By Kreklow, Steven R.
Government Finance Review , Vol. 22, No. 1
In the December Solutions article we discussed strategies for using performance measurement to actually improve organizational performance through better planning, budgeting, managing, and communicating. Much like a well-coached basketball team, government agencies can use performance measures to define goals, set targets, communicate expectations, and establish accountability. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is one organization that is successfully using performance measurement to improve performance.
PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT AT THE LA MTA
With an annual budget of $2.9 billion, the Los Angeles County Mass Transit Authority is the second largest mass transit authority in the United States, trailing only New York City. LAC MTA provides 1.3 million bus and train rides each weekday to a service area that includes more than 10 million residents.
Meeting the demand for services within available revenue streams is a continuous challenge for the employees of the LAC MTA. They must constantly search for ways to reduce costs and improve customer services. Management has found the agency's performance measurement system to be one of the most effective tools for meeting these challenges.
The LAC MTA has had a performance measurement program for years. The Federal Transit Administration requires local transportation authorities to collect and report a wide variety of performance data, and the LAC MTA had formed a performance measures group of operating department representatives to collect and use service data. Unfortunately, efforts to utilize this data for management purposes were often frustrated by the fragmentation of data sources and the time it took to collect and analyze performance data. Information included in performance measurement reports was frequently more than 90 days old--too old to assist management in the day-to-day decision-making process.
THE BALANCED SCORECARD
In 2002, the LAC MTA chief executive officer directed staff to implement the balanced scorecard module in its business system in an effort to improve the integration and speed of performance measure reporting. The balanced scorecard system was intended to automatically collect data from the financial system as well as other important computerized databases such as the risk management system and the M3 fleet management system.
Aware of the scope and complexity of the effort they were undertaking, the LAC MTA took an incremental approach to the project. The authority initially focused on implementing a handful of key performance indicators and then gradually built on its successes over time. At first, the process of defining a new performance indicator, identifying a data source, and mapping the data transfer process took up to two months; now the process can be completed in a month or less.
Three years after project kickoff, the LAC MTA has been able to develop a balanced scorecard system that automatically pulls data from the financial, risk management, and fleet management systems and makes performance data available to the Board of Directors, the CEO, auditors, analysts, and department managers. …