Jean Ann Lawson

Jean Ann Lawson
Chief Performance Officer
Office of the City Manager
Kansas City, Missouri

Favorite Music

Broadway musicals, e.g., Wicked. Belts out show tunes in her car.

Challenge

Kansas City launched its 311 Call Center for non-emergency services in 2007, replacing a patchwork of hundreds of agency telephone numbers for service requests and grievances. The 311 system was designed to improve responsiveness to citizens, and provide better data to measure performance. But agencies were slow to embrace the system, viewing it as additional work, and were often unresponsive to 311 calls for service. Citizens felt their pleas for help were ignored.

Solution

With the arrival of a strong new city manager in 2010, Kansas City started holding agencies more accountable for calls. Instead of just a routine bureaucratic statement like “Please try to get service requests closed,” data on calls and responses was actively mapped and meetings were held to review it and question agency directors. The city manager himself drove around and phoned 311 anonymously, watching closely to see what happened. The power of positive example also created agency enthusiasm: After complaints about the need for street restoration and trash collection were handled faster, surveys showed much higher citizen satisfaction. Finally, 311 pushed a dynamic social media strategy, allowing residents to report issues on its mobile app and an interactive online map, through its website and Twitter account (@KCMO311), and even to a 311 mobile van. Kansas City (pop. 455,000) gets more than 390,000 requests via 311 annually, and uses HootSuite software to coordinate.

Lesson Learned

Vital to have ownership from top—and to see citizens loving it.

Jean Ann’s Job

Directs staff of 40 that oversees 311 call center (which in turn has 26 call takers, 2 supervisors and 1 manager), office of performance management, and community and employee engagement. Also teaches at city’s “community engagement university,” showing residents how city government works and how they can help and volunteer.

Jean Ann’s Personal Background

Raised in Gilliam, Mo (pop 340) in the rural center of the state. After graduating from Baker University in Kansas (‘78) and doing graduate work at the University of Oklahoma, Jean Ann and her Kansas-bred husband compromised by moving to Kansas City, Missouri, 18 years ago. Within a year she started working for the city.

Startling Fact

Growing up in farm country, knows how to feed cows, and drive tractors and combines. Though land-locked, somehow developed passion for scuba diving and learned in a pool. In recent years has dived in Belize and Bonaire. Most frustrating experience was being in Indonesia (even Bali) on an ICMA international fellowship exchange and not having time to scuba.

Contact Info

Jean.Ann.Lawson@kcmo.org

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