Marathon County, Wisconsin, continuously evaluates its programs and services in light of its goal: creating a learning organization that promotes improved quality of services as well as increased service delivery efficiency. The performance management system the county uses focuses on two major components, logic models and outcome measurement reports. In addition, the county has developed a mission, vision, and set of core values that all county activities must reflect, which helps it focus on desired outcomes.
ABOUT MARATHON COUNTY
Located in north central Wisconsin, Marathon County is geographically the largest county in Wisconsin, with a population of about 134,000. The county's economy, historically centered on its abundant timber resources, has gradually diversified, and now Marathon County is home to sizable manufacturing and agriculture industries as well. The county employs 776 full-time-equivalent employees in 23 departments, and it also encompasses discretely presented components units (DPCU) such as the airport and health-care center, which make up the overall financial structure of the county. The county's governing body, the Board of Supervisors, is made up of 38 members, each elected to a two-year term. However, each DPCU has its own board in addition to being under the control of the county's Board of Supervisors, and these boards must approve each DPCU's budget. The Board of Supervisors, along with a county administrator, oversees the county's $114 million budget. The county has a complicated management structure that includes an appointed county administrator who oversees some departments, department heads who are elected, department heads who are appointed by that department's board of directors, and one elected department head who is actually an employee of the state.
GETTING STARTED WITH OUTCOME MEASUREMENT
The county did not start focusing on outcomes, measurement, and improvement all at once. Rather, it developed its performance management system, called outcome measurement, over the past few years. The effort began in 2003, and through most of 2004, the county's outcome measurement team, along with all other county departments, received training on developing outcomes, identifying indicators, and using data measurement tools. In addition, county departments were introduced to the idea of logic models, a systematic and visual way of showing the relationship between inputs (resources), outputs (activities), and outcomes (results).
In 2006, the county began collecting data for many county programs and services, which it used to establish baselines. Beginning in 2007, these baselines were incorporated into the budget document and used to measure the success of programs and services. The budget document uses the logic model format to easily explain the relationship between inputs and outcomes for each program.
Marathon County's complex management structure presented a challenge similar to that faced by other complex jurisdictions looking at performance management. The key to implementing any performance management system, however, is to make sure the organization is willing to accept it. That means change management and training are essential. Performance management is an evolving process, and for Marathon County the changes were implemented in an organized process over a number of years, with improvements in later years building upon initial successes.
Ultimately it is people who make the system work. The county's performance management effort relies on having a knowledgeable staff that actively promotes the focus on outcomes. Marathon County identified this as one of its core strategies, and it places an emphasis on training staff and developing the governance skills of elected officials.
OUTCOME MEASUREMENT IN MARATHON COUNTY
Performance management in Marathon County centers on its mission, vision, core values, and core strategies. …