Program Management and the Wider Lens by Karli Kloss, PACE Cohort 8

Posted in PACE Program / Professional Development on June 29, 2015
Slides outlining the characteristics of programs versus projects.

Slides outlining the characteristics of programs versus projects.

As federal contractors, our daily work has led us to adapt a project management mentality. As the providers of tactical operations support for projects, it is sometimes difficult to step back and understand where our work fits within the larger, programmatic framework of the agencies we work for (i.e. their missions and goals). To address this, the latest PACE training provided Cohorts 7 and 8 with a look above project management and into program management.

As our trainer (and company CEO) Kendall Lott explained, “… projects produce outputs, but programs produce outcomes.” Outputs are tangibles—the widget that gets made, the business requirement that gets drafted. While outputs are an easy way to measure value, outcomes are different in that they are changes in condition—often involving systems—and bring key benefits to an organization. Since many of us are early in our careers, we are not yet at a place to influence programmatic functions; but understanding where the pieces fit together strengthens the analytical framework through which we approach our work.

One of the many added benefits of the PACE learning environment is that different cohorts sometimes receive training together, allowing us the ability to discuss and debrief on these topics and therefore challenge our own knowledge gaps. Personally, I found one of the more compelling takeaways from this high-level view of program management to be the idea that stakeholders aren’t just the people who champion the success of your program, but also those who champion its failure. This is not to say the latter group are bad people with nefarious intent, but rather program managers must always be aware that, in the world of federal agencies fighting over a small slice of the budget pie, every resource is precious. Hence, as a program manager, you should always look to align your program to the mission and goals of the agency at large to ensure that your invested stakeholders remain happy while simultaneously keeping detractors at bay.

Taking that idea from concept to reality, PACE Cohort 7’s Ryne Peterson’s key takeaway was that it is not only important to identify program stakeholders, but to also classify them across a matrix of ‘Interest’ and ‘Power’. It is critical to know how much a stakeholder cares about a program, and how much power he or she has to help or hinder the effort. Clearly mapping stakeholders allows for a more focused way to approach stakeholders that will ensure a program’s success.

Pivoting off this idea, PACE Cohort 7’s Patrick Hendrickson was interested in how we can use these tools to better understand a program’s process, and therefore communicate more strategically. To make yourself heard when speaking up the chain, you will be much more persuasive when you frame your ideas or concerns within the context of what that person cares most about in regards to this program.

Looking through the wider lens of program management, we can see that the outputs we produce are indeed important in themselves, but are all the more valuable when aligned to the greater programmatic agenda. It is clear that looking upward and outward will only serve to enhance our own professional development and future successes.

Kendall Lott  –  Speaker and Facilitator at Pro Bono Service Event Hosted by the White House & the Department of Commerce

Posted in Pro Bono Program on June 18, 2015
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Photo Courtesy: JPG Photography

Kendall Lott

Photo Courtesy: JPG Photography

On May 28, leaders from more than 60 organizations in the nonprofit, private sector, and faith-based communities across the country gathered in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to attend a first-of-its-kind meeting to learn about resources and partnership opportunities for improving their communities.

The event was organized by Points of Light and M Powered Strategies (MPS) participated at their invitation. The topic was Pro Bono Service: Harnessing Time and Talent for Social Good. MPS president, Kendall Lott, spoke about the role of Pro Bono service at the community level. He highlighted MPS’ projectized approach to delivering organizational improvement, and pointed out that by contributing in this arena, rather than simply volunteering to help organizations complete their mission, companies like ours can be much more effective in helping NGOs build their capacity and become stronger organizations.

With about 25% of MPS’ staff made up of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Lott noted that “it is part of our DNA to use our skills to give back to Non Profits and Associations in the community.”  M Powered Strategies aspires to engage in two full pro bono partnerships per quarter.


Welcome, Rima Abou-Ziab!

Posted in Human Resources / PACE Program / PREP on June 18, 2015
Rima Abou-Ziab

Rima Abou-Ziab

Rima Abou-Ziab joins M Powered Strategies PACE Cohort 8 after receiving her MA in International Relations and Economics from Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. Over the last two years, she has traveled to multiple countries in the Middle East and Eastern Europe to research the dynamics of conflict, democracy, and post-conflict development. Prior to this, Rima served as a Research Assistant at the Foreign Policy Institute and Program Manager for a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. A California native, she earned her BA in International Security and Conflict Resolution in sunny San Diego. Rima speaks Arabic, enjoys learning about different cultures (and their cuisines!), and looks forward to contributing to the MPS team.

PREP News: June 2015

Posted in PREP Newsletter Archive on June 15, 2015

Happy June from a very warm Washington, D.C.! We’ve seen quite a few changes here at MPS recently – including the graduation of a PACE cohort, another set of PACE apprentices, and the expansion of our PREP Oversight Group!

In This Issue: PACE Cohort 6 Graduation, PACE Cohort 8 Starting Late June, Oversight Group Members

The Importance of Experience by Sam Taylor, PACE Cohort 6 Alumnus

Posted in PACE Program / PM POV Podcast Blog / PREP / Project Management on June 03, 2015

Podcast BlogIt’s generally agreed that project managers are go-getters by nature. One can take many different occupational and educational paths to become a project manager, and there’s no minimum or maximum age to become one. But no matter how hard one works to move ahead of his or her peers, there remains one intangible that cannot be substituted. As former Department of Energy (DoE) CIO Bob Brese explains in MPS President Kendall Lott’s recent podcast, “Experience Matters,” it takes careful planning and sound judgment to execute any project – and the key to successfully managing large, visible projects is experience, though the reasons why are varied.

First, with experience comes skillsets and strategies for handling stakeholder expectations. When there are several types of stakeholders involved, managing expectations can be exceptionally difficult. Key stakeholders often drive expectations, so it is important that the project manager, her superiors, and all other stakeholders involved agree on what the final product will be. If the project manager and her boss expect the bridge to be finished in 2020, then the Department of Transportation better be expecting that bridge in 2020 as well.

Experience also helps project managers understand their roles more clearly. According to Brese, though typically it is higher management’s job to ask the hard questions, it is ultimately the project manager’s job to execute the task at hand. Experienced and knowledgeable project managers are often more able to answer those difficult questions effectively. Having the experience to answer questions with confidence will not only help move the project along, but can improve your client’s perception of you while also reassuring them that everything is under control.

Additionally, risk management is a factor that all project managers must plan for and monitor throughout the lifecycle of projects. When assessing risk, some are more obvious than others. “As projects get larger and more complex you need a project manager who has enough breadth of experience that he or she can account for a broader set of potential risks,” says Brese. For example, if a brand-new project manager is assigned to a major initiative at DoE, that individual may not be able to draw from experiences on past successes and crises to produce the most inclusive risk assessment.

Some may find this idea frustrating, but experience is not taught in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Acquiring every last possible bit of experience is something all project managers should do if they have aspirations of being leaders in the field. With more experience comes more responsibility, but also more exciting, fulfilling, and (hopefully) successful projects.