Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey
In October 2010, the National League of Cities published a study on city fiscal conditions, reporting that the effects of the economic downturn continue to adversely impact our nation’s cities. City finance officers report struggling housing markets, slow consumer spending, and high levels of unemployment that are driving declines in revenues. According to the report, in response, cities are cutting personnel, infrastructure investments, and key services. The report also notes that nearly nine in ten cities were less able to meet fiscal needs in 2010 than in 2009, property tax and sales tax revenues continued to decline, and fiscal pressures regarding public safety and employee-related costs continued to rise. Also in 2010, CNNMoney.com reported that several U.S. cities were on the verge of defaulting on their debt, and it named three cities on “the verge of broke.”
So what about an inspirational story for America’s cities?
The City of Coral Springs, a 2007 recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest honor for performance excellence, reports that it has used the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to manage during the economic crisis and achieve its goals, especially in relation to comparative cities.
Coral Springs has done this by focusing on the six process categories of the Criteria. The first category is Leadership, and the city focused on key tenets of the Criteria, such as communication, ethics systems, sustainability, accountability/transparency, and societal responsibility. Using the Criteria as a guide, it looked to public/private partnerships, communication meetings, and the transparency of financial statements and the annual state of the city report. Coral Springs also used the Criteria to guide its Strategic Planning, focusing on financial trend monitoring, environmental scans, an analysis of customer requirements, and performance analysis, specifically looking at key intended outcomes and department measures.
Keeping its focus on the categories of the Baldrige Criteria, the city refined its Customer Focus listening methods and data segmentation. It looked to comparisons/benchmarks and a knowledge network to guide its Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management activities. And for Workforce Focus, the City of Coral Springs set goals to have no layoffs and to refine its benefits program, reward and recognition systems, wellness programs, and use of focus groups and volunteers. These efforts included workforce performance management and individual goal setting that led to an incentive pay system for city employees. Finally, in using the Criteria as a guide, the city focused on Process Management and refined its Comprehensive Community Management Plan and Continuity of Operations Plan, and it utilized cross-functional teams.
By using the Baldrige Criteria to manage during difficult economic times, the City of Coral Springs reports that it has continued to achieve high customer satisfaction and maintain a low operating millage rate over time. In fact, in July 2010, Money magazine named the city 44th on the overall list of the 100 Best Places to Live in America and first in the state of Florida.
Based on this city’s experience, perhaps the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence could help other American cities manage as well.