Irving, Texas is driving award-winning innovation and community engagement through strategic execution
As home to approximately 240,00 residents, Irving rates as one of the hundred most populous urban centers in the United States. “I don’t want to say that we’re a suburb of Dallas,” says Aimee Kaslik, Chief Innovation and Performance Officer at the City of Irving, with a laugh. “So let’s just say we’re midway between Dallas and Fort Worth. Once upon a time, our claim to fame was that the Cowboys played here. But these days, we’re really known for being the headquarters of headquarters.”
And it’s true. The list of companies that have their corporate headquarters in Irving is impressive, and includes titans such as Verizon, Allstate, Microsoft and ExxonMobil.
However, the city itself has become a titan in its own right. With an innovative and award-winning strategy and performance management program, Irving has become one of the highest performing local government organizations in North America. In 2021, the city was awarded a What Works Cities Silver Certification. Irving is also only one of two cities in North America to have won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence.
Aimee credits Envisio, in part, for their success.
Measure performance, optimize results, foster transparency
The city’s performance management initiatives are driven by Aimee and her team, who function as internal consultants at Irving. Doing so, says Aimee, allows them to ensure that the same strategic planning and execution processes, along with data-collection and community feedback efforts, are standardized across an organization with hundreds of employees.
“We work with departments on building their business plan initiatives, which often support the comprehensive strategic plan for Irving. Sometimes they tie into our Smart Cities initiatives and our Open Data portal as well. And of course, we work with departments not only on developing those initiatives, but also tracking and reporting on them in Envisio,” says Aimee.
“As far as performance management goes, we really try to work with the departments to help them identify what to measure, and ensure they’re measuring the right things. We help them build visualizations to report back to city management and the community, and to work on the dashboards that let them do so. I actually just created our annualized dashboards for our budget meetings with the city manager. The very first thing we do at these meetings is go through all of the performance analytics and have an honest conversation about where we are.”
Both Aimee’s team and the city management team in Irving are committed to fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. The end result, she says, is a process of sound governance that has positioned Irving as a leader in fiscal responsibility, resource allocation, economic development and resident satisfaction.
“We use Envisio as a tool to better understand the needs of our departments and manage our resources accordingly. If you aren’t hitting your target, or your performance is declining, is it a resource issue? Is it a process issue? We like having a culture of transparency around these conversations, as it contributes to the continuous process of innovation that we value from our Six Sigma days.”
Easy reporting makes for a significant Return on Investment (ROI)
It was not always this way, though. Prior to onboarding Envisio, Aimee’s team had a less efficient process for managing their strategic plan and, subsequently, the execution of it.
“It was terrible,” says Aimee. “No, it really was. We were putting together a quarterly report, and all we had were these little red, yellow or green dots next to our data points. And the whole thing was done in Excel. When we printed it out, we did so on 11×17 paper. It was really big, and very embarrassing.”
Using Envisio has made a huge difference in how Aimee and her team go about tracking, analyzing and reporting on the strategic efforts of the city. There is also an ROI calculation that factored into their decision to switch to a purpose-built solution like Envisio, says Aimee.
“My team and I were spending, at minimum, forty hours generating these quarterly reports, sometimes more. Scrubbing the data, ensuring that the tool we were using at the time was presenting what should’ve been in the report… It was painful. When we did the math of what it cost us to put together those reports versus the cost of Envisio, it was an easy decision. And now, the reports are generated automatically! We went from forty plus hours a quarter to it just happens.”
Irving has structured their reporting so that early in the month, a report goes out to the directors to let them know the status of their departmental projects and remind them and their employees of any outstanding updates. Subsequently, city management is given mid-month reports on the same items, before all updates are eventually entered into Irving’s public-facing community dashboards at the end of the month.
Two way resident engagement drives positive results
“Everything we do should have a positive and meaningful impact on our community,” says Aimee. “And that’s why resident engagement is so key to us and to our city manager. It provides the focus for our initiatives and helps us decide where and how to spread our resources.”
It should be noted that Irving rates as one of the most diverse cities in North America, and that Aimee and her team are aware that performance excellence for one demographic may not be perceived that way by another. This, said Aimee, is just one of the reasons why the city is constantly looking to source community feedback and engage with those residents who might not typically be engaged with their local governments.
“We do a resident survey and an employee survey on alternating years, and we run special one-off and point-of-interest surveys with all of our departments to understand the voices of our residents,” says Aimee. “We also lead the city’s civic academy once a year, where we invite resident ambassadors to focus groups and present them with key data, opportunity statements, and really let them drive where we’re going.”
But community engagement is a two way street, and Aimee and her team believe that it isn’t enough to simply source direction from your community—you also have to report back to them on what you are doing, and how well you are doing it.