Washington State Leaders Collaborate to Improve Government Performance

Governor meets with key stakeholders monthly to review progress on priority outcomes

Washington State Leaders Collaborate to Improve Government Performance

In 2013, Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) issued an executive order that launched a statewide performance management system called  Results Washington to foster continuous improvement across government programs. It also sought to track efforts to achieve five goals statewide: a world-class education system; a prosperous economy; sustainable energy and a clean environment; healthy and safe communities; and efficient, effective, and accountable government.

Results Washington monitors priority areas within each goal—for example, early learning, K-12, and postsecondary are monitored within the world-class education goal. The team overseeing the system frequently convenes agency leadership and community partners to discuss challenges and activities occurring across the state. This process encourages collaboration to improve government services and outcomes, and helps bring together government and community resources to address pressing issues that affect people across the state.

The system tracks over 190 performance measures across state agencies and coordinates monthly “results review” meetings. In those sessions, the governor, agency leaders, and key community leaders take a holistic approach when discussing progress on—and barriers to—addressing a particular problem. The meetings focus on using outcome data to identify any problems and the right solutions, and to better understand if the identified solutions are actually making a difference.

For example, to address the opioid epidemic, which affects the healthy and safe communities goal, Results Washington is creating an online dashboard on opioid use to encourage and monitor collaboration. This tool will track meaningful statewide and agency-specific measures as well as activities with key partners that can affect outcomes related to opioid use, including local governments, nonprofits, and other community-based organizations.

“I can’t think of a major problem in our state that can be addressed by a single government agency or that doesn’t include another partner outside of state government,” said Inger Brinck, director of Results Washington. “Our plan is to bring those people into these problem-solving conversations [and] performance data can help to frame those discussions.”

Incorporating the perspectives of multiple partners, including ones outside of government, in developing and tracking outcomes and reviewing monthly results, adds on-the-ground context to the data. 

The team also works with agencies to ensure the performance measures being tracked paint an accurate picture of how the state will meet its goals. For priority areas that cut across agencies, the team creates indicators linked to the governor’s strategic priorities, such as increasing the number of residents living above the poverty level, so the data can be disaggregated to better measure equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the state. These targeted measures help initiate conversations about data, measurements of progress, and what government and state leaders need to know to improve state priorities. 

Since the creation of Results Washington, the increased focus on cross-agency collaboration around specific problems, tracking meaningful performance information, and developing detailed action plans has increased the level of documented, tangible improvements within state agencies. For example, from 2013 to 2016, the percentage of toddlers receiving all recommended vaccinations increased from 35 percent to nearly 60 percent, and the high school graduation rate grew from 76 percent to nearly 80 percent.

Across the board, day-to-day operations across agencies have improved, at least in part because of the Results Washington approach. Looking at the major changes reported by state agencies in fiscal year 2017, 37 percent improved the quality of services and 28 percent reduced or avoided costs totaling $61 million. This results-oriented approach has not only enhanced the outcomes for Washington residents, but also boosted the efficiency of government in the process.

Sara Dube is a director and Mariel McLeod is an associate with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative.

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Washington State Capitol Building
Washington State Capitol Building
Issue Brief

The Role of Outcome Monitoring in Evidence-Based Policymaking

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Issue Brief

As states continue to face budgetary constraints, policymakers are looking for ways to make government more efficient and effective. Over the past three decades, many governments have developed systems to measure the performance of programs that aim to improve key outcomes in areas such as job creation, child safety, and health.