Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Blogrige

The Official Baldrige Blog

Leadership Practices of the City of Fort Collins

Fort Collins Leadership System shows vision, mission and values. Circled around that are community & City Council, strategic planning, budgeting for outcomes, service plan & delivery, individual goals, measurement, review & analysis, and improve processes
Credit: City of Fort Collins
Five-Part Leadership Blog Series

In this five-part blog series on the 2017 Baldrige Award recipients’ leadership presentations at the 30th Anniversary Quest for Excellence® Conference (April 8–11, 2018), senior leaders of the five new national role models share best practices and stories of how they achieved excellence.

A City Rich in Relationships

Darin Atteberry Quest Speaker photo
Darin Atteberry
City of Fort Collins
2017 Baldrige Award Recipient
According to Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry, his city is the fourth largest in the state of Colorado, with a current population of about 170,000 and expected growth to 250,000 in the years ahead. About an hour north of Denver, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is “definitely a college town,” Atteberry added. “Colorado State houses about 30,000 students ... 6,000 faculty and staff on campus, ... , and we take very seriously our relationship with ... Colorado State.” 

The city itself employs 2,400, with approximately $3 billion in assets (e.g., roads, buses, parks, government facilities). Considered a “full-service city,” Fort Collins provides typical municipal services such as parks and recreation, roads, transit, and police services, while also providing all four major utilities (water, wastewater, storm water, and electric power) to its community. It will soon add a fifth utility for the community: household and business Internet access through broadband service.

Atteberry stressed that Fort Collins is not only in a “great location” but, also, that it has a legacy of great relationships. “We’ve inherited greatness. In the 130-plus years of this city, there’s really not a history of bad ethics or lack of integrity ... we've inherited amazing leadership ... we've inherited amazing relationships between our residents and our local government,” he said, mentioning the community’s repeated support for the city when enhancing facilities or enduring economic downturns.  

“Local Government Can Be Great”

In sharing the story of his city’s journey to excellence, Atteberry again stressed the belief he said he and his colleagues in the Fort Collins government share that “local government can be great”—an energizing conviction he also highlighted in his remarks at the ceremony where he accepted the city’s 2017 Baldrige Award. Atteberry realized the importance of this belief to his leadership of Fort Collins years ago while reading a Fast Company article that prompted him to ask himself, “What’s the one thing you believe that no one else believes?” A determination to demonstrate great government has evidently helped propel Fort Collins’ quest for excellence.    

Moving from “Trust Us” to Data-Driven

During its pursuit of excellence, the city leadership moved from practices that reflected what Atteberry referred to as a “’trust us’ kind of government” to one that is “data-driven.” Therefore, today the city systematically measures its performance and publicly shares results. For this transition to fact-based management and fuller transparency, Atteberry credits the city’s use of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, which he said helped city leaders “be more intentional in our alignment of planning [for] budgeting and putting systems in place.”

Focus on Culture + Strategy = Results

Atteberry’s leadership presentation also emphasized the importance of his organization’s culture and its focus on strategy in achieving desired results. Atteberry recited the city’s mission (“to provide world-class municipal services through operational excellence and a culture of innovation”) and vision (“exceptional service for an exceptional community”) as he affirmed that the city’s culture is built around its mission, mission, and values.

Part of the city’s strategy, said Atteberry, “is to be crystal clear about what we plan to accomplish and how we plan to budget accordingly.” The city’s strategic planning (short- and long-term), budgeting, measurement and reviews, and work system planning are all organized around the following seven major outcome areas (which were developed collaboratively by citizens, business representatives, and city staff members):

  • Neighborhood Livability and Social Health;
  • Culture and Recreation;
  • Economic Health;
  • Environmental Health;
  • Safe Community;
  • Transportation; and
  • High-Performing Government.

Leadership System Model

As shown in the graphic above, the city’s leadership system incorporates its strategy, culture, and results. (This model was created in 2012 as an improvement based on feedback the city received when participating in Colorado’s state-wide Baldrige-based award program, Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence [RMPEx]).

“This structure allows us to really focus our business and see some amazing results,” said Atteberry.

Results 

At the outset of his presentation, Atteberry pointed out that Fort Collins was named “America’s Most Satisfied City” by Time magazine in 2014 based on Gallup survey results. At the end, he highlighted the favorable trend over the past decade in residents’ ratings of city government services. As he reported, the percentage of residents who ranked the overall quality of city services as being good or very good increased from 77 percent in 2008 to 90 percent during the most recent survey.

“To me, the Baldrige framework really demonstrates the value of culture and strategy, and we’re really here [as a Baldrige Award recipient] … because of the amazing, amazing framework,” said Atteberry.

View more results from the City of Fort Collins.

Five-Part Leadership Blog Series: Upcoming Blogs

Bristol Tennessee Essential Services (Small Business)
Stellar Solutions (Small Business)
Adventist Health Castle (Health Care)
Southcentral Foundation (Health Care)


A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance

2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework cover photo

 

Baldrige Excellence Framework

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care


About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and current leader of the Education Team—a group of four who produce publications and communications and...

Related posts

Why “Why” Is the Fundamental Question

I recently listened to a Ted talk by Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, and it caused me to reflect on

Comments

Add new comment

  • This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions. Image CAPTCHA
    Enter the characters shown in the image.
Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as long as they are appropriate for a public, family friendly website, are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, misleading or false information/accusations or promote specific commercial products, services or organizations. Posts that violate our comment policy will not be posted.