Strategy Mapping & Reporting Technology

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case study N° 1

Rother District Council
Performance Management - an implementation case study

Prepared at the request of the Improvement & Development Agency (I&DeA)

1. Introduction

This case study sets out to demonstrate how Rother District Council has rolled out a decentralised, pan-organisational approach to performance management, using a web-enabled IT system, Real time Performance Management, (RtPM) to drive performance management and customer satisfaction.

As awareness grows of the impact of organisational and corporate culture on effective performance management, this study reflects on how the implementation at Rother District Council both reflected the current culture and assisted the process of culture change.

Finally, we describe how an early intention to roll out joint approaches to performance management to both the District Council and the Local Strategic Partnership have resulted in complementary frameworks that contribute both efficiency and value.

Because the Performance Management System at Rother District Council is devolved to a network of interlinked users, the case study consists of a series of User perspectives followed by a commentary, summarising the learning points.

2. The System

RtPM is a web-hosted system developed by Escendency, a Lancaster based company, that allows remote data input around the organisation against key indicators, captures real time performance information and presents it a series of specific user-tailored performance reports that allow managers and Councillors to monitor progress against key goals.

3. User Perspectives

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  1. The Chief Executive
  2. The Leader of the Council
  3. The Strategic Director
  4. The System Administrator
  5. The Software Partner
  6. The Performance Data Collector
  7. The Local Partner
  8. The Trade Union Secretary

Perspective 1: The Chief Executive

As the Council's Chief Executive, there are two fundamental elements to the system which have a huge attraction to me. Firstly, is the simplicity of performance reporting at a corporate level, which as Chief Executive allows me to quickly and easily get a clear perspective as to how the Council is performing against its wide range of indicators and the alignment of these indicators with our key aims and objectives. And, secondly, the fact that the system is designed to ensure wide ownership from staff at all levels.

The Council has been going through a major change management process for the last three years. Which has as its heart our "customers first" philosophy and which seeks to involve individual staff members at all levels in not just the delivery of their specific services, but in an understanding and an ownership of the Council's key aims and objectives, the Executive Priorities and the overall Community Plan. The rolling out of a decentralised Performance Management System, which requires individuals across the organisation as a whole to not just input data, but to have access to the system, provide what I term the golden thread between individual staff action plans all the way up through to the Community Strategy.

It has been hugely encouraging to see the way in which colleagues, in developing their understanding of the system, have come forward with their own ideas as to how this can be used to ultimately provide a far better and more effective customer focus and delivery mechanisms across the Council as a whole within our overall high level aims and aspirations

Derek Stevens, Chief Executive, Rother District Council

Perspective 2: The Leader of the Council

RtPM allows Rother District Council to maintain focus on its priorities for improvement in service delivery and customer satisfaction. We feel strongly that we are breaking the mould for performance management in district authorities. Through creating a linked sequence between our targets, our organisational goals and the aims of the Rother Community Plan we are driving improvement directly linked to public expectations.

This has renewed our sense of purpose and resulted in far better information for Members, impacting upon the quality of our decision making and Scrutiny function.

We are able to compare and match ourselves with other authorities; through benchmarking we can demonstrate value for money to our residents. Implementing the system has required organisational courage and given us, in return, a greater clarity and focus in our policymaking. This in turn has led us I feel to better political decision making.

Councillor Graham Gubby, Leader of Rother District Council

Perspective 3: The Strategic Director

Having previously entered local government from the private sector there was a noticeable lack of performance management monitoring.

Having said that, in the private sector much of the performance monitoring is about hitting financial targets with incentives (usually financial rewards) being the catalyst. However this does not apply within the public sector. Managers would assess performance daily, weekly, monthly and annually and adjust business planning accordingly against projections and historical data.

RtPM has developed into something that will enable councillors and management to monitor progress on key targets and to benchmark against key milestones.

Heads of Service are beginning to recognise its value and importance

Tony Leonard, Director of Services, Rother District Council

Perspective 4: The System Administrator

Rother District Council's chosen route of implementation for the RtPM (Real Time Performance Management) system commenced with a close look at BVPIs. Consultation with Head of Services' determined the target setting and along with the ODPM criteria the systematic application of each of Rother's indicators began.

It was also at this stage that decisions were made as to which Officers would be responsible for input or validation of indicators into the system. From this a plan was formed as to the necessary roll-out of training

The Policy and Performance Unit organised meetings aiming to broaden awareness and demonstrate the capabilities of our innovative performance management tool. Cabinet, Scrutiny Committees and Head of Services' were invited to presentations and as RtPM Administrator I followed these appreciation sessions with 1:1 training for Members and Officers. Priority was given to Portfolio holders, Head of Services' and Officers with existing involvement in data collection and reporting on performance.

Our working relationship with Escendency strengthened as the rollout of the system gained momentum. As areas for future development became apparent new ideas were tackled and up-date versions of the system were released. The improvements to date have increased functionality, such as the expansion of the traffic light settings, user friendly reports, group reporting and action planning.

Tina Lubbock, Policy Assistant, Rother District Council

Perspective 5: The Software Partner

It was just before Christmas 2002 when we first met Rother DC. In the 6 months prior to that they had employed the services of a change management consultant Tony Meenaghan, to search the world for the ideal Performance Management System.

Rother DC had formed principled views on how such a system should operate, in particular that it should be people-centric. The system would have to meet their current needs but also enable them to continue to develop in line with best practice. They could not find this in the marketplace. We quickly discovered that our philosophies aligned in the areas of: people-centredness, freedom with responsibility, real-time management and continuous improvement.

Believing it was the right thing to do gave both Rother DC and ourselves the sheer determination to make it a reality. Little did we know that our Christmas 2002 meeting would lead us all into a 2 year quest, and, from our side, involve the spin-off and creation of a new company along the way to see it through.

The result is that we now have a pan-organisational system that provides a common reality used by all of the people all of the time, revolutionising their whole way of working for the benefit of their community.

We are proud to have been part of this story and look forward to working with Rother DC and others with like minds in continuing to evolve best practice in the UK public sector.

Mark Robinson, Director, Escendency Ltd

Perspective 6: The Performance Data Collector

It is part of my duties to collect the data to calculate the Council's performance in the Collection of the Revenues and the Administration of the Benefits. With the result of the calculations I complete 10 Best Value Indicators on the RtPM system. My experiences can be summarised as below:

  • The system collects all the data from different departments and centralises it, rather than lots of pieces of paper being sent in lots of different directions
  • It is quite easy to use
  • It makes sure that the stats are being collected and calculated. There is a reminder system via email, though I have never needed one of these
  • My input is double checked by my supervisor to ensure that accuracy of the figures
  • The system allows me to easily monitor the Contractor's (Liberata) performance in relation to the contracted performance

Pat Newell, Senior Revenues Client Officer, Rother District Council

Perspective 7: The Local Partner

I have been using the RtPM system and find it useful that I can update the figures personally. It was also very useful to be able to offer suggestions about layout to make the graphs more meaningful. There have been teething problems, but these were mostly connected with errors either on my part or in the data sent to me. The format enabled me to see that something was wrong and it was straightforward to have the errors corrected once the system had been updated

Thelma Blankley, Rother Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership

Perspective 8: The Trade Union Secretary

The RtPM system has been implemented in full consultation with the Secretary of Rother District Council Staff Side. The important aspect for the Union is the new system has the potential to keep everyone better informed on what is happening at a corporate level. There is a kind of implicit contract that managers will develop their staff to make sure that they have the skills and capacity to deliver on service performance improvements.

Current users of the system are provided with a user group and emailed updates. The Union is currently encouraging more briefings for non-users about the system and have recently invited the Policy Unit to make a presentation to all Unison reps.

Nic Waite, Unison Rother DC Branch Secretary

4. Conclusions

a. Process

Implementing a web-based Performance Management System at Rother District Council has undoubtedly aided us to focus on our business planning processes and to ensure that we have the right mechanisms in place to drive performance managegement. Our approach is roundly based on the principle that capacity for performance management must be located and enhanced throughout the organisation and not just in a central performance and quality assurance unit. This has led to a concerted process of training and user involvement to develop this capability. Our efforts have been concentrated on getting out to the front line services and support them to develop their own capacity. Staff and stakeholder contribution in this process has been critical to its success and is envisaged to be a continuing process of enablement and participation. With a web-enabled system, our "anytime, anywhere, anyone" aspiration for access to performance management processes becomes possible.

b. Culture

More than just the improvement of the mechanisms of performance management, the implementation of the systems has been instrumental in changing people's attitudes and behaviour around performance management and service improvement. This is now much more central to our agenda and an agreed consensus on priorities is emerging. Managers and members are now pulling down their own tailored information for timely, relevant decision-making. This in turn is driving up the pace of change, as managers no longer have to wait for the analysis of performance information from others to take corrective action around their targets. Equally it is driving greater coherence between services and sharing of knowledge as a single system draws people together in common goals and where their contribution can clearly be seen to influence the achievement of the Council as a whole.

c. Partnership

In addition to the devolved approach to performance management within the Council, the system is now widely recognised to have a roll out potential for performance management within a range of partnership settings, enabled by the remote access capability. We are confident that our first pilot of this with the Safer Rother Partnership and the collection of crime statistics will show the benefits of aligning data standards across organisations to meet community outcomes. There are significant implications of using this system in developing performance-managed environments for Local Strategic Partnerships and the new Local Area Agreements.

© Brenda Mason
Head of Policy and Performance
Rother District Council
May 2005