Seattle is a pretty great place to live: fresh mountain water straight from the tap; world leaders in recycling and pristine, garbage-free streets. With the population increasing, expensive federal and state regulatory mandates and aging infrastructure, however, it’s getting to be more and more expensive to keep it this great. Seattle Public Utilities, who provides water, sewer, drainage, garbage and recycling to the City, needed to prioritize resources and focus its efforts. But how? The Utility partnered with GreenRubino to develop a six-year strategic business plan that was visionary, practical and most importantly, broadly supported by the people it serves.
Identifying the right goal
One thing that made the Seattle Public Utilities’ approach so innovative was the decision to focus on their Promise to residents as a starting point for the strategic business plan. Rather than focus exclusively on financial goals, GreenRubino first worked to identify what the Utility really hoped to achieve: to deliver efficient and forward-looking utility services that keep Seattle the best place to live. This process set the stage for a strategic plan that would focus first and foremost on the customer.
An inclusive approach to creating the Seattle Public Utilities plan
Then came the heavy lifting—identifying the work that needed to be done in the next six years. GreenRubino collaborated with managers and staff from all over the organization to research and analyze needs, and then identify focus areas for the work that needed to be done and create action plans and efficiency savings for completing that work. Contributing teams had to be able to demonstrate how the work would help to fulfill the organization’s Promise, thereby creating a line-of-sight from the Promise all the way through to the specific services customers would experience. These workshops helped to engage staff in the process and create buy-in before the plan itself was ever written.
Asking the public to prioritize the work for themselves
Lastly, the plan couldn’t be written and executed if it didn’t have the support of SPU customers—the residents and businesses of Seattle. Using techniques like video storytelling, an infographic that illustrated all of SPU’s systems, and simulated investing with play money, GreenRubino engaged residents all over the city in a dialog about how Seattle Public Utilities should prioritize its work. And it worked! How do we know? Residents from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds and businesses from all sectors were able to effectively and thoughtfully contribute to the conversation, and in turn, made the plan better!
Now, SPU has a six-year strategic business plan that’s rooted in a compelling vision for the future, has been created by the people who know its work best and been prioritized and vetted by the people who benefit from it. Not only that, but the plan is projected to reduce the baseline operating costs of the organization by $124.7 million through 2020, thereby offsetting the cost of necessary improvements.
Seattle Public Utilities will be tracking its progress in terms of service improvements and reporting back in the context of the plan. As a result, the plan will become a living document that adjusts as the work is complete.