Office of Performance Strategy and Innovation Update

James Wagner | March 10, 2017

Spring Break is here and there are a lot of new things springing up at City Hall. Here are a few updates on what’s happening in the Office of Performance Strategy and Innovation.

Urban Data Pioneers

On February 24, we held a team formation meet-up to create teams around data projects. We formed seven teams to look at data related to population growth, the relationship between blight and crime, land use, income, traffic crashes, street prioritization, and utility billing. These teams are working with different datasets and software to analyze their issue. The primary goal of UDP is to foster experiential learning between team members. Some will have lots of experience in pulling the data together. Others will have a knack for visualizing the data with maps or charts. Some will be there as subject matter experts and others will participate just to learn. The teams will work a couple of hours per week on their projects and present results in late April.

To date, there are over 70 people participating on the Slack channel! The teams are multi-disciplinary and are comprised of c City employees, Tulsa Health Department, INCOG, Community Service Council, Code for Tulsa, Growing Together, and the University of Tulsa. By bringing together all these great partners, we’re building the capacity for data analysis inside the city.


On March 10 the Mayor will convene the first meeting of TulStat. This new initiative is modeled after programs in Baltimore, Cincinnati and Kansas City. The program creates a space for department leadership and city leaders to regularly discuss performance metrics that matter to Tulsa residents. TulStat will convene monthly and will be attended by the Mayor, Chief of Staff, OPSI staff and internal-facing departments whose customer is the presenting department. More information about TulStat including a schedule can be found online.

Citywide Outcomes Dashboard

In December 2016, the City Council and Mayor Bynum conducted a strategic planning retreat focused on identifying outcomes the city would like to track over the coming years. Many outcomes are focused on the experience a resident, business owner or visitor of the City of Tulsa would experience. For example, one of the key outcomes is increasing Tulsa's population. This approach is unique in that it focuses on outcomes over outputs. By taking this approach, it gives city leaders the ability to work with external partners to realize goals. 

More goals will be posted as data is finalized. Benchmark figures reflect a national average or an average of cities of similar size. Many of the measures listed have detailed data in a dashboard that can be accessed by clicking the links on the dashboard.

Some departments have already restated the goals in their budget summaries around these outcomes. Continue to think about how what you’re doing can connect to these goals. For 2017 the focus areas are:

Human Centered Design

There are several teams going through the Human Centered Design training offered by +Acumen. There is a team looking at how to stimulate social entrepreneurship and a team looking at how to raise participation rates in the TPS Summer Café program. Human Centered Design is all about fully understanding whom you’re designing for and if it’s a service or a product understanding your customer’s needs, which is critical to success.

Here’s a quick description of the course: The Course for Human-Centered Design is a seven-week curriculum that will introduce you to the concepts of human-centered design and how this approach can be used to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change. This course has been created to reach those who are brand new to human-centered design, so no prior experience is required.

If you’re interested in creating a team, the next round of the training starts May 9. Details on signing up are available online. Let our staff know so we can track how many people are taking the course.

Innovation Champions

We have several people signed up for Lean Six Sigma Training for the spring classes. We’re looking forward to another class of innovators helping improve processes throughout the organization.

Open Data

We are continuing to work with the IT Security Board to develop a data classification policy that will enable us to start releasing more datasets to the public. We hope that process can be finished by this summer so departments can start classifying their data so we can publish to the Open Tulsa portal.

What’s Next?

We’re working on a couple of more projects we’re not yet ready to announce, but stay tuned for more details in the coming months.

Introduction to the Office for Performance Strategy and Innovation

James Wagner | January 11, 2017

By now many of you have heard that Mayor Bynum has established a new initiative called the Office for Performance Strategy and Innovation. We're modeling this office after the groundbreaking work of cities like Louisville, New Orleans and Atlanta. I'm thrilled to be part of this team with Penny and Robyn who have worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for the task ahead of us. During the last few weeks, I've also been fortunate to meet many of you working to make Tulsa a world-class city.

First, a little background. In 2014, then Councilor Bynum was selected for a Moneyball for Local Government Fellowship, which led to a vision to strategically pursue outcomes in local government. Our office will focus on outcome-oriented goals with respect to how they impact Tulsa's residents, businesses, and visitors and drive the city toward those goals using data as a guide. When we're struggling to move the needle, we will help departments pursue innovative practices and measure effectiveness. Mayor Bynum has opened the door to trying new approaches to solving problems for our community. In a year or two, we can be a national source of best practices, sharing the evidence we've created to help cities around the nation tackling similar problems.

Outcome-Oriented Goals
Right now we're working to develop a strategic plan by collaborating with city councilors, department leadership and organizations working throughout Tulsa to improve outcomes for our residents, businesses and visitors. It's important that our goals are stated in terms of outcomes, which are viewed by the individual receiving the service or product. For example, reducing the violent crime rate in Tulsa has a positive impact on victims. But crime is an easy goal for us to embrace as a municipal responsibility. We're taking it a step further by adding goals like decreasing the health disparity between north and south Tulsa, increasing high school graduation rates and increasing Tulsa's population to make us more fiscally sustainable. While these goals aren't in the typical wheelhouse of local government, we recognize that the City of Tulsa has a role to play. Our challenge will be clarifying how we fit into the puzzle and effectively partnering with the organizations representing the rest of the puzzle.

Using Data as Our Guide
Data is all around us. It's driving our Facebook feeds, Amazon shopping cart suggestions and decisions about our daily commute. Unfortunately, most data lives in complex databases making it hard to quickly synthesize. New technology in data visualization using dashboards has become affordable and easy to quickly deploy. Throughout the coming months, we'll be working with departments to create dashboards that give them the insight to answer questions at the speed of thought. This will enable staff at all levels access to information necessary to make data-driven decisions.

We'll continue to work internally leveraging the training of Innovation Champions (formerly MAAP Champions) to identify the root causes of our problems and improve our processes. But our goals will require us to think creatively about where city government fits into the bigger picture. We'll have to innovate to make a difference. We'll have to do great work inside city hall and embrace partnerships that move the needle for residents. A great example of an innovative partnership aimed at reducing truancy at Tulsa Public Schools is the recent partnership between Tulsa Public Schools and Tulsa Transit. The program allows TPS students to ride Tulsa Transit buses for free. In its first month, Tulsa Transit had more than 2,000 student rides per week. It's a perfect example of leveraging a city service to impact an outcome for residents.

As we move forward, our team will continue to communicate through this blog. I look forward to meeting everyone who is working toward making Tulsa a world-class city.

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