In an unprecedented effort to implement long-term financial planning and instill a new culture of accountability in Cook County government, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unveiled the first Set Targets, Achieve Results (STAR) performance management report today, joined by elected officials from across the county.
This is the first time performance management is being instituted in Cook County government, and it fulfills the promises President Preckwinkle made in her Transition Report as well as the ordinance her administration championed. STAR is aimed at lowering the cost of government, creating efficiencies, improving services, and ultimately allowing the public to judge government’s effectiveness. It will set clear, tangible goals for county agencies and departments, use data to drive the budget process, structure interdepartmental collaboration, and create a mechanism for public feedback on how well each office is performing its duties.
Preckwinkle thanked the county’s separately elected officials for taking part in the first unified attempt to examine government operations. “It is through cooperation and collaboration that we will see our best results. I applaud the other County elected officials who have put in the time and effort to help us realize our shared commitments to increased operation efficiency and financial responsibility,” said Preckwinkle.
She also credited the business firms that provided pro bono support to help organize the process and develop metrics: The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA).
“This is the nuts and bolts of defining, demanding, and instilling good government,” President Preckwinkle said. “Make no mistake; the findings in the STAR program will have consequences in the budget process and in the final fiscal-year budget. It sets up a process where improved services will be recognized and rewarded. Yet, like all county government, it is ultimately not a competitive, but a collaborative process.”
“In my 30 years of working with Fortune 500 companies, I’ve seen how the best companies use performance management to make their businesses better – running operations more efficiently, making tough decisions on where to invest,” said Hal Sirkin, senior partner at The Boston Consulting Group, a pro bono partner in the County’s efforts. “There’s a lot more work ahead, but Cook County is now positioned to provide better services more efficiently.”
The first STAR report — divided in two to examine government county-wide and by individual office — makes good on promises made in President Preckwinkle’s Transition Report, and fulfills the ordinance passed unanimously by the County Board in February. The first quarterly report sets the stage for quarterly reviews required by ordinance, and will also have a direct impact on the 2012 fiscal budget going forward, in tandem with the President’s executive order last week streamlining the budget process.
The STAR performance management program divided the County into five key subject areas to allow officials to collaborate and compare goals and metrics.
County-wide goals included reducing regional violent crime and the jail population, while producing a more efficient and competitive Health & Hospitals System, a more accurate and streamlined property-tax process, more jobs and economic opportunities for county residents and businesses, and better, more transparent finances in county government.
The STAR program established an unprecedented formal accountability process for County operations in order to both cut waste and improve services. The performance management initiative began in February, when the Cook County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed requiring performance management metrics be instilled within the County budget process of all County elected officials, agencies, bureaus and departments.
With the help of CCA and BCG, the President’s Office provided training, resources and additional support to all County agencies to establish measurable goals and shape plans to meet these goals. The efficiency of tracking measurable goals should improve over time and become a seamless element of County operations, particularly after the executive order issued by President Preckwinkle last week requiring County-wide preliminary budgets and public hearings.
Several elected officials joined President Preckwinkle in recognizing the steps taken towards a more accountable and fiscally responsible County government.
“For the first time, we will have true collaboration in the budget process,” said Commissioner John Daley, chairman of the Finance Committee. “I look forward to performance data being integrated into the County budget process.”
“We’ve spent the last four years developing new standards of accountability, and we look forward to working with Toni as we take another step towards better serving the public,” added Sheriff Tom Dart.
“Performance management is a helpful complement to my office’s existing three year strategic plan,” added Cook County Clerk David Orr. “I believe it will serve the county well.”
“The Clerk’s Office participation in the STAR Report reinforces my commitment as Clerk for the last 10 years to efficiency, financial accountability, transparency, and improving services in the most cost effective way for the taxpayers of Cook County,” said Clerk Dorothy Brown.
“We can all look inside our individual offices to find ways to improve performance,” said State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
“A new culture of accountability is taking root in the Cook County Forest Preserves, as it is throughout all County governments,” said Forest Preserve District General Superintendent Arnold Randall. “We’re committed to maximizing the efficient use of taxpayer dollars and improving the public experience of our county’s vital open spaces. STAR will make those goals easier to achieve.”
“We are supportive of this project from the President because it provides us with another management tool and it gives the public another opportunity to see our progress as we continue to make their healthcare System better,” said Dr. Terry Mason, interim CEO Cook County Health and Hospitals System.
“The fact that the President is able to bring both management and labor together to work to find efficiencies in operations is critical to the performance of the County of Cook,” said Thomas Ryan, president of Carpenters Union Local No. 13 and chairman of the Coalition of Unionized Public Employees. “We look forward to working with the president and her staff now and into the future.”
Not only utilized in the private sector, performance management has produced measurable successes in Fairfax County, Va., and Maricopa County, Ariz., as well as in the Massachusetts Trial Court and in New York City’s jails.
As part of the Open Data ordinance passed by the County Board in May, performance data will be available to the general public online. The reports will also be available online, where the program creates a mechanism for public feedback so that the residents of Cook County can weigh in on the findings, at www.cookcountyil.gov/STAR.
“Above all, this is about being accountable to taxpayers,” Preckwinkle said.