San Mateo County’s Outcome-Based Management System Aligns Program Performance Measures, County Budget and Community Results

San Mateo County, California is using performance accountability to transform its performance measurement and county budget systems.

Starting with the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 fiscal years, San Mateo County is implementing an The Outcome-Based Management system intended to integrate three critical management tools–planning and priority setting; performance measurement, and budget development– with the goal of focusing available resources toward specific county-wide outcomes identified through a community visioning process.

Planning and Priority-Setting

In late 1999 and early 2000, the County Board of Supervisors initiated a visioning process to ask the public to help them determine the County’s direction and long-term goals in four key areas–People, Place, Prosperity and Partnerships. After developing draft goals, they convened eight public meetings and set up a website to listen to the communities’ idea on where the county was and where it should be going. They also worked closely with groups such as the Children’sExecutive Council to incorporate existing measures of community well-being into the process.  Proposed progress measures for each goal were developed in collaboration with consultants, county departments and other agencies. After almost a year of discussion,  the Vision Document, including ten countywide Commitments, 25 Goals, Progress Measures and baseline data is scheduled for final adoption in April 2001. See San Mateo’s Commitments and Goals


Performance Measurement and Budget Development

The next step was to link ongoing efforts to improve county government performance measurement, and ultimately, the county budget, to community-wide goals.  In late 1999, the County implemented a pilot phase of Outcome-Based Management System under the direction of the County Manager, to identify and measure performance outcomes for 21 county programs as part of the 2000-01 budget process.  The County Manager’s office coordinated training in planning and priority-setting as well as Performance Accountability, and provided ongoing support to program and fiscal staff, as they worked through the new process.

The process of defining program measures, which often included the entire staff of the pilot programs, has been well accepted.  Many staff appreciated the opportunity to discuss the purpose and impact of their work, explore how their programs contributed to the county-wide goals, establish priorities and expectations, and offer suggestions for improvement.  Overall, the first-time effort went well, and  the pilot was expanded to phase in all county programs over a three-year period.

When fully implemented in FY 2004 county budget,  the Outcome-Based Management section of the budget will include descriptions of every program with the following elements See sample budget pages.

  • A Program Outcome Statement which describes why the program exists, and how it benefits or impacts its clients or customers.
  • Headline Measures showing two baselines for the most important measures of client well-being.
  • The Story Behind Baseline Performance summarizing the major activities and achievements over the past year, and explaining the factors influencing the baselines.
  • What will Be Done to Improve Performance in the Next Two Years describing upcoming priorities and action steps to meet performance targets.
  • Resource Allocation Summary, including estimated spending, sources of funds, and net county cost, indicating any discretionary portion that can be shifted to other programs depending on County priorities and needs.
  • Funding Adjustments for the upcoming two fiscal years, to support implementation of two-year priorities and action steps to meet performance targets.
  • Summaries of performance measurements for each program.  Performance measures reflect the four-quadrant performance accountability model, including What/How Much We Do, How Well We Do It and Is Anyone Better Off.

Over the next ten years, as the process is refined and early problems with data solved, performance measures derived from the Outcome-Based Management system will be used to set  budget priorities and direct funds toward successful programs that contribute to San Mateo County’s Visioning Goals.

Making significant changes to the county budget process has been a massive undertaking.  A Board of Supervisors subcommittee comprised of two Supervisors, the County Manager and three department heads oversees the effort, while a program/fiscal subcommittee of 22 operations and fiscal personnel carries out planning, implementation and evaluation of  the initiative. In the County Manager’s office, the Deputy County Manager for the Budget and six Budget and Analysis staff have been involved in the effort, and 25 people throughout county government have assisted with training and support.


Advice from Reyna Farrales, Deputy County Manager: Lessons Learned in Implementing San Mateo’s Outcome Based Management System:

Make sure you have strong support for significant changes to the budget.  The active participation of elected and top appointed county officials on the oversight committee has been important in keeping the effort on track.

Phase in major changes. San Mateo will take three years to fully implement Outcome-Based Management..

Place a moratorium on making budget or program decisions using baseline data collected for performance measures.   In many cases, the data you need may not be readily available, accurate or consistent; it often takes a couple of years to develop good data.  Moreover, recognize that one or even two data points do not make a trend; don’t jump to conclusions until you know the story behind baseline data and direction the data is going.

Make a strong commitment to providing adequate resources, many of them one-time, to implement a new initiative, including training, consulting time, backfilling of positions for point persons, etc.

Expect converts to come out of the woodwork’when a few key people are sold on a new idea, they’ll sell others.

Developing performance measures which involve multiple programs and departments is a great way to cross-train county budget and program staff. Working closely with program staff on implementation also makes budget staff better advocates for good programs.

Developing performance measures and priorities provides the opportunity for staff to get together, share ideas and plan for the future.  The process taps into why individuals care about their work, and increases staff involvement in program success.



Reyna Farrales,
Deputy County Manager of Budget
San Mateo County
400 County Center, First Floor
Redwood City, CA  94063

MarcSan Mateo County’s Outcome-Based Management System