Government - we had none of this information.
But today, because of CitiStat, we are moving closer, every day, to providing effective service. And longtime managers are finding out things about their agencies they never learned in decades of managing by "feel" instead of fact.
Before I go any further, let me make something clear: I'm not saying government is the same as business. It's not. However, I do believe it is unreasonable to expect anyone to effectively manage a large organization without having the information necessary to make informed decisions.
Last year, as we set out to improve service to residents - to make the changes being demanded by Baltimore's citizens - we faced a series of daunting problems. I'll list a few.
First, Baltimore was a violent city. More than 300 people had been murdered in Baltimore every year for more than a decade - in a city not much bigger than Boston, which has about 35 murders annually. Understandably, the public demanded immediate results.
Secondly, Baltimore was dirty. Trash-filled alleys, streets and lots - created by a combination of public apathy, government incompetence and illegal dumping - were overwhelming otherwise stable neighborhoods. Understandably, the public demanded immediate results.
Thirdly, Baltimore was shrinking. Like most older East Coast cities, we have lost population, leaving tens of thousands of vacant houses to be boarded, demolished or rehabbed. And, once again, the public demanded immediate results.
However, as we worked to turn things around, we found that little in city government seemed to be measured in a consistent, real-time manner. Information was collected faithfully - although not always the right information - but it was rarely used to manage.
And if information was used to make policy changes, they came as a result of yearly reviews. Implementation took months, or even years. By the time a contemplated change was in place, the conditions that prompted the shift might no longer be relevant.
Citizens expected more - and the people I was able to recruit into government expected more, as well. Many long time employees were certain we could do better. But for the first months we were in office, on many fronts, progress seemed glacial, decisions took too long to be translated into action, and communication up and down the chain of command was minimal.
At the same time, we were watching our Police Department dramatically improve its performance using Comstat, the computer management tool created by Jack Maple. Instead of checking performance every few months, or scheduling an annual review meeting, the leaders of the Police Department were meeting every week. Crime fighting strategies and resource deployment were being adjusted constantly, and follow-up was never allowed to slip more than a week.
We were seeing the results we wanted for our city. During the second half of last year, Baltimore led the nation in reducing murders. We finished the year with 262 murders - meaning that 43 fewer people lost their lives than during the year before. And this year, we already are 18% below last year's murder total.
After thinking through the possibilities with Mr. Maple, we decided to apply the same approach across city government. Since last summer, as we phased in all of our major city agencies, we have achieved very compelling results.
CitiStat is a critical component of our vision for Baltimore, in which city government should not try to be all things to all people, but, instead, should do a few things well, like: fight crime and grime; provide opportunities for kids; and create an environment that welcomes private investment.
Our vision is one in which an effective, efficient government helps improve the quality of life in every neighborhood - which will allow our public and private institutions to move past mere maintenance into expansion and improvement.
To realize this vision, we are investing in the breakout strategy that will make it happen - premised on public safety, effective government, community partnerships and private investment.
CitiStat is central to making these investments produce results. Technology, transparency, and diffusion of decision-making responsibilities is allowing government to be faster, smarter, more accountable, and change tactics and strategies more quickly.
In order to change the outcomes produced by government, you have to change what government does. CitiStat changes what government does, by measuring what it produces and creating a mechanism to make timely changes.
I would like to illustrate how CitiStat works by using a few slides and maps that illustrate the four tenets on which CitiStat and Comstat are based.
Your Start-Up Life With Governor O'Malley: Never Give Up and Keep Moving Forward Huffington Post June 2012
Armed With Data, Fighting More Than Crime New York Times May 2012
The Government Dashboard Center for Digital Government Mar. 2012
Collaboration and the Outcomes We Need Governing Mar. 2012
China Looks West for Performance Management Governing Aug. 2011
The Secret to StateStat's Success Governing May 2011
Maryland Governor Benefits from Reputation as Competent Manager Center for American Progress Nov. 2010
Maryland Wins Race to the Top Funding Baltimore Sun Aug. 2010
Data, Analysis Drive Maryland Government InformationWeek Mar. 2010
An Evaluation of State Government Recovery Act Websites: MD is #1 Good Jobs First Jan. 2010
- Governing Magazine November, 2009