Citizen Surveys

Dear Management Doctor:

My city manager is planning a city-wide telephone survey of citizens concerning city services.  He'll be surveying some 15 departments and ask each of us to supply a few questions.  Do you have any suggestions? 

Not sure what to do in New England 

Dear Not Sure: 

I'm not either.  I'm not fond of this type of survey.  It's too general to provide much useful information.  Also as a cautioning item, note that national studies show that some departments or functions are always rated higher than others.  Therefore, in order to understand the importance of responses, you need to calibrate the data against other cities.  For example, we recently compiled a mail survey for a building department using questions similar to those we recently used in six other building departments.  This allowed us to have useful comparisons. 

For your purposes I would tend to separate questions into two parts.  The one addressing current planning would ask if they've had any recent permit activity with the city and give it some type of a score.  For planning activities I'd rather ask if they know about the city plan and how do they feel about it.  The more specific the questions the better. 

Hopefully others reading this web page will email us some good questions. 

The Management Doctor