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How To Build a Data-Driven Culture for Successful Community Decisions

data driven culture

Learn tips from experts on how you can overcome resistance to innovation and create a data-driven culture in local government. 

Many local governments lack the time or resources to become data-driven organizations. However, acting without data can result in unwanted outcomes, prolong the strategic planning process, and have other undesirable effects. 

In this webinar, Polco Principal Research Strategist Michelle Kobayashi shares her expert knowledge working 30 years helping local governments get started with data-driven decision-making.

Then, Aubrey Phillips, Strategic Planning and Performance Manager from Pinellas County, Florida, shares three tips she learned during her organization's transition into data-driven governance. 

The Value of Data-Driven Decision-Making (DDDM)

Michelle Kobayashi Headshot - Data Driven Culture Webinar Speaker"Data-driven decision-making in its best form brings together the appropriate data sources, analysis, and metrics to inform our choices, our reasoning, and our actions,” Kobayashi said. “In the end, it gives sound credence to new policies and initiatives.”

The medical field is one industry where data-driven decision-making is paramount. Kobayashi's husband is a surgeon, and she says surgeons rate potential actions on a 5-point scale. They know the most highly rated actions are the most likely to have the best results based on previous data from previous experiences. 

People’s lives are not directly at stake with local government decisions. But any action can impact residents’ well-being for decades, which is why any decision must be taken seriously. 

DDDM Uses in Local Government

  • Strategic and comprehensive plans
  • Budgets
  • Winning Grants
  • Program policy development
  • Performance measurements

Benefits of DDDM

  • Aligns goals 
  • Measuring the impact
  • Faster decision-making
  • Showing accountability
  • Better risk management
  • Better decisions

Data Driven Culture - Key Attributes to a Data Driven Culture

Key Attributes of Data-Driven Decision-Making Culture

Decision-Making Processes
Does your organization have a shared vision? Are you able to focus on facts and metrics? Are you looking at how your decisions impact community livability in your residents? 

Communication and Collaboration
Is there stakeholder engagement? Do your employees have a say? Do you have interdepartmental collaboration? 

A Growth Mindset
Are you risk-tolerant? Are you developing staff? Do you put money into training staff? Do you encourage staff to learn?

Are You Ready to Take On a Data-Driven Philosophy?

Kobayashi developed an assessment that asks local government leaders about their readiness to become data-driven. 

Results show that most governments score higher for providing a clear vision, supporting continual learning, welcoming employee involvement, and opportunities for employees to develop new skills. 

Organizations score low for openness to new ideas and initiatives, collaboration between departments, communication information that helps employees understand problems, and the speed of response to important issues. 

Data Driven Culture - How Prepared are Local Governments to be Data driven

How To Move Forward With DDDM

“We know that the future is data-driven decision-making, and we also recognize that it's not easy to get there and to realize the full potential of being a successful data-using organization,” Kobayashi said. 

To get started with DDDM, Kobayashi suggests:

  • Identifying your organization’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Adopting a growth mindset
  • Employing change management skills
  • Iterating and improve
  • Focusing on the journey and longer-term goals 
  • Celebrating success

Three Tips From Pinellas County on Becoming a Data-Driven Government 

Aubrey Phillips, Strategic Planning and Performance from Pinellas County, Florida, recently helped her organization become more data-driven. 

To help with this journey, the County used Track by Polco, comprehensive datasets about their community they could access immediately.  Track data are curated by data science experts like Kobayashi. The information comes from public sources like the US Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other trusted references. 

Track gives Pinellas County unlimited access to data and has helped them cut down on their strategic planning time

However, like any major change, it took more work to help the organization embrace data in everyday decisions.

Phillips identified three important themes other organizations should adopt when becoming data-driven. 

Data Driven Culture - Focus On Culture Slide

“You can have the best possible technology implementation. But if you don't think about culture, you're missing out on an opportunity to drive and reinforce the ‘why’ behind the implementations and analysis that you're doing,” she said. 

Data Driven Culture - Get Everyone Involved Slide“The more that you can get employees at every level of your organization involved in what a data-driven organization means for them in their role, the more successful you'll be,” Phillips said. "You can put in place all kinds of data-driven performance evaluations or work planning, but if you're not making it real for the folks on the front lines—the people who are out there picking up your parks and collecting trash and everything else it takes to run a city or county—you'll miss out on opportunities."

Data Driven Culture - Bring Courage Slide

“I can't emphasize that last one enough,” she said. 

Phillips mentioned that while the Country got its plan together in eight months, conversations around the plan began years before. They talked to department directors a year ahead of briefing the board. They had tough conversations about who was accountable for what. 

They asked what the community was expecting from the government. What impact were they trying to make? 

Those conversations built momentum around integrating a DDDM culture. 

Finally, she says to keep the human element in mind when adopting a data-focused mentality. 

“You can use data to help you streamline decision-making and get to results faster, but it's so important to bring people along with you on that journey so that it's meaningful and relevant," she says. “When the rubber meets the road, it is real and purposeful in your community.” 

Tools To Help You Become a Data-Driven Government

Polco makes it easy for you to win with data. Get meaningful data on Polco Track about your community instantly. Save time on research and analysis. Access metrics specific to your city. Measure your performance. Compare your performance to communities just like yours nationwide. Make more informed decisions. Become data-driven! 

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