Measuring success in city planning 

Former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, famously has a list of six “Lessons on Leadership.”

Leaders, according to Giuliani, have a vision about what they wish to achieve, courage to take risks and a deep understanding of ethics.  They surround themselves with effective people and have an optimistic outlook.

But they must also have the ability to transform their vision into smaller, meaningful, measurable goals.

Giuliani isn’t alone in his emphasis on measuring outcomes against a broader strategic goal, indeed it’s become a widely accepted management tool under the banner of “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

In the New York example, Giuliani relied on crime statistics from each of his 77 police precincts to determine trends, allocate resources and move quickly on areas of escalating concern. While one central group had oversight of all statistics he allowed the local precinct commanders to work within their areas to achieve results.

Through this measurement and accountability approach, Giuliani claims to have reduced crime in New York City by 60%.

But compiling statistics from police precincts across New York’s five boroughs is a relatively expensive prospect, and one which is open to allegations of manipulation.

Automatic sensors, connected to the internet, can provide a stream of data which can be automatically and instantly analysed to determine the success or failure of components of a vision at a fraction of the cost, without the possibility of manipulation.

Public sector leaders are now, for example, able to objectively measure not only the amount of congestion on each road at the present moment, but also to determine if it’s increasing or decreasing, or if this level of congestion is typical for today’s weather conditions.

Now that it’s possible and relatively cheap to measure, it’s also possible to determine whether a road project will increase or decrease congestion, and by how much. It is even possible to rank options for resolving that congestion based on the effect they will have on that metric.

Giuliani, who is still an advocate of measuring government’s progress, would have loved to have the capacity to measure as many things that affected the life of his constituents as possible.

Perhaps the next generation of political and business leaders can take Giuliani’s methods to the next level, relying on metrics generated by data that is both cheap and reliable.

Dan Wood

Consulting Manager