Congratulations, PACE COHORT 7!

Posted in Human Resources / PACE Program / PREP / Professional Development on August 28, 2015
Cohort 7

Patrick Henderson, Ryne Peterson, Josh Erb, and Ashley Rezai

In the spring of this year, four individuals from very different backgrounds (Peace Corps in Moldova, voter registration in Northwest Alaska, entrepreneurial consulting in the Middle East, and election observation in Tunisia) joined the M Powered Strategies (MPS) PACE Program. After 25 weeks of contract work, coaching, and professional development trainings, Joshua Erb, Patrick Hendrickson, Ryne Peterson, and Ashley Rezai have successfully completed all the PACE requirements.

They received their PREP certificates in a celebration with MPS staff, PACE alumni, executives, and colleagues on August 24, 2015 at The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall. “It was a journey, from start to finish,” said Patrick Hendrickson. Picking up on Patrick’s metaphor, Ashley Rezai added her take on the program: “To be a PACEr is to be a voyager, one who is willing to explore their own professional habits with a critical eye, and expand their horizons to new lands of development.”

As all four PACErs from Cohort 7 transition to full-time staff members at MPS, PACE Cohort 8 is well on its way, having begun in July 2015 and set to end in December. For more information about the ANSI-accredited PACE Program, please email Nicole BaillisPREP Director.

PREP News: August 2015

Posted in PREP Newsletter Archive on August 26, 2015

Can you believe we’ve already passed the halfway mark of 2015? It’s been a busy first half of the year for PREP as we’ve already seen many great achievements and are continuing with highlights for this month.

One of the first changes you may notice is the new template we are using for this month’s PREP Newsletter. The newsletter is shifting from the previous versions of a simple interface to a new, more user-friendly service. We hope you like it!

In This Issue: PACE Cohort 7 Business Cases, PREP Training Portfolio, Introducing New Oversight Group Member

Welcome Back, Adam Katt!

Posted in Department of Veterans Affairs / Human Resources on August 26, 2015
Adam Katt

Adam Katt

Prior to joining M Powered Strategies (MPS), Adam Katt was involved in a broad range of consulting projects ranging in focus from finance to defense policy. He also worked as a market research analyst as part of the Brookings Institution’s Metro Foreign Investment Initiative, a research program aimed at developing high level strategies for American cities looking for foreign investment.

Adam holds a Master’s in International Business & Management from the University of California, San Diego and a Bachelor’s in Non-Western History from Ohio University. As a student, he focused on business and economic issues facing China and Southeast Asia. Adam lived in Asia for almost two years, where he engaged in activities as an organizational change consultant, language student and teacher.  He speaks functional Mandarin Chinese as well as Bahasa Indonesian.

Adam’s history with MPS dates back to the summer of 2014, when he was an Applied Management Professional (AMP) working on product development projects under the VistA Evolution initiative within the Office of Information & Technology (OI&T) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Now that he is back as a full time consultant, he will again be working within VA OI&T. Adam is passionate about technology and hopes to continue gaining experience contributing to software improvement projects.

Welcome, Bryan Kovalick!

Posted in Human Resources / PACE Program / PREP on August 25, 2015
Bryan Kovalick

Bryan Kovalick

Bryan Kovalick recently completed a year of service as an Americorps VISTA volunteer at Islamic Relief USA, where he worked in a capacity-building role as a research analyst in the domestic programs department. A Wheeling, West Virginia native, Bryan earned his B.A. in sociology, with a minor in German, from The College of Wooster. As an undergrad, he served in several leadership positions for a campus group dedicated to social justice through organizing and advocacy, and spent a semester in DC attending American University’s Transforming Communities Seminar. It was there he became interested in the intersection of social justice, urban issues, and housing and community development.

Bryan currently resides at the Lamont Street Collective (LSC), an intentional living community dedicated to providing community space for local artists and activists in Mt. Pleasant. He enjoys fishing, playing sports, and hosting events at the LSC, and is excited about being part of PACE Cohort 8 and contributing his experience as an organizer and researcher to the MPS team.

The Countdown to Presidency—Why Project Management Wins the Race by Rima Abou Ziab, PACE Cohort 8

Posted in PM POV Podcast Blog / Project Management on August 19, 2015

Podcast BlogWhether navigating the internet or listening to the latest on the radio, there’s one thing I can’t seem to escape this month—frenzied election coverage. Headlines are buzzing with presidential candidate updates and debate drama, marking the unofficial kick off of the 2016 Presidential race. While the amount of media attention spent on the race is already enormous, the amount of money spent is even greater. The cost to finance all these candidates is predicted to reach unprecedented levels, making campaign management more important than ever.

President of M Powered Strategies, Kendall Lott, sat down with campaign expert, Tom Bowen, to get to the bottom of it—what is the role of project management in executing a winning political campaign? With analysts predicting the most enormous spending in America’s electoral history, at $2 billion or more per candidate, Lott’s podcast “The Campaign Trail: Project Management on the Run” explores the specifics that will make—or break—a race for the presidency.

Tom Bowen weighs in with over a decade of campaign experience to cut to the chase about what matters most: effective project management for overseeing a big budget and a dynamic team. Unlike businesses, presidential campaigns have a two-year lead up, a highly specific purpose, and a very specific end date. Not to mention a very targeted and simple scope: winning. These pose challenges that make running a campaign more like managing a high-intensity, long-term project rather than a business.

Bowen and Lott agree that campaigns are not won or lost by the candidate alone, but rather by the team. To better understand the relationship between the team players, Lott asks: “Is your candidate your boss, your sponsor, the person you are trying to satisfy, or are they your product?” To Bowen the candidate is all of those things. The candidate is your leader and sponsor, and yet his or her hopes, dreams, and vision, are the product that you are trying to sell.

In order to balance stakeholder interests and the chaotic nature of campaigns, the manager’s ability to hire and lead the best team possible is critical. When the risks range from fundraising fiascos to candidates being caught off guard in public, the stakes are high. But when, as Bowen asserts, “most people vote the way that I’m going to buy a toaster: they don’t think about it very much, they don’t do it very often,” then the risks are even higher!

Bowen projects the growth opportunity for project managers to be exponential in the campaign market. As the scale and budget of campaigns continue to reach remarkable heights, this does not come as a major surprise; however I wonder, does Bowen believe this growth to be sustainable, particularly in the wake of increased scrutiny over campaign spending from the public eye? Still, a huge network and professional industry is now built around elections and candidates. Media and campaign managers should take note: beyond the billions, it’s effective project management that will make the difference.

When Innovation is the Goal by Emily Gallery, PACE Cohort 8

Posted in PM POV Podcast Blog on August 07, 2015

Podcast Blog“Organizations today face a hard truth: innovate or perish.”

And so MPS President Kendall Lott introduces this PM Point of View podcast with Dr. Oliver Schlake, Clinical Professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and Michael Hannan, Principal Consultant & Founder, Fortezza Consulting. To address the high level question of how project managers can foster innovation, Dr. Schlake and Mr. Hannan discuss a variety of topics, including company culture, risk acceptance, evolutionary v. revolutionary innovation, and network accessibility.

In the podcast found here, the group observes that planning for predictable, reliable innovation is key. According to Mr. Hannan, one significant indicator to help organizations predict innovation is the size of their cross-disciplinary networks—meaning, the number and types of connections they have. When cross-disciplinary perspectives start to mingle, innovation bridges the gap between evolutionary (methodical, tested, and true) and revolutionary (new and untested). As Dr. Schlake points out, sometimes just adding the cross-disciplinary perspective opens the possibility for revolutionary innovation. A physicist experiments very differently than a consultant—but both have the capacity to innovate.

Dr. Schlake and Mr. Hannan describe a selection best practices to foster innovation within project teams. One is promoting a culture where team members are comfortable with experimentation and reassured that achieving 100% success is not the ultimate goal. Another is selecting team members with diverse skill sets and backgrounds, and being comfortable with looking outside of the immediate team for support, ideas, and help. Finally, aligning research and development more closely with strategic focus will help an organization plan smarter and think farther afield.

While these are great ideas, the biggest challenge is always implementation. How can project managers integrate these qualities into teams that are already established? How do managers ensure they are expanding and maintaining their networks effectively, especially when daily demands and deadlines take precedence? This podcast provides a great starting point for project managers hoping to answer some of these questions and begin supporting innovation within their teams and organizations.

MPS Launches Summer of Service Initiative, by Stephany Perez Cohen and Mara Goldberg

Posted in Community Involvement on August 05, 2015
MPS staff wrapping gifts and writing cards

Unlike many companies, MPS offers employees the opportunity to volunteer not just during the holidays, but year-round. In July, MPS launched the Summer of Service to help extend our Corporate Volunteer Program efforts across the summer months too.

As part of M Powered Strategies’ Corporate Volunteering Program, MPS has launched the Summer of Service Initiative. This initiative is focused on engaging MPS employees in corporate volunteering activities during work hours from July through September. These volunteer opportunities support company priorities and values, are based on employees’ interests, and target real community needs.

MPS’ Corporate Volunteering Program allocates 20 hours per year to employees to engage in volunteer activities, on company time. The Summer of Service was launched to encourage employees to utilize those hours and get involved with skills-based volunteer activities during the summer. It will engage employees in capacity-building activities within the community while promoting the value of self-fulfillment in the workplace, and demonstrating how MPS and its employees respond to calls for service.

MPS CEO and President Kendall Lott is encouraging all employees to participate in the Summer of Service. “We are about service, and not just in the client delivery sense. MPS staff members care about how we use our time and skill, and incorporating service into that mindset is critical. This skills-based approach hits the deepest chords of our company’s culture: a calling to use our talents in service of others. Don’t hide your light; share what you have learned to empower and assist others in need.”

MPS will be spotlighting employees’ volunteer experiences online and via social media in the coming months. Stay tuned for more details and Summer of Service stories!

MPS Pro Bono Service Line Helps Points of Light

Posted in Community Involvement / Pro Bono Program on August 03, 2015
Sarah, Aidan, Jessica

Sarah, Aidan, Jessica

Since June 2015, M Powered Strategies staffers Jessica Gilles, Aidan Wojtech and Sarah Nurse have been working on a pro bono project for the Military Initiatives Division at Points of Light, an NGO dedicated to volunteer service. Our MPS Reporter recently sat down with Aidan and Sarah to find out more about the project and how they are helping.

MPS REPORTER: Tell me a little bit about this project.

AIDAN: We’re working with the Military Initiatives Division at Points of Light to implement a strategic plan that will help align their work towards a model where veterans are engaged in volunteering to provide service in their communities.

MPS REPORTER: Can you describe the process?

SARAH: We started with stakeholder interviews so we could do an environmental scan of where the organization is now and what they hope to achieve in the future, as well as the issues and challenges they face. From there we go through a full strategic planning process to develop the tactical approach—the actual tasks and initiatives that they’ll focus on—and how they’ll resource them for the next year.

AIDAN: We basically synthesize the data they give us into a coherent action plan. By running through several workshops we are able to drill down in successive levels from what their mission and values are all the way down to the specific actionable items needed to implement this new strategy.

MPS REPORTER: Sarah, since you’re the senior consultant on this Pro Bono project, what is your role

SARAH: Actually I joined in the middle of the project, so Aidan and Jessica had already done all the prep work, the environmental scans, to understand the environment they’re facing, the major stakeholders in the organization, and their levels of resourcing. They had a structured project plan in place, showing all the phases, based on typical strategic planning methodology, to arrive at a tactical plan. I stepped in to attend the strategy sessions with the Points of Light contact, to help guide the conversation or help them understand the methodology that we’re using when appropriate, but really Jessica and Aidan are the ones driving the strategy, and documenting, and moving the operation forward to get us to the next meeting.

AIDAN: The goal is to get our POC at the Military Initiatives Division to a point where she can present her strategic vision—which will be in  alignment with the overarching organization vision—to her managers and her peers, along with an action plan for the next year. That will happen at the end of August.

SARAH: What I like about this project is that it ties in with MPS’ considerable footprint in the VA space. It’s nice to do some pro bono work that directly impacts Veterans. It’s hard at OI&T (Office of Information and Technology) to have that mission focus.

AIDAN: Yeah, the mission focus is certainly nice. In the IT space, it can be very difficult sometimes to see the actual effect for the Veteran. Beyond that, I really enjoy the strategy work. This has been a great opportunity to engage with an MPS service line that’s largely new to me.

SARAH: The great thing about this particular mission of Points of Light is it’s not just about helping Veterans re-assimilate into their communities, but it’s about applying the skills they have, that they’ve learned through their time in service, to the community. So it’s about empowering the Veterans as well as educating the community about their skills.

AIDAN: Our consulting work at OI&T at the VA is a couple of layers removed from direct contact with Veterans. But through this we get to see more of that impact.

SARAH: MPS’ Pro Bono program is awesome in so many ways. Besides being able to help others in a meaningful way, it gives us the opportunity to have different types of consulting experiences outside the Federal Government. We’re always looking for additional nonprofits to provide services to, so if anyone out there is interested, please contact us!

For more information about M Powered Strategies’ Pro Bono program, visit