Bellevue City Hall
  • Location:

    Bellevue, WA

  • County:

    King County

  • Population:

    144,000

  • Project Champion:

    City Manager’s office and Community Development staff

In the early days, Bellevue’s Diversity Advantage Plan sat on a shelf

There is deep appreciation for the rich diversity of Bellevue within the City Manager’s Office. Indeed, City Council affirms its commitment to inclusivity with its vision: “Bellevue welcomes the world. Our diversity is our strength.” The work of making this vision a reality really began when Bellevue’s Diversity Advantage Plan was adopted in 2014 with great intentions, but not without some initial challenges.

“We had adopted the Diversity Advantage Plan, but it sat there: the classic document on a shelf,” admitted Nicholas. “People couldn’t get into it. They didn’t understand what their own role was, whether they were the owners. So, we had a plan, but it sat on a shelf.”

In 2017, the Department of Community Development adopted Envisio in a concerted effort to fuel the execution of its departmental diversity plan. The team needed a solution they could trust and learned that over 100 cities rely on Envisio for strategic planning and performance management to deliver their plans, align staff with strategy, manage performance, and report on progress.

Today, the plan is well embedded within department operations and centrally managed in Envisio. “Now every department has adopted a version of the citywide Diversity Advantage Plan to help us improve the way we’re delivering services and to become more culturally competent,” said Gwen Russo who works with Nicholas as a Senior Planner.

A cascading framework helps drive ownership of the diversity plan

Building traction to execute the Diversity Advantage Plan began by operationalizing the plan in Envisio. Actions and tasks were defined to support the strategic priorities, and owners were assigned with due dates, task descriptions and performance metrics. The cascading framework helped to align staff actions with the plan and build personnel accountability.

“We looked at several other applications, but the advantage with Envisio was the fact that it drives plan ownership. We own all the steps of the diversity plan,” explained Nicholas. “Envisio has allowed us to take our department’s diversity plan and turn it into a series of strategies, actions and tasks.”

“We have champions for tasks to make sure we can track progress,” continued Gwen. “That’s how Envisio has been really helpful – it makes us deliberate about who’s doing what by when, so we can show that we’re making progress, or, if we’re falling behind, we can reprioritize. Envisio has helped us make complex projects seem less overwhelming and just really given us a clear path.”

Personal dashboards in Envisio and email reminders help staff stay on top of their diversity tasks. They can see how their efforts align with the overarching strategic priorities. “To be able to connect the dots from a specific action, all the way back up to an overriding strategy, that’s what I could not live without,” said Nicholas. “Envisio makes it easy to convey that hierarchy of actions to others – people get it when they can see the plan like that.”

When staff make updates in Envisio, those updates roll-up into live reports for management and City Council to provide recognition and visibility. Everyone is now working towards achieving the Diversity Advantage Plan. Envisio helped move the plan off the shelf and into action.

Envisio reporting and analytics provide transparency to build trust

Bellevue staff, management, City Council, elected officials and citizens all want to see the Diversity Advantage Plan become a success – everyone stands to benefit. Envisio reports and analytics help communicate progress with these stakeholders, creating transparency.

“Envisio allows us to measure success and report back to our elected officials,” explained Nicholas. “We’re looking at everything from cultural competency to racial and social equity, and we’re measuring it! Envisio helps us do that.”

With diversity being so central to the City Council’s vision, maintaining visibility on the Diversity Advantage Plan is particularly important to Council members. Reports are customized and automated in Envisio, making it easy to share progress with Council members while fostering confidence in the city’s ability to achieve the plan.

Building trust and transparency, with all stakeholders, is particularly important when dealing with initiatives related to diversity. “Envisio is helping us to build trust with our elected officials and our communities because diversity is an issue fraught with a lack of trust,” explained Nicholas.

“We committed to doing things much differently than we ever have in the past, again on these matters of equity and cultural competence, and other topics—such as implicit bias—in our work,” he continued. “Envisio allows us to translate these aspirational things into actions that we can measure … so that people, regardless of ethnicity and cultural background, can still have a common understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish.” That’s inspiring.

What comes next? A big plan for affordable housing!

With all the success Bellevue saw in executing and reporting on the Diversity Advantage Plan, the team is beginning to use Envisio to manage the city’s Affordable Housing Strategy. With the cost of housing in Bellevue rising faster than incomes, the city adopted an affordable housing plan to sustain Bellevue’s livability and economic vitality for people of all income levels.

“We’re using Envisio to manage our Affordable Housing Strategy, which includes 21 action items that we will be implementing over the next four years to increase affordable and diverse housing types in the city. All the project details and updates fit in Envisio very well,” said Janet Lewine.

“With a goal to add 4000 housing units, we set timelines, identified different groups we’re going to work with in different departments, and we’ve identified a lead for each action item. Over the next four years, anyone – from managers to Council – will be able to track progress,” continued Janet. “Working with Envisio has been great because we’ve received a lot of support on our projects. When I’ve received requests for a certain type of a graph, for example, the support team at Envisio has helped me produce the needed reports.”

The final step? Bellevue is managing the city strategic plan in Envisio

While using Envisio to manage the diversity and affordable housing plans, it became clear to the team working in the City Manager’s Office that an all-in-one strategy and performance management solution could also help deliver Bellevue’s larger city strategic plan.

Today, Envisio is home to multiple nested plans. At the top are Bellevue’s City Council Vision Priorities, which include seven strategic targets: (1) economic development, (2) transportation and mobility (3) high quality built and natural environments, (4) Bellevue – Great Places Where You Want To Be, (5) regional leadership and influence, (6) achieving human potential, and (7) high performance government. Envisio is used to centrally manage and execute all the supporting operational plans, including 25 three-year priorities and 140 tasks, each with an assigned owner and due date.

There are plans nested within the city strategic plan, including the Diversity Advantage Plan, which now cascades down from the sixth strategic target of “achieving human potential.”

“Envisio has changed our organization by making this hard issue of diversity, and racial and social equity, become real. We can now manage the practical aspects of what we need to do. It’s no longer just a top-level discussion with large statements,” concluded Nicholas. “For example, in our hiring processes we now document how we incorporate measures of racial and social equity that support the city-wide plan. This allows us to be specific in our hiring processes, for planners and other professionals that work here at the city.”

Envisio has helped to simplify strategy execution. Everyday, Bellevue is using Envisio to manage strategy, align staff with priorities, deliver plans and report on results to manage the expectations of all stakeholders, including those of City Council members.

“Envisio has really helped us communicate what steps we’ve already taken in projects, what future steps are coming and when they can expect to see them,” offered Gwen. “Our Council really appreciates being able to visualize where we are in a project and measure progress over time.”

We would like to congratulate Janet, Gwen, Nicholas and the entire team at Bellevue for your outstanding success in moving your plans to action! Your work is inspiring.