How did Michigan’s Children’s Services Agency develop executive performance dashboards?
New leadership at the Michigan Children’s Services Agency sought to revamp the performance dashboards regularly reviewed by the senior leadership team. The agency had existing dashboards, but they were difficult for leaders to use to generate theories about how to change practice and to track whether those changes were contributing to better results. Many of the original dashboard metrics were selected due to reporting requirements associated with a long-standing consent decree rather than their potential operational impact. The agency was at risk for new crises to hit with little warning, as few of the featured dashboards reflected measures that were known to be early indicators of longer-term system health or child and family outcomes.
In 2019, Michigan’s Children’s Services Agency designed new executive performance dashboards that offer a comprehensive picture of agency operations through 42 carefully selected metrics. For each major area of the child welfare system—centralized intake, field investigations, open cases, and out-of-home placements — the department prioritized the most important management questions in each of three performance categories: (1) system capacity, (2) program quality, and (3) child and family outcomes. It then designed a dashboard metric to present data for each of these questions.
This brief highlights the Michigan experience and provides guidance on selecting the right metrics, visualizing the data for each dashboard metric, and using performance dashboards to drive change. The brief also includes a comprehensive list of the metrics selected and an example dashboard — all of which can be used to inform other child welfare agencies as they take steps toward transforming their own systems.