How can executive performance dashboards support child welfare agency effectiveness?
Child welfare leaders interact with data about the performance of their system dozens of times per week. Most have internal performance dashboards that they review in regular meetings with their senior leadership teams, yet many find it difficult to go beyond compliance-focused reporting and fall short of using the data to shape decisions, track progress toward goals, and focus agency attention on concerning trends that may require additional support.
Based on experience providing hands-on technical assistance to child welfare leaders across the country, the GPL has identified two common design challenges that prevent child welfare leaders from maximizing the impact of their performance dashboards. First, the dashboards do not present the most useful data. Second, the data that does exist is presented in a way that makes it difficult to uncover decision-shaping insights. This strategy brief provides a detailed framework and approach to building performance dashboards that can help leaders overcome these common design challenges. For example, the brief details five dashboard design elements that can position agency leaders to more effectively respond to performance trends in real time:
1. A long time horizon that shows performance trends and seasonal variation over time
2. A target benchmark or reference line that allows leaders to contextualize performance and determine the urgency of possible reform
3. Disaggregation by operationally meaningful subunits, such as geographic region, race/ethnicity, child age, or case characteristics
4. Solutions-focused discussion questions and guidance for interpreting trends
5. Explanation for why strong performance on each measure matters for client outcomes
By ensuring their performance dashboards present the most useful and actionable data, child welfare leaders and their teams can identify and address issues as soon as they arise, as well as elevate and spread effective practices that are working well.