Kim Olivares on How to Make Better Teams

February 25, 2020 by Melissa Crowe

Kim Olivares on How to Make Better Teams

Photo credit: Paolo/Flickr

Good government doesn’t just happen by itself. It’s the people who make the difference.

That’s why the city government in Austin, Texas, is investing to build an organization where people are developed, talent is valued, and continuous learning and improvement is in everyone’s DNA.

Austin Chief Performance Officer Kim Olivares manages programs focused on empowering teams and individuals.

While Austin is data rich, Olivares’ mission is to make sure active and proactive data use was embraced across the board. On top of that, she is helping to develop a culture that not only values data, but also sees the humans in it.

“Bottom line, whatever I’m doing, I want to know I’m having a positive impact on local communities and that I’m helping facilitate availability and usability of tools to be more data-driven and more connected,” Olivares says. “I want to make sure that no one is left in the dark, and people have access to the information they need to make smart decisions and do great things.”

Olivares recently shared her perspective on performance management, team building, and city government in Tyler Technologies’ new series, Women in Data. This new series explores strategies and best practices from government leaders across the U.S.

She credits her team for creating opportunities that facilitate data adoption and, as a result, help the city create positive and more equitable outcomes. The team, recently fully staffed, includes a group of four focused on performance, a group of five focused on LEAN improvements, and one program consultant who joined from human resources and leads the culture change initiative.

“I feel incredibly lucky to work with all of them and have all of them work throughout the organization to make a positive impact, and as a result, make a positive impact in the community,” Olivares says. “We’re staffed in a way that supports education to drive that continuous improvement culture.”

It’s all about empowerment — not only within the core performance team, but also Austin’s 15,000 city employees.

Olivares’ team is launching a series of manager summits for the more than 750 city employees with a manager as part of a larger change management effort around Austin’s strategic plan. The goal is to engage them in the strategic plan, share the value of performance management, dig into data, and give them the tools to empower their teams help the community.

“I preach to others the concept of empowering our employees, giving them the freedom to try and learn new things,” Olivares says. “If I’m going to preach that to other departments, I have to walk the talk. … My very first boss said to me, ‘You don’t work for me, you work with me.’ That has stayed with me all these years, and hopefully I’m creating that same opportunity.”

Austin’s performance program, and the culture around data, is focusing on outcomes, not inputs.

Back when the city launched its open data portal, powered by Socrata, in 2012, the portal was lauded for providing data downloads and APIs serving up datasets. Some of the most accessed datasets still include 311 calls, incident reports, and stray animals.

Olivares calls the open data site “the core of our being.” Today, the city is using Socrata Connected Government Cloud to bring more use-cases onto their data platform. In addition, Austin is expanding its Socrata use by building out the nearly 200 performance measures aligned with the Strategic Direction 2023, as well as launching two new finance apps, Open Budget and Open Expenditures.

“Our continued growth and use of data proves the value of the investment even more,” Olivares says. “We’re able to use these tools to drive advancement of strategic priorities across the organization and work toward our vision.”

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