What Should Be Tracked in Government? - Definitions

Posted by Tim - 14 November, 2016

"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." ― Peter Drucker

What should I be tracking in my role or organization?  That is an excellent question to be asking, but maybe not right now.  It probably should be the last question you should consider.  What if you collected mountains of data only to find that it was unrelated to your overall success?    Have you ever tried to develop a list of the essential data, tasks, goals and results for your role or organization?  Have you ever been tasked to track a set of performance measures that were seemingly unrelated to the work you are doing?  If so, you'll know that it's difficult because before long, you have developed a list that is so large and daunting that execution seems an impossibility.  Or maybe there is a lack of clarity to the organizational goals which makes development of performance measures nearly impossible.  So what do you do? Many people have found success by starting first with some simple strategic planning concepts and letting the process help them to define the measures that should be tracked.  But there are a few things you should know before you begin. This post will define the key concepts of strategic planning for government and start the journey to uncovering the right things to be tracked.


Definitions to Develop What Should be Tracked in City Government

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” ― Socrates              

So what are the terms used in strategic planning and how are they related?  The following 12 definitions are the key building blocks for creating an excellent plan.

1. Mission

Defined: An organization’s mission is its primary business or purpose.  It describes what an organization does, for whom, and its benefit. The mission of an organization is not a time-bound objective.  

Asks: What basic agency activity do we exist to provide? Whom do we serve? What do we do for them?

2. Values

Defined: A small set of vital and timeless principles that define your culture and who you truly are as an organization.  

Asks: What do we want to be known for?  What are we most proud of?  What gives the organization a shared sense of meaning?

3. Guiding Principles

Defined: Guiding principles are directive statements that articulate the constraints an organization chooses to place itself as it achieves its goals. Guiding principles embrace core values and are used to shape an organization’s strategy

Asks: How shall we perform, and what will we not compromise to achieve our mission?

4. Vision

Defined: A vision is an ideal that an organization intends to pursue. It links the organization to the future and provides a source of inspiration and can be broader than the organization’s capabilities.   Describes the type of organization that can best achieve the Mission.

Asks: What sort of world will we live in 10 years from now? What position should we occupy in that world?

5. Critical Success Factors (CSF)

Defined: Key areas of performance that are essential for the organization to accomplish its mission and affect achievement of goals.  CSFs refer to ongoing operational activities that must be sustained for the organization to function successfully. Where goals help an organization attain success, CSFs ensure an organization’s survival.

Asks: What is essential to our survival?

6. Conditions

Defined: Conditions either help or inhibit the accomplishment of goals.  Enablers are external conditions or organizational strengths that facilitate an organization’s ability to accomplish its goals or objectives.  Barriers are external conditions or organizational internal weaknesses that hinder an organization’s ability to accomplish a goal or objective.

Asks: What are we doing well?  What is promoting our success?  What are we not doing well?  What is hindering our success?  What are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?

7. Goals

Defined: Goals are broad, measurable higher-level targets that define the accomplishment of an organizational mission.  Goals are often derived from performance management exercises rather than strategic planning, and are set with an eye to achievability rather than organizational success or contribution to accomplishment of the mission.  

Asks: What needs to be accomplished to fulfill our mission?  

8. Objective

Defined: Objectives are specific, quantifiable, lower-level targets that measure an accomplishment of a goal.

Asks: What are the few major keys to achieving our vision?  What are the things that, if we have them, it doesn’t matter what else we lack, but if we don’t have them, it doesn’t matter what else we have?

9. Strategy

Defined: A strategy is a derived approach to achieving the goals of an organization. It supports the organizational vision, takes into account organizational strengths, weaknesses, resources and upholds its guiding principles.

Asks: What is the best approach to reach the target?  What are the possible courses of action to achieve the desired objective?

10. Tactic / Initiative

Defined: A tactic or initiative is a specific set of actions that implement a strategy and help to achieve goals.

Asks: What is the best way for the strategy to succeed, given our current resources and environment?  What are the necessary elements or categories needed for the strategy to succeed?

11. Actions

Defined: Actions are specific steps to implement a tactic or initiative and help achieve objectives. Actions typically have assigned staff and schedule constraints.

Asks: Who will carry out the planned tactics? When? What resources must be provided?  What are the necessary next steps needed for the tactic or initiative to succeed?

12. Performance Measures

Defined: Performance measures describe achievement of targets relevant to each objective.

Asks: What are the measures and results that will indicate the strategy, tactic and actions are moving forward successfully? 

Now that you are familiar with the basic definitions involved in strategic planning, you're ready to begin developing a plan of your own leading to a defined set of trackable items.  Many people have found that an investment in technology such as government software is essential to making the collection and reporting of key data simple and easy.   MyGov would enjoy the opportunity to learn more about you and help you to implement a system leading to efficiency and effectiveness.

Topics: Module: Government Software


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