New from MPS: Total Insights

MPS recently added a new service: Total Insights. One of our reporters sat down with Jimmy Church, Business Development Manager, to learn more about it.

MPS Reporter: What is Total Insights?

JIMMY: Total Insights is all about providing leaders and decision-makers with the complete picture so they can make informed decisions. What we do is a) gather the relevant data; b) analyze, synthesize, and turn that data into useful information; and c) to top it off we deliver specific and actionable recommendations.

MPS Reporter: What inspired you to develop this service?

JIMMY: We noticed that in many organizations, leadership either doesn’t pay attention to the needs of their customers and stakeholders, or they simply lack the data they need to make informed decisions.  Leaders need a quick way to acquire the information they need so they can make decisions to move their organization forward.

MPS Reporter: Who is the target customer?

JIMMY: Really any organization could benefit from this service, but right now we are looking to serve nonprofits and industry associations. M Powered Strategies is an Employer of National Service, and part of our mission is to help nonprofits and service-oriented organizations realize their goals.

MPS Reporter: How is information gathered?

JIMMY: We gather data from two types of sources. First we talk to the decision-makers in the client organization. Based on those interviews, we reach out to the other stakeholders, members, and beneficiaries, with specially designed anonymous surveys. This way we avoid issues of personality and politics.

MPS Reporter: Can you tell us about any specific cases where Total Insights really impacted an organization?

JIMMY: Well a few months ago, an executive at a leading association needed external information so he could help the management team make some key decisions. We had a meeting with the whole senior management team to learn about their vision – their needs and their objectives. Based on that input, we were able to determine the types of information they needed from their membership base.

We sent specially tailored surveys out to 12,000 members. Once the data was collected, we held facilitated sessions with each of the management teams to review the raw data and the analysis. Then we came up with a list of 50 very specific recommendations – all supported by data that came directly from customers or staff members – that the organization can implement to enhance the value they provide to their members.

The results of our work essentially became half of the agenda at their annual flagship conference, where prominent government and financial leaders were in attendance.  The COO presented the findings, calling it “The Future of the Industry,” because that was one of the sections in the survey. (The COO, by the way, said it was the best membership survey she had seen in her entire career.)

MPS Reporter: That’s fantastic! It must be so rewarding to bring Total Insights into an organization.

JIMMY: What I like is that, by doing this kind of data-based re-set, Total Insights gets senior leaders excited about their mission again.




Agile, Naturally by Cliff Katz, PACE Cohort 7

Podcast Blog“Agile is what you do when your back is up against the wall, naturally.”
–Jim York, FoxHedge Ltd.

As Jim York of FoxHedge Ltd. and Elizabeth McQueen at US Customs and Border Protections explain, agile is a commitment that forces owners and teams to be more transparent. Short processes allow for immediate feedback and correction. Scrums don’t have much space for hiding: everything a team member does or doesn’t do can be quickly seen by all within a short span of time. Therefore transparency is not just logical from a spending perspective (federal projects are funded with taxpayer dollars), but is paramount because the process is expedited and checked on regularly. Agile also forces managers to be more engaged and accountable due to its unique characteristics (more on that from MPS President Kendall Lott’s podcast on the effectiveness of the agile software development approach). York and McQueen speak of agile consulting from a project management perspective, but I think they’re onto something from, well, a human perspective.

Project management can be enhanced by a number of frameworks and behavioral science tests that serve as a playbook for navigating complex human relationships and facilitating high quality work. If managers and consultants faithfully execute these theories and models, the odds are fair that a project will be successful, or at least that its teams will cohesively work together. However, from past experience and my time at MPS, I’ve learned that even the best frameworks aren’t perfect – there’s no substitute for smart people who are willing and able to understand and execute a complex PWS to make a project successful.

Consulting, as every new hire quickly learns, is neither as simple nor as glossy as a google image search of the term makes the profession appear. In real life project management, the puzzles are numerous and complex, and they constantly change. Merely keeping up can be a full time job by itself.

Despite my anxiety about bucking well-established theories of project management and human behavior, I enjoy agile consulting’s challenges and dynamics. Agile organized into a series of three week ‘sprints’ in which small teams from a number of groups come together (in daily meetings known as ‘scrums’) and tackle a set list of tasks. Daily scrum work consists of various meetings where project and technical management gauge progress on individual and team tasks. Agile’s dynamic nature allows continuous rebalancing of tasks and immediate resolutions of roadblocks. At a sprint’s conclusion, teams demonstrate the products of the list’s tasks for the client to provide feedback. Project teams will repeat this cycle for the project’s duration.

MPS’ ethos centers partly on enabling our partners to do their very best work with as little disruption as possible. At MPS, I succeed with my partners, not in spite of them. The agile technique of actually doing the work together and bonding throughout the fast-paced sprints makes me feel a little more human in a profession full of frameworks and online meetings. Much like an athlete in a relay, nobody on a project is ever alone in the work he or she is assigned; however, the immediate availability of resources only increases the pressure to perform. Though I haven’t physically met any of my project’s partners outside of my MPS teammates, I don’t want to be the person who lets down my team. Hopefully I’m agile enough to deliver.

Veterans Affairs Honors Carl Crampton

Posted in Client Delivery / Department of Veterans Affairs on October 17, 2012
Leo Phelan and Carl Crampton

Leo Phelan and Carl Crampton

Carl Crampton was recently presented a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Certificate of Appreciation by Leo Phelan, Executive Director of Veterans Relationship Management (VRM) for Carl’s work with the VRM Project Management Office in planning and executing acquisitions in FY12. Beyond executing their assigned budget for acquisitions, the VRM PMO team was able to take on additional requests from other programs to complete even more acquisitions for other business capabilities. Carl has been a member of the VRM PMO since May 2010 and is tasked with preparing VRM’s out year budgets and OMB Exhibit 300 submissions. “Being able to articulate VA business requirements into budget needs, justify the budget request, and acquire the services necessary to achieve those business requirements is the key to achieving better services for our Veterans.”

Carl has worked for clients at the VA with M Powered Strategies since April 2007. He is a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer with experience in IT services from his work with MITRE, Nextel and Sprint Nextel.

Certified Mediation Professionals

Posted in Client Delivery / Professional Development on February 03, 2012

In the modern workplace, the art of mediation is a valuable skill. Much of M Powered Strategies’ client delivery involves solving conflict through organizational design and facilitation. We have had great success applying mediation theories and techniques to help our clients overcome organizational conflict in a non-adversarial manner.

Three members of the M Powered Strategies team recently traveled to Los Angeles, California, to participate in certification courses at the highly regarded Mediation Training Institute International. Andrew MacDonald, Selena Hunn, and Justin Heineman are now Certified Professionals in Managing Workplace Conflict. With legal backgrounds and previous Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) training, Andrew and Selena undertook further coursework to become certified Professional Workplace Mediators.

M Powered Strategies stands ready to tackle the most daunting workplace issues. Turn to the M Powered Strategies team if your organization suffers from:

  • A lack of integration and collaboration between team members or organizations
  • Miscommunication among members
  • Employee conflict resulting in a loss of profitability
  • Employee conflict resulting in the mismanagement of projects
  • A need for improved group interactions

By making ongoing professional development a priority, M Powered Strategies continues to provide the best possible service to all of our clients and partners.