Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Student project prompts changes in Monterey County

Kate Battiato (MPA '07) Kate Battiato (MPA '07)

California’s County of Monterey is implementing several recommendations from a student project in Professor Don Moynihan’s Performance Management class. Kate Battiato (MPA ’07), a management analyst in Monterey County’s Resource Management Agency (RMA), proposed and coordinated the students’ work.

Richelle Andrae (MPA ’17) and Sam Schmitt conducted a performance management analysis of the types and lengths of customer encounters in RMA’s Permit Center to better understand customer wait times and staffing levels and to improve customer service. The students analyzed data regarding the reasons for each customer’s visit and the corresponding types and lengths of encounters.

“It was a positive experience working with a former La Follette student who understands applied learning and the course’s goals,” said Andrae. “Kate and her team encouraged creative solutions and critical feedback.”

The project incorporated multiple ways to approach process improvement, including theoretic, survey-based, and data-driven strategies. Andrae and Schmitt categorized and analyzed six months of data collected by RMA permit technicians, who assist walk-in customers with filing paperwork and answering questions. They also gathered additional information from permit technicians and conducted a literature review.

“As we know from our performance management textbook, performance indicators tell us what happened, but they don’t tell us why it happened,” Andrae and Schmitt said in their final report. “To get a better understanding of why appointment times take such a long time, we decided to use a common process improvement tool known as the Affinity Diagram.”

Their work resulted in 12 management recommendations that the Permit Center could use to improve its operations. The Permit Center is implementing seven of the recommendations.

According to Battiato, the project originated from RMA’s Managing for Results initiative, a continuous performance management tool designed to maximize the impact of resources utilized across county services. She said it was exciting to see the concepts of performance management play out in the real world.

“The students’ analysis was instrumental in making a case for why we needed to upgrade our system,” said Battiato, who served as the La Follette School’s career development coordinator from early 2012 until relocating to California in 2013. “Our stakeholder watchdog task force was very impressed with the students’ report.”

Andrae said she often referenced her three applied-learning experiences in interviews with potential employers, who were impressed to see that her work had real-world implications. “Coursework that facilitates projects with real-world clients is absolutely critical to successful academic training,” she said.