Utility Measures – Approaching Measurement

There are two general approaches to performance measurement.

Internal performance measurement, which is the focus of the interactive Primer, involves evaluating current internal utility performance status and trends. It can also include comparison of outcomes or outputs relative to goals, objectives, baseline status, targets, and standards.

Benchmarkingwhich is not the focus here—is the overt comparison of similar measures or processes across organizations to identify best practices, set improvement targets, and measure progress within or sometimes across sectors. A utility may decide to engage in benchmarking for its own internal purposes or in a coordinated fashion with others.

While performance measures should be tailored to the specific needs of your utility, the following guidelines can help you identify useful measures and apply them effectively.

  • Select measures that support the organization’s strategic objectives, mission, and vision, as well as the ten Attributes.
  • Select the right number, level, and type of measures for your organization. Consider how measures can be integrated as a cohesive group (e.g., start with a small set of measures across broad categories and increase number and specificity over time as needed), and consider measures that can be used by different audiences within the organization.
  • Measuring performance will not necessarily require additional staff, but will require resources. Allocate adequate resources to get the effort off to a good start, and fine tune over time to balance the level of measurement effort with+ the benefit to the organization.
  • Develop clear, consistent definitions for each measure. Identify who is responsible for collecting the data, and how the data will be tracked and reported.
  • Engage the organization at all levels in developing, tracking, and reporting measures, but also assign someone in the organization the role of championing and coordinating the effort.
  • Set targets rationally, based on criteria such as customer expectations, improvement over previous years, industry performance, or other appropriate comparisons. Tie targets to improving performance in the Attributes.
  • Select and use measures in a positive way to improve decision making, clarify expectations, and focus attention, not just to monitor, report, and control.
  • When selecting measures, consider how they relate to one another. Look for cause-and-effect relationships; for example, how improvements in product quality could result in increased customer satisfaction.
  • Develop an effective process to evaluate and respond to results. Identify how, when, and to whom you will communicate results.
  • Incorporate the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” cycle approach into evaluating both the specific measures and the system as a whole. Regularly review the performance measurement system for opportunities to improve.

…and remember to celebrate your measured and documented successes!

Additional resources on performance measures can be found in the EUM Resource Toolbox.

Attribute Related Measures:

Product Quality

Water product quality compliance, particularly with regards to 40 CFR Part 141 (the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations), the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, and any other relevant federal (Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, etc.) or state statute/regulations and permit requirements. The scope can include the quality of all related products, including drinking water, fire suppression water, treated effluent, reused water, and biosolids, as well as quality-related operating requirements such as pressure and number of sewer overflows.

Example measures for this attribute.

Employee and Leadership Development

This measure gauges a utility’s progress toward developing and maintain­ing a competent and stable workforce, including utility leadership.

Example measures for this attribute.

Financial Viability

This measure has short-term and long-term aspects. The short-term calcu­lations are commonly used financial performance indicators, and the long-term con­sideration is a more comprehensive analytical approach to assessing budget health over the course of several decades.

Example measures for this attribute.

Operational Resiliency

Incidence rates can be used to show the relative level of injuries and ill­nesses and help determine problem areas and progress in preventing work-related injuries and illnesses.

Example measures for this attribute.

Water Resource Adequacy

This measure assesses short-term and long-term water supply adequacy and explores related long-term supply considerations.

Example measures for this attribute.

Customer Satisfaction

This measure assesses the complaint rates experienced by the utility, with individual quantification of customer service and core utility service complaints.  As a “passive measure,” it will not likely be numerically representative (i.e., a statistically valid customer sample group) and is a “starting point” measure for understanding customer service problems.

Example measures for this attribute.

Operational Optimization

This measure examines resource use efficiency, including labor and mate­rial per unit of output or mile of collection/distribution system.

Example measures for this attribute.

Infrastructure Stability

This measure gauges a utility’s efforts to assess assets and asset conditions, as the first steps towards building a comprehensive asset management program.

Example measures for this attribute.

Community Sustainability

This measure addresses utility efforts to consider watershed-based ap­proaches when making management decisions affecting infrastructure planning and investment options. Watershed protection strategies can sometimes, for example, protect sourcewater quality limiting the need for additional or enhanced water treat­ment capacity.

Example measures for this attribute.

Stakeholder Understanding and Support

This measure addresses utility actions to reach out to and consult with stakeholders about utility matters, including utility goals, objectives, and management decisions.

Example measures for this attribute.