The Dallas CPE: Planning, Management and Continuous Improvement Enhance Service Delivery

Dallas City Hall

Dallas City Hall f11photo /


Connecting state and local government leaders

The City of Dallas integrates proven management systems and performance improvement tools under a single umbrella to provide better, more efficient services to residents.

What do you do when the city you work for wants to facilitate best-in-class performance and adopt leading local government management research and improvement practices from across the region, the state, and the nation?  

If that city is Dallas, Texas (population 1.258 million residents) you integrate five different management and performance improvement tools under a single umbrella that enables you to reduce costs; enhance responsiveness to customers; increase the capacity of your existing workforce; empower, enrich, and motivate employees; improve organizational communications; and leverage partnerships.

This was the thinking behind the development of the Dallas Center for Performance Excellence (CPE). The center fuses the key principles behind LEAN Six Sigma; performance measurement, benchmarking, and surveying; the Baldrige business planning framework; ISO 9001 management industry standards; and in-house training and idea exchanges. The tools work together, either through “direct” relationships that involve hard-wired programs and staff who carry out the CPE’s mission through their day-to-day work assignments, or through “indirect” relationships with external partners.

“We developed the Dallas CPE to facilitate best-in-class levels of performance ac​ross the city,” says Mark McDaniel, Dallas assistant city manager, who provides leadership for the new Dallas CPE.

The Dallas CPE’s goals read like those of many public (and private) organizations: Eliminate organizational silos and encourage collaboration, borrow liberally from successful private-sector organizations, and “daylight” innovative ideas and leading practices through a public-private advisory board made up of leaders from top-flight organizations: Texas A&M University, Texas Instruments, AT&T, Southwest Airlines, Lockheed Missile, the University of Texas at Arlington, the Alliance for Innovation, and the ICMA Center for Performance Analytics.

“Today's innovative approaches to delivering public services more efficiently have their roots in research going back to the early part of the last century,” notes ICMA Executive Director Bob O’Neill.

“The Dallas Center for Performance Excellence will contribute significantly to raising the bar within the field of performance management.”


Direct Components

Quality Management Services: ISO 9001

Since 2005, the City of Dallas has subscribed to the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, to help reduce its environmental impact, enhance operational efficiency, and improve performance in the areas of health and safety. ISO provides a quality management system designed to help organizations improve the efficiency, quality, and consistency of services.

The Dallas CPE’s Quality Management Team members serve as ISO 9001 implementation consultants, working with other city departments to develop measurable objectives, collect data, create an effective reporting process, and prepare for independent ISO registration audits. Departments learn how to take corrective or preventive actions and conduct internal audits to ensure compliance with standards.  

Business Planning: The Baldrige Framework

The Dallas CPE works with and provides coaching to representatives from each department to create a scored business plan that identifies the specific activities each department will contribute to carrying out the city’s multi-year strategic plan. Performance measures and benchmarking are incorporated into the plans and are built on the Baldrige framework. That framework employs a scorecard assessment that drives continuous improvement in leadership; strategy; customer focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results.

In June 2015, city departments submitted draft plans as a practice exercise to five business plan review teams. Based on the review, the plans were finalized and re-submitted in October, and the CPE will use independent and consensus review scoring to identify each department’s overall score, strengths and weaknesses.

Performance Measurement, Benchmarking and Surveying

The City of Dallas utilizes a public dashboard display system that allows users to modify charts and displays and to incorporate historical data and narratives into its measurement data. The “Dallas Data Points” enable the city to monitor progress in five key areas: public safety; economic vibrancy; clean, healthy environment; culture, arts, recreation, and education, and e-gov.

To establish benchmarking and comparative performance standards, the City of Dallas subscribes to ICMA Insights™, a cutting-edge performance management and analytics platform developed by the International City/County Management Association in partnership with SAS. It includes 900 key input, output, and outcome measures centered on seven service clusters and offers the ability to compare performance against that of other jurisdictions.

“The decision to use ICMA Insights as a benchmarking tool will enhance the value of the national comparative performance database that ICMA is developing for the benefit of local governments nationwide,” says Randall Reid, ICMA Director of Performance Initiatives and member of the Dallas CPE Advisory Board.

The city typically benchmarks itself against other jurisdictions with populations of 500,000 or greater, and the collected performance data will be integrated into the “Dallas Data Points” public dashboard, shared with department directors, and employed as one of the city’s many business planning tools.

LEAN Six Sigma

A major initiative for the Dallas CPE is to eliminate waste and reduce inconsistencies in service delivery by undertaking LEAN Six Sigma, a combination of two disciplined, data-driven performance improvement approaches and methodologies. LEAN focuses on improving flow in the value stream and eliminating waste, and LEAN projects help the Dallas staff identify hard and soft cost savings, process improvements, and new ways to serve residents. Six Sigma focuses on eliminating defects and reducing variation in processes, resulting in improved effectiveness.

The city charged its former Efficiency Team with taking the lead to advance LEAN Six Sigma throughout the organization, and team members used an existing framework to launch an aggressive training and certification progression for staff.

In addition to relying on its annual budget process, sunset and business plan reviews, council and employee suggestions, customer feedback, and other resources to identify which projects will go through the LEAN Six Sigma process, the city uses the system’s DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control) methodology to continuously improve performance in 50 project areas. Among the 15 fully defined projects, hard savings to date are projected at $2.02 million, and soft savings (time, supplies on hand, etc.) are projected at $353,000. The city anticipates additional benefits, such as enhanced responsiveness to citizens and customers, improved organizational communications and a more motivated workforce.

Citizen, Business and Internal Surveying

Dallas typically conducts a biennial citizen survey, with one scheduled during the city’s 2016 fiscal year. The survey results allow the city to assess the quality of its services, track performance over time, and identify opportunities for improvement. The city also surveys the business community to get a sense of how it perceives the quality of local services and surveys staff to gather internal perspectives and performance data.

Training and Ideas Exchange

In addition to the LEAN Six Sigma certification, the Dallas CPE established the BIG (Build/Innovate/Give) Academy, which equips city employees with the tools and resources they need “to make BIG things happen” in the community. The BIG Academy offers classes in critical thinking, business planning and writing, project and time management, as well as use of the Knowledge Network sponsored by ICMA and the Alliance for Innovation.

Indirect Components

The Dallas CPE draws on a wide range of internal and external organizations, including the City University, Office of the City Auditor, and Public Information Office; professional accreditation organizations; and strategic partners such as ICMA and the Alliance for Innovation. It also coordinates with overall community planning, the city’s continuity of operations plan, and periodic sunset reviews.  

All CPE activities support the city manager's overall strategic plan and help the City of Dallas accomplish its overall mission.

The article appears courtesy of the Washington, D.C.-based International City / County Management Association(Photo of Dallas City Hall by f11photo /

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