Citistat, Six Sigma, and Failure

11 Dec

BuffaloGeek compares & contrasts the county’s and city’s initiatives to document and improve various governmental processes, and the efforts to lurch WNY government out of its perpetual state of 1950s-ism.

The process to reserve a shelter at a county park takes 72 separate steps. Seventy-two. Six Sigma is supposed to help the County figure out ways to streamline that process, make it cheaper and more customer-friendly.

In the meantime, while the county is looking into streamlining, “CitiStat” appears to be an utter and complete waste of space and time, with no real dissemination of information. For instance, if you want to find out what the sewer department does, you’ll find it via CitiStat.

If, however, Citistat is designed to be a process improvement program that documents workflow and identifies areas for improvement and cost savings, I’m not really seeing it.

And if that’s true, then what on Earth is the point of the program?

30 Responses to “Citistat, Six Sigma, and Failure”

  1. Ike December 11, 2008 at 9:22 pm #

    Hasn’t Citistat been shown to be effective in cities across the country?

    are you criticizing it after a few months just because you’ve got beef with collins?

  2. Chris Smith December 11, 2008 at 10:10 pm #

    Actually, Citistat is used in Buffalo and is a program initiated by Mayor Brown. It has really only been implemented at a robust level by the City of Baltimore and there have been issues with that rollout as well. Primarily due to juking of the weekly stats by city departments because their accountability standards are different…meaning they measure things. Which we don’t do in Buffalo.

    Nothing that I wrote or Alan wrote was critical of the County’s Six Sigma effort, I think your criticizing for no reason.

  3. STEEL December 11, 2008 at 10:45 pm #

    I could find waste in government without any fancy programs, processes, or odd sounding names.

  4. mike hudson December 12, 2008 at 2:02 am #

    baltimore, now there’s a town we can all believe in!

  5. hank December 12, 2008 at 11:55 am #

    I’m wouldn’t criticize CitiStat. What works elsewhere doesn’t necessarily work in Buffalo.

    CitiStat was a prop to elect an empty headed empty suit as Mayor of Buffalo because he’s black. CitiStat was heralded to cut waste fraud and abuse to the bone. So far, everything seems the same as the day the Mayor took office.

    Which, to anyone over 45, is no fucking surprise.

  6. Jim Ostrowski December 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    The problem with the concept of “waste” in government is that it has no firm meaning.

    I consider the war on drugs to be a waste. Others do not.

    To me, police cameras on street polls are a waste and worse. Others disagree.

    Those who make a living in wasteful government programs hardly ever call them a waste. Those who pay for them often do.

  7. Jim Ostrowski December 12, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    To continue, the only firm way to know what is or is not a waste is to give people a choice to buy or not to buy that service in the marketplace.

    E.g., war on drugs. If they had to pay the $300 each year for your household’s share, I bet most drug “warriors” would keep the money!

  8. elas December 12, 2008 at 1:49 pm #

    this is from the city’s website:
    One-year from its debut, all thirteen city departments, including the Buffalo Sewer Authority, are now fully engaged in the weekly CitiStat Buffalo meetings.

    CitiStat Buffalo Objectives

    Ensure accountability, reliability and productivity of City workforce.

    Develop and execute effective strategies and tactics for all delivery systems.

    Accurately gauge the impact and effectiveness of City service delivery.

    Identify and implement any new technologies needed to improve service delivery.

    Maintain consistent follow-up of all City functions.

    Guarantee swift deployment of resources where needed.

    CitiStat Buffalo Process

    CitiStat Buffalo is overseen by a review panel of senior Brown Administration members, including:
    First Deputy Mayor
    Corporation Counsel
    Administration and Finance Commissioner
    Human Resources Commissioner
    Office of Strategic Planning Executive Director

    so basically, it is to make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing?? and it has a clever name?? isn’t it his job to ensure that departments are being run properly and effectively?? shouldn’t he be meeting with his departments periodically anyway??? shouldn’t the government’s business be made public anyway?? is he that weak of a leader that he needs to dress up his duties with cute names as to appear he is a strong leader??? are we really that stupid?? i do not understand how this ‘initiative’ helps the taxpayers of buffalo? this should be done regardless. how much does this ‘initiative’ cost the taxpayers?

    if the mayor were effective in creating an atmosphere which would allow private sector business to grow, or even keep them well educated kids recently graduated from ub, canisius, buff state, medaille, d’youville, etc…from taking their well educated minds to charlotte, atlanta, phoenix, or anywhere else where they appreciate young professionals and keep them here working in a newly created private industry which the mayor has failed to create, because of his inabiliy to make this city competitive for jobs (although he is pretty good at spending local, state and federal taxpayer dollars), then i will give him a pass for making an effort to implement an initiative he thinks will be good for the city of buffalo taxpayers. but until then, this is just another worthless initiative that because of the cute name, will probably get him re-elected. BUFFALO, YOU DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS

  9. lefty December 12, 2008 at 2:21 pm #


    I think you can define waste..As in doing something that costs more when you could reach the same result for less.

    Chris Smith pointed out a perfect example on his blog. Instead of government using Microsoft Office, they could move to Open Office, which is open source (FREE) and does the same thing. There would be no loss in use or service.

    Another example is the use of Ambulances for ALL Medicaid transportation. There is no mandate to take a person to kidney dialysis 3 times a week in an ambulance but this happens. Non emergency medicaid transportation could at the extreme be eliminated OR if you did want to still move people around, a less costly alternative could be the use of cabs for non emergency transportation.

    The examples you cited are either doing something or not. What needs to be looked at is doing something for less and not giving up service.

  10. Jim Ostrowski December 12, 2008 at 7:41 pm #

    The cost is not borne by the decision-maker as it is in the market. That’s the problem. That’s why the market works and government doesn’t.

  11. lefty December 12, 2008 at 8:20 pm #


    While I agree that choice would in fact help but there are somethings that have already been decided or simply can not at the current time be made a choice. To say that choice is the ONLY way is narrow minded IMO.

    It sounds like, to me, that you would rather have things done exactly how you see fit rather than using some common sense and working on what you can. Eventually, if you keep plugging away you make some great gains.

    Question…just how much has been accomplished by your approach of all or nothing?

  12. Jim Ostrowski December 13, 2008 at 2:40 am #

    “just how much has been accomplished by your approach of all or nothing?”

    I always said the first thing we need is a think tank. Very few agreed with me. I am convinced more than ever.

    When a region has been in decline for fifty straight years–used to be 45 but no one listened–there is obviously a failure of its fundamental ideas.

    Free NY had two main goals–to produce specific ideas for real change and to change the mindset away from big government.

    We have done item one, albeit with limited resources–far, far, far less than the salary of Andrew Rudnick. We have done more in three years than the Partnership has done, ever.

    But the real problem is changing the mindset. We do all we can with, again, limited resources.

    As for specific proposals, obviously, it’s not all or nothing but the useless politicians have failed to enact or even thing about enacting any of our proposals.

    As for the basic truths of economics, I’m afraid it is all or nothing,. Truth is an absolute. I know that pisses many people off but don’t shoot the messenger. Until people in WNY start to learn some basic economics fast, we will never rise from the second world status we are descending into.

  13. Frank P December 13, 2008 at 8:52 am #

    Another new idea, yea right.Citistat is just another word for timestudy and industrial engineering. This concept has been around since day one. Most companies have exactly the same concepts but call them something else, like pva, oms, etc. Great managers do not need a generic guide. Great managers do not need great salaries. Just great motivation and commitment. Do not equate great compensation with doing a great job. All you need is hard working individuals, not gimmicks.

  14. buffaloobserver December 15, 2008 at 8:22 am #

    I agree with Frank P. All of this Citistat and Six Sigma is just a bunch of nonsense and a waist of taxpayer dollars. Hire good managers and you don’t need any of this crap.

  15. Chris Smith December 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm #

    Jim, I’m onboard with the idea of independent analysts and think tanks, I just don’t want to join a libertarian movement. That’s where you went wrong. Take out your Mises agenda and people might be more responsive.

  16. Jim Ostrowski December 15, 2008 at 3:08 pm #

    Right Chris; let’s just be pragmatic liberals for a change.

    Oops, we tried that for the last fifty years.

    That’s the paradox of pragmatism. Pragmatists rarely abandon their philosophy even when it proves to be impractical.

    “I just don’t want to join a libertarian movement.” And most of Buffalo agrees. How is Buffalo doing BTW?

  17. hank December 15, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Jim knows I was behind him from the beginning of FNY.
    Just like any other group of people, libertarians have good ideas. Not every idea they have is good.

    When FNY morphed from fighting the tax revolt into libertarian populism and Ron Paul for President, I just couldn’t go along.

    Jim is right in that economics is all or nothing. But if you’re going to go all or nothing with the moldy Austrians, you’re not going to get many to go along with you.

    FNY has done many policy studies. If one spends the time reading them, they have lots of good stuff in them. Jim and crew spent a lot of time and thought into writing them.

    I applaud my old schoolmate Jim for continuing to fight to free Buffalo from the clutches of the morons that have controlled the city since 1957. Those 4 years Republican Chester Kowal spent in city hall cannot be blamed for everyting that happened before or since.

    There are 2 schools of thought—one is helping people who want to help themselves. Then there is the other–widely used in WNY—helping people who refuse to help themselves, because they believe that the duty of government is to care for them. Or maybe it’s just sloth.

    WNY and NYS needs to shift from the latter to the former.

    On the other hand,libertarians don’t think the government should be responsible for issuing driver’s licenses and setting speed limits.

    That’s why I’m not a libertarian. So shoot me. Won’t be the first time.

  18. Chris Smith December 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    There is room in between social darwinism and our current governmental construct. Your inability to see that (combined with your condescension) pretty much guarantees that people will have no interest in listening to you or following your lead.

    Paradox of pragmatism…whatever.

  19. Byron December 15, 2008 at 7:39 pm #

    Don’t forget the reactionaryism!!

  20. Jim Ostrowski December 15, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    Think and do what you will but get the facts right:

    “When FNY morphed from fighting the tax revolt into libertarian populism and Ron Paul for President, I just couldn’t go along.”

    FNY was from the outset a movement with libertarian ideas at its core but it was also big tent. No rigid ideological tests. We have a coalition of libertarians, limited government conservatives and even a few liberals.

    FNY is nonpartisan and did not endorse Ron Paul.

    Personalities, turf battles and egos aside, what’s wrong with Buffalo is economic liberalism and free market economics is the cure. Most Buffalonians don’t want to take the cure and we will therefore continue to suffer and decline. There really is an objective reality out there outside our skulls.

    We should take a lesson from our opponents. Take a look at the donors to Brian Higgins: unions, big business, government employees and contractors–all working together to screw the average man while we fight amongst ourselves. They love it!

  21. Jim Ostrowski December 16, 2008 at 7:04 am #

    BTW, it’s an odd time to bash Austrian Economics. The “Austrians” are flying high since they called the burst of the housing bubble. No one who reads and was surprised at all. Austrian Peter Schiff has become a legend. There is virtually no aspect of the current crisis that Ron Paul didn’t warn about. Cavuto used to laugh at Ron Paul; now he genuflects.

    Nothing new here:

    The Austrians predicted the Great Depression and the collapse of communism.

  22. Frank P December 16, 2008 at 6:58 pm #

    I see JO posts here. I used to like this guy and believed in his thinking, then he defends someone who is the perfect example of a wasted politician. Practical, huh.

  23. Jim Ostrowski December 16, 2008 at 10:24 pm #

    Okay, plain English please.

  24. Emma Watson December 17, 2008 at 9:28 am #

    If you want to learn more about the methodology behind Six Sigma and Lean, then why not check out our website.

  25. Frank P December 17, 2008 at 11:48 am #

    Plain english ,ok. Practice what you preach. Is that plain enough.

  26. Jim Ostrowski December 17, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    Frank, you are like lots of people around Buffalo. You love to make excuses for your inactivity in the face of the 50-year decline of your community.

  27. Frank P December 17, 2008 at 4:10 pm #

    You must have had a tough life. I worked the last 38 years here and made a great living. I think you are the excuse maker. Poor you 50 years of decline boo boo boo.

  28. Frank P December 25, 2008 at 2:04 pm #

    In our society things can change in one generation. That is the true American Dream. We did not need Darwin to point this out. Conservatism and Liberalism , bah blah blah, go to almost any tavern and you will find someone with all these theroies. But in the end who is really better off? We all are.


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