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The Future of Federal Workforce Reskilling, Automation, & Hiring Practices: Part I

Posted by on Jan 3, 2019 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Future of Federal Workforce Reskilling, Automation, & Hiring Practices: Part I

The past two decades have seen an exponential rise in technological advances. The technology boom that’s given us the internet, smartphones, and tools such as video conferencing, and instant messaging has revolutionized the way people work. We’ve also seen advancements in robotics and automation that have sped up manufacturing processes, improving efficiency, but sometimes to the detriment of workers, particularly blue-collar workers, whose jobs can be replaced by automation. These advancements have created new cultures in workplaces that are driven by technology and openness. With a new, technologically-savvy generation entering the workforce, workplace culture is changing. New adaptive strategies such as investment in professional development and agile workplaces have opened employers to new workplace practices, such as transparent workplace communication, career movement, and professional development. Employers are quickly finding that if they invest in their employees, it’s paid back in kind with increased efficiency, ability, and flexibility. On December 6, 2018, Government Executive, a Federal Government news outlet, hosted an event with several panels of Federal experts on these topics. The Federal Government often falls behind the curve on new technology and workplace practices. Administrative and budgetary constraints usually curb innovation, while politics dictate the pace and volatility of these changes. Throughout three panels, Federal executives in organizations ranging from the Small Business Administration to the Department of Agriculture to DoD to the Peace Corps shared their experiences, expectations, and hopes for the future of reskilling, automation, and hiring the future Federal workforce. PART I: Reskilling and Upskilling the Federal Workforce The conference started with a panel about reskilling and upskilling Federal workers. Consisting of Dr. Vicki Brown of DoD, Traci DiMartini of the Peace Corps, and Robyn Rees of the National Science Foundation (NSF), each panelist contributed their views on what Federal reskilling looks like now, and what it can look like in the future. Reskilling and upskilling is a practice that involves training employees to complete their job to the best of their ability. It can take many shapes and forms. In the manufacturing workplace, it could be training staff to use new computers to improve manufacturing efficiency and standards. In an office setting, it could be sending employees to conferences and classes to learn new skills. The term “professional development” is used frequently to describe reskilling and upskilling. The essential goal is to invest resources into your employees so they can give companies greater returns than before. DiMartini expressed strong approval of professional development in conjunction with agile workplaces, stating reskilling her staff and creating an open work environment is her ideal workplace. To her, if you invest in individuals, they will pay you back with increased performance, not only with new skills but renewed dedication. It’s not a matter of career. It’s a matter of skills. Why not give your staff the best tools for the job? She also countered a common argument against reskilling: what if an employee leaves? To her, it doesn’t matter if they stay in her staff or not. Many Federal workers often make career moves within the Federal Government, so their skills aren’t necessarily going to waste; their professional development still benefits the government. If managers give their employees opportunity, those employees will give loyalty, better output, and foster a better work environment. DiMartini’s problem is her agency doesn’t provide a...

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No, really. Are you Grant Ready?

Posted by on Jan 2, 2019 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

No, really. Are you Grant Ready?

In the middle of last week, I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed for the latest and greatest. And then I had one of those stop everything moments to read the posted article. One of our grants instructors was offering to volunteer her services to save Claude Moore Colonial Farm. Who’s Claude and why does he have a farm? Claude Moore was the last owner of a farm that eventually ended up National Park land. A few decades ago, a nonprofit was formed to establish a farm and settlement circa 1771. Not a mansion on the site. Definitely rustic. It’s the place where you go to a festival and at least one elementary school field trip. My son brought home a dipped candle in first grade. Now my colleague’s post caused me to jerk a bit because my family had just gone to a winter market at the farm less than two weeks ago. There was no indication that this charming place was in trouble. According to the Washington Post, things had not been well for a long time. I learned for the first time that Claude Moore Colonial Farm was in operations based on a cooperative agreement between NPS and the Friends of CMCF. The NPS has agreements with similar organizations across the country. Short story: NPS terminated its agreement with the Friends of Claude Moore Colonial Farm for not complying with terms and conditions of getting Federal funds. Read the article for the details. This is an example of an organization choosing not to be grant ready nor compliant. I am frankly surprised that NPS let things go on as long as it did. I wonder how, what, when, and how much technical assistance NPS offered to bring this group towards a minimal amount of compliance. I’m even more shocked that the organization signed an agreement without asking itself internally how it was going to be successful beyond educating visitors. Let this serve as a cautionary tale that before your organization applies for a Federal grant, you must ask if you’re grant ready. Federal money has many, many strings attached that flummox the best grants manager. You have to look beyond the programs you’re diving into the depths of bureaucracy. And if you don’t have any bureaucracy, you’re going to need just a little...

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What Does the Federal Shutdown Mean for Grants?

Posted by on Dec 26, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Uncategorized | 0 comments

What Does the Federal Shutdown Mean for Grants?

Regardless of political views or debate about the merits of a Federal shutdown, there are a few things to keep in mind with regard to grants and cooperative agreements during a shutdown. Both pre-award and post-award processes are impacted (or not). Pre-Award Federal websites continue to function during a shutdown. While there may not be as much technical support available or information may not be updated, the websites remain active. Any previously announced submission deadlines for proposals, therefore, are still in effect. There is no hall pass to excuse a late submission. Applicants should not expect an extension based on the shutdown, and should submit as planned. Grants.gov reinforces this protocol with a notice on its home page: NOTICE: During a lapse in Federal appropriations, the Grants.gov system will remain in an Operational status. Additionally, the Grants.gov Support Center will remain available to provide assistance to applicants. Award decisions, on the other hand, would be delayed until after the shutdown because the Antideficiency Act (Pub. L. 97-258, 31 USC 1341, 1501-1519) prohibits agencies from incurring obligations that are in advance of appropriations, such as during a shutdown when there is a lapse of funds. Post-Award Continuation of essential services and reimbursement payments remain the biggest concerns post-award, and it depends upon the type of award (entitlement, mandatory/formula or discretionary), and whether a particular action is required under law or would be in response to an emergency. The Constitution provides that no funds may be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress (the power of the purse). Likewise, the Antideficiency Act, enacted in 1905, also prohibits federal agencies from making payments in excess or in advance of an appropriation. The Act has been amended over time, including apportioning or dividing funds into categories and allowing for exceptions. The Act, therefore, provides that necessary and essential services continue, even during a funding lapse or shutdown. These include funding the military, law enforcement, benefit payments under entitlements, the banking system, emergency and disaster relief, medical care, border protection, power systems, air traffic control, and other essential services. If the federal award provides essential services and/or services mandated by federal statute, then those services may be covered during a shutdown. These services would need to be defined by the authorizing statute, not by the award agreement itself. Please confer with your legal advisors. Presidential Memorandum M-11-13, released during a prior shutdown, also provides specific guidance about federal grants and contracts. Routine or ongoing activities under an award such as grant or contract administration would need to cease during a shutdown. These activities include oversight and payment processing; however, M-11-13 also references the Antideficiency Act and reminds federal agencies they have statutory authority to incur obligations for essential services, i.e., services defined by a program statute or other legal requirement (not by the award agreement). If there is an emergency, those services may also be covered, but again, the emergency exception does not cover ongoing, regular or routine functions. Please confer with your legal advisors. If an unobligated balance of funding remains available from a prior period, if the award was made before the shutdown, or if it was appropriated on a multi-year or no-year basis, then the federal agency may have some discretion with respect to timing when activities may be carried...

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No Rest After #GPAConf18

Posted by on Nov 16, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Uncategorized | 0 comments

No Rest After #GPAConf18

This was going to be a post about how wonderful the 2018 Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Annual Conference in Chicago was – meeting up with friends, finding Url the Squirrel, introducing my colleagues Vera and Lahaja to the grants community, Hamilton… but instead it’s back to regular order. Tuesday, I attended the National Grants Management Association (NGMA) monthly luncheon in DC featuring speakers from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Great, I thought. I’ll be able to make a few updates to my GPA presentation. It shouldn’t be that much different from any of the events I’d attended in the past 30 days. Instead, I was met with some surprises — here are my top 3. 400 Data Standards will be available for review. Data standardization is part of the long-term efforts. Think of it as the DATA Act train staying on the track. I was expecting a confirmation that the 400 data standards would be posted to the Federal Register on or about November 15. Instead, those in attendance were told that the standards would be posted to GitHub. Which made sense because the current administration rarely uses the Federal Register. What did I see this morning (after I updated my presentation and registered on GitHub)? The Public Inspection document for the Federal Register Notice.   Agencies are supposed to implement M-18-18. You know when you’re met with good news, and month’s later, you’re met with a caveat? That happened to me and a few others in the room. OMB Memorandum 18-18 increases the micro-purchase and simplified acquisition thresholds in advance of the Federal Acquisition Regulation update for grantees. I missed that agencies are supposed to implement the changes in the terms and conditions of award. If your organization has moved to these new thresholds, make sure that you get something in writing from your grants officer if your award terms and conditions haven’t been updated. Streamlining of audit requirements. You know you’re in a room of in-the-know grant professionals when there’s a gasp following, “twelve to six requirements.” From my point of view, it was well known that significant updates to the Annual Compliance Supplement (2 CFR 200 Appendix XI) are coming in 2019. That’s why OMB issued the 2018 “Skinny” Supplement. Any potential shifts in the number of Single Audit requirements was news to the room. To be fair, the OMB representatives were not the staff working directly with the CAP Goal 8 Audit Workgroup. Therefore, I’m not going to speculate what the exact parameters are on the changes to these requirements. What I am going to do is start checking for updates on this subject frequently. And the bonus surprise? I might be splitting my time tomorrow sifting through the new standards and shoveling snow. I must’ve brought winter home from Chicago....

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Empowering Leaders Empowerment Forum

Posted by on Oct 26, 2018 in Leadership, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Empowering Leaders Empowerment Forum

On October 23, 2018, Management Concepts along with Young Government Leaders (YGL) and Blacks in Government (BIG) NOW Generation held the “Emerging Leader Empowerment Forum” for aspiring leaders in government to hear from a panel of speakers as they discussed their career journeys, challenges, and successes. Jozetta Robinson currently serves as the Director, Office of the Executive Secretariat at the Office of Personnel Management where she facilitates the management of correspondence, regulations, plain language implementation, policy and other critical issues for the Director and agency leadership. She has dedicated over 25 years of service to the Federal Government. The panelists for the event included: Ron Holloway, M.B.A. who serves as a Program and Management Analyst, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. He is also an advocate, creative writer, entrepreneur, and speaker. Ron has spoken to a variety of audiences ranging from small groups and large conferences to speaking on topics on behalf of the Obama Administration. Tiffany J. Lightbourn, Ph.D. who serves as the Director of Payroll and Personnel Systems at the Internal Revenue Service. She oversees the timely issuance of pay to 84,000 IRS employees, obligating over $8 billion annually. Previously the Director of Employment, Talent and Security, she led the hiring of 12,000 permanent and seasonal employees and the suitability and security screening for all employees of the Service. Arlene Pena who serves as the Chief Communications Officer at the Young Government Leaders (YGL) National Leadership Team. Since joining YGL in 2017, she has created YGLs first Branding Guidelines, put together a 208 omnichannel marketing strategy and is currently developing YGL’s 2018 video campaign. When beginning her career as a public servant in 2015, she took the digital portfolio of her agency and doubled the following, quadrupled their engagement, and created a robust digital marketing strategy. Lisa Thomas, Ph.D., FACHE serves as the Executive Director, Human Capital Management at the National Cemetery Administration. In June 2016, Dr. Lisa Thomas was appointed as the Executive Director, Human Capital Management for the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) within the Department of Veterans Affairs. In this capacity, Dr. Thomas is responsible for the entire human capital life cycle of NCA’s workforce, which includes approximately 1,800 dedicated employees who are committed to honoring Veterans and their families with final resting places in national shrines and commemorating their service. The panel was moderated by Lahaja Furaha, the Organizational Culture Practice Lead and Senior Human Capital Advisor at Management Concepts. The conversation between the panelists and the audience was lively and informative. Below are a few topics touched upon in the discussion: Finding a Mentor Informational interviews are a great way for aspiring leaders to seek receive guidance as the chart out their career path. Connect with those in positions that you admire, be clear about your intentions, and provide updates on the results of any action items provided to you. As an employee of the Federal Government, you have access to coaching inside your agency, outside your agency, and from coaching providers like Management Concepts. Information on how to receive coaching can be found on OPM’s Coaching wiki. Gaining a Promotion It’s important to first understand why you want the promotion. Whether it be more responsibility or higher pay, there might be another route to get you to the same path. A key factor in...

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The Secret to Building a High-Performing Team

Posted by on Oct 25, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Secret to Building a High-Performing Team

All organizations strive to build and maintain high-performing teams on some level, yet few are successful. Why? What is so elusive about high-performing teams? Before we can explore the answer to those questions, we must first define the word “team.” A team is a collection of individuals working toward shared goals and making decisions using consensus; accountability is shared among the manager/leader and the members. When most effective, teams have the capacity to: Encourage collaboration Develop interpersonal skills Strengthen the creative process Increase engagement Promote accountability and feedback High-performing teams are uniquely committed to action, achievement, and maximizing opportunity. All organizations have teams, but not many can be crowned high-performing. In the Harvard Business Review article, “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” author Alex Pentland characterizes high-performing teams as being, “blessed with the energy, creativity, and shared commitment to far surpass other teams.” Members of high-performing teams are: Empowered to maximize their strengths Afforded the opportunity to develop additional skills Fully engaged Motivated to perform at their best Capable of adapting Responsive to the internal and external forces that may alter team dynamics Transforming low-performing teams into high-performing teams is a tremendous challenge, as well as an opportunity. A team development and performance study by the Brandon Hall Group referenced in the Training Magazine article, “High-Performing Teams: A Crucial Differentiator of Business Performance” by Laci Loew included survey results from 191 organizations and found that approximately “72 percent of 191 organizations surveyed said team performance has a positive or extremely positive impact on overall productivity.” What’s even more interesting is that “one-third (34 percent) of those same organizations said they do not have a strategy to improve team development, and 21 percent said they do not invest any time or resources of any kind to develop teams at any level within their organizations.” Many organizations are leaving productivity and financial gains on the table by not investing in the development of high-performing teams. When the benefits are so obvious, the natural question is – why? As you can imagine, the answer differs from organization to organization and depends on countless situational variables. But could it be that most organizations can’t get over the first hurdle in any growth situation – an open admission that the team in question is low-performing? To be fair, job security, complacency, and personality conflicts are all obstacles in change management and cultural transformations. However, there is an inherent vulnerability required for team members and leadership to openly express that they are headed in the wrong direction and something needs to change. For many organizations, this moment of clarity and vulnerability will never be actualized because the organization and the team are missing one essential element: trust. Loew defines trust as “confidence, the absence of suspicion, and an ongoing record that confirms expectations of behavior and performance. Trust is expressed in the behavior toward others and will grow or shrink due to interactions and experiences.” High-performing teams are defined by their individual trust of team members to do the job, stay on mission, and ask for help when necessary. Trust is the glue that holds high-performing teams together. Teams that do not have trust are by definition, low-performing. Low-performing teams are stagnant, lack action, and rarely initiate growth activities. Collectively they operate timidly, reactively,...

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And the winner of the 2018 PMI Fellow Award is …

Posted by on Oct 11, 2018 in Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

And the winner of the 2018 PMI Fellow Award is …

It’s often said that the most important asset in any organization is its people. It’s true in the public sector, it’s true in the private sector and it’s definitely true here at Management Concepts. We can deliver superior solutions not just because we have great course content, but because we also have amazing, highly-qualified instructors with a passion for teaching. One instructor that we are extremely proud of is Cynthia Snyder-Dionisio. It turns out that we aren’t alone in finding her exceptional. On Saturday, Cynthia was named a Project Management Institute (PMI) Fellow at the 2018 PMI Professional Awards Gala. The PMI Fellow Award is the highest and most prestigious individual award presented by the Project Management Institute for service to the organization and profession. With membership of over 500,000, and almost 1 million certified project managers around the globe who are potentially eligible for the award, this is no small feat. Cynthia has had a remarkable career with Management Concepts since she joined us in 2004. She played a pivotal role as a lead consultant and instructor on multiple key accounts such as Medtronic, ViaSat, NASA and NASA JPL. But perhaps the biggest feather in Cynthia’s cap was being a key part of the Management Concepts team that developed the Federal Acquisition Institute’s Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM) curricula for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VAAA considers the FAC-P/PM certification to be one of the most successful training programs in the Federal Government. Ms. Dionisio was awarded a letter of commendation signed by the Chancellor of VAAA, based on her work on this project. Subsequently Cynthia developed our popular PMP Exam Prep Bootcamp based on the updated PMBOK 6th edition. High quality work, high caliber professional. We could not agree more with the PMI decision to name her a Fellow. Congratulations,...

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Is a push for more Federal Grants certifications sustainable?

Posted by on Oct 2, 2018 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Is a push for more Federal Grants certifications sustainable?

The GAO released its report on the Grants Workforce last week and for me there were no surprises. Agencies are still struggling to identify who comprises the grants workforce Some agencies adopted the 1109 job series There’s a drive to a certification…but no consensus on what that should be Adoption of the Financial Assistance Career Roadmap is limited More training is needed Now you’d think that as someone whose product audience is 50%+ Federal, I’d be jumping up and down for joy. Don’t get me wrong, this report shows a lot of opportunity to fill the gaps to provide the Federal workforce with the grants knowledge they need. My concern is that the drive for certifications in grants, as well as other job series, will not be sustainable for everyone. What if you are an individual whose position requires you to: Oversee large projects Manage support contracts Implement grant programs And by the way, it’s a cyber security grant program. If you were to read the recent grants report with the GAO cyber security workforce report, PMIAA implementation guidance, and Contracting Officer’s Representative requirements, you may determine that you need to obtain and/or maintain FOUR certifications. And, you may get the training you need paid for by your employer but not the money to take the test to obtain the certification. How do you choose which one to get? When? Why? How? What is the best match for your limited training budget? Which path is going to best serve your career? We need to recognize that certification efforts may push some people into a specialist role, when really, we’d benefit from someone with a broad set of skills and capabilities. That’s why I am hopeful that we’ll see more adoption of the Financial Assistance Career Roadmap. This competency model recognizes that Federal Grant professionals need to upskill in their knowledge, skills, and abilities in analytics, leadership, and project management. This roadmap, if implemented with flexibility, could facilitate the ability for individuals to follow the model while pursuing the certification, certificate, or degree (which travels with the person, not the position) that fits individual career goals. By the way, the drive towards cross-functional capabilities is a trend across the government. The executive session discussion at the last AGA PDT centered on the need for people to do more analysis as more basic functions are automated. Looks like we all need to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of at least...

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National Academy of Public Administration: “No Time To Wait Part II”

Posted by on Sep 27, 2018 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 1 comment

National Academy of Public Administration: “No Time To Wait Part II”

On September 25, 2018, Management Concepts sponsored the National Academy of Public Administration’s (NAPA) “No Time To Wait” report release event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. NAPA is a congressionally chartered non-partisan non-profit that helps government leaders solve our nation’s most pressing challenges. In the “No Time To Wait” report series, NAPA proposed a fundamental shift in the operations of the Federal Government. In Part I of the series, NAPA introduced the severity of the challenges and stressed that the time for deliberation is over and the time for action is upon us. The report proposed an overhaul of the human capital system because of its habitual tendency to hinder “the ability of Federal agencies to recruit, develop, and retain top talent; hold administrators and employees accountable for results; and strike the right balance between civil servants and contractors.” This year in the “No Time To Wait, Part II” report, NAPA transitions the conversation from problem to solution – providing a plan of action for transforming the current stand-alone personnel operations that agencies are currently accustomed to human capital planning focused on performance and learning that is natively integrated into the agency’s leadership framework. Part II of the report outlines the following action points for building a better government: Rebalance the Federal Workforce in Support of Mission: Focus on reskilling and upskilling current and future talent Preserve the Merit System Principles: Recruit and retain a talented workforce fairly from all segments of the workforce Enhance Accountability: Emphasize results with enterprise-wide strategic workforce planning and develop strategies for advanced collection of metrics and data analytics Increase Mission-Based Achievement: Position efforts at the managerial-level versus compliance-level Launch 90-day task force led by Chief Human Capital Officers to recommend policy changes that can be implemented immediately The “No Time To Wait, Part II” panelists made it clear – our Federal Government can no longer expect to solve new world problems with old world thinking. Physical and traditional skills in the workforce are giving way to soft-skills like creativity, critical thinking, and communications. The need for talent to have a growth mindset and the comfort to navigate uncertain waters is becoming more important day-by-day and the Federal Government must begin to support these developments on all fronts. For over 45 years Management Concepts has provided training and consulting solutions to empower the Federal workforce in the successful achievement of their missions, roles, and responsibilities to not only further their careers but to help build a better government. We have tracked the developments of the workforce and have built the leading catalog of in-classroom and virtual training solutions to help our government meet the demands outlined in the NAPA “No Time to Wait” series. Stay tuned for further collaborations between NAPA and Management Concepts. Further coverage of the event can be found below — Federal News Radio: https://federalnewsradio.com/your-job/2018/09/fed-community-stop-tinkering-around-the-edges-of-civil-service-reform/ FedScoop: https://www.fedscoop.com/federal-workforce-napa-report-don-kettl/ Federal Computer Week: https://fcw.com/articles/2018/09/25/napa-workforce-report-gunter.aspx GovExec:...

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HR: Use Resources, Not People

Posted by on Sep 24, 2018 in Human Resources, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

HR: Use Resources, Not People

Human Resource departments have it rough. There are many who believe that HR departments are only extensions of corporate power largely created to protect companies from lawsuits, scandals, and to quash employee grievances. These same companies often regard HR as somewhat of a nuisance: a department that, with all its administrative policies and demands for compliance, can interfere with day-to-day operations and increase the cost of doing business. In this sense, HR departments are perpetually stuck in the middle, acting as a temperamental buffer between top-level executives and the workforce base. And even though strategic human resource management and planning is key to ensuring the success and longevity of any organization, HR continues to be portrayed in a negative light. To better understand why this is the case, it’s important to look at some of the underlying issues with how HR is run within organizations today and culturally viewed by employees. First, let’s start off with the title, “Human Resource Department.” Doesn’t sound too accommodating, does it? Instead of calling it a “Human Resource Department,” how about we opt for something that’s easier to endorse like, “Employee Engagement Division?” It’s not perfect, but this would be more appropriate given that HR is responsible for engaging, supporting, and informing employees while staying aligned with the organization’s vision and mission. Perhaps I’m just against the phrase “Human Resources” because the very idea of labeling someone as a “resource” lends itself to the commodification of human beings, an unfortunate reality we must face in our profit-centered world. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. By focusing more on employee relations and placing the inherent value on actual people, as opposed to only the labor or services they provide, HR departments can have a more significant impact on employee development and further contribute in meeting their own organizational objectives. This is especially true of HR’s function in the hiring process. Don’t just think of your employees as someone needed to fill an immediate role, but rather treat them as individuals capable of doing more than what the job purely entails. Try to gauge how employees can benefit the organization long-term. Of course, this isn’t always feasible for HR due to short-scope projects that involve a great deal of tactical work and aren’t based on achieving further strategic alignment. Another part of the problem lies in how the recruiting/hiring system itself is structured, reinforcing a “check-the-box” mentality with the long list of essential duties and unrelenting jargon that makes up most job descriptions. With the hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants who throw their resumes at every vacant position, it can sometimes be hard to see them as anything but a number. These shortcomings in HR are the result of a fundamental shift in the application process from advertising jobs through local sources to posting them exclusively online. Sites like Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn are convenient for recruiting purposes and large-scale talent pooling; however, for applicants they can be dehumanizing. A recent article in The Guardian speaks to this unsettling trend in automated hires, noting: It makes us [jobseekers] less confident, and feel that we’re not worthwhile, as the company couldn’t even assign a person for a few minutes. The whole thing is becoming less human, which is concerning. What’s the limit for...

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The President’s Management Agenda Series: Thinking Strategically

Posted by on Aug 28, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Thinking Strategically

In March 2018, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) was released to the public. The PMA “lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas that will improve the ability of all agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.” So how will the U.S. Government carry out these goals? In this blog series, we will explore some of the actions, processes, and practices it can leverage to ensure success. Thinking Strategically How do you think strategically when your day is comprised mostly of the tactical work? How can organizations think strategically when they are overwhelmed with accomplishing the day-to-day operations required to keep them running smoothly? How can the biggest organization of all, the United States Government, balance the need to think strategically while achieving objectives at a tactical level? Tactical and strategic thinking provide different perspectives, but these concepts are intertwined and essential to individual and organizational success. Strategic thinking requires a broader recognition of all the elements in our environment that will affect our plans for the future. Instead of simply focusing on what exists, strategic thinking allows us to consider what could be. Strategic thinking: Helps with setting and achieving long-term goals Recognizes relationships and interdependencies Allows us to better prioritize our work Identifies risks and opportunities inherent to our plans Allows leaders to better align tactical work to organizational objectives While the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) lays out several initiatives the U.S. Government aims to carry out, an overarching theme among all the different goals and objectives is the need to think strategically. One of the main ways the PMA suggests the government can shift to a strategic thinking framework is by recognizing key mission requirements and aligning the workforce to meet those needs. According to the PMA, “Progress on these complex and interconnected challenges has been attempted in the past but often failed due to siloed efforts. Getting traction calls for broader, system-level thinking to tackle interconnected barriers to change, most notably related to aging technology infrastructure, disconnected data and an outmoded civil service framework.” So how can the government leverage a broader, system-level thinking approach to achieve its mission? Understanding the role that tactical thinking plays regarding strategic thinking is key; government leaders should broaden their perspectives and examine problems through a strategic lens. To begin to examine things through a strategic lens, the government must ensure that the various elements of its organization are aligned. Below are the elements that influence how strategic thinking occurs within an organization: Mission. The organization’s mission is its reason for existence. Most organizations have a mission statement that outlines why the organization exists, what it is meant to do or accomplish, and who it is meant to serve. Vision. The organizational vision describes what the organization strives to be. Most vision statements illustrate a future state that would result if the organization is successful in achieving its mission. The vision statement is meant to inspire and motivate individuals to help the organization achieve that desired future state. Goals and Objectives. Organizations typically have documented long-term and short-term goals, as well as reasons for why reaching those goals is a valuable endeavor. Climate. The climate is how you describe individuals’ shared perspectives...

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40th Annual BIG NTI Conference Recap 2018

Posted by on Aug 23, 2018 in Leadership, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

40th Annual BIG NTI Conference Recap 2018

  I write this blog as I await the announcement to board my flight back to Washington D.C. after a phenomenal week at the 40th Annual Blacks in Government National Training Institute (BIG NTI). This annual training event ran from August 13-16, held at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel and hosted more than 2,500 professionals from Federal and state governments as well as private and not-for-profit organizations. The theme for this year’s BIG NTI was “Leveraging Your Professional Attributes for Sustained Growth and Development.” While the institute is primarily focused on the professional development of attendees, it also boasts thriving community engagement, leadership, academic achievement, and military veterans’ programs among its core initiatives. Management Concepts was a proud Gold Sponsor, presented a leadership workshop, and hosted a Munch & Mingle networking event in conjunction with the BIG NOW Generation. The Munch & Mingle networking event gave conference attendees the opportunity to connect with peers, BIG leadership and other special guests. This year’s event featured remarks on “The BIG Experience” from BIG’s National Executive Vice President, Ms. Shirley A. Jones, Esq. Michelle Clark, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Marketing presented the 4th Annual Leadership Certificate Program Scholarship Award to Emmanuel Onyeobia, Grants Manager at State Veterans Home Construction Grants Program; Office of Capital Asset Management. There were several all-day forums held by Federal agencies including the Departments of State, Energy, Labor, and the Navy. Management Concepts held a one-day Leadership training program, “Creating Connections to Improve Performance and Foster Engagement.” The program covered mentoring, managing change, cultivating motivation and engagement, and building relationships through collaboration. The session reached capacity before the start of the institute, and due to continued demand, we were able to reopen registration for additional participants.  The training was very well received, one attendee said: “I am really enjoying this leadership course. I am glad you are depositing into Aspiring BIG leaders.” Another attendee of the training said this of the program: “An AWESOME training experience in leadership, collaboration, and networking with Margaret Eggleston.” After being professionally enriched, motivated and challenged in the sessions during the day, attendees were able to participate in a wide variety of events in the evenings. There was something for everyone; from networking and receptions to shopping and even a gospel concert. Of course, attendees were excited to partake in the local cuisine – the seafood gumbo, beignets and café au lait were among my favorites. I’m thrilled to have participated as an attendee as well as a representative of Management Concepts. The week was packed with opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally. I highly recommend this event to leaders and emerging leaders across every workforce. It’s well worth the investment. Learn more about the training and consulting we offer at Management Concepts. In addition to Leadership and Management training we offer courses in Program, Grants, and Financial Management, Analytics, HR and...

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Competition and Collaboration in the Workplace

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Competition and Collaboration in the Workplace

Competition is a natural component of all economies at some level whether it involve markets, companies, or job-seekers. The workplace can make for an equally competitive environment with employees working longer hours to secure promotions with fancier job titles and bigger paychecks. Now that more and more organizations are starting to adopt a distinctly collaborative approach to achieve success and build high-performing teams, it’s time to re-evaluate the oft-perceived dichotomy between competition and collaboration. In “Competition At Work: Positive Or Positively Awful?,” Kristi Hedges refers to “coopetition” as the act of cooperation between competing companies and applies this same principle to the workplace. She argues that by introducing competition to the workplace, team members will often push one another to become more productive, ensuring the quality of work. Think of it as a form of scaling competition. It’s the surest means in which team members can constantly challenge each other to grow while continuing to raise the proverbial bar set by the newly established workplace standards. While this might increase productivity to some degree, there will inevitably come a point where these benefits plateau. This is where the unspoken danger lies: in allowing the workplace to devolve into a culture that is overly results-driven, encouraging incessant one-upping or, in some extreme cases, fraudulent behavior to occur, all while punishing those who strive to take innovative risks and adhere to their morals. What happens when competition negatively impacts the workplace? The Harvard Business Review featured an article about this exact issue describing how competition can be either positive or negative based on how employees emotionally interpret it. Specifically, they used the Wells Fargo debacle to show how subjecting employees to such high-pressure demands to open new credit card and bank accounts only reinforced negative competition, which ultimately was a detriment to Wells Fargo’s success (and wallet). The significance here is that the competition waged by a quota-obsessed upper management is what led Wells Fargo employees to inflate their sales numbers by “secretly creating millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts — an unethical path toward results that has very high long-term costs.” In conducting such unethical business practices (out of fear of losing their jobs or being otherwise penalized for their lack of performance), consumers began to distrust their banks, which in turn, brought about organizational failure. According to the article, this is the major difference between negative and positive competition. Negative competition is a short-term strategy with long-term consequences. Positive competition aims to further team sustainability and organizational longevity. In summation, compromising team integrity for quick results is not effective. Here are 3 ways to leverage competition to drive workplace collaboration: 1. Find out what motivates your individual team members and capitalize on those intrinsic/extrinsic motivators. One aspect of “coopetition” that Kristi Hedges doesn’t cover in her article is how crucial it is to understand what motivates your team members. Before you can even begin to arrange for there to be workplace “coopetition,” you need to first determine what intrinsic/extrinsic motivators most strongly affect each team member. This will better enable you to predict what forms of competition are most effective. For example, someone who is just starting in a new position might be more inclined to want to prove themselves to the group and develop their own self-worth (an intrinsic motivator) as opposed to someone who has been working at the...

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Why Pure Agile Doesn’t Work in Government: Part 1

Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 in Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Why Pure Agile Doesn’t Work in Government: Part 1

When the 17 founders of the Agile philosophy met and agreed upon the values and principles of what has become the Agile Manifesto, they brought with them a wealth of experience, skill, and knowledge on developing, testing, and deploying software in private and commercial industries. But very few of the founders had much experience in developing software within the environment of government. As a result, the Manifesto reflects this limited background and does not align with governmental software projects. The Agile Manifesto contains four foundational values: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Working software over comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to change over following a plan While these values work very well within lesser regulated commercial markets, they don’t meet the demands of governmental requirements and mandates under which Federal, state, and local IT projects operate. A more effective and appropriate set of values that make the necessary accommodations needed for public IT software-type projects are: Use of properly trained individual using vetted processes and tools Frequent delivery of working software and required documents User collaboration supported by flexible acquisition contracts Use of change-friendly processes described in meaningful plans These modified values provide a more appropriate foundation for software projects within a government venue by shifting the mindset of both government agencies and their contractors towards an effective working solution that embodies the strengths of the Agile adaptive philosophy while supporting the more rigorous legalities of project management in government. Agile and its many implements such as SCRUM, XP, Kanban, Lean, ScrumBan, and others are based on primary development methodology concepts of modular deconstruction, incremental application, and iterative processes. These concepts collectively provide a dynamic software developmental environment that facilitates a more discovery-based, collaborative approach allowing for a higher level of...

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The President’s Management Agenda Series: Improving Customer Service

Posted by on Jul 31, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Improving Customer Service

In March 2018, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) was released to the public. The PMA “lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas that will improve the ability of all agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.” So how will the U.S. Government carry out these goals? In this blog series, we will explore some of the actions, processes, and practices it can leverage to ensure success. Managing Quality Customer Service Customer service is vital to every organization, including—and especially—the United States Federal Government. You may be thinking, who are “customers” of the Federal Government? Well, that’s simple: you, me, him, her, them. Every citizen of the United States of America is a customer of the Federal Government. And we all expect a lot from this particular service provider! Customers expect outstanding service, but often, when people like you or I think of the government, we recall long lines at the DMV, tax time anxiety, and other less-than-stellar experiences. People don’t often think of exceptional customer service. Further, there are some individuals who rely on the government for intensive services, such as small business owners, veterans seeking support, and others. These especially impacted groups require the absolute best service to meet their needs, yet many still feel customer focus is severely lacking. The President’s Management Agenda has laid out a plan to change this perception and bring quality service to the forefront. Providing exceptional customer service is not a choice in today’s fast-paced business environment. Organizations in the private sector are competing more than ever to add and retain customers. The Federal Government isn’t immune to this competition. The PMA has undertaken an initiative to provide a “modern, streamlined, and responsive customer experience across government, comparable to leading private-sector organizations.” An integral part of the Federal Government’s mission is to provide the goods and services that the American people need. As public servants, Federal employees are tasked with fulfilling that mission in a variety of ways. But the 2016 American Consumer Satisfaction Index and the 2017 Forrester Federal Customer Experience Index show that, on average, government services lag nine percentage points behind the private sector in terms of customer satisfaction. This lag can be remedied by considering and acting upon the three major steps to providing quality customer service: Identifying your customer’s wants and needs Providing service in an efficient and professional manner Resolving any issues that may arise Addressing each of these steps will ensure that your customers leave each experience feeling understood, taken care of, and valued. But how do we address these steps? What are the skills and qualities needed to provide quality service? Research shows that serving customers effectively and efficiently requires the following: Listening Problem-solving Communicating Partnering According to the PMA, “The foundation of exceptional customer service is exceptional communication with your customers. Exceptional communication involves listening effectively, diagnosing and solving problems, choosing careful and appropriate language, and using technology to meet customer needs.” So what is the Federal Government’s plan to remedy this deficiency in customer service? The President’s Management Agenda sets out a long-term vision that works on behalf of the American people to: Transform the customer experience by improv­ing the usability and reliability of...

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Strengthening Federal Evaluation: Meet in the Middle?

Posted by on Jul 20, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Strengthening Federal Evaluation: Meet in the Middle?

Greetings from the proverbial swamp. It’s July in Washington. I’m ruing the lack of seersucker in my wardrobe – longing for the ocean breezes of Miami Beach. So how do I meet this digression? With some good ol’ Beltway insider habits. First, I check to see if Congress has at least gone through the motions of pushing the 13 appropriations bills through committee. And the answer is yes. There’s even one bill that has been passed through both houses. (Energy and Water consolidated with Legislative Branch and Military Construction-Veterans). Considering how this year has been, it’s a nice surprise to see something that should be normal occur. Second, time to check out the full version of “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” or the Trump Administration’s proposal to overhaul the Federal Government. You might have heard about this primarily through the proposal to merge the Departments of Education and Labor into the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). (Which leads to another tangent: Does anyone in the Administration drink Mountain Dew?) But as I push through the document, I want to learn more about these proposals as a grants professional looking at the authorization needs for these changes (potentially in appropriations bills). And frankly as someone whose career was shaped by the formation of DHS, a merger of 22 agencies. Then I happen upon the section, “Strengthening Federal Evaluation,” on page 118 of 132 in the PDF. Grants and policy gold. In two-plus pages my hopes for good government soar. The use of evaluation to inform policy making is the ideal, and often the point of grants and their subsequent management. We want to fund effective programs that work and even try programs that fail. The first two pages of this section are a true call to “Meet me in the middle.” A reach to the middle for a government designed to be inefficient? Tell me more! And then I reach the top of the third page, and an emotional pop song comes into my head. I see, “Establish and utilize multi-year learning agendas.” I hear in my head Maren Morris singing, “Meet Me in the Middle.” The middle is hard because policy making is an emotional and often reactive process. And grants, which are policy tools, are often the instruments evaluated to inform policy, effectiveness, and compliance. This section reads innocuously enough. Yet this proposal sets up a situation that what gets measured gets managed. And those who sets the measurements are a conduit of the President’s Agenda. Keep in mind that the President changes every four or eight years; the so-called learning agenda can change dramatically. This is a challenge because sometimes it takes longer than eight years to find out if something really worked. To carry out this proposal, you have to protect the policy experiments getting measured. Which could mean asking an Administration doing something from a policy standpoint is abhorrent to their stated policy positions. But what if you’re elected to do a 180 on a policy, even with data available? Do you have a temper tantrum about being dragged to the middle, using data to make decisions that contradict your policy position? And how does that trickle down to grantees who finally have a system to measure x, y, and z; but...

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The Reform Proposal’s Potential Impact on Federal Grant Making

Posted by on Jul 16, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Reform Proposal’s Potential Impact on Federal Grant Making

I’ve already written about the evaluation section of “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” the Trump Administration’s outline for reorganizing the Federal Government. Now, I’d like to focus on the potential movements of grant makers and programs. I’d like to start by stating that any significant adjustments to an organization, be it mergers or eliminations, have a significant impact on the people affected. Sitting on a client site in 2004 during years one and two of the Department of Homeland Security taught me that change management and culture considerations are as important, if not more, to the success of the change as the gained efficiencies. Back to some of the proposals. Proposed: Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) This could be the most ambitious and contentious of the Administration’s proposals and definitely requires Congressional authorization and appropriations for it to happen. But when it comes to looking at the grants part of Labor and Education’s business, there are some details to be hammered out, such as: Will Congress consolidate program authorizations for workforce education, or will DEW still have to manage the same number of assistance programs with a streamlined workforce? If this merger occurred, what would need to be done to bring the legacy Departments’ adoption of and exceptions to 2 CFR 200? Are there enough lawyers on staff to manage the requisite regulatory process? What programmatic expertise/points of view could be at risk of elimination as part of the merger? What are the potential economies of scale? These same questions apply to some of the other proposed movements, including the consolidation of food assistance programs under Health and Human Services (to become Health and Public Welfare), housing at HUD, and the long-term efforts to bring State and USAID together. Proposed: Numerous Movements of Smaller Grant Programs and Agencies Over the years, Congress has established several standalone Commissions and Agencies in reaction to meeting a specific need. These organizations manage grants to carry out their policy missions. The Administration proposes the following moves: Fold Inter-American Foundation and U.S. African Development Foundation under USAID Consolidate administration graduate fellowships under the National Science Foundation Move the Delta Regional Authority, Denali Commission, Northern Border Regional Commission, and HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program under a new Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Growth From the back-end, what you need to make a government agency work, perspective, these proposed moves make sense. For instance, sharing IT and human capital resources. However, the proposed changes will still need to abide the Congressional intent of these commissions and programs in their authorizing statutes. This could mean that the new organization is still managing many “special snowflake” programs. Proposed: The GEAR Center The proposed Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center is an organization that will be set up to fully utilize the option of fixed-amount awards. I think that this proposal will take some of the best practices and efforts in government that have occurred in the past 15 years. For example, issuing more “challenges” and improving public-private sector collaboration. Pulling “innovation” into an incubator setting could help with the conundrum of long-established agencies: “How do I innovate and meet the huge amount of compliance requirements?” Proposed: Combined Census and Statistical Agencies Experienced grant recipients and applicants know and use the information put out...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Nathaniel H. Benjamin

Posted by on Jun 21, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Nathaniel H. Benjamin

  MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? I’ve been in Federal Service excluding military time for about 15 years and my main responsibility is managing the Human Capital Office for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under that responsibility, I’m responsible for talent acquisition for general schedule employees. Additionally, we manage the executive resources program for our Senior Executive Service members and our political staff. We also manage the diversity and inclusion programs, learning and development, employee engagement, outreach, employee relations, performance management, and data collection and reporting. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? We are in such a place of change when it comes to the Federal Service. We have Baby Boomers that are exiting. And as Baby Boomers are exiting, it’s creating new opportunities for Generation X and Generation Y. As these opportunities present themselves, it creates a landscape for public servants to see change right before their eyes. For me, it’s an opportunity to continually build a solid career and, down-the-line, position myself so that I can hopefully be a change agent for Washington, as well as the Federal Government at large. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? I would say one of the biggest achievements that I’ve had is coming into my position. We had a hundred percent turnover. I am currently the most seasoned veteran. When I came in, one of the charges was to bring the office into the 21st century; to be more strategic; to be more aligned with the organization. Because those were the marching orders that I received, I made it a point to make sure that I hired a staff that was capable of making these things happen. It’s great if you have one person come in, but anybody who is in management understands that the staff really can make or break the organization. And so, I hired in a top-talented staff, or as I call them, my varsity squad; because there was no room for JV players. Within 18 months, we brought in more automated processes and website development. We really ramped up our employee engagement efforts to include staff partnering with our senior leadership to create a Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Work Plan focusing on D&I as a part of the institution and not just a program that resides in Human Capital. By getting engagement around the entire organization, we’ve been able to establish what we know as diversity and inclusion dialogues. Additionally, we have created a program known as “Community Spaces” where our employees with different backgrounds, perspectives, life styles, and work experiences can feel safe to engage in constructive dialogues – in a confidential setting — because we know that who you are and what you bring to the office has a critical impact on the work that you perform. We want our workforce to feel that they can bring their whole self to work, because that is when they can do their best. The total person is very important. We were intentional when it came to promoting Special Emphasis Programs (SEP) and it’s very important for each month where we acknowledge and celebrate specific groups. And so, each month that there is a...

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Time to Skim the 2018 Single Audit Compliance Supplement

Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Time to Skim the 2018 Single Audit Compliance Supplement

There are some things that we each find to be like the homework assignments we use to hate. For me, it’s the annual Single Audit Compliance Supplement. When it came out earlier this month, I successfully managed to finish my part for a couple of Private Group training products, watch more hockey than I ever had before (Go CAPS!), consume a beach worthy novel, and make a complex breakfast for my husband’s birthday. So, thank you Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the burst of productivity and family time. Without a book to read on our way home from the beach Monday, I settled to read the 2018 Compliance Supplement front matter and a skim through the rest. Here are my top takeaways: Procurement. OMB discusses procurement issues in several places, especially with regards to the most recent National Defense Authorization Act’s changes to the micro-purchase and Simplified Acquisition Threshold (SAT) levels that will take effect in 2018 (likely July). There are also instructions to auditors to be mindful of any grantees affected by the 2017 Hurricane Season. Even more interesting, this is the only section from 3.1 that was significantly updated. Consider it a reminder for all non-Federal entities to double check that they have: 2 CFR 200 compliant procurement policies in place re-read the Suspension and Debarment requirements prepared to adjust micro-purchase and SAT when you can and if appropriate. Internal Controls. The directions are to use the 2017 Compliance Supplement. All in the grants community should say an internal, “hooray,” as this was a big change last year. Administration. Bookmark this site: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-Compliance-Supplement.pdf. OMB published the supplement on the Office of Federal Financial Management (OFFM) page – not the Circulars page. Make sure you review the changes and eliminations to the programs with special instructions, including those programs that are to be clustered. And finally, think about if you’re one of those people who needs to have a document like this in one source. I know some of you out there are wondering and might prefer if OMB had just swapped pages with last year’s and republished it in it’s in entirety. I’m guessing few pages to process helped speed the clearance time. Since I was a captive audience, I continued skimming through the program specific guidance. Not every agency included changes in this supplement. This makes sense as we anticipate release of the 2019 Compliance Supplement in early 2019, and many policies, regulations, and authorizing statutes have been stable during the past two years. That said, the number of programs included in the Department of Education (ED) section is striking – and reflective of the many policy changes that have been implemented since Secretary DeVos took over. Sometimes the changes are subtle. But they are there. Read carefully, especially if you have responsibility for performance and/or ED specific program reporting. I know it’s a beast, and easy to avoid, but if you’re working with Federal grants, make sure you do your annual homework and at least skim the Compliance Supplement. It’s easier to prepare for an audit if you know what auditors are looking for. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll manage your grants better,...

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3 Key Influencers of the Federal Budget Process

Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Acquisition | 0 comments

3 Key Influencers of the Federal Budget Process

If you’ve ever wondered how Congress and Federal agencies interact to get budgets approved or who the key players are that make the critical decisions about taxpayer dollars and the roles they play in the Federal budget process, then read on. Understanding the budget process and how to work with decision-makers is important for stewards of Federal funding. From the onset, it’s critical to be familiar with the key influencers of budgets and their responsibilities. There are three major groups that play a role in the Federal budget process: Executive Branch Includes the President, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Department of Treasury, along with other Cabinet agencies and entities. Responsible for setting, executing, and overseeing the budget. Legislative Branch Includes the Senate, House of Representatives, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Responsible for collecting taxes, appropriating funds, providing economic forecasts, and analyzing and auditing agencies. Special Interest Groups and Other Stakeholders Includes members of the public who have direct interests in specific programs or issues. Provides input on requirement to the White House, OMB, and Federal agencies through various avenues such as testifying before Congress. Management Concepts has just launched a highly interactive, three-day course titled, The Legislative Process: Working with Congress, designed to provide participants with a solid framework of the legislative process and its impact on an organization’s budget. Participants will learn the typical and the not-so-typical scenarios Federal financial managers face on a daily basis and the resources available to address them, such as: Understanding the impact of a continuing resolution of agency budget submissions and, more specifically, new programs that will be delayed. (For more information refer to: CBO budget and economic projections). Deciding whether to outsource an activity to a Federal contractor or to hire new employees to take it on. (For more information refer to: OMB Circular A-76). Click here for more information about this course: The Legislative Process: Working with Congress. You can learn more about our other Financial Management course offerings to continue your professional development...

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The President’s Management Agenda Series: Transforming through Innovation

Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Transforming through Innovation

In March 2018, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) was released to the public. The PMA “lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas that will improve the ability of all agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.” So how will the U.S. Government carry out these goals? In this blog series, we will explore some of the actions, processes, and practices it can leverage to ensure success. 1: Transforming through Innovation Many people think of innovation as a bulb that suddenly flashes on as your face lights up with a one-time stroke of brilliance. Sure, an innovative idea can come to you at any time, but innovation comprises much more than a moment of genius. Innovation is a structured and deliberate process; it can be practiced, improved, and fostered by an overarching framework that supports creative thinking and risk-taking. Innovation occurs when organizations follow through with the best creative ideas, evolve with changing demands and challenges, capitalize on new opportunities, and achieve efficiencies through continuous improvement. It can be a very powerful tool that buoys individuals, teams, and whole organizations. Innovation is considered successful when it adds value to an organization—often that value equates to profit. But in the case of the Federal Government, innovation is measured by whether it improves the lives of the American people who are served by the government every day. The President’s Management Agenda refers to the concept of innovation frequently, and it is depicted as playing a critical role in achieving the outlined goals. Take for example the administration’s intention of creating a data strategy and infrastructure for the future by leveraging data, accountability, and transparency. According to the PMA, the Federal Government “lacks a robust, integrated approach to using data to deliver on mission, serve customers, and steward resources.” The administration seeks to develop its data strategy to remain current with technological advances and ultimately increase the effectiveness of the government. One of the key components in its plan to enhance Federal data strategy is through commercialization, innovation, and public use. While commercialization and public use will take advantage of the private sector and research communities, the innovation piece of this objective is especially crucial, because it requires a major mindset shift from the status quo to the inventive and imaginative. The PMA states that “enabling external users to access and use government data for commercial and other public purposes spurs innovative technological solutions and fills gaps in government capacity and knowledge.” With the administration’s renewed commitment to innovation, can it succeed in accomplishing the lofty goal of bridging the gap between ideas and action? Below we explore the challenges facing the government when it comes to innovation, and the ways it can overcome those challenges and support an environment of innovation. What are the barriers to innovation? Lack of flexibility and an acceptance of risk that can be uncomfortable and unnerving. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of looking foolish. Knowledge, which tends to cause us to look at things in a highly selective manner, can lead to close-mindedness when envisioning solutions or ideas. Habits that make tasks easier to perform, but hinder creativity. Complacency—as exemplified by the attitude, “If it...

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What makes audit findings so Special?

Posted by on May 15, 2018 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 0 comments

What makes audit findings so Special?

It was Christmas in April at Management Concepts. At least for me. I worked with our colleague Meghan to pull down the Single Audit Clearinghouse as of March 31, 2017. So every few days I’ve started to play with the data to figure out what path I want to go down from a research perspective – or to find out what would help our students. I admit – I could play with this information all day. Which is why no one has taught me how to program our internal dashboards. This is what I’ve found so far: The most common findings in 2014-2017 are Cost Principles and Reporting. Given my last blog on the compliance conundrum, this wasn’t a surprise. The next one that popped: “Special Tests and Provisions.” What does this even mean? To the Compliance Supplement went: “The specific requirements for Special Tests and Provisions are unique to each Federal program and are found in the laws, regulations, and the provisions of contract or grant agreements pertaining to the program. For programs listed in this Supplement, the compliance requirements, audit objectives, and suggested audit procedures for Special Tests and Provisions are in Part 4 – Agency Program Requirements or Part 5 – Clusters of Programs.” Unique. There’s that word that’s an enemy of consistent reporting. And really if you’re managing multiple grants, it’s a reasonable hypothesis that the “unique” provisions are what will show up as a finding in an audit. You may not have a “unique” control in place to go with it. I’m going to continue to dig in to the data and share what I find in future posts. That said, let’s focus on what you can do now, especially since it’s the height of Federal application season. Start at the beginning. Read your Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) carefully, and consider writing to and budgeting how you’re going to meet the unique requirements of specific grant programs in your applications. You need your whole team involved in this discussion. Because if it’s unique maybe it should be a direct cost. You need to get that right at the time of application and award. Plan for regular and special grant lifecycles. Manage your grants as consistently as possible. Then document any special activities you must undertake to meet those “special provisions.” That way you’ll be prepared for an auditor or site visit at any stage in the process. Triple check what you’re charging to the grant. Have I mentioned I think that Cost Principles is one of our most difficult courses? It’s because there are so many instances when the decision isn’t black or white. Remember, audit findings are preventable with good planning, management, and...

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Managing Your Training Dollars in the Era of Continuing Appropriations Resolutions

Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Managing Your Training Dollars in the Era of Continuing Appropriations Resolutions

The old saying goes, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop,” but, when working in or with the government, “Waiting for the money to drop” is more like it. The last time the United States Congress passed a budget was in May of 2015. Prior to that, the last time a budget was passed was in 2009. Suffice it to say, the Federal Government has adopted the business practice of funding its operations with Continuing Appropriations Resolutions and with them comes funding uncertainty. The strain that funding uncertainties place on agencies forces them to make spending priorities that results in winners and losers. Unfortunately for government employees, training budgets are often the losers. Though many career fields require continuous training that agencies cannot provide themselves, when the money drops in the second, third or even fourth quarter of a fiscal year, the professionals who have been waiting for the funds to keep the lights on cannot spare the time to take training, even after the money has arrived. This a particularly trying dilemma for government contracting professionals. Whether scrambling for the 80 CLPs required to maintain FAC-C level certification, completing that last class to qualify for the next level warrant or desperately sprinting for the COR certification to manage a large program or project, training is a necessity. What does an agency contracting shop do when it’s the bottom of the third, the fourth is looming, an entire fiscal year of funds must be spent and certifications are close to expiration? Can training be forward funded into the next fiscal year? If your first reaction is, “What about the Bona Fide Need Rule,” you have good instincts. The Bona Fide Need Rule (31 USC, Section 1502) requires appropriated funds be used only for goods and services for which a need arises during the period of that appropriation’s availability for obligation. Agencies may only commit funds to acquire goods, supplies, and services that meet the bona-fide needs of the period for which Congress appropriated funds, or to replace stock used during that period. So how can training ever be forward funded? Here’s how. Training is usually a non-severable service. A training class with a defined beginning and end is non-severable; therefore, when a training obligation is incurred in one fiscal year, the entire cost is chargeable to that year, even if that training extends into the following year. This means that any training funded and initiated before appropriated funds expire may continue to completion after the appropriation period ends. Sometimes training is severable, such as a series of courses that are required to complete a certification. In the case of severable training, agencies may enter into severable services contracts for a period that begins in one fiscal year and ends in the next, IF the contract period for the training does not exceed one year. (41 U.S. Code § 3902). The key word here is “contract”. Rather than scheduling training on a case-by-case basis, an agency that enters into a contract for multiple training events within a twelve-month period of performance, can ensure that their training needs are met moving into the next fiscal year. Both scenarios begin in one fiscal year and end in another. What about training funded in Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) and taken in Fiscal Year...

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Celebrating Public Service Recognition Week 2018

Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Celebrating Public Service Recognition Week 2018

This week (May 6-12, 2018) is Public Service Recognition Week and Management Concepts is excited to show our appreciation for our government leaders and public servants! The celebration began in 1985 and is organized annually by the Public Employees Roundtable (PER) and its member organizations to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees. Management Concepts is celebrating this year by sharing red, white, and blue cupcakes as well as fruit to our students between 10am and 2pm in the DC and Tyson’s centers. We were joined by our strategic partners, Federally Employed Women, Blacks in Government, Training Officers Consortium and the Association of Government Accountants. There are additional events for Public Service Recognition Week occurring in Washington, D.C. including the sixth annual Public Service 5K run/walk, Federal Workforce Day at the Washington Nationals, and a congressional breakfast to congratulate the finalists of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. You can find out more about this week here:...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Kim Bauhs

Posted by on Apr 18, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Kim Bauhs

  MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KB: I made a mid-career move to join the Federal Service in 2000. Prior to that, I spent 9 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy and another 8 years with the Virginia State Government. I was ready for a change, and loved the flexibility – and opportunity – that came with joining our Country’s largest employer. I am currently the head of Human Resources (HR) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an organization of 12,000 dedicated scientists and program administrators who use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision-makers with the reliable information they need, when they need it. NOAA’s Mission: Science, Service and Stewardship To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts To share that knowledge and information with others To conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources The work is fascinating. My team of HR professionals provide tools and guidance to ensure NOAA has the talent needed to accomplish the mission, and promote a work environment that enables optimal employee performance. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KB: I’ve never wanted to work anywhere else. Mission is what drives me, and the Federal Government has some of the most exciting and meaningful jobs in the world. But more importantly, our customers are the American People. As public servants, we are not here to generate revenue, but rather are motivated by a “higher calling” to serve others. We’re here to protect our nation and its resources; to provide essential services to the public and ensure long-term economic prosperity; to fight deadly diseases such as cancer and HIV; and to care for those who need our help. I’m proud to be a public servant, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KB: I’m working towards it now! At NOAA, and more broadly across the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), we are changing the way we deliver HR services. In 2017, we began moving transactional functions to a shared “enterprise” approach, where efficiencies are gained through process improvements and technology solutions. As these day-to-day operations (e.g. personnel actions, benefits, payroll, etc.) are migrated to the DOC Enterprise Services Organization (ESO), the NOAA HR team focuses more on providing human capital guidance to our customers. We are reshaping ourselves to serve as strategic partners with our mission areas, guiding them to make effective decisions on how to attract, develop, and retain the workforce they need. This 3-year transformation is the most comprehensive change management initiative I’ve led. It affects every aspect of our work – and impacts the thousands of internal customers we serve at NOAA. We have much more to do to achieve the goals we’ve set, but we are making progress. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? KB: A few things come to mind: Know that every organization has a degree of “bureaucracy.” This is not unique to government. The key is to learn your organization inside and out. Gain insights into how decisions are made and who is in a position to...

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3 Ways Bid Protests Can Help Improve Source Selection

Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Acquisition | 0 comments

3 Ways Bid Protests Can Help Improve Source Selection

Anyone involved in the government contracting process can tell you that bid protests cause a great deal of anxiety. From the stress caused by the ding on performance evaluations to the automatic stay and the loss of revenue, neither the government nor private industry view a bid protest as a positive. Despite the discomfort that bid protests cause, there is a positive that can be found in the action. The bid protest is probably the best learning tool that contracting professionals can utilize to refine their source selection methods. Now, before you shake your head, consider this; according to the GAO Bid Protest Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2017, the most prevalent reasons that bid protests were sustained in FY17 were: Unreasonable technical evaluation; Unreasonable past performance evaluation; Unreasonable cost or price evaluation; Inadequate selection decision; and Flawed selection decision. All of these sustained protests were due to failures in the source selection process. So what, you ask? How does knowing this information help refine source selection? Here’s how: 1. Learning from the mistakes of others: GAO bid protest decisions are available on the GAO website https://www.gao.gov/legal/ for everyone to read. The decisions walk the reader through the process that led to the protest, apply the facts to the law, and render a decision. These decisions allow other contracting professionals to learn what their peers did wrong in their source selection process so they can avoid making the same mistakes. 2. Learning from your own mistakes: Too often, a solicitation is rushed onto the street. Rushed solicitations usually have flaws and, more often than not, those flaws are in the evaluation criteria. For a multitude of reasons, those flaws are overlooked and it isn’t until the bid protest is received that the document is given the closer look it should have received prior to release. Using the allegations in the bid protest to review the solicitation can reveal failures that the eyes in the office have missed. Looking at evaluation factors from the eyes of the evaluated makes contracting professionals aware of how bidders understand the requirements. This is knowledge that can be applied when creating future solicitations. 3. Taking corrective action: Fair or not, there is a perception that some in private industry simply file protests because they can. Perhaps this is true of some, which is why Section 827 of the NDAA requires unsuccessful protesters to reimburse the DOD for costs. It can’t be true of all, because bid protests can be very costly for the protester. Usually, companies protest because they sincerely believe that their bid was not evaluated properly, and had it been, they would have won the award. In these cases, the protester just wants to be treated fairly and will allow the government to conduct a re-evaluation of bids. Although the contracting officer (CO) is responsible for the final source selection, the CO relies on the evaluations conducted by the technical evaluation committee (TEC). The TEC is comprised of professionals for whom conducting bid evaluations is an ancillary duty, and their lack of experience in conducting evaluations, or their lack of time to commit to the process while performing their actual duties, can lead to mistakes. The mistakes may not be obvious to the CO and a selection may not be made based...

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The Compliance Conundrum With Federal Grants: National Grants Management Association 2018

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

The Compliance Conundrum With Federal Grants: National Grants Management Association 2018

It’s always great to hear from Rhea Hubbard, Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of Management and Budget, in any setting. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that the President’s Management Agenda Cross-Agency Priority Goal #8 is all about grants – and that we’re keeping on keeping on with the long slog of grant reform. I can confirm that agencies are already working on strategic plans, like Anna Mauldin suggested back in February. But I have had a few conversations often starting along the lines of, “How are we supposed to manage for performance, when we can’t even get the compliance right?” This combined with rumblings about the emphasis on internal controls (a.k.a., things that make it easier to be compliant), and feelings of being lost… Hopeful, but lost. I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time wrapping my head around the promise of moving beyond compliance to performance. I want to believe. And, I see it happening. The enhancements to USAspending.gov and the Single Audit Clearinghouse are fantastic. I now have terabytes of government grant information at my fingertips. Quite frankly, it’s amazing – and yet, it’s far from perfect. Until we’ve improved our understanding and application of compliance on all levels within the grant community, we’re still going to get asked the basics: How much was expended? Was it obligated? Why haven’t these billions of dollars been drawn down? Were there any false claims made? It’s a conundrum that is consistently top-of-mind for many of us. At the individual project and program levels, sometimes we’re able to get from compliance to performance, but getting there for all $700B in annual federal grant spending is a whole new ballgame. What are the barriers to overcoming this compliance conundrum? Investment. During this year’s National Grants Management Association event, we heard a lot of tips and tricks about how to create forms and document internal controls. But when it comes to feeding the federal grants data behemoth, there must be a massive investment made into systems and technology by all participants. Additionally, once those systems are in place, another investment must be made to maintain them. Interestingly, it’s conceivable that there may be a grant program to help the recipient community with these investments but not so much when it comes to operations and maintenance. Value proposition. At the national level, the value proposition has come together – more data will lead to better grants management, reduced duplication, and earlier detection of when and how policy implementation is a success (remember, grants are policy tools). We heard from Carol Kraus from the State of Illinois that streamlining efforts have saved $106M for the state and its subrecipients. That said, I’m not sure how recipients at the end of the grant funding chain are going to see the benefits unless they’re getting millions of dollars from lots of grants. This is the value proposition that must crystalize before moving into the next phase. This is especially true for those challenged with meeting the basic compliance requirements (which aren’t easy); without a source for operational funds to meet the coming data and reporting standards, or the need for investment in grant compliant systems. On a positive note, grant reform continues to be a bipartisan effort… just...

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Choose Your Own Adventure: Certificate or Certification?

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Choose Your Own Adventure: Certificate or Certification?

I’m looking forward to the National Grants Management Association Annual Training that gets started this Tuesday. It’s always great getting to meet so many of you in person. One line of questioning at the conference that I’m sure to get will be “certificate or certification.” So I thought I’d share my thoughts more broadly as next week focuses on the Certified Grants Management Specialist (CGMS) and we just finished 31 Days of Certified Grant Professionals (GPC). Step back and look at where you are and where you want to go Whether you’re looking at a certificate (which I think of as yours to keep) or a certification (re-cert requirements needed), you need to consider where you want to be. Either option is an investment in your skills, knowledge, qualifications, and marketability. When I pursued my GMCPTM from Management Concepts, I was at a point in my consulting career at Booz Allen where I needed to commit deeply to a subject matter area (like grants) or get my PMP. That was the reality for me then and there. I had more opportunities on grant projects and wasn’t ready to commit to the recertification requirements. So, the certificate worked for me. And hey, I even ended up in a pretty cool role that blends grants and business acumen. Would I pursue a CGMS or GPC now? No. I love grants. But I’m also a product manager. I have some other skills on my performance plan. Besides, I feel like I should be neutral. You’re not me – you’re committed! Now if you’ve committed yourself to a career in grants, save the money and invest in the certification. Hiring managers are adding the CGMS and/or GPC as a required or preferred credential for mid to senior level grant positions. Or maybe you’re reading this post and you’re committed to another field with a certification and seeing a similar trend. Regardless, these are the questions I’d ask myself: Do the certification’s competencies support my short and long-term career goals? Which areas would I need to study to pass the exam? What are the certification’s recertification requirements? Do I need to be certified by a certain deadline? And if it’s soon, do I have enough time to study? Will my employer support my credential – in terms of time and costs? Now if you find barriers in your pursuit of a certification, reach out to the organization’s in charge. You’ll often be able to find a study resources, test cost assistance, or others who can help draft a justification for your employer’s tuition reimbursement form. But wait – you can do both One thing to keep in mind is that pursuit of a certification does not mean that you can’t pursue a certificate concurrently. For instance, I frequently suggest to students looking at the CGMS to take the core courses for Management Concepts GMCPTM. These help students prepare for the CGMS exam. After earning their CGMS credential, they can apply CPEs from Management Concepts courses, finishing up their GMCPTM along the way. In a few years after the students have advanced in their careers, I often recommend looking at complimentary certificate programs, to help drive their careers forward. So, no matter which career adventure you pursue, you need to remain committed to your professional...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Adrianne M. Callahan

Posted by on Mar 28, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Federal Spotlight Interview: Adrianne M. Callahan

MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility? AC: I have been employed within the Federal Service for a little over 26 years.  I have spent the entire 26 years at the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  I am currently the Small Business Specialist and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Manager for USEPA, Region 5.  Where I advocate for small businesses to have a fair and reasonable opportunity to access, understand and hopefully receive an opportunity to do business with EPA.  I work with both sides of the EPA procurement house – contracts and grants.  In my role, I work closely with senior management and staff to implement the Agency’s small business program which includes: socio-economic goals, participation in short and long-term acquisition planning, negotiation of Fair Share goals, etc.; I also ensure appropriate assistance to small businesses working on EPA funded projects for state, local, and tribal organizations and represent the Agency in a multitude of outreach events throughout the Midwest states (IL, IN, MI, OH, MN, WI) to ensure the small business community is aware of EPA’s procurement opportunities.   MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector?  AC: I serve as a collateral duty Special Emphasis Program Manager for the Black Employee Program, participate on a number of intergovernmental committees for small business and a number of organizational improvement committees that encourage process improvement.  From the internal activities to promote cultural awareness and consider workplace trends to the external committees that support the everyday work I do, all of these support my routine work activities however, each of them, tends to give me a new opportunity each day to learn and/or meet someone new.  I stay motivated and passionate about the public sector because I have found value in being a public servant.   MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? AC: One of my biggest achievements is winning the Federal Employee of the Year – Outstanding Specialist Category.  Competition for the Federal Employee of the Year is extremely high, my nomination was reviewed and ranked the winner out of 18 nominations from various agencies within the Chicago Federal Agency area and it truly was a humbling surprise.  Having my family attend, along with the supervisor who nominated me, was a very momentous occasion.  More importantly, it was a very stressful work year, with a number of high level assignments and it was truly an honor to receive the award for all my hard work.   MC: What advice would you share with the next generation of leaders on entering government? AC: I would share the following advice with the next generation of leaders entering the federal workforce: Get involved, beyond your day-to-day assigned activities. Be willing to conduct the necessary research to understand the mission of the agency and how your work directly impacts the mission. Understand the Agency’s budget and how your position is impacted by changes to the budget. Network beyond your comfort zone; engage with people that can not only mentor you but offer you the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience.   Read more Federal Spotlight interviews by clicking here. And subscribe to this blog using the form at the top-right of this...

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5 Ways The President’s Management Agenda Misses The Mark On Federal Workforce Engagement

Posted by on Mar 22, 2018 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

5 Ways The President’s Management Agenda Misses The Mark On Federal Workforce Engagement

On my favorite radio show, they play a game called “What Year Was It?” The DJ shares 3 or 4 notable happenings from a year in history, and listeners guess what year those events occurred. It goes like this… In what year did these things happen? 1. “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback was Billboard’s hottest song on the radio 2. Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” won the Oscar for best picture 3. With $103.9B in assets, WorldCom’s bankruptcy became the largest ever filing in the United States 4. The Office of Personnel Management began administering what is now known as the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to measure the engagement of the Federal workforce If you guessed 2002, congratulations! It’s hard to believe that it’s been 16 years since employee engagement became a hot topic for the Federal workforce, but with engagement’s prominence in the recently released President’s Management Agenda, it’s clear that engaging the Federal workforce will continue to be top of mind, at least for three more years. Unfortunately, President Trump’s ambitious goals for improving employee engagement misses the mark in some important ways: 1. While the PMA emphasizes performance improvement, it fails to push agencies to make direct links between improving employee engagement and driving individual and mission performance – there is plenty of research demonstrating the relationship between improved engagement and organizational performance. OPM should require federal agencies to take two decisive actions: a. document the anticipated impact that improving employee engagement will have on individual and mission-driven outcomes, and b. develop evaluation plans for gauging progress. 2. Improving engagement for engagement’s sake is a noble but hollow effort. It can and will only lead to short-term changes. Without creating a virtuous cycle of increased engagement leading to increased performance, which then sustains increased engagement – employee engagement will simply remain a “nice to have” feature of Federal workplaces. This will cause the importance of employee engagement to diminish overtime, as “more important” mission priorities arise. 3. Tim Kuppler, founder of CultureUniversity.com, and I have written extensively in Changing the Culture of Government and Beyond and the Fall Edition of Armed Forces: Comptroller about the problems with focusing on employee engagement (and other climate measures), instead of getting to the root cause of challenges in organizations driven by culture. Many of the presenting symptoms of malaise in the federal workforce are the result of deep seated behavioral norms that won’t be changed by focusing on surface level measures like engagement. The PMA was a prime opportunity to introduce new methods and measures that can help federal agencies begin to achieve meaningful shifts in their culture leading to improved engagement, improved mission performance, and higher quality citizen services. 4. Despite naming engagement as a priority, the timelines embedded in engagement initiatives don’t really suggest that agencies need to put a focus on it. One initiative allows agencies three years to drive a 20% improvement in engagement for their “bottom 20%”. This lofty, long-term improvement goal runs counter to the theme of “agile” that is pervasive in other parts of the PMA. The Administration should be looking for ways to demonstrate progress in much shorter timeframes, like 90 days. It’s true that making significant changes in organizations can be a lengthy process, however, taking a more agile...

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Federal Spotlight Interview: Laniera Jones

Posted by on Mar 20, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Interview: Laniera Jones

  Federal Spotlight:  Laniera Jones, Training Officer, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? LJ: I have been in the Federal service since June 2003 which included serving all my time with the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Department of Commerce. I came into BEA working part time as an intern while I was attending Lynchburg College.  BEA offered me the flexibility of adjusting my schedule to accommodate my course load.  In June 2010, I was offered a full-time position with the Bureau which I graciously accepted. Throughout my tenure at BEA, I worked in training and development and currently, I serve as the Training Officer for my agency.  I have seen the progression of the agency’s investment in employee development mature over the years. I manage all training initiatives and programs, at the Bureau and program area level.  I ensure that we comply with OPM regulations, chair our Training Council, and represent the Bureau and Department at the Federal Chief Learning Officer level. What I love most about my role is that I also have an opportunity to use my additional skills as an organizational development subject matter expert and facilitator.  I also serve as a coach with the Federal Coaching Network.  These sessions remind me of why I truly enjoy seeing the outcomes of learning and development. These events provide an opportunity to connect with colleagues and customers on a different level, helping them to realize their desired state. This is so intrinsically rewarding for me! It is truly a joy to have a position that allows me the flexibility to perform outside the role of a traditional Training Officer.   MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? LJ: The opportunity to serve the public is noble and honorable from my perspective. To know the work I do continues to grow and develop our workforce that contributes to the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission is motivation enough. As I mentioned, I am able to experience variety in my role almost every day which is another facet that keeps me motivated continuously. Over the last four years, I have had the opportunity to work with the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP), by developing a mentoring program across the Federal statistical system. Part of this experience I could not have anticipated is the comradery the working group has developed during this process. Not only have we created a mentoring platform across agencies, but we have organically mentored one another in the process. Last year, ICSP made the decision to focus on broader development opportunities for technical staff across the agencies. Thus, the employee development working group was formed under the sponsorship of Brian Moyer, the Director of BEA. We have been working diligently over the last 11 months to determine technical challenges across agencies and how to target those collectively. As a result, we focused on two main priorities: an action learning project team across four agencies and hosting an innovation showcase. The showcase, called Big Data Day, is an event highlighting the innovations across ICSP agencies around big data through posters, demonstrations, a panel, and lightning presentations. As the working...

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Federal Spotlight: Melody Bell

Posted by on Mar 13, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Melody Bell

  Federal Spotlight:  Melody Bell, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary (ADAS) Resource Management, Office of Environmental Management. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? MB: I have over 33 years between my time in the U.S. Air Force and Department of Energy in management and leadership positions with multi-disciplinary programs in energy, environmental management, and defense programs.  Currently I am the Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resource Management in the Office of Environmental Management (EM).  Specifically, I provide leadership and direction in implementing key activities around empowerment, engagement, diversity and inclusion, and continuous improvement to promote positive organizational culture change within EM.  Previously I served as the Senior Advisor to the Associate Deputy Secretary (ADS) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  I also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Business Administration and the Director of Program Execution Support in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at DOE and the Deputy Director of the Office of Transformation for the National Nuclear Security Administration where she assessed and developed policy to enhance and improve effectiveness, utility, and efficiency of the nuclear weapons complex. I began my career as an Officer in the United States Air Force, where I managed several projects and contracts in support of major Air Force weapon systems. My education achievements include: a Master’s of Science in Environmental Sciences from the Colorado School of Mines, a Masters of Business Administration from Pepperdine University, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering Mechanics from the Air Force Academy.   MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MB: As the oldest of 4 children raised by a single-working mom, I have always felt a calling and motivation to pursue a career of service.  I wanted to be a role model of service and responsibility. Upon graduation from the Air Force Academy, I began my service career in the Air Force.  I enjoyed being part of a dedicated, professional cadre that stood for Duty, Honor and Country.  During my Air Force career, I had the opportunity to work on a Hazardous Waste minimization and Pollution Prevention project at Hill AFB.  This is when I knew that I wanted to combine my passion for both the environment and national security.  After serving for over 8 years, I wanted to continue my love of service, passion for helping others and my community and entered the civil service.  DOE Office of Environmental Management and Defense Programs were perfect alignments for interest in public service. I have learned much in my career progression to SES and as a public servant.  In addition, I enjoy mentoring and being a role model for women and girls in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career fields and reinforcing the benefits of being a life-long learner.  I am a lifetime member of Girl Scouts and volunteers as a Troop Leader enabling the transformation of girls into leaders.  I am also a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.   MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? MB: I have several, starting with successfully graduating from the Air Force Academy to having a son and adopting a daughter with special needs at birth. ...

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How and When Should Government Engage Industry?

Posted by on Mar 8, 2018 in Acquisition | 0 comments

How and When Should Government Engage Industry?

At the February 2018 ACT-IAC conference Lifting the Curtain: Requirements Development in Federal Acquisition and Reverse Industry Day, the question of when to engage industry emerged.  The most controversial idea was presented by James William, Partner at Schambach & Williams Consulting. During Panel I- Behind the Scenes: Understanding the Government Requirements Gathering Process, Mr. Williams offered that government could invite industry to the table to assist in the creation of the statement of need and the evaluation factors. By engaging industry in the requirement development process, early and often, requirements will be better defined, better solutions will be offered, the evaluation process will be streamlined, the Procurement Acquisition Lead Time (PALT) will be minimized and the government will achieve best value. This idea elicited a lot of response, and head scratching, from both industry and government. Why the head scratching?  It appears that experience has induced caution, and even suspicion. Both Federal acquisition professionals and their industry partners shared concerns that collaboration prior to the release of a solicitation is wrought with danger. Some of the concerns that emerged were: How can industry and government collaborate during the requirements gathering process and preserve procurement integrity? Is government and industry collaboration only beneficial for creating Requests for Quotes (RFQs) for firm fixed price procurements? Aren’t the Statement of Objectives (SOO), the Request for Information (RFI) and the Request for Proposal (RFP) the tools for industry collaboration? As most questions that arise in government contracting prove, the answers aren’t usually finite. There is more than one road to Rome, and there is more than one way for the government to engage industry in requirements gathering.  The goal is to improve the way engagement occurs. So how do we bring government and industry to the table to collaborate during the requirements gathering process?  According to Michael A. Marquez, Director for Army/Navy Sector, Federal Systems Integration and Management Center, General Services Administration, there are eight best practices to better collaboration: Engage the client. Before any process can be followed, the client must determine its need.  Though this is the responsibility of the client, the acquisition office must assist the client in determining its need from the ground up. Engage Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Often, the client knows WHAT it needs to accomplish but, it doesn’t know HOW to reach the WHAT. The SME must be called in, at the beginning, to assist the client. Release a list of industry partners. Choose the industry partners that can offer the services, products or solutions that will best reach the government’s goals and release this list to the public. Industry Day. Hold an industry day and use the opportunity to learn what industry partners have to offer. Due diligence. Conduct extensive research into the industry partners and their abilities; Release section L. Send this to all of the industry partners that have expressed interest. This will afford them time to begin developing solutions. Invite industry partners to meet one on one. Schedule meetings with interested industry partners.  Ask for their input in developing the requirements document and the evaluation factors.  DO NOT rely on only one industry partner for this input.  Allow the partners to ask technical questions with all interested government parties present. Determine Cost Range. The cost range cannot be properly determined prior to...

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Thanks to You, the Grant Professionals

Posted by on Mar 6, 2018 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Thanks to You, the Grant Professionals

It’s exciting that it’s another International Grant Professionals Week. And it’s fitting that my schedule is full of updates to our grants curriculum that I’m working on with our internal team to push out. Last Friday, I pushed out a list of eight courses that are hitting the classroom late winter/early spring. It’s about making sure you have the best content. This process also makes me appreciate our cadre of instructors even more. I have the privilege of working with people who have 10, 15, 20, and even 40+ years of experience. Whenever I have a question on a nuance reading of the Uniform Guidance, I’m usually only minutes away from an opinion. And usually several opinions. It gives me comfort that you’re in the hands of experienced practitioners and grant professionals. I also want to express my appreciation to you, our students and readers. I, like many of you, am the accidental grant professional. I saw myself going forward more in some sort of project management or marketing trajectory. Then one project assignment led to many more on various grant programs. And wouldn’t you know, those project management skills have come in handy over the years. So take a moment to appreciate yourself and your peers. The grants management specialists, program officers, and “other” professional who met the request to manage or write a grant when you were on desk duty. You’re part of a great community of collaborators making a difference in your communities all over the world. With that in mind, take a moment to see if there are grant professional meetups in your area, or other upcoming professional meetings. Visit the GPA and NGMA calendars to learn...

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Federal Spotlight: Pamela Thompson

Posted by on Mar 6, 2018 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Federal Spotlight: Pamela Thompson

Federal Spotlight: Pamela Thompson, Senior Advisor, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? PT: I started my Federal service when I joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in February 2014. Prior to joining CFPB, I worked for The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit company that operates multiple Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). However, I spent the majority of my career working for Federal government contractors as a Human Resources executive. In addition, I have worked as an independent contractor for NASA, DHS, VA, OPM, and U.S. Postal Service, providing executive coaching, training, and other human resources services. In my four years at CFPB, I’ve had the good fortune to serve in three roles: Chief of Staff to the Chief Operating Officer, Sr. Organizational Culture Advisor in the Director’s Front Office, and in my current role as Senior Advisor in the Supervision, Enforcement and Fair Lending (SEFL) Division. Today, I am responsible for overseeing SEFL’s general operations and employee engagement functions (e.g., human capital strategy, communication, culture, diversity and inclusion) applying change management and organization development methods and tools.   MC:  What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? PT: I am a second generation native Washingtonian and my first job was with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as a part-time clerk/typist in the Accounting Division. I left NRC after graduating high school to attend college. Following college graduation, I worked with government contractors on contracts that fulfilled my desire to serve the public.  One contract I was proud to support was with the Department of Labor processing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for students. Another contract was with The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services educating and answering senior citizens’ questions about the Medicare program and their benefits. My passion and life purpose is helping organizations and people develop. At this point in my career, my professional priorities have shifted and doing meaningful work is at the top of the list. The problems in our world are even more pressing today and the opportunities to grow and add value are plentiful in the public sector. Working for an agency that educates and empowers consumers to make better informed financial decisions and gives me opportunities to help the agency and people develop, keeps me motivated, passionate, and committed.   MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? PT: One of my biggest achievements that still gives me goose bumps today was working on a contract to federalize the U.S. airport passenger screeners after September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. In November 2001, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law, resulting in establishment of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I had the honor to lead the recruitment of recruiters across the U.S. who helped TSA recruit the first Federal officials to conduct passenger screening and baggage checks in all of the U.S. airports. We had 100 days in which to get it done. We worked around the clock. Whenever we felt exhaustion, remembering the 3,000 people fueled us to persevere to achieve our mission.   MC: What advice would you share with the next...

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Insights and updates from AGA’s 2018 National Leadership Training

Posted by on Mar 5, 2018 in Financial Management | 0 comments

Insights and updates from AGA’s 2018 National Leadership Training

I recently had the opportunity to represent Management Concepts at the Association of Government Accountants’ National Leadership Training (NLT) event at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.  This two-day event is designed to develop and train government financial professionals to excel as leaders.  Featured speakers included Dave DeLong, President, Smart Workforce Strategies and Mark Updegrove, CEO, National Medal of Honor Museum.  The event drew hundreds of CEO’s, CFO’s, senior executives, PhD’s, CPA’s, senior managers, and future leaders from Federal, state, and local organizations across the U.S. So, what was in it for attendees? The agenda included timely presentations on the OMB Budget Update, Enterprise Risk Management, the DoD Audit Update, Digital Transformation in Government, Using the “Right” Data to enable evidence-based decision-making, Engaging Millennials in Government Financial Management and more.  The featured speakers made a tremendous impact on attendees as Dave DeLong spoke about “Closing the Skills Gap:  Innovative Talent Management Solutions for a Changing Workforce, and Mark Updegrove shared wisdom and “Lessons in Character and Leadership from Seven American Presidents.”  The event addressed many critical areas that current and emerging financial leaders need to excel in today’s competitive environment.  It was rewarding to provide attendees information on training and consulting services that Management Concepts provides to help them gain the knowledge needed to move to the next level. Throughout the event, there were several skills emphasized for current and future leaders to possess. Some of those abilities included: Project/Program Management Change Management Decision-making Leadership Oral Presentation (to senior leaders) Intellectual Curiosity Data Analysis Relationship Building (Interpersonal) We enjoyed meeting professionals from the various agencies, organizations and companies represented and we look forward to seeing you at next year’s NLT.  In the meantime, stay in touch, keep learning, and visit our website for upcoming classes to support your professional development....

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The MGT Act and Agile Contracting. What’s the connection?

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Acquisition | 0 comments

The MGT Act and Agile Contracting. What’s the connection?

With the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) underway to eliminate wasteful spending by placing Federal agency CIOs in control of IT investments, to the recent Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT Act) signed into law last December as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, it is even more important to plan the right way for IT acquisitions. The purpose of the MGT Act is to: Assist the Federal Government in modernizing Federal information technology to mitigate current operational and security risks. Incentivize cost savings in Federal information technology through modernization. Accelerate the acquisition and deployment of modernized information technology solutions, such as cloud computing, by addressing impediments in the areas of funding, development, and acquisition practices. While agencies grapple with how to begin efforts related to the MGT Act, key to the success of modernization projects is the approach contracting professionals may want to take in structuring the acquisition activities.  Both FITARA and the MGT Act will require a shift in how the government procures goods and services.  Contracting professionals may want to explore, and in some cases, may be highly encouraged to employ agile contracting techniques.  Since contracting is about mitigating risks and agile is not without risks, how can contracting professionals feel comfortable and empowered to try agile contracting methods?  Here are three things to keep in mind.      1) Get the right team in place. OMB’s A-11 Circular, Part 7, advises that agencies/departments’ Integrated Project Teams (IPTs): “should be cross-functional, as necessary, to accomplish the various tasks of the project. The members should reflect the user community, project’s stakeholders, and should have a core knowledge of the project management, value management, budget, finance, sustainable design, and procurement.” This means that the IPT must include acquisition expertise as way to support the project’s successful outcome and completion of defined deliverables.  Collaboration between the project team (i.e., project management staff, contractor, and project stakeholders) is crucial to the success of any IT project. Agile teams are composed of members from different but complimentary skill sets. An IPT can be an agile acquisition team since it already includes experts in project management, budgeting, contracting, and acquisition. One very important benefit to constructing mixed-composite skill teams (as opposed to a team of specialists) is that it can result in: Increased opportunities for collaboration The ability to flexibly allocate and reallocate tasks as needed Lower overall risk since agile team members share artifacts, and work together to evolve the artifacts as needed Increased team efficiency through reduced bottlenecks, as tasks that might have piled up awaiting a specialist’s input can move through the queue unimpeded      2) Know that you can do it. The FAR is both permissive/innovative in its direction of government acquisitions as shown in the FAR Subpart 1.102(d): “The role of each member of the Acquisition Team is to exercise personal initiative and sound business judgment in providing the best value product or service to meet the customer’s needs. In exercising initiative, Government members of the Acquisition Team may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interests of the Government and is not addressed in the FAR, nor prohibited by law (statute or case law), Executive order or other regulation, that the strategy, practice, policy or procedure...

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Decision-Making: The Impact of Organizational Culture

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Leadership | 0 comments

Decision-Making: The Impact of Organizational Culture

When I worked for a small (less than 10 employees) consulting group, it was the habit of each person to ask everyone else if they needed any help before leaving for the day. Because it was a small group of people, it was easy to check in with everyone. This would occur like clockwork at the end of every day, and each person asked the same question before shutting down his or her computer. When I first joined that group, this practice made a big impression on me. It was an indicator of the importance of team work and collaboration in this organization’s culture. This particular practice was just one of many behaviors that demonstrated a strong team culture. As I soon learned, when you have less than 10 employees, it’s all hands-on deck, regardless of the task at hand! While this is a great example of an organization’s culture being aligned with on-the-job behaviors, organizations can also experience the opposite – misalignment between culture and behaviors. For instance, we’ve all heard about the push for organizations to use evidence-based decision making. These organizations have incorporated evidence-based decision making into their operations, creating analytics functions that feed data related to the financial and people operations of the organization. However, some of these same organizations use selection systems which feature parts that are most certainly NOT evidence-based – they use unstructured interviews. As a candidate attracted to the organization because of their focus on evidence, data, and analytics, experiencing this part of the selection system would be very off-putting. It’s inconsistent with everything the organization says it values. The behavior doesn’t back up their values and norms and beliefs. These examples demonstrate the importance of ensuring that specific behaviors, values, and norms are aligned with an organization’s culture. The way the organization goes about conducting business should be reflective of the organization’s mission, vision, and values. This is true throughout all facets of the organization, but let’s take a closer look at aligning culture with human capital initiatives and systems, such as selection systems, professional development approaches, evaluation strategy, etc. If you say you are an evidence-based organization, then your selection systems should include proven approaches that are supported by the research such as structured interviews, work samples with scoring guidelines, and assessment centers. Don’t forget about conducting a job analysis to determine the competencies covered by your selection instruments.  And remember, saying “you don’t have time to change your selection systems” or have “always done it this way” is also a reflection of culture. If you say your organization is data driven, then a logical question is how do you know your training is having an impact? Are you using assessments to help identify skill gaps in your leaders or technical workforce? What about your coaching or mentoring programs? Are these programs resulting in the outcomes identified prior to implementation? What value are they bringing to your organization? What changes in key performance indicators have occurred as a result of these programs? The bottom line – how does your organizational culture inform human capital initiatives? What do your values and behaviors say about the type of organization you are currently and the type you want to become? Learn more about our human capital and culture alignment solutions and how...

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Federal Grants Reform – The Story Continues

Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 in Grants & Assistance | 2 comments

Federal Grants Reform – The Story Continues

One thing I’m constantly asked is, “what’s new with grants?” For those who follow Federal grants constantly, the turn of the past year has seemed slow. But part of the reason it seems slow is that we’re still recovering from the implementation of 2 CFR 200. Think about it. If you were around in February 2013, you were probably following which clauses of which circular were going where into the “new” Uniform Guidance. If you lived through that change, everything else may seem like it’s on the edges. And maybe not even reform. But anything that makes managing Federal grants better fits in line with nearly 20 years of reform efforts. That said, the Federal grants community is constantly working on ways to improve processes, performance, and reporting – all with the goal of understanding what impact financial assistance has on our communities and our country. Last month, Shane highlighted a few things to anticipate in 2018. Now that we’re really into the year, I have a few more items in the spirit of reform. Grants.gov / Workspace Implementation. For those of you actively applying for grants at the moment (or waiting for the CR to end so you can), you’re feeling the effects of using the new Workspace on Grants.gov. And hopefully it’s good. Consider it a step of reform that there’s a back end system to help you with your forms and more people have access to collaboration tools without having to buy software packages. GREAT Act Introduction. First there were the Recovery Act changes (almost 10 years ago!). Next the DATA Act. The next step is the Grant Reporting Efficiency and Agreements Transparency Act of 2018. Let’s all be thankful that improving the availability and management of grants data continues to be a bipartisan issue. Performance.gov Revamp. My colleague Anna Mauldin just posted a great overview of the changes to Performance.gov. As expected – they’re significant and in line with the policy priorities of the Trump Administration. But the underlying premise of reporting performance has largely stayed the same. If you plan on applying for a Federal grant anytime during the next few years, review these policy priorities. The Administration’s overarching performance goals should trickle into Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO) going forward. Of course, all of these reform steps mean that we’ve been looking at how we can share information with you in the classroom. In some cases that has meant completely revamping the content…as in the case of Applying for Federal Grants & Cooperative Agreements. For others, it means adding more virtual class options so you can access the knowledge you need without hitting the road.   Tip: Micro-purchase Thresholds in the FAR. There were changes in the 2018 NDAA. It’s going to take a bit of time for the FAR to be updated accordingly. Once that does happen, 2 CFR 200 will adjust automatically. In the meantime, make sure your procurement policies are in line with the current $3,500 level....

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Ready, Set, Go: Time to Finalize FY 2019-2023 Strategic Plans

Posted by on Feb 22, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Ready, Set, Go: Time to Finalize FY 2019-2023 Strategic Plans

After months of waiting, Performance.gov is finally back online. While it’s only an interim resource and a brand-new site is forthcoming from The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and General Services Administration (GSA), leaders across the Federal government are thrilled to have something easily accessible to support continued updates to draft strategic plans submitted last summer. The Trump Administration’s call for large scale reform first outlined in a 2017 OMB memo is beginning to take shape with the release of the FY 2019 President’s Budget, and more important details needed to finish the next round of strategic plans will be announced in March when the President’s Management Agenda is available: “This March, the Administration will release the President’s Management Agenda to set forth a long-term vision for an effective Government that works on behalf of the American people. The Administration will make aggressive down payments on this vision by establishing key management reform priorities, addressing critical challenges where Government as a whole still operates in the past. To drive these priorities, the Administration will leverage Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals to coordinate and publicly track implementation across Federal agencies.” –Performance.gov The process of preparing strategic plans for Federal agencies is highly prescriptive and follows a well-documented, mandated process. However, without all the necessary inputs, the process grinds to a halt. Why is it so important the FY 2019 Budget was released this week and why are so many waiting with bated breath for the President’s Management Agenda? Strategic plans are the essential road maps our Government uses to guide its work for our safety and prosperity each day…down to the last detail. Strategic planning provides a way for agencies to determine if they are achieving their mission. It provides a framework for organizational action by providing organizations within the agency a common basis for assessing situations, discussing alternatives, and deciding appropriate actions to take. Strategic planning in the Federal sector also provides agencies across government a plan for cross-agency action. Simply put, effective strategic planning allows Federal agencies to: Improve decision-making Foster teamwork and communication Assess market and industry forces Facilitate effective resource allocation Clarify future direction Manage change If you are contributing to your Agency’s strategic planning process for the first time or need a refresher on the latest guidance, join us for Strategic Planning in Federal Agencies. We’re updating our content in real time to bring you the latest information on how to prepare a Federal strategic plan....

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Analytics is a Function, Not a Job Title

Posted by on Feb 16, 2018 in Analytics | 0 comments

Analytics is a Function, Not a Job Title

I recently read an HBR article that reinforced much of what we’ve been seeing internally at Management Concepts for the last two years: Analytics is a function, not a job title, and regardless of job title, analytics should be a part of every team’s profile. As noted by the HBR authors, you don’t have to be a Data Scientist to work in analytics. Success with analytics requires a “big tent” approach: Everybody in, and everybody all in. Our student information reflects this need. Management Concepts delivers extensive training in the domain of analytics. We offer 7 courses, primarily to Federal employees, that cover data collection techniques, data analysis and modeling techniques, evaluating and presenting analysis results, and data visualization. Our internal analysis showed us that the top 10 most common job titles of our analytics students are: Budget Analyst – 560 series Accountant – 510 series Program Analyst – 340 series Financial Management Analyst – 505 series Management Analyst – 343 series Contract Specialist – 1102 series Financial Analyst – 1160 series Auditor – 511 series IT Specialist – 2210 series Management & Program Analyst – 343 series This list reflects a wide variety of occupational series codes in Federal employment. While some codes function as “catch-alls” (e.g., the 343 series code) for positions that span many roles, other codes are very specific in their requirements (e.g., 1102). None of these roles has the analytics market cornered – to be truly effective, you need to staff your team with people who can conduct analyses. Whether you fill this need by hiring multiple staff members with analytics capabilities, or by training the function depends on your organization’s specific need. For small organizations just starting to use analytics in their operations, it’s not necessary to create an entire analytics unit. You can train, contract, or hire for the role. Learn more about how we can help you pursue these options by visiting...

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Federal Spotlight: Lawrence Gross

Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Lawrence Gross

Federal Spotlight: Lawrence Gross retired recently from his role as Chief Information Officer, Chief Privacy Officer at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview:  MC: How long were you in Federal service, and what were your main responsibilities and roles? LG: I started my Federal career when I Joined the U.S. Navy in July 1976.  Leaving active service in 1986, I joined the Naval Reserves (retiring from Naval Service in November 2000) and began my Federal civilian service.  I’ve had the privilege to work across several different agencies, including Department of Treasury (DOT), Department of Energy (DOE), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Justice (DOJ) – to name a few. This past January, I brought my public service career to a close, retiring from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).   MC: What kept you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? LG: I have spent my entire adult life in service to this great nation.  At the end of the day it has been about service and sense of accomplishment. Over the years I have been fortunate to assume leadership roles of increasing responsibility and taking on leadership roles in several government wide initiatives.   MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? LG: In 2003, I was fortunate to be a member of the Quick Silver team with responsibility for leading government wide initiatives designed to implement the President’s Management Agenda for E-Government.  I held leadership roles in a number of these initiatives, however the one that I look at that had the broadest impact and was the most satisfying was the Financial Management Line of Business initiative.  The goal of the initiatives was to work with agencies to migrate to a common “Shared Service – Financial Management solution”.  Specifically, this required working with all the CFO Act Agencies and facilitate the retirement of their own financial management solutions and migrate to a common shared service solution. As a result of this initiative numerous agencies retired their internal legacy systems and migrated to several shared service solutions resulting in savings and increased operational efficiency and effectiveness across the Federal government.  I was able to see tangible measurable outcomes from my efforts and realized that through leadership other initiatives similar in nature had the potential to be successful with similar results. Click here, to learn more about the strategy: Implementing the President’s Management Agenda for E-Government. Additionally, I have had the honor to be recognized in the following civilian awards: Federal 100 Award Presidential Award for Leading Federal Financial Management Line of Business Initiative Department of Energy, Secretary’s Award for Leadership in Electronic Government United States Department of Justice, Attorney General’s Award   MC: What advice would you share with the next generation of leaders on entering government? LG: Be bold, take the initiative.  Seek every opportunity to work outside of your area of expertise and comfort zone to increase the tools in your personal and professional tool basket. Interestingly enough, I started in the U.S. Navy as an E1, this is the lowest rank that can be held, and rose to the level of a Command Chief Petty Officer.  In this role I was the senior enlisted at the command responsible for providing leadership and direction of all enlisted...

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Finding Time for Strategic Thinking

Posted by on Feb 1, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Finding Time for Strategic Thinking

In our fast-paced work environments, there is a natural inclination to keep our heads down and accomplish only the tasks directly in front of us at any given time. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we are bombarded with emails and social media alerts that require our immediate attention. Indeed, we are often rewarded on the job for our ability to navigate daily emergencies and constantly be available. However, there is a cost to always being “on.” Constantly receiving alerts triggers stress reactions in the body, leading to physical and emotional fatigue. More broadly, when we are stuck in firefighting mode, we lose the ability to plan for and achieve long-term goals. This is why strategic thinking is such a powerful skill to develop. Instead of simply focusing on what exists around us, strategic thinking allows us to consider what could be in the future. To move beyond the here and now and incorporate strategic thinking into your daily routine, consider these best practices: Avoid checking your phone when you first wake up. Though we might want to immediately connect with the world, checking your notifications instantly frames the start of your day around your immediate to-do list. Focus your energy on one task at a time. There is a wealth of research showing that humans are not skilled at multitasking. Fully investing your attention on one specific task improves your productivity and time management, allowing you to pursue long-term interests. Cultivate strategic relationships. Ask yourself: Who can help me get where I want to be in five or ten years? Identifying these people and actively seeking partnerships ensures that you are positioning yourself for continued success. There will always be another email in your inbox, another meeting invite, and another pressing deadline. Still, finding the time to take a future-focused perspective ensures that you are always advancing your long-term goals. Elevating your thinking beyond the here and now requires discipline and intention, but it is well worth the investment. Thinking Strategically, and many other topics, are covered in the updated Professional Government Supervisor Program. Learn more about how to design a curriculum catered to your personal development needs at...

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Mentoring: A Win-Win Situation

Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Mentoring: A Win-Win Situation

As National Mentoring Month comes to an end, let’s reflect on the importance of mentorship and its impact on an individual’s professional development. The support and guidance from well-respected and seasoned executives is instrumental as individuals strive to achieve career ambitions. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Good mentors are more than just successful business people – they offer their time, network, and willingness to help others because they genuinely want to see someone else succeed. Top 10 Qualities of Great Mentors Shares knowledge and life experiences Enthusiastic about their work Invests in the success of others Values the opinions of others Respected by colleagues Enjoys the opportunity to help others and see them succeed Exhibits integrity and humility Approachable and available Demonstrates a “can do, get it done” attitude Thoughtfully connects mentees to the right people While mentors often serve as a good support system and sounding board, they can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to be better prepared for that next big meeting or execute a business venture. Their eagerness to share failures, lessons-learned, and personal experiences provides valuable learning opportunities that support your professional growth. These attributes not only benefit the mentees, but also create immense satisfaction for the mentor. “I’m about paying it forward. I believe in karma. I think it’s important [to mentor others] and I enjoy it. I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” says Lori Greiner, entrepreneur and star on ABC’s Shark Tank. When successful people are asked about their career accomplishments, you’ll notice that most of them credit those who helped them along the way, their mentors. Who do you admire and respect? Tell us @Mgmt_Concepts #Mentoring Month and learn more about how our coaching and mentoring services can support your professional...

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Federal HR Skills Tested in 2017

Posted by on Jan 24, 2018 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal HR Skills Tested in 2017

The Year 2017, is now in our rear-view mirror and for Federal Human Resource practitioners, it was a year of highs and lows. At the end of 2017 HR practitioners were still trying to create innovative ways to deal with leadership turnover, technology upgrades, the streamlining administrative systems, labor and management concerns, and employee demographics shifts, employee retention/engagement, to highlight a few. In the Management Concepts Human Resources classrooms, the 2017 buzz centered around “2” critical themes that impacted day-to-day operations: Plans to Reform the Federal Government and Reduce the Federal Civilian Workforce Overhaul of Federal Human Capital Practices Classroom participants also pondered what would be needed in the way of skills to support implementation of the work ahead.  Below are highlights of these “2” themes. Theme 1 –Reform or not to Reform the Federal Government It all started with a 1 -page Presidential Memorandum Regarding a Hiring Freeze , dated 1-23-2017.  That was followed up by the 14-page memo “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce” from the OMB director.  It was issued on April 12, 2017, and laid out the foundational blueprint on how government executives can create, within their agencies, long-term plans to reduce overlap and outdated programs, rules, and processes that are not working in support of government.  The memo was also full of critical milestones that supported the implementation of the plan. Federal Human Resource (HR) practitioners in their role as agency business partners provided key support in the development of the downsizing proposals in four categories: eliminate activities, restructure or merge, improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness, and workforce management.  But HR practitioners expressed initial concern about their readiness to complete the tasks ahead.  Many identified the following skill areas as essential to their ability to support this ongoing transition:  job analysis, position classification, position management, and workforce planning. Theme 2 – Overhaul of Federal Human Capital Practices After a couple of years of waiting, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued the long-awaited HR Policy Final Ruling on the revamping of the Federal human capital practices.  The new Human Capital Framework (HCF) replaces the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework (HCAAF) and offers comprehensive guidance on strategic human capital management in the Federal Government. The framework provides direction on human capital planning, implementation, and evaluation in the Federal environment.  It also gave agencies with much needed relief by reducing and clarifying the HR reporting procedures that agencies are required to implement.  It also lays out how to utilize the data-driven review process (HRStat) and describes the required workforce planning methodologies to be followed.  Again, practitioners identified several key learning areas that would support their ability to implement this new requirement:  analytics and evaluation. Click here for additional information on The Structure of the Human Capital Framework (HCF) As the Year 2017 came to an end, it did not eliminate the need for HR practitioners to obtain key knowledge, skills, and abilities, but instead heightened the awareness of that need. As you move forward in 2018 and beyond, know Management Concepts strives continuously to provide a diverse offering of HR courses that can support HR practitioners in the implementation of current and future skill-based needs.  Learn more about the sampling of courses below or visit our website. Position...

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Adaptability: The Underestimated Skill

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Analytics | 0 comments

Adaptability: The Underestimated Skill

We all know the definition of insanity – doing the exact same thing over and over again, expecting different results each time.  But what happens when you’re trained to always run the same report, or write the same code, and something fundamentally changes?  Do you try to force-feed the existing process into the new system?  Or do you thoughtfully and methodically work within the new environment to solve the problem?  Adaptability isn’t always a skill associated with analysts, but I’d argue that, for everyone’s sanity, it’s one we all need. Picture this – you manage a monthly report.  Everything is automated cleanly, and save for a few quick gut-checks, there is very little manual work required.  Then your office updates its software, or switches database management systems.  Suddenly your process doesn’t work at all, or if it does, it returns vastly different results.  You make a relatively minor tweak, knowing that this has worked countless times before, and try again.  And again.  And again.  And the insanity begins to kick in. The good news is, contrary to popular belief, adaptability can be learned.  When I find myself banging my head against the wall, I try to employ one of these strategies: Take a step back.  Leave the problem for an hour or two (or better yet, overnight!), and focus your energies on something different. Try to approach it from someone else’s perspective.  Think through the questions you would ask if someone else approached you with this problem. Collaborate.  Ask a colleague, and frame the problem broadly so you don’t limit their response based on what you’ve already tried. Similarly to how you hear “ya’ll” in the south and “yinz” in Pittsburgh even though they mean the same thing, coding languages and formulas are sometimes written slightly differently based on the environment.  If you have experience with Tableau, you know the frustration of trying to find the correct syntax when replicating an Excel formula you have already perfected.  Or if you’ve worked in SQL, switching from Oracle to Microsoft SQL Server can be the impetus for Googling “translate PL/SQL to T-SQL”.  In each scenario, adaptability is critical to success.  If you have the skills to adjust to your circumstances, you are less likely to spend hours trying to force an old solution into a new problem, and more likely to avoid the insanity that can come with it. With these tips, and the right training and resources, analysts can learn to adapt to the right language for their environment, and avoid going insane. Let Management Concepts help you excel in your organization by providing you with the right mix of training to increase your problem solving and adaptability skills to compliment your analytics...

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Federal Spotlight: KerriLaine Prunella

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: KerriLaine Prunella

KerriLaine Prunella serves as Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Administration. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KP: This past October I finished my 11th year in the Federal sector. I started my Federal career in the former SCEP program (Student Career Experience Program). I was in graduate school, working full-time and attending school part-time. I finished a graduate certificate in Organizational Development and an MBA, as well as some graduate level public policy classes. It was really exciting to be able to take what I was learning in class and immediately apply it on the job. My first Federal position was in Employee Relations and then I did a rotational program, where I learned all facets of human resources, such as– staffing and recruitment, and development. From there, I transitioned to an HR business partner role which was essentially an internal consultant and allowed me to work with the highest levels in the agency. I then accepted a supervisory role and I have been a supervisor for the last six years. In 2014, I went on a special assignment as a senior advisor to a deputy assistant secretary, which was really fascinating because I was able to see how a large Federal agency worked and the direct connection between the mission focus areas and policy. Today, my primary responsibility in my current role is oversight of human resources, facilities management, and executive resources. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KP: I grew up around public service. My father was Mayor of my town. My mother was Vice President of the school board so it was always a part of my life. I was in the private sector for the first few years, but I didn’t see the direct connection of what I was doing to the larger business results. I reached out to career services at my alma mater, Penn State, and I jokingly said I had a quarter life crisis (at 25) and I wanted to think about the other ways to use my talents. My advisor had suggested a transition position where I worked for a trade association, while attending school and seeking a Federal job. I found the SCEP opportunity and I applied the day the announcement was to close. At the time, I worked close to my house, so I was able to go home at lunch get my transcripts, and I had a fax machine– so, I faxed in the requested documents. I received a call a few weeks later, interviewed and then started on October 29, 2006. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KP: I’ve had a diversity of experience over the past 11 years working in large and small agencies. I have been able to rebuild and rebrand HR as a true partner in at least three of the jobs that I’ve held. I remember hearing the stigma, “Well, this happens because of HR, or “I don’t have a vacancy so, do not need to talk to HR.” I made breaking down those barriers and myth busting a priority. HR is more than recruitment and benefits. It’s a full service strategy, advising, consulting, as...

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Year In Review: Our Most Read Blogs of 2017

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Year In Review:  Our Most Read Blogs of 2017

And that’s a wrap for 2017! Just in case you missed some of our most read blogs of the year, we wanted to make sure to call them out… again. With topics ranging from human resources, OMB Releasing the 2016 Compliance Supplement to how culture can make a significant impact in an organization – there’s something we all can relate to. We strive to produce content that is not only relevant, but that also can provide insight and value while initiating new ideas to our subscribers. As an early 2017 Forbes article put it “Blogs offer an avenue for delivering that value to a global audience. They provide a hub for tutorials and walk-throughs, and an avenue for crafting and constructing resources that help individuals that are looking for useful information.” And on that note, enjoy reading our top 10 most read blogs from 2017. Our Top 10 What’s in a Name? Human Resource Business Partners v. Human Resource Generalists How Assumptions Impact Organizational Culture OMB Releases 2016 Compliance Supplement and the Revised SF-SAC Form What Changes are Ahead with the new PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition? Tracking Timesheets under 2 CFR 200 Three Pillars of Project Management Agencies Required to Use Federal Award Identification Number (FAIN) for Grant Awards Rock Your Next Federal Job Interview Strengths and Weaknesses of Agile FAPIIS is Here – What You Need to Know Cheers to another successful year in...

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2 CFR 200: What You Need to Know in 2018

Posted by on Jan 11, 2018 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

2 CFR 200: What You Need to Know in 2018

For the last year, the grants community has been expecting the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to incorporate a number of grants-related laws into 2 CFR 200. OMB officials have commented that they are working on amendments, but have not provided an estimation on when the changes will be announced. In anticipation of the changes, it is important for the grants community to be aware of the legislation that may potentially be incorporated into 2 CFR 200. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA). The NDAA for FY 2017 altered the micro-purchase threshold for procurements made under research awards. Section 217 of the law increases the micro-purchase threshold for Defense Department research awards to $10,000. Additionally, the NDAA for FY 2017 increases the micro-purchase threshold for universities, independent research institutions, and nonprofit research organizations to $10,000 or to “such higher threshold as determined appropriate by the head of the relevant executive agency and consistent with clean audit findings under chapter 75 of title 31, internal institutional risk assessment, or State law.” Federal agencies and OMB have not provided clear guidance on the impact of this provision. Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). The DATA Act increases government transparency and accountability by requiring the use of government wide data elements to report Federal spending. The DATA Act required a pilot program to test methods to reduce administrative burden on grant recipients. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently concluded the grants pilot program and OMB submitted a report to Congress on lessons learned from the pilot program and recommendations for future action. The DATA Act requires OMB to determine whether to apply the DATA Act requirements to grant recipients by August 2018. Grants Oversight and New Efficiency Act (GONE Act). The GONE Act requires Federal agencies to report to Congress on grant closeout activities and provide the number of grant award accounts that remain open. Buy American Laws. In June 2017, OMB released a memorandum to Federal agencies regarding the applicability of the Buy American Laws. The memorandum stated: “For Federal financial assistance awards, there is no primary law that imposes the Buy American Laws as defined in E.O. 13788, and applicability varies by the authorizing and appropriation statutes imposed on specific Federal financial assistance programs.” The memorandum direct agencies to evaluate and report on how Buy American Laws applied to Federal grants, identify guidance provided to grant recipients regarding compliance with Buy American Laws, and summarize agency compliance with Buy American Laws. Never Contract with the Enemy. Section 841 in the NDAA for FY 2015 requires revisions to 2 CFR 200 to incorporate language restricting the awarding of grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to individuals or entities that are actively opposing U.S. or coalition forces. President Obama signed the law in December 2014. In addition to the expected amendments, 2 CFR 200.109 requires OMB to review 2 CFR 200 at least every five years after December 26, 2013. OMB has not identified what the review will consist of, or when it may be completed. Stay...

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Three Initiatives to Help Improve the Acquisition Workforce

Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Three Initiatives to Help Improve the Acquisition Workforce

As a new year begins, agencies are also making their resolutions.  High on their list are ways to keep employees engaged, energized, and focused on meeting mission goals.  These are the top three initiatives we’ve seen when helping our clients identify ways to improve the acquisition workforce. The importance of having a clear career progression for the acquisition workforce.  Below is a graphic (adapted from VA’s model) that shows that potential advancement includes not only completing the certification requirements, but also mastering professional competencies.  Agencies who recognize this can better guide their workforce to reaching their professional goals. The need to establish a formal COR program. CORs are integral members of the Acquisition Team.  Since COR is a “duties as assigned” role, some of the challenges that agencies face includes: Managing and tracking certification Aligning best qualified/best fit CORs with contracting needs Tracking CORs’ progress To help agencies form their own program, we offer COR Roadmaps for Level I and II.  The recommended courses for the program include those in acquisitions as well as professional skills.  This further reinforces the career progression model. Improving the Quality of Requirements Documents.  Members of the Integrated Product Team (IPT) contribute to creating documents that make up the Requisition Package.  To succeed, acquisition teams need an organized and structured approach to define needs, develop requirements, and write the requirements documents. When these documents do not clearly and concisely communicate the requirement, the government agency will receive faulty cost estimates, reduced competition, protests, contract changes, increased costs, disputes and claims, and ultimately not what was truly needed.  Helping IPT members develop skills such as writing effective statements of work is crucial.   Learn more about how Management Concepts can help you improve your acquisition workforce at...

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My Predictions of Workforce Trends In 2018

Posted by on Dec 28, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

My Predictions of Workforce Trends In 2018

As we wind down 2017 and begin looking forward to a new year, I’ve been thinking about the issues, trends, and themes that are likely to shape the experience of the Federal workforce in the second year of the Trump Administration.  And, while I’m not a very good prognosticator – I picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl, the Nationals to win the World Series, and was betting on August as the release date for the final book from George R.R. Martin in his Song of Fire and Ice Series – I thought I’d take a stab at predicting what workforce trends and themes may emerge in 2018.  Here are my top 4 predictions: The importance of psychological safety at work will be an important topic for discussion. A Rand report in August 2017 noted that nearly 1 in 5 American workers say they face a hostile or threatening social environment at work. This sad statistic, when combined with the high-profile incidences of sexual harassment at work point to a disturbing pattern of working conditions. While efforts focused on workplace safety have drastically improved the physical safety of workers in the last 30 years, it’s clear that the concepts and disciplines need to be extended and expanded to include a view towards improving the emotional and psychological safety at work. In 2018, this movement should pick up steam and become an area of focus for leadership development programs and human resources organizations. And, individual leaders increase their focus on building environments that encourage inclusivity, trust, and bi-directional feedback. Work/life balance will continue to take on greater importance. With the country approaching full employment and the percentage of the workforce from younger generations continuing to increase, organizations will again need to focus on ensuring their work environment and the demands they place on workers can be appropriately aligned to fit with non-work activities. I think the conversation will, and should, move away from a discussion of “balance” and the notion of “fit” will come to the forefront. Organizations will need to figure out what role they can and should play in helping individuals navigate their obligations to the organization where they work while maintaining their personal commitments to family, friends, social causes, and themselves. We will finally experience the tipping point where interest in “organizational culture” transitions to attention and investment in building constructive cultures that enable high performance. For at least the last three years organizational culture has been a popular buzzword and many organizations are investing in shaping a culture that enables performance. But, still, the majority of CEOs and senior leaders, even though they acknowledge the importance of culture, are not making the investments required to drive performance through intentional stewardship of their organization’s culture. In 2018, I believe, not only will organizations realize the culture is an essential enabler of high performance, but can also be a powerful discriminator in attracting and retaining the high-quality talent they need to meet their objectives. There will be a renewed focus on understanding and using social networks to improve performance in organizations. Most Federal agencies are already confronted with the challenge to do more with less, a phenomenon that isn’t likely to change in 2018. Add to this the recent finding by the Corporate Executive Board that indicates...

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Reforming A Federal Agency: My Top 10 Thoughts to Unify Organizations

Posted by on Dec 13, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Reforming A Federal Agency: My Top 10 Thoughts to Unify Organizations

Ever since the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published OMB Memo 17-22 in April, a lot of attention has been paid to reform in Federal agencies.  Agencies across the Federal government have begun the process of figuring out how to improve performance, reduce costs, and streamline operations of their organizations and, for many, meaningful changes are emerging. The history of radical change is long and storied, often driven by challenging outmoded thinking, developing new technology, and/or changing cultural sensibilities. Shaping any change starts with creating a vision of the desired end-state and explicitly identifying the barriers for achieving the desired vision.  While the vision will undoubtedly vary by agency, I believe there are some universal barriers that need to be addressed to achieve the desired end state. So, in the spirit of speaking plainly about barriers to change, I offer my top 10 thoughts on barriers to systemic reform across Federal agencies. Perhaps some plain statements about the challenges I see in reforming the Federal government can spark a dialogue that will help agencies focus on some core principles for achieving the aims of reform. An effectively functioning Administration and Congress are essential for creating a high performing Federal workforce. To achieve true reform, the White House and Capitol Hill will also need to improve their performance. Congress must provide a more predictable funding cycle and budget process to enable agencies to create an execute the long-term plans needed to achieve meaningful reforms. Leadership matters, perhaps now more than ever, so filling senior level vacancies in agencies should be a top priority for the Administration and Congress. Followers are just as important as leaders in achieving the transformations that are the objectives of the reform effort. Agencies must look for new and innovative ways to attract, engage, and retain top performers who will embrace and execute the vision for reform being shaped by senior leaders. One of the keys to retaining top performers is to change the rhetoric and stereotypes about the Federal workforce. While the government certainly has its share of social loafers, dishonest employees, and those who are overpaid for their contributions to the organization, that is true of any large organization.  Less energy should be spent figuring out how to make it easier to get rid of the few and more time, effort, and resources ought to be spent on retaining and motivating the majority of hardworking civil servants. Meaningful and lasting reform will only come through cooperation across all levels of agencies and between Federal agencies, Congress, and the Administration. As such, the collective Federal workforce must get back to basics, focusing on reclaiming and meeting the intractable challenges that only government agencies are able to address. A reformed and streamlined Federal government must not be designed to meet the needs of today, but those of the next decade and beyond. While incremental changes should be welcome, efforts must ultimately be focused on creating agencies that are sustainable today and optimized for tomorrow. All private sector leadership and management practices will not work when leading a large Federal agency. Federal leaders must learn with and from experts who understand the difference, and can help them adapt and apply appropriate industry best-practices to public sector environments. Effective management must be prioritized at all levels of...

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Data, Data Everywhere…Albatross or Opportunity?

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 in Analytics | 0 comments

Data, Data Everywhere…Albatross or Opportunity?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner tells the experience of a sailor returning from a long voyage. In the early parts of the poem, the mariner describes how an albatross leads the crew out an ice jam in the Antarctic, but the mariner then kills the bird. The crew vacillates between viewing the killing of the albatross as a good or a bad thing. However, they soon become surrounded by “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” Eventually, the mariner encounters death, but survives after accepting his guilt – however as a penance for shooting the bird, the sailor must wander the earth telling his story to passersby. This poem introduced a number of concepts into our common understanding, particularly the metaphors of the albatross and being surrounded by something (in this case, water) that is of no use in its present form. Both metaphors apply to the current status of organizational decision making in both Federal and private sector. Like the ship in the poem, we are surrounded by data. But the question is whether we use the data to make decisions – are the data just data? Or can they drive decisions? Can they be evidence? Are these data points an opportunity or an albatross? Can this data be the water surrounding us that we are unable to drink? One recent public law is trying to clarify and rectify this situation. The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) was established by the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-140), jointly sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and signed by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2016. The Act aim to address the use of existing data to improve how government programs operate. The mission of the Commission was to develop a strategy for increasing the availability and use of data to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality. In September 2017, the Commission issued their report outlining recommendations to improve data access, strengthen privacy, and enhance government capacity for building evidence for recommendations. I attended the CEP’s briefing of the report hosted by Washington Evaluators, a professional association that I recently joined. I also attended a session last week at American Evaluation Association’s Evaluation 2017 which also highlighted the report. These panels discussed the results of CEP’s final report. The most interesting and relevant points from my point of view is the recommendations related to increasing capability in evaluation. To be able to evaluate the effectiveness of programs, and use the available data, Federal agencies need to focus on building their evaluation competency. I’ll close with some simple guidance: It is difficult to deal with the volume of data we have available to improve our decision making. But our operating environment does not have to be “data, data everywhere.” Small efforts can make a big difference. Most organizations in the private sector are not yet at this level of sophistication. There is hope, though, in keeping it simple – by choosing and using the right evaluation approach and the right analytics for the right questions, your organization can do evidence-based decision making and turn the data you have into an opportunity instead of an albatross. Learn more about our training and services to help your organization increase...

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Federal Spotlight: Amy Rogers

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Amy Rogers

Amy Rogers serves as Director, Treasury Executive Institute, U.S. Department of Treasury. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC:  How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? AR:  I’ve worked for the Federal government for over 25 years, starting my career at State, then at OPM and then at Treasury as the Director of the Treasury Executive Institute (TEI), a shared service program of leadership and executive development programs and coaching services.  At the end of October, I began a detail working in Treasury’s Human Capital Office helping to set up and implement strategies for Treasury and its workforce. MC:  What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AR:  Making a meaningful difference. Specifically, my joy is in bringing people together in a setting in which they can grow and thrive by equipping, empowering and encouraging them to develop and unleash their leadership skills – for their customers, staff, colleagues and their own benefit. MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? AR:  There are a number of projects and successes that I could point to, but one that I am most proud of was when I was a branch chief at the State Department. It was there that I had the opportunity to establish a culture and create an environment in which my colleagues and I transformed our organization into a high performing service provider that earned respect and kudos from our customers. More importantly though, we broke down the internal silos and barriers, earned one another’s respect and came together to serve a greater purpose, transforming ourselves in the process. MC:  What advice would you share with young people on entering government? AR:  My advice may seem obvious, especially to Millennials and those who will come after them, but sometimes we need to see and hear messages repeatedly so let me add my voice to the many others who have said: Get clear on who you are: Know what matters to you, what you want out of life and your career, and who you are here for. This insight will help you navigate the numerous options and decisions over your lifetime. Invest in yourself: Never stop learning, growing and challenging yourself. Most often your growth and development doesn’t require money but it will require focus, time, and effort. Remember, you’re worth it! Even when you become an Executive, don’t assume you’ve made it and that you’re “done”. There is always something to learn, refine, or deepen. Connect, connect, connect! Relationships are what make the world (and your government career) go round. Help and be helped.   Read more Federal Spotlight interviews by clicking here. And subscribe to this blog using the form at the top-right of this...

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Grant Pros + Bay Views = #GPAConf2017

Posted by on Nov 17, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 1 comment

Grant Pros + Bay Views = #GPAConf2017

I don’t know about you, but I tend to go in to a post-conference social media coma. Something has to give between coming off the professional development high and the dive back into the day-to-day low. And if you follow me, you know that I like to live tweet my conference experiences. It’s a fun, interactive way for me to talk about notes. And I needed them to write this post. Like so many attendees, I focused on trying to fill in my knowledge gaps this year. I could have spent another week attending sessions because there was so much to choose from. For me this meant spending quite a bit of time trying to understand the recipient point of view, like: The details to and not include when submitting a budget proposal. Having worked in Federal grants for so many years, details are the norm. But I hadn’t considered what adjustments you have to make for foundation requirements, especially for capital projects. In good news for my transferrable skills – Cheryl Kester’s (@KesterGroup) advice aligned similarly to any corporate budget I’ve developed. Board responsibilities are expansive. I haven’t served on a board in a long time, so Debbie DiVirgilio’s (@Grantconsultant) session served as a reminder that board members take on fiscal responsibility for an organization. Boards also need training, preferably annually, on their responsibilities. Then I learned about a whole other level of “volun-telling” from the participants. One person shared that they had been elected by a nonprofit board – without having been asked. They found out in a passing conversation. You bring your culture with you. Of course, I attended the session on creating an individual professional development plan based on the GPC – I work for a training and solutions company! I loved the approach presented by Julie Assel (@ACgrants). I was also reminded how hard it can be to address how and when you bring your #culture with you – especially when writing or consulting for someone with a different background than you. I also had the opportunity to watch our own Scott Boozer (@leadingwithfun) deliver a session on Dealing with Conflict. I was glad that Management Concepts was able to share this know-how with such an engaged audience, committed to their own professional development. Plus – anyone working in grants has some sort of group dynamic. Conflicts are inevitable. So now that I’ve caught my breath, I can focus on finishing up the relaunch of Managing Federal Grants and Cooperative Agreements (December) and Applying for Federal Grants and Cooperative Agreements (January). That includes incorporating some of my takeaways from...

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Leading Contracting Organizations

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Leading Contracting Organizations

NCMA’s Government Contract Management Symposium is just around the corner.  Each year, NCMA organizes a stellar program centered on key training topics for the acquisition community.  Last year’s education track included sessions on forming successful acquisition teams, to understanding how industry conducts business, to managing contracting organizations.  This year’s symposium highlights understanding contract management, adapting to our changing environment, and leading with confidence.  A common theme is leadership, specifically leading contracting organizations. Often times, contracting leaders are placed into management roles in contracting organizations with little training or guidance on how to be successful in their new role.  Today’s acquisition professionals are expected to combine technical expertise with strong leadership skills to achieve agency missions.  One of the fundamental roles of contracting managers is to develop and retain talent through effective performance management.  What are the best practices managers can adopt to support and manage their workforce?   Performance Management Although performance management is ongoing, the cycle typically begins with performance planning, moves to monitoring, developing, appraising, and then rewarding. Planning. Involves setting performance expectations and goals for your direct reports. These should be tied to organization- and agency-level objectives. Get employees involved in the planning process so they understand the logic behind the goals. Monitoring. Is ongoing and involves measuring performance and providing feedback on progress toward goals. Conduct progress reviews with employees so they know how well their performance is measuring against elements and standards, and so they can course correct as needed. Developing. Refers to helping develop your employees’ capacity to perform. Development of employees may involve training, stretch assignments, coaching, mentoring, and formal education (e.g., graduate degree). Appraising. May be done formally or informally. The appraisal process helps you compare an employee’s performance over time or against other individuals and standards. It impacts pay increases as well as the assessing of valuable personnel during periods of reductions in force. Rewarding. Means recognizing employees, individually and as members of groups, for good performance and acknowledging ways they have contributed to the organization’s goals and the agency’s mission. It should be an ongoing part of day-to-day operations and may involve cash bonuses, paid time off, and nonmonetary rewards, such as praise and other acknowledgements.   Performance Appraisals Performance appraisals should be viewed as an integrated part of performance management. Managers who use the following basic performance appraisal values to guide their performance cycles will be set up for success: Hold feedback conversations early and often. When there is a shared understanding of performance expectations and managers provide regular feedback, employees will not be surprised by any information in a performance appraisal. In fact, the performance appraisal should be a review of what they already know. Balance positive and corrective feedback. It is a misconception to think that the point of an appraisal is to expose all problems, shortcomings, or deficiencies. Instead, effective managers approach appraisals as gap analysis. However, most human beings can hear corrective feedback much more clearly and openly if they are also acknowledged for what they are doing well. Consider a ratio of three positive comments for every corrective or critical comment.   Giving Feedback Three feedback principles to keep in mind are: Positive intentions. If your motives and goals related to giving feedback are about anything other than helping someone perform well, it...

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Federal Spotlight: Amira Reiss

Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Amira Reiss

Amira Reiss serves as Homeland Security Acquisition Institute’s (HSAI) Associate Director for Training. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC:  How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? AR:  I have been in Federal Service for almost seven years. I currently serve in the DHS Office of the Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) as the Homeland Security Acquisition Institute’s (HSAI) Associate Director for Training.  HSAI’s Training Program continues to be one of the most active acquisition training offices in the Federal Government, supporting over 400 formal learning opportunities with over 12,750 course completions last fiscal year. Our program supports more than 13,000 DHS acquisition workforce members nationwide. We provide them with the training required to earn certifications in any of the ten acquisition career fields we support. We also offer a wide variety of continuous learning opportunities to ensure our workforce maintains current skills and knowledge. MC:  What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AR:  The people. I truly enjoy assisting and learning from other people. My passion has always been giving individuals the tools they need to succeed.  I enjoy connecting people with information and knowledge. I thrive by seeing sparks when connections are made. Navigating the Federal Government is challenging, but I enjoy connecting my colleagues with the tools, resources, and people who can help make them successful. MC:  What is one of your biggest achievements? AR:  Several years ago, I represented DHS in the cross-agency working group that redeveloped the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS). FAITAS is the official system of record for tracking the training, certification, and continuous learning fulfillment of the federal-wide acquisition workforce. I was also responsible for rolling out the redeveloped platform across DHS. Today, we leverage the centralized platform to track the accomplishments of our workforce across their careers, including between agencies. This was a great, successful endeavor and I was honored to be part of making the government more efficient. MC:  What advice would you share with young people on entering government? AR:  Listen more than you speak. Never think you have all the answers.  There are always other perspectives. Ask questions and clarify the answers. Your actions, and those of others, have ripple effects. Personal goal achievement almost always stems from a team effort. Also, each day, directly or indirectly, your work in the Federal Government impacts millions of people. It’s worth taking the time do it right.     — Read more Federal Spotlight interviews by clicking here. And subscribe to this blog using the form at the top-right of this...

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The Three Leadership Skills You Need in 2018

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Leadership | 1 comment

The Three Leadership Skills You Need in 2018

The end of the 2017 fiscal year has come and gone, and most organizations are in the midst of performance appraisals and planning for 2018. Whether you are a front-line supervisor, an experienced senior leader, or a new employee in the Federal government, this is an important time for reflection on how you can improve and expand your capabilities. Everyone has personal areas for growth so you are better prepared to help your organization meet its goals; however, in thinking about the realities of the Federal government in the upcoming year, three fundamental skills underlie most critical tasks: The ability to think strategically. Too often, the daily stresses of our positions overshadow the bigger picture. We spend all our time reacting to daily tasks, rather than pursuing long-term goals and focusing on building relationships. By broadening our perspectives, we can take a more proactive approach that allows for more effective planning. Managing and planning for change. 2017 was a turbulent year of changing priorities. This trend seems destined to continue in the upcoming year. Many changes are beyond our control, but it is important to understand that, at a minimum, we have control of how we respond to these changes. Developing a more flexible mindset allows us to be resilient in the face of even the most difficult circumstances. Time management. Individuals and organizations alike face the reality of needing to do more with less. Improving the efficiency and productivity of work-related tasks has a major impact on your overall performance. Effectively managing your time also reduces the stress of feeling overworked and allows you to pursue personal development to advance your career. Regardless of your role or the specific goals on your individual development plan, focusing on these three skills ensures improved performance and productivity. Though this time of the year is often hectic and full of uncertainty, it also presents an opportunity to take control of your future and commit to new opportunities for personal and professional growth. These topics, and many others, are covered in the updated Professional Government Supervisor Program. Design a curriculum that meets your personal development needs and allows you to succeed in the upcoming...

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Resilience: Millennials on the Rise

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Resilience: Millennials on the Rise

On October 19, 2017, Management Concepts participated in a professional development series with the Young Government Leaders (YGL) and Blacks In Government NOW Generation (BIG-NOW). We have been joining forces to create educational networking events to increase the participation and engagement of underrepresented groups within public service.  This breakfast event was held in Washington DC and included a dynamic keynote speaker followed by panelists who told compelling personal stories about how they have succeeded in their careers while sharing thoughtful career advice to those in attendance. The keynote speaker was Chad Sheridan, Chief Information Officer at the USDA Risk Management Agency.  Chad shared some life lessons learned through his various career experiences which helped him become a more resilient person.  For example, early in his military career he learned no one was going to save him when things went wrong, and that resilience is critical to helping him overcome obstacles.  He also advised that when someone you respect offers you an opportunity, you must say “yes” even if you have no idea how to do the job; he admitted it was the best thing that ever happened to him.  As a leader, he has learned that you must believe in the people you hire, trust them to do a good job, admit when you are wrong and give others permission to be wrong. He concluded with telling the audience to be open to learning, show curiosity and don’t be locked into one mental model. Following Chad’s engaging talk, Tim Bowden (General Manager of People and Performance Consulting at Management Concepts) was introduced as the moderator and asked the panel members to introduce themselves by talking about their current role along with their favorite books/blogs for developing leadership capabilities. The panelists included: Melody Bell, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy Leland Boyd, Branch Chief, Benefits, Performance & Compensation, USDA Departmental Management Office of Human Resources Management Tinisha Agramonte, Director, Office of Civil Rights, U.S Department of Commerce Minette C. Galindo, MPA, Public Health Advisor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Tim Bowden then led the panelists through four questions before holding a Q&A session with the audience.  Here’s our paraphrased collection of the best advice and perspectives shared at the event:     What advice would you offer young government workers who feel like they can’t get ahead? Tinisha: Attitude determines altitude – you need to be able to change the way you look at things.  Are you working for a purpose or a paycheck?  Sometimes you have to check your ego at the door and show humility for there is always room for development. Minette: Be open to mobility and doing something new and different so you can re-brand yourself.  Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.  Learn something new every day and give back to your community.   Can you share what approaches you’ve used to “manage up” or lead from a more junior position in the organization? Leland:  Be innovative and don’t be afraid to give your opinion or point of view.  And it is most important to make your customers happy. Tinisha: Speak the boss’ language and constantly be aware of the national priorities and public sentiment.  Also think about everything right regarding an idea instead of everything wrong with the idea. What advice would you offer...

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National Cyber Security Awareness Month: 3 Steps to Safeguarding Your Contracts

Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

National Cyber Security Awareness Month: 3 Steps to Safeguarding Your Contracts

As another government fiscal year comes to a close, agencies are moving to the execution phase.  For contracts that involve cybersecurity elements, acquisition planning, and contract administration have become increasingly more complex with the recent laws and regulations governing cybersecurity.  With October designated as National Cyber Security Awareness Month, this is a perfect opportunity to review current and new contracts and self-audit existing cybersecurity management practices. In a panel discussion at the New York Times 2015 DealBook Conference, IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty, predicted that “Cyber crime is the greatest threat to every company in the world.”  With data breaches such as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the recent Equifax hacks, major attacks have become a common occurrence.  Larger-scale breaches gain media attention due to the millions of records that are comprised.  However, “smaller” attacks, such as those involving identity theft, happen every day and can lead to the devastating data leaks that impact a majority of the population. Contracting professionals are the cybersecurity gatekeepers of the Federal acquisition process.  Cyber criminals know this and are constantly looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities.  How can contracting professionals safeguard their contracts and do their part to practice good cybersecurity management?  Here are three suggestions. Step 1:  Compile a Checklist Contracting professionals are responsible for certifying that cybersecurity requirements have been met and keeping contracts secure.  Focusing on relationships with key individuals in all relevant areas of the organization is one way to contribute to cybersecurity management.  Creating a checklist of questions can serve as an overview as well as a conversation starter for establishing those key relationships.  Questions can include: What kind of data do we store? Process? Transmit? Who has access to the data? What kind of cybersecurity training do we provide to our staff? Do we have a written incident response plan? When and how is it tested? Who is responsible for maintenance of our information systems? Knowing the answers to these questions better prepares contracting professionals to handle potential cyber threats. Step 2:  Know Which Rules and Regulations Apply The axiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true especially during the acquisition planning phase.  For contracts governed by cybersecurity laws and regulations, knowing which ones apply is a crucial step to securing contracts.  Today, there are three main Federal cybersecurity regulations: The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) The 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, or the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 The 2002 Homeland Security Act, which included the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) There are also key FAR (FAR 52.239-1 and 52.204.21) and DFARS (DFARS 252.204-7012, 252.204-7008, 252.204-7009, and 252.239.7010) clauses that contracting professionals should be aware of, as well as reporting requirements that are associated with certain provisions.  Keeping track of the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape can become a full-time, but necessary, job. Step 3:  Be Vigilant Cyber criminals are constantly looking for vulnerabilities and ways to infiltrate systems.  Finding out who the contracting professional is on large-dollar procurements does not require much effort, especially if the solicitation is posted on FedBizOps.  That could make the individual an easy target.  As gatekeepers of the acquisition process, contracting professionals can do their part by knowing who in their organization is responsible for network security, reporting any suspicious activity, validating...

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Tales from the Classroom

Posted by on Oct 18, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Tales from the Classroom

Over the last few months, I have traveled across the country teaching the full range of Management Concepts’ Grants curriculum to Federal employees and grant recipients. I view my time in the classroom as a mutually beneficial experience: Participants learn our grants curriculum and I learn from participants about their specific grants management challenges and best practices. For this blog, I want to share some of the common questions and concerns I hear regarding grants management from Federal grants personnel and recipients. Contracts vs. Subawards 2 CFR 200.330 provides guidance to grant recipients in determining which instrument should be used: A contract or a subaward. While the language in the provision provides a useful checklist, many participants in my classes have provided some tremendous examples of complex situations in which a clear answer is not readily available. I thoroughly enjoy when participants ask these questions in the classroom. Generally, I will walk the class through the language in 2 CFR 200.330 and encourage discussion for participants to reach their own conclusion. I find it fascinating when some members of the class conclude a contract should be used, and others feel a subaward is the appropriate instrument. There are definitely some gray areas in contract and subaward determination. My best recommendation to participants, if they find themselves in this situation, is to document their instrument selection decision process by using the language in 2 CFR 200.330 and provide a detailed explanation.   Awards to International Organizations and Institutions of Higher Learning If you have taken a course with me, you have heard me repeatedly say the phrase “This is how it generally works…. unless you are from a college, university, or international organization.” Research awards and international awards are, sometimes, very different creatures, and it is interesting to hear participants share their experiences in managing their specific awards. For example, research awards have a higher micro-purchase threshold, expanded authorities that waive some prior approval requirements, and use the additive method for program income. After reviewing the exceptions to research awards, multiple participants have commented that they need to find a grants management position in a university. When employees from the University of Hawaii were recently in one of my classes, quite a few of us were envisioning working in the Aloha State!   Agency Implementation and Interpretation Perhaps the most fun I have in the classroom is hearing how different agencies have implemented 2 CFR 200 and the differing interpretations of grant compliance requirements. For example, when teaching our Cost Principles course, it has been interesting to see which agencies apply the cost principles under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to for-profit entities, and which apply the Subpart E of 2 CFR 200. This only reemphasizes the importance for grant recipients to carefully review the terms and conditions of their awards from differing agencies.   Dedication to the Public Good The most rewarding part of being in the classroom is seeing highly dedicated individuals who have the desire to learn how to better manage their grants to provide quality services to their communities. Honestly, it is inspiring to meet so many people determined to do good.   For those of you that have been in my classes, I thank you for sharing your stories, for teaching me about your practices,...

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Strategies to Build a Meaningful Career

Posted by on Oct 12, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Strategies to Build a Meaningful Career

Every one of us has a certain number of years to invest in working and making a living. Having a job is fine, but creating a meaningful career will maximize your opportunities for success. To have a successful, fulfilling career requires that you continually plan, execute and review your career management strategies. You may be like many people in the workforce who only think about your current role or your next desired promotion. However, given today’s changes and uncertainties in the Federal workplace, you need to broaden your short term thinking and how you manage and grow your career. Here are a few ways in which you can proactively work to broaden your skills and understanding of how and where you can use your strengths in your organization: Job shadow other employees in your organization to learn about different jobs. Explore lateral moves to broaden and deepen your experience. Attend classes and training sessions to increase your knowledge. Hold book clubs at work to develop knowledge, and share terminology, concepts, and team building with coworkers. Seek a mentor from a different department that you’d like to explore. Above are some immediate actions you can take to broaden your career. However, succeeding in a demanding, changing workplace requires a strategic career management plan. Below are longer-term strategies to use when developing your plan. Actively engage your manager in a discussion about your career goals, and collaborate to create a career development plan, especially if this is not usually something done in your organization. Investigate short- and long-term skill requirements. If your goal is to be a Chief Information Officer, understand the education, skills, technology, and experience requirements, and develop interim career plans for achieving your long-term career goal. Increase your knowledge of career options by requesting one-on-one informational meetings with colleagues and managers. The purpose of these brief meetings is to gather information to help you make educated career decisions. People are generally willing to share their success stories and offer advice. Volunteer to complete challenging projects and assignments. One of the best ways to advance your career is to identify an organizational problem, propose a solution and work to implement the solution. By doing so you will not only increase your visibility as a problem-solver in the organization, but you will also expand your skills in the process. Think of your investment in the development of a career management plan as a personal enrichment process: An investment that is always working for you because it focuses on making you a better person both in and outside of the workplace. The ultimate win is happiness in your work and your ability to be successful despite an ever-changing workplace. Learn more about our products and services and how we can help you reach your career goals....

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Getting the Most Out of Your Training

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Getting the Most Out of Your Training

As an organization that focuses on unleashing the potential of individuals, teams, and organizations, Management Concepts is continually striving to help students and client organizations get the most out its training courses, coaching engagements, leadership development programs, and other workforce initiatives. In past blogs, we’ve shared information about how to evaluate training, dispelling myths, and how to make training stick. Thinking about how to make training “stick,” there are things you can do before, during, and after training to get the most out of a learning opportunity. In fact, on some of our course evaluations, we ask students to tell us if they met with their supervisor prior to training and if they are going to meet with their supervisor after training. These items provide us with insights into how organizations are preparing and supporting the employees they send for professional development. So, what does our data tell us? Based on over 2,000 evaluations from this quarter, here are the average ratings for these on-the-job support items. Note the scale: 1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neither Agree nor Disagree, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree.   Evaluation Item Average Rating on a 5 point scale My supervisor and I set expectations for this learning prior to attending this training. 3.7 After training, my supervisor and I will discuss how I will use the learning on my job. 3.7 I will be provided adequate resources (time, money, equipment) to successfully apply this training on my job. 4.0 Overall on the Job Support Score 3.8   The numbers indicate that some students are talking to their supervisor and others are not, so there is room for improvement when it comes to providing students with on-the-job support. How can organizations help improve these averages, and more importantly, how can organizations reinforce, encourage, and reward performance of critical behaviors on the job? Reinforce the Training One of the easiest ways to reinforce the training starts before the employee steps foot inside the classroom – the employee/supervisor discussion. An employee and supervisor should meet to set expectations for the training. This discussion could even take place when the employee is seeking approval for taking a class. Taking a few minutes to review the learning objectives together and identify the knowledge and skills the employee is trying to advance will help to ensure the employee knows what he/she should focus on during the training. Then, after training, the employee and supervisor should meet again to find out what was learned and how the employee can apply it to his/her work. As you may expect, our data also tells us that if you met with your supervisor before training, you are likely to follow up with them after training. Another follow-up activity to reinforce the training is for the employee to conduct a “lunch and learn” or “teach back” session with their coworkers. This is an opportunity to share some highlights or key takeaways from training. Finally, after training, there may be opportunities for employees to engage with others who took the same class on Management Concepts Student Central portal. They can communicate and share how they are applying what was learned, hold each other accountable for using their new skills, and even keep in touch about other skills they want to develop. It’s a great way to network with others!...

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Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Future: BIG NTI Conference Recap

Posted by on Sep 26, 2017 in Leadership | 0 comments

Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Future: BIG NTI Conference Recap

At the 39th Annual Blacks In Government National Training Institute (BIG NTI), approximately 2,000 attendees filled the exhibit hall and ballrooms at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from August 21st through the 24th. Management Concepts was a proud gold sponsor, and presented and hosted a pair of workshops in addition to a Munch & Mingle networking event in conjunction with the BIG NOW Generation. The theme for this year’s BIG NTI was “Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Future”—and that theme was clearly reflected by the passion and purpose behind everyone in attendance. The workshops, presentations, ceremonies, and speakers encouraged all in attendance to be agents of change, for their own growth and success as well as for their colleagues and the missions they serve. The conference kicked off with a series of inspiring welcome speeches from Dr. Doris Sartor, President of BIG, Hon. Darlene H. Young, Chair of the BIG National Board of Directors, and Tinisha Agramonte, Director of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Commerce. One of my most memorable moments was during Ms. Agramonte’s welcome speech, where she said, “It’s important to do what you need to do, so you can do what you want to do.” Simply put, those words were a great start to the conference. We had more than 100 attendees fill the rooms at our two workshops. Michelle Clark, Director, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at Management Concepts, co-presented with Marcus Brownrigg, Strategic Partnerships and Communications Advisor to the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps) on the topic of Creating Strategic Partnerships Through Internal and External Collaboration. This session took participants through strategies and methodologies for developing creative solutions to the nation’s challenges by instituting partnerships across agency lines. The key take-aways were: Partnerships help you make your dollars go farther Why build partnerships? Combine resources, extend your ability to achieve goals, maximize ROI, learn new skills and develop new knowledge, extend the reach and benefit of your organization’s work, increase diversity and increase synergy The key to change in government is incremental change, brick by brick Share the work, share the credit Partnership principles are as follows: Have the same goals, mutual respect, defined roles, compromise, communication, accountability, and metrics Make it official: MOUs, charters, contracts To get buy-in from leadership, be able to explain the WIIFM to leadership. Be positive and focus on impact In addition, Lahaja Furaha, Organizational Culture Practice Lead and Senior Human Capital Advisor at Management Concepts presented Making Culture Change Stick. In this workshop, participants discussed the formula to create lasting culture change with a direct and sustainable impact on performance. She was quoted as saying, “True culture change requires change agents. Culture needs leadership, but culture is a team sport; you don’t change culture just to change culture, you do it for a business imperative” For the third year in a row, we presented the Blacks In Government and Management Concepts National Leadership Certification Program scholarships, encouraging others to take steps into their future as leaders. We received stellar applications and selecting the recipients were difficult decisions. However, we were very proud to award two training scholarships. Congratulations to our winners: Melinda Burks, Senior Program Officer, English Access Microscholarship Program, Bureau of Educational and Culture Affairs, U.S. Department of State Monisha Barnes, Risk Analyst, Budget and Risk...

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Building an Organization’s Performance Culture

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Building an Organization’s Performance Culture

For leaders tasked with developing a performance culture in response to the Human Capital Framework (HCF) released by The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in April, I suspect agencies are seeking answers to the questions like: Where do we start and how do we interpret the framework? If you are uncertain with where to start, how to make it relevant to your agency, or how to execute let’s explore possible immediate steps to support your existing performance culture or begin to shift your existing culture to one of performance. The purpose of the HCF is to aid agencies as they implement talent management strategies in response to the change in Administration and subsequent budgetary and management policy adjustments. OPM has structured the framework across “four open systems”, one of which is the Performance Culture System. OPM defines Performance Culture as: A system that engages, develops, and inspires a diverse, high-performing workforce by creating, implementing, and maintaining effective performance management strategies, practices, and activities that support mission objectives.” So what is meant by a Performance Culture? It’s the practice of creating new and reinforcing existing systems that lead to improved organizational performance. It is the mindful and intentional practice that sustains organizational growth and evolution. A performance culture is not established by simply having a performance management practice. It’s deeper than a system(s). A performance culture is the shared understanding by members about the value and importance of individual, team and organizational learning. How is a Performance Culture created? First, evaluate existing systems to assess effectiveness and value. While culture goes beyond the systems, the systems must be effectively functioning and stable to enable employees to effectively benefit from the system. Second, determine if the systems and resources are relevant and aligned. Many organizations have systems or resources that no longer support the mission and priorities of the organization. Evaluate your development initiatives, ask if they are supporting the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for today and tomorrow’s workforce. What can leaders start doing? In Organizational Culture and Leadership, author Edgar Schein, identifies multiple strategies leaders can practice to embed and transmit culture. Here are several techniques to kickstart your efforts: What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control on a regular basis According to Schein, “the most powerful mechanism … for communicating what [leaders] believe in or care about is what they systematically pay attention to.” Put another way, employees pay attention to what leaders say and do. Using the HCF as a guide, identify organizational priority areas of focus when developing your performance culture. Share the story effectively and often. Ongoing communication about the purpose and importance of establishing a performance culture. Why is a performance culture important to the organization? How does a performance culture benefit individuals? According to OPM, a performance culture refers to an agency’s “holistic approach” to performance. Learn more about our Organizational Culture Alignment solutions and how we can help align the values and capabilities of your organization’s requirements for future...

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How Human-Centered Thinking Drives Higher Performance

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How Human-Centered Thinking Drives Higher Performance

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading the recent studies from Gallup, SHRM, and the Rand Corporation that describe the current experience of employees in the American workplace. The results from these studies present an interesting and contrasting, portrait of work in the U.S. today. On the one hand, we see that only about 1/3 of employees are engaged at work[1], just over half of all workers say they are actively looking for a new job[2], only 23% of employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback[3], while just 18% of employees strongly agree that employees who perform better grow faster at their organization[4]. But the most distressing statistic is that nearly 1 in 5 American workers report being exposed to hostile or threatening social environments at work[5]. Of course, the news is not all bad. All three studies call for a shift in the way work is managed and measured to create a more human workplace and there are data points that suggest that some workers are beginning to see the benefits of organizations that understand that focusing on creating environments where employees can flourish is good for employees, the organization, and ultimately, the communities in which we live. For example: Four out of five workers report that their job provides at least one source of meaning[6] 58% of workers describe their boss as supportive[7] The trend toward support for remote work arrangements and flexible work times is increasing[8],two job characteristics that are important to many workers While these three studies looked at the private sector workforce, I believe that in many ways the experience of workers in public sector, and in Federal government is not all that different from what study participants reported.  And with the current mandate to streamline and reform Federal agencies, creating a human-centered workplace should be the central strategy for achieving the Administration’s aims while continuing to deliver high-impact citizen services that meet the needs of American taxpayers. As you begin the process of rethinking the way your agency delivers value, here are three ways you can infuse human-centered thinking into the (re)design of your organization: Prioritize purpose to drive performance – Most agencies are really good at defining high-level strategic priorities and goals using language that is clearly linked to their overall mission. But, as those goals cascade to lower levels of the organization and drive day-to-day work of agency personnel, it’s easy for language to drift and for purpose to get lost. In a human-centered workplace, it is foundational to make clear and meaningful connections between the work each individual does and its place in the value chain for delivering impact to citizens.  As you think about how you will reform your agency (or team), focus first on the why of each role and activity, and use that why to guide the identification of measures of performance and effectiveness. Replace discussions about risk with conversations about resilience – Understanding the risks that are inherent in your work is important. But, too often a focus on risk creates an environment where the goal becomes avoiding risk, rather than creating an organization that is resilient enough to recover when a risk becomes a reality.  Your workforce needs to have confidence that they and the organization can withstand the turbulence that is...

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Building Sustainability For Your Funding

Posted by on Sep 19, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Building Sustainability For Your Funding

One of the questions I’ve received most often since joining Management Concepts is, “Where else can I get funding?” This question goes to one of the weakest areas in the grant community: Sustainability. In this context, I’m not talking about the triple bottom line or climate change. It’s something much more basic: The resources that will keep your grant project going once funding source A is gone. Because deep down we all know that no funding stream lasts forever. So, it was with this sustainability lens that I approached yesterday’s National Capital Region Grants Conference. I spent my professional development time outside my comfort zone: On the philanthropy track since that is where the other resources are. The day started with a condensed lesson in nonprofit success 101 with Glen O’Gilvie, CEO of the Center for Nonprofit Advancement. The lesson focused around relationship building with a dash of learning from failure. O’Gilvie emphasized how important it is to your organization’s success to take the time to know your funders before the RFP drops — and then having the confidence to ask them for debriefs after a failed application. Simply put, people fund people. This resonated with me in my role as a product manager. When I have this hat on, this relationship building with funders is called business development. O’Gilvie also provided the audience with a succinct list of where nonprofits (and others) can find funding: Foundations Individuals Corporations Government Earned income All of these potential funding streams have something in common in that they can’t happen overnight. Each funding channel requires a cultivation plan. These plans in turn require a long-term commitment, potentially taking months if not years before you take in that first dollar. The thread of O’Gilvie’s path to a diversified set of resources through relationships continued throughout the day, from the funders panel to evaluation. Sustaining sources of funding won’t appear in your checking account overnight. This focus on relationships was refreshing. But this is not to say that the data doesn’t matter. Part of your cultivation plan could very well include the production and presentation of outcomes based on results. Which can and will be one of the hardest aspects of grants management. We’re still telling the anecdotal stories that emulate our organizations’ missions. Easy, right? Not at all. The cultivation of relationships is hard enough without layering on the need for evidence of success. But that’s where you learn that you aren’t going at it alone. Ask for help – especially when it comes to ways of funding to sustain your grant-funded programs. Check out our course-by-course schedule of upcoming grants classes, and learn more about how our Grants & Assistance curriculum can help you sustain your grant-funded...

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What Is Data Science and Why Do We Need More Data Scientists?

Posted by on Sep 19, 2017 in Analytics | 0 comments

What Is Data Science and Why Do We Need More Data Scientists?

If you take a quick look at Glassdoor.com and their “50 Best Jobs in America” for 2017, you will notice that Data Scientist ranks at #1, among several other “data/analytics” titles in the list. Although this is evidently a highly desirable job, there appears to be a large talent gap in the field. Recent research by McKinsey Global Institute has projected that by next year, the US could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 professionals with deep analytical skills, i.e., advanced statistical training and knowledge of machine learning. What exactly is data science? While not an entirely new concept, the terms “data science” and “data scientist” have exploded in popularity in the past 5-10 years. At its core, data science is about using scientific methods along with new technology systems to gather insights from massive amounts of heterogeneous data. For the Federal Government in particular, there’s much to be done in order to attract and retain top data scientists who will work with some of the largest databases in existence. The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program has come up with a plan to address this issue. One of their strategies is to “Improve the national landscape for Big Data education and training to fulfill increasing demand for both deep analytical talent and analytical capacity for the broader workforce.” So there is clearly a focus on growing data science programs and preparing the next generation of super-savvy data nerds… but why? The importance of data-driven decision making cannot be overstated Data scientists are skilled at asking the right questions Data scientists are uniquely equipped to make sense of big data 1. Data-Driven Decisions In these fiscally-constrained times, more and more agencies are being assessed on how effectively they are achieving their mission. Decisions regarding how to deploy the government’s biggest resources – people and money – for maximum efficiency must be evidence-based. However, there are many challenges to becoming a fully data-driven organization. A recent article by Deloitte University Press describes these obstacles, but also provides solutions and success stories for each obstacle. 2. Defining the Data Question/Need Any worthwhile analysis begins with a question. The type of question determines what kind of data and which analyses are required. Data scientists have a strong background in research, which allows them to help frame the question and select the appropriate method of data analysis. It’s important to note that data can be used to answer many questions, but not all of them. “The data may not contain the answer. The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data.” -John Tukey 3. Big Data Any data-related article you read within the past 5 years will make reference to the exponential growth in both the depth and breadth of data available (“big data”). This is perhaps best illustrated by IBM’s estimate that 90 percent of the world’s data has been generated in the past two years. And that assertion was made in 2013, so the percentage is now likely even higher. We can no longer brush off the notion that big data is a global phenomenon; its potential benefits are now well-documented. It has already begun to shape the...

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Time to Thrive: Empowering Millennials in the Workforce

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Time to Thrive: Empowering Millennials in the Workforce

Every day there are countless articles and studies casting aspersions on millennials. This cohort of young adults has been blamed for the declining viability of chain restaurants, gyms, diamonds, and even the National Football League. Millennials are frequently stereotyped as selfish, entitled, and disloyal to their organizations. For this reason, HR specialists, leadership, and managers alike may find it difficult to cater to this growing segment of the global workforce. Let’s face it, Millennials have been in the workforce for over a decade now—many of them are now in the prime of their careers. Though I may not be able to reverse prevalent generational stereotypes in a single blog post, I do want to offer a few strategies for cultivating a workplace environment in which millennials (and all generations) can thrive. Provide inclusive professional development opportunities. Millennials, like members of any other generation, want to feel that they are continually growing and advancing with their careers. Engage employees in frequent conversations about their preferred career path and collaborate on ways to achieve long- and short-term goals. Embrace potential challenges with ongoing dialogue. Diversity of preferences, values, and experiences can create real workplace challenges. These challenges should not be ignored, and can lead to valuable, creative opportunities. Engaging in meaningful conversations with employees about difficult situations shows respect for individual differences and promotes a workplace culture where all perspectives are valued. Emphasize a common purpose. Sometimes when differences consume our mental energy, it is helpful to appeal to common goals and values. Focusing on the collective mission and vision for your team, department, or organization highlights the ties that bind us together, rather than inherent differences. It is important to remember that generational affiliation is just one element of our identities. Just as we would not want to be judged solely by our race, gender, or educational background, it is unfair to pigeon-hole a group of people based on their birth year. Asking, “What do millennials want?” only reinforces this narrative. The more poignant question for HR professionals and organizational leaders is, “How can I create an inclusive workplace environment that values and celebrates individual strengths?” Managing Beyond Generational Differences is just one of the many new topics covered in the updated Professional Government Supervisor Program. Stay tuned for more information on this cutting-edge training program, and in the meantime, check out our upcoming classes Human Resources, Talent Development, and Workforce Development, and in Leadership and Management and Professional...

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Federal Spotlight: Chad Sheridan

Posted by on Sep 14, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Chad Sheridan

Chad Sheridan serves as Chief Information Officer for the Risk Management Agency (RMA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? CS: I’ve been in Federal service for just over 24 years, including six years of active duty. I’m responsible for all the IT systems and services for the Risk Management Agency here at USDA, which supports the Federal Crop Insurance program, which is really a public-private partnership. We provide crop insurance across the country, covering about $100 billion worth of agricultural value every year. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? CS: For me, it’s always about mission. It started with my service in the Navy. My service in the Navy was at headquarters for the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. I got the opportunity to design and build nuclear power plants for navy ships. I ended up working on networks and software for nuclear-powered ships to support propulsion plant operations. That’s been more than a decade now. Evidently, IT stuck. I’m one of those who likes a challenge. I got to work on, and recently just got to see the commissioning of, the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, which is a new class of aircraft carrier. That was my job for more than seven or eight years. I was either supporting the design or responsible as the Deputy Program Manager for the design of that propulsion plant. The Deputy Program Manager job came about from an informal hallway conversation. One day, I ran into one of my colleagues in the hallway, who was the Program Manager for the new aircraft carrier propulsion plant. She was about to be broken off into her separate section as the first female executive in the organization. I’d been working on a specific aspect of the propulsion plant design for two years. She told me that she needed a deputy. She then half-jokingly asked, “Hey, do you want to come work for me?” I replied, “Yes.” Then we looked at each other, somewhat stunned. “Did that just happen?” Life lesson: when someone you respect asks you to come work for them, the right answer is “yes.” Two months later I started working for her. I was active duty at the time—still a junior officer. Many times, I felt I had no business there, but the mission did not care. We were expected to represent the four-star admiral in anything and everything we did. It was a GS-15 type job, and I’m running this as a 26 year old. Learned everything along the road. I got thrown in the deep end and I swam. You only design an aircraft carrier about once every 40 years, so the opportunity I was given at a very young age to work in a program that might outlive me is something that matters. I believe that service matters and that continuing to work in the Federal government is about driving the mission, driving what we are trying to do to support our citizens. So now I am in information technology, which was never part of the plan. I started life as a nuclear engineer. That was my life. I’m still a certified mechanical engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia....

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Growing as a Coach – Tips from a Seasoned Expert

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Growing as a Coach – Tips from a Seasoned Expert

Whether you’re new to your coaching role or have logged countless hours coaching many kinds of professionals, there’s always room to hone your skills and be more helpful to your employee, peer, or other person you might be supporting. The better you are, the better you can be. These tips will help you adapt your approach and refresh your intentions for each person you coach, each time you coach them. Be transparent. If you’re going to try a coaching approach in a conversation that sounds different than how you’ve spoken in the past, go ahead and be transparent about how and why you want this conversation to be different. This can clear the air for the person you’re speaking with. No one likes feeling “worked on” or peppered with questions if they don’t understand the context of the new approach. Give yourself permission to not prescribe answers. Allow your mindset to include that your employee or partner can be creative in conversation with you, with the resourcefulness to generate answers themselves. Check what assumptions you are making about your stakeholder. Approach them as full, whole people—not deficient or otherwise “un-able” to generate new possibilities. Find out what they want from the conversation. What’s a successful outcome of the conversation for them? Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to. What are you listening for? (e.g. opportunities to reply or to understand? etc.) Let your coaching mindset drive your open-ended, generative questions. As a coach, you aren’t there to give out directions and answers. Are you asking questions that lead and impose, or uncover and evoke? Frequently, the 11 Core Coaching Competencies (as defined by the International Coach Federation) get boiled down to simply listening and asking powerful questions. But the real (and more challenging) work of becoming a stronger coach for your peers or employees (or clients) lies in the tips I’ve listed above. If you leave a coaching skills class and you hear yourself asking questions like “What if you tried this?” or “Have you thought about doing that?” Just keep practicing. Eventually you’ll learn to get away from asking questions with your own answers already embedded. Remember, your coaching mindset is what drives your questions, your thoughts, what you listen for, and more. The work that you’re doing as a coach for other people begins with work you’re doing on yourself. All of the tips above are actions you’re taking with yourself, your awareness, your mindset. You have to pay attention to how you process these things. Cultivate that mindset, and the impact of your conversations will follow. — Learn more coaching tips by subscribing to this blog, using the form at the top-right of this page. And for more about Management Concepts Coaching and Mentoring offerings, check out our Coaching homepage. And last but not least, see if our Anytime Coaching training might be right for you or other leaders in your...

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Federal Spotlight: Kimberly Steide

Posted by on Sep 4, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 2 comments

Federal Spotlight: Kimberly Steide

Kimberly Steide serves as Human Capital Planning and HR Stat Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Kimberly Steide: I have over 20 years of Federal Service, eight in the Armed Forces, and 13 as a civilian employee. My current responsibilities include managing the human capital planning for the Department of Treasury. This role involves ensuring the inclusion of workforce considerations as decisions are made, as related to the direction of the organization through the use of data, identifying the appropriate workforce strategies to assist the organization in meeting its goals and objectives, tracking the progress on those strategies, and managing adjustments as necessary. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KS: I come from a family committed to service, specifically military. That service spans all of the services except the U.S. Coast Guard. I believe in this country and the responsibility we all have to shape how this country is perceived. Human capital is often the face of an organization, and is typically the entry point for interactions with the broader community. I am passionate about this work because it supports a broader objective and is a critical piece in moving my agency and the Federal government forward, and it allows us to serve the public in the best way possible. Knowing that I have the ability to shape how organizations provide the “care and feeding” to the workforce, that motivates me on a daily basis. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KS: One of my greatest accomplishments is helping to shape the implementation of the new regulation on human capital management in the Federal government. This section of the regulation has been newly revised and provides a more detailed explanation of the expected outcomes associated with the human capital life cycle. Being afforded the opportunity to work on an interagency team charged with developing guidance to assist with the implementation of various aspects of this section of the regulation is a long-lasting accomplishment that will shape the effectiveness of human capital for years to come. Being recognized as a Federal expert in this area is incredibly fulfilling. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? KS: I would tell young people to not shy away from pursuing a career in public service due to the rumors and misperceptions they hear. There are opportunities to gain experience and exposure that you cannot experience anyplace else. There are so many diverse career fields available in the Federal government that it should seriously be considered. Anyone interested in serving their community can make an impact in Federal service. You do not always have to be a big fish in the pond to effect change; all positive change is worthwhile. — Read more Federal Spotlight interviews by clicking here. And subscribe to this blog using the form at the top-right of this...

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Three Important Questions When Planning for IT Acquisitions

Posted by on Aug 30, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Three Important Questions When Planning for IT Acquisitions

The government spends approximately $80 billion on Information Technology (IT) acquisitions. That equates to a lot of contract actions affecting the criticality of IT systems affecting our national health, security, and economy. The likelihood that you will encounter procurements that have IT considerations at some point in your contracting career is high. So, how do you plan for these types of IT acquisitions, and how do you make decisions about your IT spending? To effectively plan, you must first understand what IT acquisitions encompasses. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 2.101 defines information technology as: “[A]ny equipment, or interconnected system(s) or subsystem(s) of equipment, that is used in an automatic acquisition, storage, analysis, evaluation, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information by the agency.” The generally accepted definition of information technology includes computers; ancillary equipment (including imaging peripherals, input, output, and storage devices necessary for security and surveillance); peripheral equipment designed to be controlled by the central processing unit of a computer; software, firmware, and similar procedures; services (including support services); and related resources. Planning for Success Before undertaking an IT acquisition, there must be a perception of need. This perception may originate at various levels in an agency or department. The next step in planning to acquire IT should be to answer the Clinger-Cohen Act’s three pesky but necessary questions. These questions are found in OMB’s Capital Programming Guide and incorporate Raines’ Rules, and they’re critical because major information systems will not be funded unless agencies can demonstrate the actions they have taken to address them. The answers can help identify alternatives to investment in capital assets. In addition, they can help avoid making IT investments in support of inefficient agency functions or functions that should not be performed by the agency. Here are the three questions you need to answer in order to effectively plan for IT acquisitions: 1. Does the investment in a major capital asset support core/priority mission functions that need to be performed by the Federal government? The first question focuses on the issue of whether the function to be supported by the potential acquisition needs to be done at all. Given limited resources, an agency’s emphasis needs to be on supporting functions that are central to the achievement of the agency’s mission. Answering “yes” to this question verifies the mission-essential need. 2. Must the requesting agency undertake the investment because no alternative private sector or government source can better support the function? If the function is central to the agency’s mission, the second question addresses whether the agency can accomplish the function better than the private sector or another government entity. Alternatives include spinning off the function to another agency, devolving it to state or local governments, or privatizing the function. This step — looking outside the agency that has the need to determine the best means to meet that need — is often overlooked. However, Congress has indicated an intent to use reporting under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) to identify where functions should be combined across agencies. It is, therefore, important to consider such matters before being questioned about them. 3. Does the investment support work processes that have been simplified or otherwise redesigned to reduce costs, improve effectiveness, and make maximum use...

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Coaches Succeed When They Have the Right Mindset

Posted by on Aug 18, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Coaches Succeed When They Have the Right Mindset

Command and control isn’t the only way to relate to employees, nor is it the best mindset when you want to engender staff who are more creative or empowered. Coaching skills also help managers demonstrate their interest in their employees, a key factor for retaining and engaging employees. That’s why there’s a lot of talk these days about managers and leaders using coaching skills. It’s actually an acronym referenced in courses and coaching studies by the International Coach Federation: “MLUCS.” And while the skills of coaching tend to feel more tangible and executable to the learner (or boss who is funding the training), the coach mindset is the more important factor in whether or not your coaching conversations with others come across as genuine, growth oriented, or even well intentioned. Many factors contribute to getting the coach mindset wrong. Here’s how to shift your mindset: Skillset: After years of telling and directing, most managers and leaders are well-practiced at watching out for problems, telling staff how to avoid or fix them, and having the answers themselves. Managers and leaders have to move from the mindset of “problem solver” and allow for the employee to be a part of creating the solution. Identity: Let’s not forget how easily one’s sense of self is built by, and rewarded for, having answers. Instead, asking employees for creative answers, and starting conversations about an employee’s development without prescribing their path or even pretending to have the right answer, can feel like a relinquishing of control, threatening a leader’s identity by altering perhaps long-held views of how leaders provide value. Think of coaching as adding a new dimension to your identity as a leader—as a coach, you aren’t dispensing answers. You’re standing side-by-side with somebody and giving them room to grow. Time: Additionally, taking a coaching approach to supervision rings in many MLUCS’ ears as having to spend even more time with employees in an already packed workday. They want conversations to be quicker or less frequent, not longer or more frequent. Thing is, effective in-the-moment coaching is the short and frequent, open communication that empowers the employee. Role: Shifting to a coach mindset often needs to take place in the middle of the same conversation in which suggestions or answers are offered based on experience and expertise (mentoring/teaching), or performance-related directives are being given (supervision). Ask your employee if they’d like you to help them think through some options together. This helps you make sure you’re providing the support that is needed, and once confirmed, you can intentionally reframe your mindset in order to focus on asking open questions and listening effectively. Your coaching mindset is the place where your intentions lie. This is your reason for bothering to have coaching conversations in the first place. Whoever your stakeholders are, don’t leave them guessing about whether they can assume you have positive intent, or see them as a situation to be “dealt with.” Learn more coaching tips by subscribing to this blog, using the form at the top-right of this page. And for more about Management Concepts Coaching and Mentoring offerings, check out our Coaching homepage. And last but not least, see if our Anytime Coaching training might be right for you or the “MLUCS” in your...

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OMB Releases 2017 Compliance Supplement

Posted by on Aug 18, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

OMB Releases 2017 Compliance Supplement

Last week, I was talking to Shane Jernigan (grants expert and blogger extraordinaire) about what he’d be working on before he leaves for vacation. And I correctly predicted that the 2017 OMB Audit Requirements, Appendix XI – Compliance Supplement (2017 Supplement) would come out late on Wednesday, and I’d have to write this post. The Federal Register gave me hope on Monday. But all 1,667 pages didn’t appear on the OMB website until Wednesday. So, here go my highlights of what you need to know from this year’s edition. And luckily, we have Shane’s post from last year to follow. First, like last year, there aren’t too many changes. In fact, the Federal Register Notice lists the changes so that you don’t have to hunt and peck. From there, I recommend going straight to Appendix V within the 2017 Supplement for more details. Part 1 – Background, Purpose, and Applicability was mostly administrative (like new weblinks). Pay attention to the should and musts in this part. Part 2 – Matrix of Compliance Requirements follows last year’s format. But has quite a few changes to be consistent with changes elsewhere in the document. Part 3 – Compliance Requirements still has two sections. Before the Uniform Guidance and after the Uniform Guidance. I know that December 2014 seems like an eternity ago; there are outstanding awards that will follow the “old way.” This section also reflects the recently updated FAQs and extension of the procurement requirements grace period. Part 4 – Agency Program Requirements and Part 5 – Clusters of Programs reflect numerous technical changes. Look for CFDA numbers and clusters that apply to you for details. If I were a grantee, I’d want to make sure I understood what the changes might mean in preparation for any audit. Appendix VII – Other Audit Advisories, II. Effect of Changes to Compliance Requirements and Other Clusters piqued my interest. There are instructions on how to treat a program that has been removed from the Part 2 Matrix. Auditors will know better how to translate this. But I am able to say that if there was a finding in the previous year, it needs to pull forward. Read this carefully and refer to 2 CFR 200.518. PS: Section III of this Appendix states that ARRA findings also must pull forward.The part on Addition of New Program to an Other Cluster makes me want to whiteboard. If the language always trips you up like me, scroll down to the examples. Perhaps close to a whiteboard. I know it’s confusing the way it’s written. But remember, the goal is not to audit every program, every year. Before I end this – two more things. First, Read the FAQs. There are five updates to questions for Subpart F that correspond to the 2017 Supplement. Second, keep in mind that the 2017 Supplement isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about compliance with all of an award’s requirements. Shane – wish you were here. — The 2017 Supplement wasn’t the only big thing released in the past few weeks. We’ll catch you up on the Uniform Guidance Frequently Asked Questions and the DATA Act Pilot Program Report in our next edition of eCLIPS. Not a subscriber of eCLIPS? Sign up...

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Workforce Planning Turns Uncertainty into Stability and Mission Success

Posted by on Aug 16, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Workforce Planning Turns Uncertainty into Stability and Mission Success

We can’t say this enough: People are an organization’s greatest asset. Period. Full stop. Always and evermore relevant, this axiom is frequently emphasized in the HR realm as a guiding principle of talent acquisition and management. Research shows that focusing on employee engagement has many tangible benefits, including lower rates of turnover, increased productivity, and improved customer ratings. With uncertainty about budgets and staffing in the Federal government – as well as the churn of ongoing leadership changes – effectively managing talent is an urgent need. HR professionals may feel they have few options when it comes to cultivating an engaging workplace culture. How can I impact positive change with hiring restrictions and budget cuts on the horizon? Now is the time for Federal HR to find (or create) opportunities. There are numerous ways HR specialists (and especially those growing into more of an HR business partner role) can promote a people-centered environment with readily available resources. Use strategic thinking and planning to anticipate the future needs of each employee and the organization. Position management is critical in communicating the expectations of each role and identifying possible career paths for internal employees. Clearly communicate information about the strategic mission of the organization and each employee’s role in achieving it. Employees are more engaged when they understand how their work fits into a broader organizational context. Celebrate the benefits of diversity. Promoting an inclusive atmosphere emphasizes the value of employees’ unique perspectives and experiences. A commitment to diversity also helps with future recruitment efforts. Building an effective workplace culture will not happen overnight. It takes intentional planning by passionate people with a commitment to hiring and supporting the best talent. The benefits of employee engagement are too significant to be ignored. As HR professionals, the goal should always be to find ways of empowering your personnel. Register for our upcoming classes on Federal Workforce Planning, and help lead the people at your organization to higher engagement and mission-focused success. When employees feel they have control over their careers and can impact organizational success, anything is...

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Same Data, Different Conclusions: It’s a Good Thing

Posted by on Aug 15, 2017 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 2 comments

Same Data, Different Conclusions: It’s a Good Thing

In just a couple weeks, I will be on my way to Italy for a two-week vacation! Che bella! When I was deciding where to go with my husband, I experienced a bit of work-related decision-making déjà vu. Every option we considered was very different from the next, but all were possibilities chosen based on the same exact set of data (number of vacation days available, budget, etc.). I felt like I was back at the office working with a team, arguing about what decision to make, even though we’re usually reviewing the same data. The difficulty can be that different does not necessarily mean wrong in these situations. So, how do you successfully prepare for those conversations where everyone’s perspectives are different, but also valid? First, think through your own decision-making process: How did you land on your decision? How did you weigh/prioritize each piece of information? Maybe you want to spend as many days as possible on big, once-in-a-lifetime vacations, and so you decide to go all-out on a long Safari trip in Africa. Or maybe you’d rather scatter PTO on shorter vacations to places close by, always with a buffer day to recover when you get home, so you plan several city-hopping long weekends to Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Boston throughout the year. Once you understand your own process, you’ll be better-equipped to collaborate with others. As you enter these conversations, keep in mind that everyone is going to approach a decision from their own unique perspective. Ask yourself: How could others interpret this data? How might your own decision change if you had additional data? Is there new information that others have that might influence your decision? What decision, or rather, what desired outcome of the decision, is best for the mission? If you take a few moments to think through the answers ahead of time, you’ll be more prepared for the conversations, and likely more open to possibilities. It will help you understand where others are coming from, as well as what potential differences to expect. More often than not, analyses do not point to a single decision. This can invite conflict when stakeholders bring different perspectives to the table. By arming yourself with your own decision-making process, and an understanding of how others might interpret data, you are setting yourself up for success. Data-driven decision making, naturally, is equal parts data analysis and collaborative, constructive decision-making skills. For more strategies, techniques, skills, processes, and models on this subject, along with training for influencing stakeholders, register here for our new two-day course, Data-Driven Decision Making. And just remember, an African safari isn’t wrong, it’s just different! Ciao! — Enjoy this blog post? Check out our other recent Analytics blogs—and don’t miss our other posts on data-driven decision making. And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog by using the form at the top-right of this...

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Federal Spotlight: Jonathan Alboum

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Jonathan Alboum

Jonathan Alboum serves as Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in federal service? What is your main responsibility in your role today? JA: I’ve been in the Federal government for approximately 11 years, and today I’m the CIO for all of USDA. In that role, I have responsibility to manage technology directly in my office, which supports our approximately 2,800 county offices and enterprise network connections across the country, as well as information security and capital planning for all of USDA. At the same time, I’m the leader of the USDA IT community. USDA has 17 offices and 19 agencies, all with IT needs and several with agency CIOs. We work collaboratively to deliver solutions, support program needs from fighting forest fires to delivering nutrition assistance, doing agriculture research, and food safety inspections. I have an oversight responsibility for all of it. I began my career in the Federal government by working as the deputy CIO and then the CIO for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. I’ve really learned what it’s like to be an agency-level CIO—did it firsthand for several years. I left for a while and worked at the General Services Administration (GSA). One of the things that I was responsible for at GSA was the creation of a unified GSA IT organization. Once that work was completed, I had an opportunity to return to USDA to work in the farm and foreign agriculture mission area. I worked very closely with USDA Leadership to support the Farm Service Agency and the implementation of an enterprise system to manage activities in offices all over the country. I’ve had a variety of USDA experiences across mission areas, which gave me a good perspective as I moved into this job as USDA CIO. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? JA: An organization like USDA touches the lives of all Americans. USDA has a role in everybody’s day-to-day life even if it’s not always obvious. Everybody eats, and we support the farmers and ranchers that produce our food. We support the nation’s ability to visit a national forest. We support the school lunch program. Every child that goes in to have a school lunch, whether it’s free, reduced or they pay it for full, is a USDA customer. We touch everybody’s life in a way that they don’t necessarily see or know—but we know we’re there and, to me, that’s a very motivating factor. USDA does so many things that make the United States of America a great place to live. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? JA: I’ve had a lot of opportunities to take on projects that were troubled. Many years ago, I worked on a project as a contractor for an agency in USDA. When we started on the project, it was extremely behind schedule and it was unclear if we were going to deliver what we needed. I had the benefit of being new, and I was able to ask a lot of questions and make some adjustments with the team, and we had the opportunity to re-plan the project. We were able to get all of our deliverables met, and...

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A Midsummer Summary of Changing Grants Policy, Part 2

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

A Midsummer Summary of Changing Grants Policy, Part 2

Part one of this two-part blog post covered changes to the grants application process on Grants.gov, and also the elimination of COFAR. Now, part two takes us through even more changes to grant policy made by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during their busy summer. So, whether you’re about to go on vacation, or you just got back (point being: don’t miss these updates), here’s the news and what it means: OMB Issues Guidance on Buy American Laws In June, the Secretary of Commerce and OMB Director jointly issued OMB Memorandum M-17-27, Assessment and Enforcement of Domestic Preferences in Accordance with Buy American Laws. The memorandum addressed the requirements in Executive Order 13788, “Buy American and Hire American.” The purpose of the executive order was to help ensure that Federal procurement and financial assistance awards maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States. The memorandum stated that for Federal grants, “[T]here is no primary law that imposes the Buy American Laws as defined in E.O. 13788, and applicability varies by the authorizing and appropriation statutes imposed on the specific Federal financial assistance program.” E.O. 13788 requires agencies to evaluate and report on their oversight of Buy American laws. The OMB memorandum identified three items that Federal agencies will need to report regarding Federal grant awards: 1. Agency actions to review and update relevant agency guidance to grant recipients. 2. Intended agency actions to review and update internal agency procedures to implement relevant Buy American laws. 3. Agency recommendations to strengthen and apply Buy American laws through statutory, executive, regulatory, or administrative action. Grant recipients should review the terms and conditions of their awards and awarding agency guidance to determine what requirements, if any, to comply with Buy American laws. Procurement Grace Period Extended to Three Years The OMB announced an extension to the procurement grace period. OMB published a rule in the Federal Register on May 17 providing non-Federal entities an additional fiscal year to comply with the procurement standards under 2 CFR 200. OMB explained that the grace period extends through December 25, 2017 and non-Federal entities will need to comply with the procurement standards for the fiscal year beginning on or after December 26, 2017. Non-Federal entities that opt for the grace period must indicate their decision in internal policy manuals. Failure to note this decision may result in an audit finding. Still Waiting on 2017 Compliance Supplement, 2 CFR 200 Updates, and Revisions to the FAQS While the Federal government has taken many actions affecting grants in the last few months, there are still some outstanding items that we are waiting for: 2017 Compliance Supplement. The Compliance Supplement is the annual single audit guidance. OMB generally has a target release for the Compliance Supplement in the spring. However, for the last few years, the release date has generally been delayed until the summer. The previous delayed release dates have resulted in an extension for grant recipients to submit single audit reports to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse (FAC). The FAC has not yet posted an announcement providing guidance. 2 CFR 200 Updates. OMB has discussed plans to update 2 CFR 200 to incorporate recent legislative changes. Yet, there has been no specific date given when the updates may be released....

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Use It or Lose It: Fiscal Year-End Spending

Posted by on Aug 2, 2017 in Financial Management, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Use It or Lose It: Fiscal Year-End Spending

The end of the Federal fiscal year is well on its way, and that means funds may be made available to certain programs and activities for obligation before they expire on September 30. These funds usually flow from things that could not be executed as planned, or from reserves for contingencies that never materialized. How to manage it? Be ready with a prioritized “buy” list AND be legal by following the Bona Fide Needs Rule (BFN)! Did you catch our complimentary webinar last week on legal and responsible spending practices for the end of a fiscal year? I shared an array of tips and rules every Federal employee should know about how and when to correctly spend appropriated funds, including exceptions to the BFN and flexibilities permitted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). I also overviewed best practices with regards to avoiding or reporting violations of the Antideficiency Act (ADA); many violations come from violations of the rule. While I highly recommend downloading the webinar for detailed and varied examples of proper year-end spending, here are a few quick tips and takeaways from my presentation: Be sure a legitimate NEED exists during the year when obligating the year’s funding. Therefore, if you actually need it next year, use next year’s funds. If you have a legitimate need for training toward the end of the fiscal year, and cannot get it delivered by year end, taking delivery of it – if your agency agrees – in the first quarter of the upcoming fiscal year meets an acceptable rule of thumb. How to avoid ADA violations? By training and education, AND by implementing sound internal control. Lastly, to stay up to date on the GAO’s latest decisions and reports, I recommend subscribing to GAO’s email list. I also recommend consulting GAO’s Principles of Federal Appropriations Law – the Red Book – for further guidance on the above issues, or for any other questions that may come up related to year-end spending. Better yet, download our fiscal year-end webinar on everything covered above – and more. And while our webinar only covers one hour’s worth of rules, regulations, and guidance, our Appropriations law training courses (including a Seminar and a Refresher & Update course) offer much more guidance, information, and skills training. Check out our complete suite of Appropriations Law offerings and sign up for an upcoming class—with virtual, remote, and classroom delivery options. Feel free to leave comments and questions below. And be sure to spend...

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When You Manage Resilience, Your Best Self Shows Up

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Leadership | 2 comments

When You Manage Resilience, Your Best Self Shows Up

Resilience is something of a hot-button skill in 2017, especially for folks with careers in public service. It carries a theme of overcoming chaotic, uncertain environments, but it also connects to opportunity and the (re)discovery of vital strengths for yourself, your team, or your organization. In chaotic times like these, frustration and exhaustion creep up like a ninja if you don’t check in with yourself and revisit how you’re managing your resilience. While it’s often easier to focus on what drags you down (people seem to like saying misery loves company much more than positivity loves professionals), it’s crucial to make time to find, and utilize, what makes you a strong professional. I recently co-led—with human capital and talent management expert, Debbie Eshelman—a professional development conference session entitled, “How to be Resilient During Chaotic Times.” This session was for a group of attendees at the recent Federally Employed Women National Training Program (FEW NTP) in New Orleans. The session concluded with each participant sharing a message about how their ability to be resilient had just changed, and what they can immediately do differently to maintain strength. Here are some of the top ways to focus, recover, and find strength in difficult times: Start every day with a focus on yourself. Dedicate (and defend) time that’s just about you. Start every week with a specific effort to improve your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual balance. When experiencing challenge (or even failure), look for the learning opportunity that’s meaningful to you. Don’t ask yourself to do it all—ask yourself to do what you can. Take a few minutes each day to reflect, breathe, and think about a specific action you can take to make the next day better. These tips are important for any individual or team, even in positive environments. At some point, everybody’s resilience wanes, and “weathering the storm” is no safe bet for bouncing back. For our session, Debbie and I drew from a Management Concepts training course, Fostering Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience, which covers everyday techniques for thriving and helping others thrive in today’s complex, uncertain, and often chaotic environments. Sign up now for one of our upcoming classes! — Further reading: For a play-by-play overview of the inspiration, wisdom, and techniques shared at the FEW NTP conference, check out our conference recap—takeaways from the session were timely, plentiful, and immediately useful; and the presenters were...

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Federal Spotlight: Ali Pourghassemi

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Workforce Management | 3 comments

Federal Spotlight: Ali Pourghassemi

Ali Pourghassemi serves as a Human Capital Manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service? Ali Pourghassemi: I have officially been a “Fed” since July 2012 so that puts me at a little over five years… time flies! MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AP: The people. The people who come to work daily and contribute 100%. The people who consistently seek ways to improve or eliminate unnecessary processes. The people who believe in collaboration. The people volunteer and are not “voluntold.” The people who think outside of the box. The people who are passionate about their agency’s mission and mentoring future leaders. The integrators. Those who realize we are truly public servants that collectively have a responsibility to the American people to fulfill our missions. Connecting people who would have never met otherwise is essential. I am an integrator. That is my passion. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? AP: Honestly, one of my biggest achievements was, and continues to be, connecting mentors and mentees—particularly during the 2015 cohort of the HHS Acquisition Mentoring Program. As program manager, my responsibility is to pair individuals whom I feel would have a reciprocal learning relationship. Long story short: in this scenario a mentee did mock practice interviews with their mentor in preparation for a “big interview,” that GS-12 to GS-13 jump. The mentee reached out to me and advised me that he “got the job!” and directly attributed it to the mentor/mentee pairing he participated in. This success story keeps me passionate and engaged in my current role as the Program Manager for the HHS Acquisition Strategic Leadership, Mentor and Talent Exchange Programs at HHS. I love to see other people WIN! MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? AP: This is a loaded question, right? No, my biggest advice is to never stop investing in yourself. What I mean by this is: volunteer, don’t be “voluntold.” Take training that is beneficial to your career. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Take risks. Most importantly, never compromise your integrity. The government may seem large but everyone is connected. Build meaningful relationships and network, network, network. My grandmother used to tell me you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Just be...

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A Midsummer Summary of Changing Grants Policy, Part 1

Posted by on Jul 28, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

A Midsummer Summary of Changing Grants Policy, Part 1

While summer is generally the time for taking a long vacation from work, officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have been busy revising grant policies. This two-part blog post discusses recent actions that you, a faithful member of the Federal grants community, need to be aware of immediately… or as soon as you get back from the beach, of course. So, without further ado… Grants.gov to Retire PDF Application Package Grants.gov will retire the legacy PDF application package by the end of 2017. Once this occurs, applicants will no longer be able to download the PDF application package and will be required to complete applications through the Workspace feature. However, applicants will be able to continue to submit the PDF application package through March 31, 2018. A February 2017 update to Grants.gov began the transition to online forms by enabling users to complete over 50 individual application forms through Workspace. Grants.gov launched Workspace in October 2015 and the feature is designed to: Streamline collaboration within an applicant organization Allow users to reuse previous application forms Validate forms to reduce submission errors Provide context-sensitive help for all pages, tabs, and windows within Workspace Grants.gov is in the continual process of modifying Workspace. Release 16.0, launched in June 2017, made the following changes to Workspace: Enabling Workspace Owners to customize user access to budget forms through form-level access privileges Allowing participants from other organizations, such as outside consultants and subrecipients, to complete forms within an application workspace OMB Eliminates the COFAR On June 15, OMB released memorandum M-17-26, Reducing Burden for Federal Agencies by Rescinding and Modifying OMB Memorandum, which eliminated, modified, or paused agency requirements in over 50 OMB memos, circulars, or other guidance. Many of the rescinded requirements relate to agency compliance with information technology guidance. Three documents, however, relate to grants management: M-12-01, Creation of the Council on Financial Assistance Reform M-14-17, Metrics for Uniform Guidance (2 CFR 200) Controller Alert, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Numbering Schematic M-12-01 created the Council on Financial Assistance Reform (COFAR). The COFAR was an interagency working group charged with streamlining Federal financial assistance, which resulted in the implementation of 2 CFR 200 (aka the Uniform Guidance, or the Super Circular). The COFAR also developed training and Frequently Asked Questions to provide compliance guidance with the Uniform Guidance. M-17-26 delegates the responsibilities of the COFAR to the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Council. Grants guidance on the COFAR website has already been migrated to the CFO Council website. In addition to eliminating the COFAR, M-17-26 also eliminates the requirement for agencies to report the metrics measuring the impact of 2 CFR 200 and to prepare for an expanded CFDA numbering schematic. The COFAR developed the Uniform Guidance Metrics to evaluate the extent to which the new requirements under 2 CFR 200 were reducing financial risk and enhancing evidence-based outcomes. There was no indication if the attempt to quantify the impact of 2 CFR 200 would continue. In December 2016, the CFO Council issued a notice to Federal agencies detailing the changes to the numbering schematic for the CFDA. The notice stated, effective October 2018, all CFDA program numbers would be changed from ##.### to ###.###. The prefix would align with the 3-digit Common Governmentwide Accounting Classification agency code and...

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Defining the Problem – How Savvy Data Pros Get It Right

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Analytics | 0 comments

Defining the Problem – How Savvy Data Pros Get It Right

Ever hear the phrase, “The first step is the hardest”? While it may be a common phrase for motivational posters, it also applies to the first step in making data-driven decisions: defining the problem you’re trying to solve. Without a clearly or accurately defined problem, time and other resources will be wasted, and you’ll be left unable to make an effective decision. Often, nailing down exactly what you’re trying to solve is more difficult than the analysis itself. Analysts – how many times has a decision-maker come to you looking for specific metrics or data points without providing any context? Decision makers – how many times has an analyst followed your direction, but the output doesn’t help to solve the problem? The good news is there are steps that can be taken to avoid these common roadblocks – but it’s a two-way street. Decision makers should empower analysts to ask questions, and keep an open mind about potential analysis outcomes, regardless of any preconceived notions of which data points are the “right” ones. Analysts should ask questions, and not limit themselves to the metrics or analysis methods originally proposed. This will provide an environment in which the analysis plan can be structured to solve the question, not just spit out the data points requested. Easier said than done, huh? As a best practice, use the questions below to guide conversations around defining a problem. Analysts should be prepared to ask these types of questions, and decision makers should be prepared to answer them. Both groups should be prepared to potentially adjust their expectations based on the outcome of the conversation. 1. What is the problem you’re encountering, and what is the context around it? 2. What decisions would you like to make based on the outcomes of the data analysis project/request? By collaboratively defining a problem, analysts and decision makers will make the first step in data-driven decision making that much easier. It will lead to less wasted time, and more effective, strategic decisions. The first step is usually the hardest – but it doesn’t have to be! For more strategies, techniques, skills, processes, and models on this subject, along with training for influencing stakeholders, register here for our new two-day course Data-Driven Decision Making. And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog by using the form at the top-right of this...

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Keep a Proactive HR Approach in the Face of Reform

Posted by on Jul 22, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Keep a Proactive HR Approach in the Face of Reform

It is a busy time to be a Federal HR professional. Budgets and staffs are shaking up—it’s an uncertain feeling throughout the workforce, but not one without opportunities. On April 12, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum requiring agencies to submit, by the end of June, high-level Agency Reform Plans and identify ways to maximize employee performance. With this deadline in the rearview mirror, agencies face tough choices about how best to accomplish strategic initiatives while supporting the administration’s goals of improving efficiency, eliminating redundant programs, and reducing the size of the Federal workforce. For Federal HR professionals, the challenge is to assess and acquire talent, retain and develop top talent already on staff, and support professional growth for all, while recognizing that an overall reduction in the talent pool is on the horizon. Though the OMB is still reviewing draft reform plans, agencies cannot afford to wait around for further direction. There are plenty of options available to HR professionals to take ownership of the situation, and play the role of Federal HR business partner like never before: Review vacant positions. In addition to keeping job descriptions current, a thorough review of openings ensures that the positions targeted are in alignment with current and future mission-critical needs. Assess the proficiency levels of the current workforce. By creating or reviewing competency models for the organization, HR professionals can identify gaps in skills and experience needed for mission-critical programs. This also helps with intervention plans for developing proficiency with current employees. Communicate with agency stakeholders about Performance Improvement Plans (PIP). With increased demands for accountability and transparency with employee performance, HR professionals need to ensure PIP data is up-to-date and communicated to agency leadership. Regardless of what guidance comes from OMB this fall, agencies stand to benefit from taking a refreshed, proactive approach to workforce planning. With workforce reductions (aka reduction in workforce, or RIF) on the way, it becomes even more critical to retain and develop talented employees, and developing personnel from within ensures strategic initiatives are kept on track. Subscribe to this blog using the form at the top right of this page, and leave comments below if you’re currently engaging in the challenges and opportunities described above. Our experts will continue writing on this subject, and are always at work on implementing talent development and human capital...

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FEW NTP 2017: Empowering Women in the Federal Workforce

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

FEW NTP 2017: Empowering Women in the Federal Workforce

Management Concepts was a proud sponsor for the third year in a row for the 48th Federally Employed Women’s (FEW) National Training Program (NTP) held in New Orleans, Louisiana, from July 17-20, 2017. This year’s conference theme was “Investing in Our Future.” The week was packed with practical training sessions, motivational keynote speakers, thought-provoking panels, and many opportunities to meet a diverse group of over 1,200 attendees from all over the country seeking professional development opportunities. Management Concepts was excited to host two training sessions at the conference, led by our in-house experts in human capital and talent management, leadership and management, and organizational culture: Debbie Eshelman teamed up with Anna Mauldin to present “How to be Resilient During Chaotic Times.” This session drew from our training course, Fostering Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience, which covers everyday techniques for thriving (and helping others thrive) in today’s complex, uncertain, and often chaotic environments. And Lahaja Furaha led a session titled, “Making Culture Change Stick,” which explored the strategies, processes, and a step-by-step roadmap for achieving meaningful and lasting culture change that enables and achieves mission objectives. Over 250 NTP attendees attended our sessions and presentations. And more than half the conference-goers visited our booth for giveaways, training catalogs, and meeting our presenters. And for the third-straight year, we honored winners of our Leadership Certificate Program Scholarships. The scholarships were awarded to: Lisa Watts, Management and Program Analyst, U.S. Department of State Paula Sutton, Environmental Protection Specialist, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security The conference schedule was full of valuable training, presentations, resources, and networking. Key topics and takeaways included: Fostering diversity and inclusivity are more important than ever, and can be addressed through mentoring opportunities, and engaging differences within teams and organizations to unlock greater performance and collaboration. Critical thinking and problem solving are crucial skills for today’s workforce, where problems are more complex and roles, systems, and processes seem to be in constant flux. Culture change is key, and will continue to be critical for successful adaptation to new systems, reorganized agency structures, and shifting career opportunities in the Federal workforce. We’ll end this blog with a quote from FEW President, Wanda Killingsworth, “NTP presents networking opportunities to improve the quality of life for attendees, personally and professionally, and employees return to work refreshed and more committed and productive, creating a stronger workforce and less turnover.” We agree—it happens every year at FEW’s NTP. And we’re proud to continue partnering with and supporting members of FEW, through events, resources, and training—and we look forward to next year’s...

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Coaching Is Essential to Your Staff Retention Strategy

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 2 comments

Coaching Is Essential to Your Staff Retention Strategy

If you’re thinking strategically about employee retention, then your budget has line items to fund coaching. Employee retention isn’t just about making sure employees don’t leave. It’s about ensuring employees feel invested in. Not just “productively utilized,” but supported, engaged, heard, trusted—effectively connected to their work by the opportunity to deploy their strengths. Without using coaching skills, managers, leaders, HR professionals, even peers, may not know how to hold conversations that help employees do that. Recent research shows that HR, Talent Management, or Learning and Development professionals are more likely to use coaching skills with the intention to support traditional business outcomes, like enhanced employee performance and productivity. But they may miss the opportunity to use coaching skills to increase employee self-confidence, enhance personal growth, and improve job satisfaction—all of which can contribute to employee turnover. Here are a few benefits of having an effective coaching culture at your organization to support employee retention: Employees of companies with strong coaching cultures are more engaged than those at organizations who do not. That’s 62% vs. 50%, respectively, according to a joint report between Human Capital Institute and the International Coach Federation. Coaching helps individuals work on behaviors that will guard against burnout. According to a 2017 study by Kronos, “[N]early half of HR leaders (46 percent) say employee burnout is responsible for up to half (20 to 50 percent, specifically) of their annual workforce turnover.” Peer, team, or group coaching helps create the experience of social support, which is shown to impact personal well-being. From hormones to neural activity, social support impacts how an individual is able to handle stress and even guard against serious conditions like heart disease. We can’t neglect our responsibility in creating the environments in which we, and our teams, work. Employees will feel that their boss pays attention and cares. The adage goes that employees leave a bad boss, not necessarily a bad job. “Managers/leaders who use coaching skills appear more likely to view coaching as an opportunity to improve the relationship with their subordinates.” (HCI.org) Take some time to think about how the relationships you have with your staff may be influencing whether they want to stay in your organization or take their talent elsewhere. Whether internal or external coaches are used—or managers, leaders, or peers are trained to use coaching skills—building a culture of coaching throughout your organization is one way to address employee retention before employees ever think about leaving. Check out our offerings for coaching services and our coaching skills training course (Anytime Coaching – enroll in our September class!), and read our other practical, tactical blog posts on coaching and mentoring. And don’t forget to subscribe, using the form in the upper-right corner of this...

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AGA PDT 2017: Top Takeaways from Financial Management Conference

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Financial Management | 0 comments

AGA PDT 2017: Top Takeaways from Financial Management Conference

Last week in Boston, over one thousand of the nation’s government financial management professionals convened for expert insights and networking (and CPEs) at the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) annual Professional Development Training (PDT) event. Topics ranged from pressing issues such as cybersecurity and systems modernization, to always-important skill development in auditing, communication, leadership, and finding resilience and balance in the churn and turmoil of today’s rapidly evolving work environments. In the exhibition hall, we hosted a Management Concepts booth and brought a small cadre of our leaders, consultants, and Federal FM training experts, including Steve Maier, President of Management Concepts. It was great to catch up with so many of our longstanding partners and colleagues and meet with clients and customers; and the presentations were lively, jam-packed, and informative. Here are our top takeaways from our conversations in the exhibition hall and from sessions throughout the conference: Agencies need to take action on good ideas for doing their work differently. This may be a frequent comment at conferences lately, but the message isn’t losing steam (and it shouldn’t). This includes leaders getting everybody in organizations to accept that they need to do their work differently, and it won’t happen without a concentrated, patient, but constantly pro-active commitment to culture change. Is your organization practicing a learning culture to make this effort a success? There’s a large need for inter- and intra-agency collaboration to improve operations and increase capabilities. We agree! Change agents should connect to show how their organizations can add value to other organizations in your agency. The individual needs to adapt to technology, not the other way around. While there’s a time and a place for true custom solutions, organizations and providers can’t always customize technology to such a point that it removes the value of purchasing a COTS system. To advance professionally, having a mentor, a coach, and a collaborator is key. Training solutions that truly help professionals excel in the Federal financial management space have to take into consideration an interdisciplinary menu of training topics. Especially in times of turmoil and uncertainty, honing core skills in leadership, or acquiring data analytics skills, can help you and your team reach new heights. And of course, don’t miss timely training opportunities to get up to speed on enterprise risk management (ERM) and internal...

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Experts and Leaders Convene: How the Federal Workforce Can Thrive in an Uncertain Future

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Experts and Leaders Convene: How the Federal Workforce Can Thrive in an Uncertain Future

On June 29 in Washington, D.C., Management Concepts sponsored the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) event, “Stabilizing the Workforce in an Uncertain Future,” featuring our top experts and leaders in People & Performance Consulting as well as experts in Federal workforce development from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Defense and Treasury departments, and Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs. In 2017, individuals, teams, and organizations throughout the Federal government must find a productive, thoughtful path through the disorienting churn of changing leaders, policies, and Federal workforce priorities. The presentations and audience discussions at this event covered the most pressing concerns in leadership and workforce development: Leveraging learning programs Adapting to change Improving performance Here’s our rundown with the top takeaways from the discussions, panels, and presentations at the event. (Note: Statements by the presenters have been paraphrased and summarized for convenience.) Teresa Gerton (President and CEO of NAPA) and Stephen Maier (President of Management Concepts) welcomed the audience with remarks focusing on the clear need of Federal leaders to adapt to uncertain conditions in the Federal workforce—such as the looming White House directive for workforce reduction, government reorganization, and agency transformation. Gerton: For leaders, getting the most out of your Federal teams may be as hard now as it’s ever been. But it’s never been more critical. How leaders approach uncertain circumstances today will help organizations thrive in the long term. Working toward solutions should be as encouraging as they are challenging. Maier: Uncertainty and signs of trouble are always present. Are we making sure every staff, every team, every individual member of the Federal workforce has a plan? People must be treated with respect and integrity throughout the process of change. Are management teams prepared to handle the questions their employees have? Changes and challenges must be looked at from the bottom up so everyone at the organization understands them, but also from the top down, so senior management gets the change effort right. In a spirited fireside chat, Tim Bowden, General Manager of People & Performance Consulting at Management Concepts, teamed up with Jason Miller, Executive Editor and Reporter for Federal News Radio, to explore the results of a recent survey (conducted by Federal News Radio and sponsored by Management Concepts) of CLOs and CHCOs on the state of training opportunities within the government. Here are the takeaways from their discussion: In the new survey, CLOs/CHCOs prioritized closing skills gaps over needing bigger budgets for training. Lately, there’s been an increase in collaboration between agencies sharing resources, planning, and strategy. A growing spirit of collaboration between agencies is helping leaders address and close gaps. There’s a lot of interest in changing and improving performance management systems. We’ve got to make a shift from a punitive performance management mindset to one that’s more clearly about giving people the opportunity to improve. And if the right training and performance measures/management are in place, leaders have to develop a mindset of trusting their people to do good work. Instead of worrying about massive institutional culture change requiring seven or more years of effort to take place, allow small, immediate changes to build up in the short time. Change starts immediately, personally, and contagiously. If you’re committed to individual, personal change starting...

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Communicating Change: The Key to Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes

Posted by on Jun 30, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Communicating Change: The Key to Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes

There’s been much debate about the agency Reform Plans that were submitted to OMB by each agency. How seriously will agencies take those plans? Will Congress pass a budget that supports the changes outlined in the plans? One thing that is hard to debate against, however, is that there will be change. So, if change is inevitable, what we really need to think about is how we’re going to manage the change. Change management frameworks, methodologies, and best practices are widely available on the internet. However, one word sums up the key to successfully implementing change, and if not done properly, change will not be successful – communication. Yet organizations, time and time again, do a poor job of communicating change. And what happens as a result? Greater resistance and slower adoption by the workforce, which in turn hinders the organization from realizing the benefits it hopes the transformation will generate. Here are three tips that address the most common mistakes we see organizations make when communicating change: The Earlier the Better Organizational transformation requires its workforce to change behaviors, and behavior change takes time while people digest and become comfortable with what they will have to do differently. One of the most common mistakes I see organizations make when it comes to communicating change is they start far too late in the process. As soon as soon as the decision is made to make a change, it should start being communicated, and not just to a limited group of individuals, but broadly to all those who in some way will be impacted by the change. And, it’s still not enough to communicate the change broadly, it is also critical that organizations tailor their communications (content, medium, timing, and frequency) to the stakeholder groups that will be impacted. Remember That Communication is a Two-Way Process All too often we see change communicated out, which leaves people feeling like change is being done to them, rather than feeling like part of the change. And, how many times have change initiatives been delayed because unforeseen requirements surface late in the process when a stakeholder group who wasn’t engaged throughout the process finally is? Listening must be part of an organization’s communication process so that communication about a change moves beyond informing the workforce to also engaging everybody. Use Transparency to Build Trust Getting people to change behavior also requires trust. People have to trust that their input has been considered and that the organization will help them succeed and support them throughout the change process. One of the best ways to establish trust with the workforce during organizational transformation is by being as transparent as possible when communicating the change. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know, and provide visibility into the decision-making process and criteria. Organizational transformation only happens when its workforce transforms with it. Communicating to the workforce early and interactively enables organizations to bring their people with them on the change journey, rather than hoping they hop on board once the ship is already...

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Your Words Matter: Have Conversations that Make Things Happen

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Your Words Matter: Have Conversations that Make Things Happen

Words matter. A short but very powerful statement, this old saying feels especially timely right now in Washington. So, let’s talk about how we can be more intentional and get better results when communicating with others. It doesn’t matter if you are having a face-to-face, phone, or email conversation—or if you are trading quips over Twitter—how you approach a conversation directly impacts the outcome. You probably think about your approach before giving a presentation or holding a project meeting. But what about those small, quick conversations throughout the day with team members, leaders, or project stakeholders? All day long, we hastily grab a coworker for a quick chat, zip off emails to get or give important information, and (if you are like me) often multitask while commuting home by catching up on missed phone calls from the day. How often do you pause to consider what you want to achieve through conversation before you start talking or typing? Being more strategic when communicating will not only help streamline the number of conversations you have throughout the day, but also improve what you (and others) get out of a conversation. Taking just a minute before we engage in a conversation to determine a desired outcome helps to clarify what we want to relay/achieve and what we want others to do. You may have used the SMART method to set personal or professional goals, but try using it to articulate what you want to achieve in a conversation. Before you go into a conversation, think about a SMART outcome statement: Specific. Identify and state your desired outcome so that what you are trying to achieve is clear. Measurable. Make your outcome quantifiable. Provide some sort of numerical indicator (e.g., 95%, 3 times a year, 4 out of 5 attempts, etc.) when defining what you want from a conversation. Achievable. Will you motivate yourself and/or others through what you are saying—or will your words shut them down? Are your nonverbals helping or hurting the conversation? Realistic. With the time and/or resources available, can you (or others) achieve what you need to do? Time bound. Be clear about any timeframes you need to set so others aren’t left to wonder when they need to do what you are asking. If you can articulate what you need through this SMART lens, chances are you can wrap up a conversation faster, get better results, and get on with the rest of your day. Let us know in the comments below And if you want to work on more strategies for efficient, influential communication, check out upcoming offerings for our class on this subject: Communicating...

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With Protests on the Rise, What Can Agencies Do?

Posted by on Jun 25, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

With Protests on the Rise, What Can Agencies Do?

The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Bid Protest Annual Report, published at the end of 2016, revealed that the number of protests increased for the third consecutive year. Furthermore, GAO’s statistics show that bid protests have been climbing for the last several years: The fact that there is an increase probably isn’t a surprise to anyone involved in the world of Federal government contracting. Taken in the context of the budget battles of 2017 (those looming and those in progress), last year’s increase may be a sign of more to come. There has always been a strong relationship between budgets, agency spending, and protests. When departments and agencies have fewer dollars to spend, there are fewer contracts awarded. So, each award becomes more important to the offeror. More importantly to those on the Federal government side of the business is that the “sustained rate” is also increasing. The rate jumped from 12% in 2015 to 22.56% in 2016, an increase of over 10%. GAO noted that the top four reasons for a protest to be sustained were: Unreasonable technical evaluation Unreasonable past-performance evaluation Unreasonable cost or price evaluation Flawed selection decision Given the protest statistics, what can agencies learn from GAO decisions and how can they protest-proof their awards? We suggest three tips. First, understand GAO’s position and recognize there are universal themes found in the words GAO includes in many if not all of its decisions, specifically “sustained” and “denied.” These words provide insight on GAO’s focus and intent when reviewing a protest. Here’s a description from the GAO: “In reviewing protests of an agency’s evaluation of an offeror’s … proposal, our Office does not reevaluate proposals; rather, we review the evaluation to determine if it was reasonable, consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation scheme [emphasis added], as well as procurement statues and regulations, and adequately documented [emphasis added]. The protestor’s disagreement with the agency’s evaluation without more, is not sufficient to render the evaluation unreasonable.” Secondly, properly document contract actions during the source selection process. This includes documenting technical and cost proposal evaluations as well as the source selection decision itself! Many of the cases where GAO sustained the protest include the following statement: “the agency failed to … document [their decision and/ or evaluation] therefore we cannot consider their evaluation.” Testimony without well documented reports and evaluations does not necessarily persuade the court. Technical evaluation reports, past performance reports, cost or pricing evaluations all need to have documentation that explains how and why each proposal was, or wasn’t, evaluated. Even the source section authority’s decision needs to be documented and signed. Just “initialing off” based on the source selection team’s recommendation does not convince the court the source selection was property done. The court is looking for good, documented reasons that support the award. Lastly, follow the source selection plan. It’s important to remember that GAO does not reevaluate proposals. What they do is review the source selection plan to determine if it complies with statutes and regulations. They are not going to evaluate the specific source selection factors to determine whether they’re good or bad. But they will compare how the agency evaluated the proposals to the agency’s source selection plan. Was the evaluation consistent with the plan? In other words, did the agency do what they...

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Federal Spotlight: Melinda Burks

Posted by on Jun 18, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Melinda Burks

Melinda Burks serves as a Senior Program Officer for the U.S. Department of State. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Melinda Burks: I have been in the Federal sector (contractor) since June 2014. I currently work as a Senior Program Officer with the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of English Language Programs where I manage global academic exchanges and training programs for international educators. I worked as an English as a Foreign Language teacher in several countries prior to joining the State Department. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MB: My past experience keeps me motivated and passionate about working in the public sector. I am a first-generation college graduate that had to search for resources, opportunities, and mentors. I did not come from a family that was well-versed in government or international affairs, so I had to pave a path for myself. I was granted the opportunity to break generational molds due to public programs, which is what motivates me to stay in the public sector. I couldn’t afford traveling to other countries if it weren’t for a scholarship I received to participate in a study abroad program. I wouldn’t have been able to go to college without the Pell Grant and other Federally-funded scholarships. My education, paired with programs offered by the Federal government, truly changed my life trajectory. I like to think that I am paying it forward by working in the public sector and simply working to provide someone coming from a challenging environment with limited resources the same opportunities that I was given when I was younger. Also, the teacher in me never dies, so I am passionate about equipping anyone with the knowledge and skills to be a change agent in their circle(s) of influence. Another motivator for me is knowing that my work is in direct alignment with my core values. All of my life experiences up until this point have prepared me for working in the public sector, whether I realized it or not. I thought I wanted to work in Public Relations, but I was not fulfilled. The universe continued pulling me back into education and public work. Knowing that I have the opportunity to create educational and cultural programs for both domestic and international audiences is personally gratifying. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? MB: A couple of my professional achievements would be designing creative academic exchanges for teachers. I am most proud of this moment because when I was brought on as a Senior Program Officer for academic exchanges my office was doing one exchange a year. In one year the program expanded to three exchanges and four the following year. I had to pursue this position with a spirit of entrepreneurship, so to speak, so I’m very proud of this component’s expansion. Additionally, it is gratifying to know that my job includes creating professional development opportunities for teachers that impact classrooms in over 85 countries. As previously mentioned, I worked as a teacher prior to joining the State Department. I am a true advocate of teachers, professional development, and training of any kind,...

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In Search of CLPs: You Don’t Have to Look Far, But You Do Have to Look

Posted by on Jun 15, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

In Search of CLPs: You Don’t Have to Look Far, But You Do Have to Look

Have you thought about your continuous learning requirements lately? Or is it something that you keep buried in the back of your mind until the last minute? If so, you’re not alone, and the clock is ticking for annual certification upkeep deadlines. But maybe it’s time to refresh your mindset for continuous learning. Most of us with a professional certification such as DAWIA, Federal Acquisition Certification (FAC), or PMP have to do continuous learning in order to maintain our certification. The purpose behind the learning requirement is to ensure we remain current in our career field as well as expand our skills and knowledge. For those of us in acquisition and contracting, it may feel like trying to keep up with the changes to the FAR is almost a daily battle at times. There’s no time to think about continuous learning until we have to. Other career fields have a more stable environment from a rules and regulations point of view but require their people to stay up to date on what’s going on in the industry, which can be a different challenge. Instead of taking and retaking the same class every year, take a chance: Look for opportunities that offer insight into (and key skills from) another area. If you’re not a financial manager, but still deal budgeted funds, what about a class on financial management? You’ll learn about the process to plan, review, and approve funding that happens every year—and you can get a step ahead on important subjects like Enterprise Risk Management, which affects far more than just financial managers. Even better, you may see how your job impacts them and how you might work together to unlock greater (and mutual) success. How about a class on project management? Most of us end up managing a project of some sort during our careers. Why not prepare for it? The principles of project management are the same for each project. It’s the focus of each project that is different. The skills you learn in class could positively impact your career development. Even better, you may be able to better communicate with the project or program manager you support. What about working on some of those tricky soft skills? There are classes on briefing and presentation skills, negotiation, influencing, critical thinking for problem solving, and plenty of other crucial leadership skills courses. Business and leadership skills are as important as technical skills for your career and the organization overall. Take a class with other people from your workplace. Training with a group of coworkers will give you a chance to connect with others in your organization. Sharing different perspectives and talking about what you’re learning in class makes for a richer learning experience. It will also help you discover ways to apply your new skills or knowledge when the training ends. When it comes to continuous learning, you have a wide range of topics from which to choose. Be adventuresome! Use your continuous learning requirements to explore something that’s new to you and will help you and your organization. Never stop learning—it’s too important for both you and your...

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Coaching Questions that Help Individuals Move Forward

Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring | 1 comment

Coaching Questions that Help Individuals Move Forward

We regularly hear that managers and leaders should coach their teams, but being “coach-like” has a variety of interpretations. Ask any number of leaders and you’ll hear answers that range from teaching and skills training to giving advice, giving answers or suggestions, learning from a coach’s experience, and thought-partnership to generate new perspectives, challenge assumptions, and create new possibilities. As you’re driving for business results, knowing what distinguishes coaching from other tactics can help make sure you’re deploying the right approach at the right moment with the right person, to achieve the right outcomes. One way that coaching stands out from other types of performance focused conversations is its inherent perspective on who has the answers. So, if you’re tired from “coaching” your employees, maybe it’s because you’re working too hard giving answers instead of asking questions that elicit the solutions from employees’ unique experience. Take a look at the scenarios below and the corresponding list of questions. Sometimes there isn’t one clear or right way ahead. These might be exactly the moments when a coaching conversation will be most helpful. Employee scenario 1: I know I don’t have the skills to do my job, and I’m not sure my organization will get me the training I need any time soon. In the meantime, I’m falling short on my performance metrics and losing confidence along the way. What else can I do if I’m not going to be sent to training? What do you believe is at risk if you don’t get a handle on this? How much do you care about getting the skills you need? What would it look like to take your professional development into your own hands? Who are your allies? What options can you create? What are 2 immediate actions you can take that will change your situation? What are you putting off? In what area of your life can you create some quick wins? Employee Scenario 2: Things are running along smoothly but I feel like this is the calm before the storm. I want to spend this time getting ahead, but am not sure where to start. What is driving you? What is the big picture perspective on this? What are your priorities? Where can you better align with the organization’s mission? What conditions help you (your team) be at your best? What message do you want to send? What does “getting ahead” look like? What haven’t you explored? What are your assumptions? What is needed now? The questions above are certainly not exhaustive, and any one question, depending on the person, context and timing, is not a sure-fire game changer. That said, coaching conversations are a complement, not a replacement, to the variety of other conversations you will have with your employees. Take time with some of the questions above that stand out to you. Look for moments when you don’t have to hold the one “right” answer, and get comfortable asking big, open-ended questions that truly allow your employees to generate their most motivating next...

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Learning Cultures Close Skill Gaps

Posted by on Jun 5, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Learning Cultures Close Skill Gaps

What is a skill gap? Traditionally, it is defined as the gap between the skills an employer needs to get the work done and the skills employees have when they walk through the door. However, skill gaps can emerge with an existing workforce. A critical gap can occur suddenly with a new mission critical priority or slowly with looming predictions, such as the impending retirement wave. When a critical skill gap emerges, an organization’s speed and approach are critical components to effectively closing the gap. So, how does an organization build capacity to respond to skill gaps? Begin by creating a culture of learning. Most workforce planning and human resource professionals understand that learning is vital to the health of the organization. However, few link learning to mission critical execution. If the workforce does not have the right skills, employees will be unable to effectively carry out the tasks required to meet the goal. What is a learning culture? A learning culture is an agreed upon set of values, systems, and processes that encourage expansion of ideas, learning, and skills that positively impacts the organization and enables mission execution. Organizations that value learning and development as a way of being are in a better position to address skill gaps as the behaviors and practices are a part of their organizational DNA. How do you create a culture of learning? Make it an organization-wide focus. Creating a culture of learning should be a shared vision and organization-wide effort. Skill gaps do not just live with an individual, team, or division. Skill gaps are organization priorities. If not addressed, they could potentially put a strategy or mission at risk. Make learning part of the dialogue around strategy and mission. Make development a leadership principle. According to a recent study of 195 leaders in 15 countries (from over 30 global organizations), two key leadership principles emerged: Nurtures Growth and Shows Openness to New Ideas and Fosters Organizational Learning. In a follow-up Harvard Business Review article, The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leadership Around the World, Dr. Sunnie Giles surmises, “If a leader has these strengths, they encourage learning; if they don’t, they risk stifling it.” Create various development opportunities. While training may be the right solution for specific skill development, organizations can reinforce knowledge transfer from the classroom to the job by creating additional learning opportunities such as job rotations, special projects, job shadowing, mentoring, and coaching. Mine the gap. Leaders are in the bridge position to know which skills are or will be needed organizationally to execute strategies and identify if a skill gap exists within their teams. Leaders are then able to feedback that information to the organization and work together to create a plan to address the gap. Organizations can ignite excitement for learning by fostering a culture that encourages expansion of ideas and values development. In doing so, organizations position themselves to systematically respond to addressing skill gap issues that surface. This creates an added benefit to individuals, team, and leaders by retain institutional knowledge, minimize siloing, increase collaboration, and expand information sharing. Talent gaps continue to be a critical issue for most organizations. Learn more about our organizational culture alignment work on our webpage here, and to receive more writing about organizational culture, check out our...

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DATA Act Compliance Has Arrived

Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 2 comments

DATA Act Compliance Has Arrived

Three years of planning the implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) came to fruition on May 9, 2017 as Federal agencies were required to begin reporting spending by using governmentwide, standardized data elements. Prior to the DATA Act, agencies used differing data elements and definitions to report spending. Use of the Act’s open and uniform standards is meant to improve reliability and access to the government’s financial data. Nextgov.com reported that most agencies, in varying degrees, met the deadline of submitting financial data from the second quarter of fiscal year 2017. On the same day the DATA Act came into effect, the Treasury Department released a new beta version of USASpending.gov in accordance with the DATA Act requirements. Treasury describes the website as the “new official source of accessible, searchable and reliable spending data for the U.S. Government.” The data is open and machine-readable, and users can download and search through data sets. The data includes both agency appropriations and expenditures, including: grants, contracts, loans, and employee salaries. Agency compliance with the DATA Act remains a work in progress. On May 8, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Treasury requesting information on how each agency is responding to the recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to improve the implementation of the DATA Act. The Committee requested the agencies respond by May 22, which have not been released. Additional provisions in the DATA Act also provide for the following upcoming milestones: August 7, 2017. OMB must submit a report to Congress detailing the results from the Section 5 pilot programs for grant recipients and contractors. The pilot programs tested different methods and procedures to reduce reporting redundancies and recipient burden. November 8, 2017. The GAO must issue a report evaluating agency compliance with the DATA Act. August 7, 2018. OMB must decide if grant recipients and contractors must use the DATA Act standards in financial reporting. As always, it’s important to stay up to date on all things related to the legally compliant administration of Federal grants. Our Federal Grants Update course keeps you current, and covers a wide variety of developments and updates in just one day of training. Also, check out our previous blog posts on DATA Act implementation, and subscribe to this blog (using the form on the upper right!) to receive the latest compliance news and updates for all things Federal...

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A Perfect Match: Data Analysts Pair Technical Skills with Soft Skills

Posted by on May 30, 2017 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 4 comments

A Perfect Match: Data Analysts Pair Technical Skills with Soft Skills

I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day Weekend – the unofficial kickoff to wedding season! In that spirit, I’m going to discuss a very important relationship in every data analyst’s life: the marriage of technical skills to their soft-skill counterparts. Just like every relationship, this one requires understanding and balancing complementary aspects to be successful. For our model skill-coupling, let’s look at how the skill for knowing how your sphere of influence—i.e. awareness of what you can do yourself, and how you can influence others—works hand-in-hand with your skill for driving data-based decisions. In data-reliant work, awareness of your sphere of influence and data-driven decision making make for natural career-long skill partnerships. They work better together, and enable you and your team to do the best work. Here are two ways these skills blend and support each other: Understanding When interpreting the results of an analysis for the purposes of making a data-driven recommendation, it is critical to understand your sphere of influence. For example, say an analysis is requested because your organization wants to know the best way to increase profits. If hiring decisions are out of your (and your supervisor’s) control, then you shouldn’t suggest adding more staff. Instead, focus on data that supports efficiency and cost-cutting measures within your influence. Data-driven recommendations are more effective when they consider both the analyst’s and the decision-maker’s sphere of influence, and are centered around practical action steps. Balance Consideration for sphere of influence must come with a healthy dose of technical analysis. The balancing act of building a practical recommendation based on what you can influence, and following the data’s lead, can be a difficult one to master. If you lean too far towards what you can influence, sometimes the decisions aren’t strongly supported by data. On the flip side, basing recommendations solely on data, without any organizational context, can lead to impractical decisions that stray from strategy. Striking the right balance allows decisions to be not only actionable and immediately useful, but mindfully and strategically aligned with what the rest of the organization is working toward. To achieve balance and understanding, try asking yourself three questions whenever your data analysis reaches the point of needing an action or a decision from others: Why is this decision important and why is it a good move? What about this issue is in your control, what is not, and who can help? Does my analysis support our strategy, and is that clear to others? Technical, hard-analytical skills and soft skills are natural, complementary partners—they make up for what the other lacks, and the two are more powerful together than apart. When united, they can take data analysis, decision making, and people to the next level. But as common wisdom would have it, relationships take work. Register for our upcoming training opportunities to improve your decision making and evaluating and presenting analysis, and other analytics skill areas, and learn how you can improve your strategic communication and influencing...

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Federal Spotlight: Suzi Inman

Posted by on May 11, 2017 in Acquisition, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Suzi Inman

Suzi Inman serves as Acquisition Management Specialist/Contracting Officer’s Representative at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division, in Crane, Indiana. She is also Vice President for Membership and Chapter Organization for Federally Employed Women (FEW). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Suzi Inman: I have been in the Federal service for 27 years. I started out as a GS-3 Clerk Typist, which was to be a short-term engagement for only 90 days. It quickly turned into several years of service and multiple positions. I have worked in the Comptroller Department in the Budget Branch, and from there moved to a Line Division as a Financial Analyst for their Financial Core Team. After doing financial work for several years, I became a Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma and worked on a Continuous Improvement Team. All of these different positions provided knowledge and experience allowing me to move up to my current position of a Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR). MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? SI: Participating in the work we do supporting the Warfighter. And we have many opportunities to rotate our positions to various areas here on base, or to take on a totally new position while remaining at Crane. Many people question how we have a Navy base in the middle of Indiana, but our service to the Warfighter is essential to keeping our naval fleet the most powerful in the world. Working as a COR is very motivating, and I love working with people. In this role, I have the opportunity to solidify contracts that keeps our work moving forward. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? SI: During most of my 27 years of Federal service, I have been a member of FEW. During that time, I have held several positions at Chapter, Region, and National levels. I have served as the FEW National Training Program Chair several times. I was rather shy before I joined FEW, but by stepping out and taking on various leadership roles it has made me a stronger person. Throughout the years, I have addressed large audiences, when before working with FEW I would run the other way. Through my volunteer service with FEW, I have made friends all over the country. Working with FEW in all the various leadership capacities gave me the experience that has allowed me to move up in my career. In 1998, I received the Barbara Boardman Tennant award from FEW. This award is an overall achievement award to recognize an individual’s achievements of national significance during a period greater than one year. The criteria states that the person nominated must be one whose actions and leadership resulted in service to the organization at a national level to a degree above and beyond that required by membership. This award is the highest award you can receive at the national level within FEW. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? SI: My advice for young people starting out with the government would be to: Work hard in your position Be flexible with schedules Be respectful of others Register for classes offered, especially leadership...

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Grants Legal Issues Grab Headlines

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Grants Legal Issues Grab Headlines

And grants professionals should read them. If you’ve followed me and Shane via this blog and eClips, you’ve already read, “grants are policy tools,” in some form or the other. The Federal government uses grants to drive policy goals, objectives, and outcomes. Policies change with Administrations. And Congresses. I often am so focused on the activities of the Executive Branch, its activities, and its interactions with grantees that I block out an essential part of every single Federal financial assistance – Congressional authorization. Of course, when Congress originally authorizes a grant program, its original intent can be very different from the implementation of policies in the here and now. The requirement for the Executive Branch is to follow the authorizing laws for grant programs. There’s some flexibility. However, in court, the Congressional intent (the stated purpose of the grant program) comes significantly into play. Cue the Sanctuary Cities headlines. No matter which side of the issue you’re on, if you’re working in or with Federal grants, I recommend following the President’s Executive Order (E.O.) and its path through the courts. Read news stories at the local and national levels. If you’re brave, read the Order Granting the County Of Santa Clara’s and City and County of San Francisco’s Motions to Enjoin Section 9(A) of Executive Order 13768. Below are some of the issues that the grants community will need to follow with regards to this case. They’re also issues that apply to many if not all Federal grant programs. The E.O. does not define “sanctuary jurisdiction.” The law refers to Federal, State, and local entities. As a lay-person, “sanctuary jurisdiction,” may seem like it should be obvious. As a Federal grants program manager, the lack of clarity makes determining eligibility challenging. As a pass-through entity, perhaps working in multi-city partnership, you need to know whom you can work with. This is why reading the Eligibility section of each Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is essential. Separation of Powers. The ruling to enjoin the E.O. cites one reason as the President “improperly seeks to wield congressional spending powers.” Or more simply put, the President is saying, “spend the Federal government’s money with different terms and conditions as authorized by Congress.” Since 1974, this has been against the law. This also means that even if a Federal agency has been marked for elimination or reduction in the FY 2018 President’s Budget, it must issue grants appropriated in FY 2017. Federalism. We’re a Nation based on a union of separate States. The Federal government cannot exercise too much power over the States, including coercing States or other local jurisdictions to do something against what they determine as a local community. Such as withholding funds for not complying with an E.O. or other Federal law that has nothing to do with the grant program. This should be of particular interest for issuers and recipients of Education grants – and the Administration’s intent to pull back programs that may be seen as “national.” Local Budgets and Due Process (5th Amendment). This was the most interesting part of the judicial ruling for me to read. The Counties of Santa Clara and San Francisco “are threatened with the loss of federal grants and face a present injury in the form of budgetary uncertainty.” This portion of...

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Federal Spotlight: Bill Sutherland

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Bill Sutherland

Bill Sutherland retired recently from his role as Director of Aviation Operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He currently works in support of National Guard forces, and also works as Managing Director of UASOPS, LLC. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long were you in Federal service, and what were your main responsibilities and roles? Bill Sutherland: I joined the Army in 1985 and spent six-and-a-half years as an aviation officer. Then I got out and joined what was then called U.S. Customs Service. After 9/11, Customs Service combined with other agencies into the Department of Homeland Security, and Customs Service became Customs and Border Protection (CBP). I joined the Customs Air and Marine Program in 1991 and spent 23 years as a law enforcement officer. I did just about everything in the organization. I was with the Office of Air and Marine—we used aircraft and boats to perform national security operations like border protection and security, in the air and on the water for national security events and other homeland security requirements. I was a pilot for CBP for a number of years, then I was a supervisor, and then I ended up being a director. The last role I had was as director of the unmanned aircraft program. CBP utilizes large unmanned aircraft, or drones. They’re used strictly for surveillance along U.S. borders and coastal regions. I was in charge of the program, and I helped develop it. We had ten aircraft, and it’s approximately a $250-million program. I ended up working at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. Because we were so successful surveilling the land border with the unmanned aircraft, we decided to try to apply them to the maritime environment. I set up the very first domestic maritime unmanned aircraft program based from Cape Canaveral. Sorting out the air space, de-conflicting, and making sure the level of safety was on par with commercial activity in the air space was a tremendous challenge. I collaborated with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DoD, DHS, and Coast Guard (USCG). It was a joint program between CBP and the USCG. We also collaborated with academia—primarily Johns Hopkins applied physics lab—for some sensor integration work. It was really busy, very challenging, and productive. Four years ago I retired, and the program is still going well. MC: What kept you motivated and passionate throughout your career in public service? BS: Initially, I was attracted because I was able to continue to fly and apply those skills in civil service. The mission was really cool. I performed exciting aviation activities with great people while flying very complex aircraft. I was detecting suspect activity from the air and directing law enforcement from the ground or from on the water. I flew some of the most sophisticated aircraft around with the coolest sensors. It was also a team aspect that kept me around, and then the ability to supervise and direct those activities kept me energized. It boils down to the people, to the relationships that you start to develop while there. Great friends, great times. We worked hard and had a lot of fun together. That motivated me to continue serving. Then these bigger projects came along, where you’re dealing with a lot of different agencies, a lot of different...

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TOC 2017 Recap: Talent Development – How Sweet It Is!

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

TOC 2017 Recap: Talent Development – How Sweet It Is!

The Training Officers Consortium (TOC) 2017 Annual Institute was held in Hershey, PA from April 30 – May 3, 2017, and Management Concepts was honored to be a silver sponsor. More than 150 attendees, a few of our own in-house experts, and our President, Steve Maier, showed up for the inspired learning and knowledge-sharing the institute is known for. The theme this year was “Talent Development – How Sweet It Is!” The institute provided the attendees with a range of speakers and sessions on such topics as: Learning Measurement & Analytics Leadership Development Career Development Learning Technologies Training Design Training Development Over the course of three days we conducted two sessions of our own. The first by Joy Oliver, Director of Assessment Services at Management Concepts, presented, “Using Lagging Indicators to Measure Training Impact at the Individual & Organizational Levels,” where she discussed best practices to measure the value and impact of training on individual, team, and organizational performance. Our second presentation was led by Debbie Eshelman, Managing Director of the Human Capital and Talent Management Practice at Management Concepts. He presentation, “How to be Resilient During Chaotic Times” shared how to rebound from setbacks and adversity when facing difficult times. The conversations in the rooms were engaging and riveting – exactly why attending the institute is necessary for great dialogue and sharing of best practices! Some of the key ideas discussed at TOC were: Leading Change: Change your mindset to achieve lasting change within an organization. Mentoring: Launch a mentoring initiative to help facilitate career and leadership development. And it promotes retention of institutional knowledge. Webinars: Something that can’t be overstated, especially if your org still isn’t implementing webinars: this format delivers content that is engaging, informative, and efficient for any generation of mobile learners. The conference ended with a keynote presentation by Ira Koretsky, CEO of the Chief Storyteller. Through a lively and insightful program, he challenged the audience to think about how we develop and deliver our personal stories. My four key takeaways from his presentation are: The best networkers are relationship builders Use personal experience stories to engage hearts and minds Make sure your audiences quickly grasp the message in your graphics Be dynamic and hold your audience’s attention from beginning to end The TOC community provided Management Concepts with a tremendous amount of information to take back to our teams and discuss the training and performance management concerns government employees are dealing with today and in the future. Thank you to TOC for another great institute. See you next...

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Now that I’m the Leader, How Will My Team Change?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Now that I’m the Leader, How Will My Team Change?

All people fear change, whether they admit it or not. Your people (please don’t say “subordinates” – that language is SO outdated) don’t know what to expect of you as a leader, and you don’t know what it’s going to be like to lead them. Many new leaders think they should walk in with all the answers; great leaders walk in with the right questions. Then, they lead their teams to a co-crafted solution. Not only does this get buy-in from your team, it gives you a pulse on what every team member is thinking, and what they’re willing to contribute. And please write (or have someone) write down the responses to these questions. And post the questions and answers in a place where everyone is reminded of them. Do the following three things, in some way, every single day: 1. Ask them what is going well currently, and what isn’t. If you want honest and candid responses, be honest and candid. And be respectful of everyone. 2. Ask them where they see the team in one year. Ask them to describe, in rich detail, what the team will be doing, how it will be working together, and how what/how each member will have contributed to create a better, more fulfilling, more productive future. 3. Ask them what and how the team is going to get there. Ask what support they need from you as the supervisor. Ask what they need from each other. And ask what they need from other stakeholders. Your team will change and adapt, because of you, based on how you ask these questions.   But, aside from asking great questions…how is the team going to work together now that you’re the boss? Your team wants you to be successful. After possible feelings of resentment, defensiveness, or competitiveness subside, your team members realize that you are responsible for making a large portion of their lives (40 hours/week in most cases) either an enjoyable, fulfilling experience, or not. Don’t be afraid to lean on your team, just as they will lean on you. Try these things: 1. Check in with your whole team regularly in staff meetings. You’ll never know what’s going on with the whole team unless you hear from them. And if they work remotely, they may not have any idea what the other members of the team are doing. Ask for status reports, and actually read them. Acknowledge the information you receive in staff meetings. Especially with remote employees, your job is to be a connector. You’ve got to connect them with their work, with the workplace, with their teammates, and with you. Even the most senior employees have to learn different habits if they begin working remotely. And this presents an opportunity for you, as leader, to serve your team in a different capacity. 2. Meet individually with your team members at least once every two weeks to go over the work, but more importantly, to deepen the personal connections that build trust. That’s the best way to get work done. If the trust is broken, try everything you can to rebuild it. 3. Ask for feedback from your team. That sounds like, “How am I doing?” Initially, you might get a response like, “Fine,” especially if they don’t know if they...

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The PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition Moves PM in a Business Value, Strategy Alignment, and Adaptive Direction

Posted by on Apr 21, 2017 in Project Management | 0 comments

The PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition Moves PM in a Business Value, Strategy Alignment, and Adaptive Direction

In April 2016, we highlighted several of the changes to the Standard for Project Management from the PMBOK Guide 6th edition. In February of this year, the Project Management Institute (PMI) provided a pre-release Draft of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition to registered education providers (REPs) so that training materials can be updated to align with the new PMBOK® Guide, expected to be officially released in the 3rd quarter of this year. Also, on December 14, 2016 the new Program Management Improvement Accountability Act was passed into law. Two major objectives outlined in the law relate directly to changes in the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition: Governmentwide standards, policies, and guidelines for program and project management Widely accepted standards for program and project management planning and delivery The scope of the update includes several objectives, but overall the update is primarily focused on ensuring consistency among the various PMI standards and practice guides. The PMBOK 6th edition standardizes the 49 processes, and provides clarity by refining and standardizing the language and terminology throughout the processes and related PMI standards. The overall feel of the new PMBOK® Guide is one that elevates the content to more of a business-oriented philosophy and raises several elements to a holistic, truly integrated approach. Many of the changes include an increased importance of Agile Principles, Adding Business Value, Strategic Alignment, and Tailoring. These are based on several contributing factors, such as the amount of governance/oversight required, management and stakeholder, and organizational and environmental factors. Another major change is the increased importance of understanding Overall Project Risk, and not just the more narrowly focused individual activity risk. These changes should help organizations execute better portfolio and program management and help ensure that projects decisions are viewed not only from a tactical/operational perspective, but from a strategic one as well. Here’s our brief overview of key changes: The initial sections – 1, 2, and 3 – have significant changes. However, the Guide continues to lay basic foundational understanding of the overall project environment, roles and responsibilities, and how projects fit within their related programs and portfolios. Three major changes to the initial sections include: A high-level discussion of development lifecycles and the importance of the project team to determine the best lifecycle based on internal and external factors. Expanding the elements of project characteristics to include the notion that projects drive change and projects enable business value creation. These two themes are reinforced throughout the Guide via continuing references to the Business Case and a Project Management Benefits Plan. Discussion on the role of the PM as a separate section emphasizes that PMs need to clearly understand their levels of influence and competencies, giving special attention to the competency talent triangle, project management skills, and leadership skills. The role of the PM is also reinforced through all the knowledge areas. Whether PMI did it intentionally or by accident, I found the latest edition to be a little more directive with respect to guidance on when processes are executed, when documents should be completed and by whom, and more guidance on what should be included in various plans and project documents. For example, all processes included statements such as, “This process is performed once or at predetermined points in...

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Data and Grants: Patterns and Performance

Posted by on Apr 14, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 3 comments

Data and Grants: Patterns and Performance

Earlier this month I checked in with my elementary school-aged son on what he’s doing in math. “Recognizing patterns,” he said. My first thought was, “Still? He’s been working on this since preschool.” A week later, I switched my thought to, “Of course they’re still working on this skill.” I had just gone back to the President’s budget seeking patterns to predict where grants are headed, especially with so many references to data pointing to a lack of success. My kid and his classmates are on to something. The ability to identify and communicate patterns—through performance measurement in grants work—is an essential skill in an environment of limited resources for policy implementation. Though it may feel like this goes without saying in our current era of accountability, a worthy point of emphasis continued by the business-meets-government mindset of the Trump administration, the patterns grants professionals are looking for are about basic and fundamental questions: Is there waste, fraud, and abuse of funds? Is reporting on time and regular? Are successes or issues being tracked and reacted to accordingly? Yet the patterns can be complex to determine without looking at the right data at the right time. But of course, we’re overwhelmed by data as grants professionals. And if you’re like me, you want to skip right to the fancy charts and dashboards. In any case, Data visualization tools and skills will make a difference in your decision making. If we want to get to those tools, we first need to make sure that we care for our data. This is why implementation of the DATA Act continues to be important. It also requires continued significant investments in systems, training, and collaboration. All of this work collecting, managing, and visualizing data will have benefits because of the patterns we will see. These patterns should help us better: Prioritize monitoring efforts Signal project risks sooner Identify trends across programs and projects (positive or negative) Fulfill the goal of linking performance and budget information So let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the data together. We’ll all benefit, and develop our analytical and collaboration skills along the way. And if you happen to be attending NGMA in Arlington, April 18-20, stop by booth #14 and say...

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So I’m Officially a Leader… Now What?

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

So I’m Officially a Leader… Now What?

Well, you did it. After all your hard work, your contributions, and your tenacity, you got it. That promotion. That next step. You had the celebratory party (hopefully with cake), shook hands, hugged your loved ones, and eagerly awaited the moment when you could check your paystub to see if it were true. Yes! The money’s there! You’ve made it! You’ve been promoted to a supervisor/leadership role! Then, a week passes. You’re headed home, and it hits you. “What’ve I gotten myself into now? I think I’ve got ‘what it takes,’ but what if I don’t?” Relax. It’s perfectly natural to have those moments of self-doubt. In fact, if you’re NOT having those moments, you’re in trouble. You may be using the same mindset and thought patterns that got you the promotion. Now, the game has changed, and you must as well. But that’s OK, because we all have to evolve to grow. Sometimes growth is easy; sometimes, it’s painful. It’s all part of the process – your process. Adjusting to your leadership role means expanding your skills and increasing your awareness in a number of ways, and they’re noticeable (by you, but more importantly, by others—namely your team members). Questions and situations will almost immediately come up that require you to think and act differently. You’ll need to begin thinking about your impact on others in a much more intentional way than you did before. As renowned author and leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith stated, “What got you here won’t get you there.” You may have been promoted from among your peers. You’re immediately different in their eyes—and maybe you competed with them for your promotion. Here are three ways you can start increasing your awareness and thoughtfulness with your team members: 1. Acknowledge your team members’ feelings and respect where they’re coming from. Were you ever passed over? Remember how that felt? That’s where they are. Don’t say, “I know just how you feel.” You don’t. Say, “I know this is a difficult and awkward situation given our history together; however, I’m committed to working with you to achieve our team goals. What can I count on you to do?” 2. Reassure them that while your interpersonal relationships will remain, you now have different responsibilities than you did before. Always keep your focus on the present and future. Your team will say things like, “You weren’t like that when you were one of us.” Rather than getting defensive, you can respond with a statement like, “In the past we’ve relied on each other as teammates. Now, I’m going to need your help even more as your boss. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can all create a better future together. And trust me; I’ve got your back.” 3. Ask what they want next for their career, and assure them that you’ll do what you can to help them achieve it. If you’ve been with the team for a while, you probably have already assessed everyone’s performance and potential. Your job, now, is to help all team members unleash their potential. So do it. (And you probably don’t need to hear from me how rewarding your new role will be.) And when you need help, or are looking to take more new strides in your leadership skills, training...

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The Presidential Budget and Federal Grants

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 1 comment

The Presidential Budget and Federal Grants

Why performance measures are more important than ever. On March 16, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Trump administration’s budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2018. The purpose of the Presidential budget is to identify and explain the administration’s priorities and policy proposals. The Trump budget proposes funding decreases for nearly every Federal department, except for Homeland Security, Defense, and Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the budget proposes elimination for 19 independent agencies, including grant-awarding agencies such as the: African Development Foundation Appalachian Regional Commission Corporation for National and Community Service Delta Regional Authority Denali Commission Institute of Museum and Library Services National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Humanities OMB has only released a budget blueprint, which provides a high-level statement of policy goals. OMB expects to release the full budget later this spring. Even without the line-by-line budget requests detailed in the full budget, the budget blueprint does provide significant guidance for the grants community. The budget blueprint proposes the following recommendations for specific grant programs and grant-awarding agencies: Department of Agriculture Eliminating the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program Reducing funding for Rural Business and Cooperative Service by $95 million Eliminating the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program Department of Commerce Eliminating the Economic Development Administration Eliminating the Minority Business Development Agency Eliminating NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant Department of Education Increasing funding for charter schools, new private school choice program, and Title I Eliminating Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant programs Eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program Eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program Reducing the Federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs by $193 million Eliminating or reducing funding for over 20 categorical programs, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments, and International Education programs Department of Energy Reducing $900 million from the Office of Science Eliminating the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program Department of Health and Human Services Increasing SAMSHA funding by $500 million to expand opioid misuse prevention efforts Reducing NIH spending by $5.8 billion Restructuring similar HHS preparedness grants to “to reduce overlap and administrative costs and directs resources to states with the greatest need” Eliminating the discretionary programs within the Office of Community Services, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Department of Homeland Security Eliminating or reducing State and local grant funding by $667 million including the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which is “unauthorized by Congress,” and Homeland Security Grant Program. Establishing a 25 percent non-Federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grant awards that currently require no cost match Department of Housing and Urban Development Eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program Devolving community and economic development activities to the State and local level.” Eliminating funding “for a number of lower priority programs,” such as: the Home Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program Increasing funding by $20 million for the mitigation of lead-based paint and other hazards in low-income homes Eliminating funding for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing Department of the Interior Eliminating the Abandoned Mine Land grants, National Heritage Areas, and National Wildlife Refuge fund payments “[Reducing] funding for...

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Federal Spotlight: Soraya Correa

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 6 comments

Federal Spotlight: Soraya Correa

Soraya Correa serves as Chief Procurement Officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Soraya Correa: I’ve been in Federal service 36 years. I’m the Chief Procurement Officer at the Department of Homeland Security—what that means is that I’m responsible for providing leadership, policy oversight, and support to the acquisition for the procurement workforce, which consists of about 1,500 individuals across the country. Our spend is about $16 to $17 billion annually, and we process approximately 90,000 transactions. We accomplish our work through a variety of contracting actions. Sometimes we write very specific contracts to meet specific program requirements, and sometimes we develop strategically sourced contracts that are agency-wide and possibly even government-wide. We use a variety of mechanisms to accomplish our work, but primarily we make sure that folks comply with the policies and procedures to achieve the acquisitions that support the men and women who execute the day-to-day mission of protecting the homeland. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to continue your career in public service? SC: I am in Federal service because I am passionate about Federal service. I believe in our government and our system of government. I understand we have some flaws—if we were perfect, we probably wouldn’t all be here. I’m motivated by the fact that this is a great country and we have one of the best systems of government, if not the best one, in the world. I’m also passionate about the mission that I serve. At DHS, I look at it as there is no greater mission than to protect the people who are the citizens of this country, the people who visit this country and live here. So I’m motivated primarily by mission, but I’m inspired by the people who work for me and the people that I work with and for. I’m inspired by all the other Federal employees as well as contractors who come in every day to serve this mission and support the work that we do. Those are the things that inspire and motivate me every day. MC: What is your biggest career achievement? SC: On a personal level I would say my biggest career achievement is to be where I am today especially as a woman and a minority. I started working in the federal government 36 years ago as a clerk/typist. It was a job, and I wasn’t really thinking about a career, but it turned into a great career, a career that I navigated successfully on my own. In other words, I never worked in an office where things were handed to me or a promotion was given to me. When I was ready for the next promotion or the next challenge, I went out and sought it out myself. I’m very proud of where I am as a woman and as a minority. That’s my greatest personal achievement. It’s where I am and how I try to share with others my experience how I got here, so that hopefully they’re motivated to share with others how they got here, and hopefully this is how we continue to grow and develop the workforce. At DHS, I...

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Agency Experts and Leaders Convene to Address Challenges Facing Federal Workforce Management

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Agency Experts and Leaders Convene to Address Challenges Facing Federal Workforce Management

On the morning of March 28, at the University Club in Washington, D.C., Management Concepts joined forces with the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA) to produce a spirited, critical event called “Exploring and Addressing Talent Gaps in Federal Workforce Management.” Speakers and panelists from Federal agencies included experts in workforce planning and organizational development from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), FBI, Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They joined for a panel on closing critical skills gaps in Federal organizations, including a fire side chat on how community-building was a critical success factor in successfully implementing SES reform at HHS. Moderating the panel, facilitating discussion and audience interaction, and sharing welcome remarks, were our own Tim Bowden (Executive Director for People and Performance Consulting), Debbie Eshelman (Managing Director of Human Capital and Talent Management), and Lisa Doyle (Managing Director of Learning Solutions). The packed room at the University Club was greeted with an opening statement from Teresa Gerton, President and CEO of NAPA. Her message carried two particularly valuable points: The information and concepts shared today can be of immense value to the new administration. Everyone can take these ideas and discussions and push for meaningful and necessary change in public service. Tim Bowden followed Gerton’s charge by encouraging the audience to get back into the habit of asking questions—asking hard questions that aren’t so difficult as to not have an answer, but hard enough to lead to meaningful answers that bring change. “Ask the why, what if, and how,” said Bowden. “How would I get more people involved at my agency to engage in efforts toward performance improvement? If we can begin to answer these questions about engaging, managing, and delivering improved results in the Federal workforce, we’re going to see some changes.” What follows are highlights from topics discussed at the event:   Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management Debbie Eshelman walked the audience through a new research report, published by Government Business Council (GovExec.com) and Management Concepts, called “Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management.” The survey conducted in this report assessed how Federal employees from over 30 different agencies feel they are being supported with regard to workforce management strategies being implemented in their agencies. The survey pointed to the biggest blocks to better talent management strategies: ineffective processes, lack of leadership support, and budget constraints. Management Concepts framework for meaningful talent management speaks to the integration of strategy and implementation. An effective strategy needs to be aligned to the agency’s mission, vision, and organizational strategy, along with the culture to engage, retain, and leverage talent. Implementation needs to focus on comprehensive workforce planning, recruitment and selection, performance management, learning solutions, recognition, critical knowledge retention—it all needs to be interconnected and interdependent, and all employees should feel supported. “It’s not just Millennials who want transparent, open dialogue about performance and career pathing,” said Eshelman. “I think everybody wants this, Millennials are just more open to talking about it.”   Highlights from the Panel Discussion: “Implementing Talent Management Strategies to Close the Gaps” Lisa Doyle moderated the discussion, which featured Dr. Amy Grubb (Senior Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, FBI), Sally Jaggar (SES, NAPA Fellow, formerly of GAO), Bill Wiatrowski (Acting Commissioner, BLS), and Lisa Dorr (Director of IT Workforce...

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Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Georgia A. Thomas serves at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as the organization’s Southeast and Southwest Area Manager, Communication and Stakeholder Outreach (CSO), Field Operations. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Georgia A. Thomas: I have been with the IRS since 1979. In my current position, I serve as an Area Manager in Stakeholder Liaison—Field Operations. I manage two Areas of the country, (1) the Southwest Area which includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and (2) the Southeast Area which includes the states of Florida and Georgia. My management assistant is located in Rhode Island. As Manager, I provide oversight to the outreach efforts within both geographical areas. Our stakeholders are primarily the Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Community. We also provide Disaster Assistance in these areas. In addition to providing education and resources to our stakeholders, issue management is an important tool we utilize to support our stakeholders and effectively influence compliance with tax laws. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? GT: I stay in public service at this point in my life because no two days are the same. I am motivated by knowing that the liaison work we do involves helping someone each and every day. While education and outreach is one of those fields where you can measure success by the number reached, growth in knowledge can sometimes be very speculative. However, being able to note the improvement in overall compliance levels over time because a group was educated on a given topic makes all the difference in tax administration. I am proud to be a part of a small group within the Internal Revenue Service that educates our stakeholders and lessens the burden of the American taxpayer through our outreach activities that focus on education, disaster assistance, and stakeholder issue resolution. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? GT: For me, my biggest achievements have been the ability to mentor and assist others in their careers. I have been rewarded by the gift of seeing others grow and accomplish the career goals they have set for themselves, and in several cases exceed what they thought they could do. And of course, the added bonus is when the person comes back and lets me know how much they’ve appreciated the assistance. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? GT: Join an organization, whether you join something like Federally Employed Women (FEW) or another organization that supports your career and your passion. Never underestimate the power of personal growth and moral support gained by being proactively involved with others. Joining FEW has given me an appreciation for the hard work and service that Federal employees provide every day. I am especially appreciative of the positive impact that women make in the Federal workplace and in their service to the American taxpayer. My involvement with FEW has been invaluable to my career and personal growth. Without my involvement with FEW, I would not have been exposed to so many skillsets and career paths in my interactions with FEW sisters and brothers across the United States. Being active in FEW gave me the confidence to...

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Put Your Data Visuals on a Diet: No More Pie Charts!

Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Put Your Data Visuals on a Diet: No More Pie Charts!

  Happy Pi Day! To celebrate, I will be discussing one of the most widely-used (but not widely useful!) data visualizations: the Pie Chart. Data-driven, strategic decisions are only as good as the information behind them—and to decision-makers presented with data, the information’s only as good as the chart or graph that represents it. As data analysis is used more and more, the communication of actionable information becomes just as important as the information itself. While charts and graphs are invaluable tools for easily and quickly communicating a complex message to an audience, if they aren’t wisely designed, they can also be misinterpreted, misleading, or even deterrents to action. And pie charts—despite their deceptively simple style and popularity—often lead viewers astray, or lead nowhere at all. So, here are 3.14 Reasons to Never Use Pie Charts! 1. Distortion of the Information 3D and ‘explosion’ effects are very common pie chart features. But look at the following example of regional sales data—can you tell which region had the most first-quarter sales? I can’t tell either, and I built the chart! The explosion makes it difficult to gauge the slices’ sizes in relation to each other. And when using the 3D effect, slices that are closer to the reader appear larger than the others. Let’s remove the 3D and explosion effects and see if that helps. Still stuck? Me too. Dark colors naturally look larger than light colors, making it difficult to compare. Instead of a pie chart, use a bar chart that you can sort and label efficiently. Bar charts can often display the same exact data without distorting the information—and audiences are always relieved by easy-to-read charts. 2. Difficulty Communicating the Information How many times have you seen a pie chart with too many slices and a crowded legend? If your eyes need to move back and forth between the chart and the legend (and who can squint hard enough to read that legend, right?), you’re not focusing on the information or what it means. Instead, your brainpower is spent remembering which color matches each legend entry. Let’s try to fix it by limiting the number of pie flavors. This shows the top pie preferences, and buckets everything else into ‘Other’. But we’re now inviting questions about what falls into the mysterious ‘Other’ category rather than effectively communicating the pie preferences. (And if you hadn’t noticed, we’re experiencing distortion of information with the colors—e.g. is the dark blue slice twice the size of the orange slice? Hard to say!) A bar chart allows you to communicate the important information without inviting tangential (or completely unrelated!) questions. 3. Difficult to Draw Meaningful Conclusions This is the result of reasons #1 and #2. When a data visualization does not accurately represent or effectively communicate the data, one of two things is most likely to happen. One – you’re going to make a decision that you shouldn’t. Or two – you’re not going to make any decision at all. In today’s environment it is increasingly important to be able to make data-driven, strategic decisions. That’s so much easier when you use a chart style that fits your data and your message. Most often, a pie chart is not the right choice. 3.14. Pie is for eating, not for data. Don’t get me...

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Ode to Grant Professionals

Posted by on Mar 9, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Ode to Grant Professionals

Have you ever had a run of unexpected events that seems to leave you knocked down? But you get up again. And again. And again. And when you get up, if you are lucky enough to be a grant professional, you’ve often got someone pushing or pulling you up. Here are my top 5 reasons why. Grant Professionals collaborate. The nature of the grants process means that you’ve got to work with at least one other person to get anything done. And even if you’re a one-person shop, you’re part of a professional network to bounce ideas around to find the right solution. Grant Professionals know when and how to ask for help. Because we have to collaborate, we know and understand that deadlines pop up, subject-matter expertise may be in someone else’s brain, and that outside editors are our friends. Grant Professionals try new things. At some point in every grant professionals career, we were something else. So when someone says, “Have you heard about this opportunity,” we’ll listen. And we’ll see if we can make it work. Grant Professionals understand that it’s in the details. So when we’re trying to figure out how to make it work, most of us are automatically thinking about the execution if we win – from reporting to staffing to the next proposal. Managing grants is a complex and often bureaucratic business. Grants Professionals are nice. I find myself reading more and more articles on the importance of employee engagement and positive workplaces. I’ve been lucky thus far to find that this is the case with grant professionals. We’re a group to celebrate the wins and learn from the losses, even when having to slog through many different projects. I hope that most of you have been enjoying International Grant Professionals Week. Please check the www.grantprofessionals.org website for more information. And if you’re reading this in time, and you’re in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 10, meet the National Capital Area Chapter for breakfast at the Hamilton downtown at 8:30...

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Federal Spotlight: Doris Sartor

Posted by on Mar 6, 2017 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Federal Spotlight: Doris Sartor

Dr. Doris Sartor serves as Course Director for the Air Force Civilian Associate Degree Program at Maxwell Air Force Base, and is national president of Blacks In Government (BIG). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? DS: 35 years. My main responsibility is serving as Course Director, Air Force Civilian Associate Degree Program at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. The Eaker Center is standing up the Associate of Applied Science in Leadership and Management Studies for Air Force civilians. This degree program is designed to create a body of core competencies, key skills, and abilities infused with Air Force Core Values to prepare USAF civilians to be effective as they assume increased responsibilities as Air Force Leaders. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? DS: That’s an easy question to respond to. First of all, I really enjoy the prospect of designing and implementing new programs and courses. I do enjoy seeing the plethora of positive effects the programs or courses have on civilian and military members. On a daily basis I get to witness, first-hand, the innovation, dedication, and commitment of my fellow military and civilian co-workers. Secondly, as a public servant, I get to live my passion of helping others. My nine-year position as the Course Director for the Air Force Sexual Assault and Response Coordinators and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocates Courses allowed me the opportunity to work with those who provide sensitive care for sexual assault victims. Academically empowering students through interactive, engaging activities, helps ensure their success as they educate, advocate, and collaborate to respond to and stop sexual assault. Being a part of their journey was an incredible experience. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? DS: Now, that’s a really hard question! I’ve had many wonderful opportunities throughout my civil service career. It’s difficult to choose just one achievement. Presently, I’m honored to serve as the 14th National President of Blacks In Government (BIG). With my involvement with such a prestigious organization, I have had many opportunities and challenges that have enriched me both personally and professionally. For example, over my 28 years of involvement with BIG, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as Corporate Sponsorship Chair and collaborate with organizations, agencies, and businesses that have donated more than one million dollars to BIG’s programs, services, and initiatives. Kudos to them for investing in such a noteworthy organization! The invaluable experiences of being the program coordinator for numerous BIG programs such as the National Oratorical Program; Information Superhighway Student Competition; Future Leaders in America’s Government; and Darlene H. Young Leadership Academy have served me well. The skills I learned while working with BIG transferred into my many government positions as GS-15 Leadership Seminar Executive Course Director; Quality Advisor; Associate Editor, Air and Space Power Journal; EEO Counselor; Mediator; and AETC Quality Air Force Instructor. Certainly, if you ask my mother that question, she would tell you to look at the many photos she has of me with such outstanding leaders like our former President, Barack Obama; Attorney Johnnie Cochran; Actor Clarence Gilyard; and General Dennis...

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Hiring Freeze? Time to Thaw the Organization’s Human Capital Plan

Posted by on Feb 24, 2017 in Human Resources, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Hiring Freeze? Time to Thaw the Organization’s Human Capital Plan

Despite the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with it, the Federal hiring freeze may be a forcing mechanism to invest in what the GAO has been asking the Federal government to do for almost two decades now—get better at human capital planning. HR staff and leadership at all levels can benefit from viewing this freeze as an opportunity to take an internal assessment of the programs that present the greatest human capital need. This will further prepare organizations to manage through the workforce reduction plan requested by the January 23 Presidential Memorandum (which, according to the PM, is due from OMB within 90 days of January 23). The reductions will be through attrition, but that leaves a lot to be defined. What will it look like to reduce the workforce through attrition? Will all agencies be equally subject to reduction? Will agencies use incentives to encourage attrition in specific jobs? Will mission-critical areas be prioritized for growth and exempted from reduction? Aside from the exceptions covered in the initial Hiring Freeze Guidance announcement from OMB, we do not have answers to these questions yet. In practice, the PM and reduction plan will require leadership to examine where resources are allocated and which skills are most needed. Since 2001, GAO has identified strategic human capital management as a high risk area in the Federal government, emphasizing that the government’s ability to provide essential services to the public is impeded by skills gaps. In 2017, that same area is again identified as a high risk area, indicating that there’s still room to improve in identifying and closing skills gaps in agency workforces. Leadership and human resources departments have the opportunity to use this time to sharpen their organization’s focus. In addition to the strategic human capital risk area, GAO’s 2017 High Risk Report indicates that skills gaps—a function of human capital management—contribute to high risks in the Federal government in 15 out of the 34 other areas of high risk. Our recent survey reflects how this is felt—71% of respondents from 30 civilian and defense agencies (3/4 of which were GS/GM-12 and above) state that their organization faces critical skills gaps. And the gaps spread across a variety of functions—from IT, to financial management, chemical control, public health, property management, and more. Apart from the short-term squeeze, Federal HR business partners and liaisons can play a role in helping affected organizations get better at human capital planning for all segments of the workforce—including those exempted from the freeze. To start, having a plan for where resources give the most support to the organization’s services is a good best practice for workforce planning. It will also come in handy when OMB’s plan for reducing the workforce is released. Lean on your internal resources and begin gathering data to inform your human capital conversations: Know your risks. In what area are services strained or at risk due to workforce gaps—either vacancies or skills gaps? Identify high priority needs. If you were to have to reduce spending, what would be the programs you would most want to protect? Where could you gain efficiencies? Maintain continuity of service. If leadership needs to reduce the workforce, what roles, functions, or programs provide the greatest amount of support to serving the constituents and mission? Although workforce reduction...

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Inspiration and Insight at AGA’s 2017 National Leadership Training Event

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017 in Financial Management | 0 comments

Inspiration and Insight at AGA’s 2017 National Leadership Training Event

Last week, on behalf of Management Concepts, a group of colleagues and I attended the National Leadership Training (NLT) event in Washington, D.C., a two-day event organized by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA). Keynote presenters included Chip Fulghum (Deputy Under Secretary of Management, Dept. of Homeland Security), Janice Hamby (Chancellor, National Defense University iCollege), and Jonathan Karl (Chief White House Correspondent, ABC News). The exhibit hall was packed with accountants, auditors, CEOs, CPAs, CGFMs, CFOs, consultants, senior government leaders, and business developers—made for a pretty broad representation of Federal financial management professionals. So, what kept everybody together for two days? Dedication to outstanding public service and exceptional leadership. The event schedule was filled with expert-led presentations, with topics including Presidential transition, cyber security, the DATA act, and risk management—and most importantly there were a number of spirited leadership development sessions. The two-day event flew by in a rush of wisdom, forward thinking, and engaged community. We did our best to take it all in, while promoting Management Concepts latest opportunities for professional development training and consulting. Here are some of our top takeaways and quotes (more or less paraphrased) from the two-day event: Data Act implementation will help improve performance within the government, and there will be a learning curve for all those involved in its implementation. The curve will need to be met with smart planning and thoughtful leadership—we’ve prepared a complimentary webinar to help people ready their teams. Accurate preparation of data by government employees is crucial in order to support data-driven decisions by incoming political appointees and other new leaders. Savvy professionals show the way with good data. Leadership is full of peaks and valleys. How you deal with both is what makes you a good leader (Yep, that means learning how to deal with success just as well as how to deal with challenge and failure). Continuous learning is key to being a good leader. Do things that frighten and challenge you, and always consider how you’re working to unleash the best from others. “Reach one. Teach one. Grab one. Drag one.” That’s a quote from Gwendolyn Sykes, CFO U.S. Secret Service, during her presentation in the Path to Leadership When it comes to mentorship, there are various ways to mentor others, and it’s important to have more than one technique at your disposal. What are yours? Supporting Federal financial management professionals is integral to our mission—thanks to all who stopped by our booth. We already look forward to next year’s NLT, but in the meantime, stay in touch with us through our Federal financial management blogs, and check out our upcoming course offerings: Internal Control: Meeting Federal Requirements for Accountability Appropriations Law Seminar Leadership and Management...

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Resilience: The Word of the Year

Posted by on Feb 17, 2017 in Leadership | 0 comments

Resilience: The Word of the Year

Each year, the Pantone Color Institute names a color of the year. “Greenery”, the choice for 2017, feels especially symbolic: “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.” – Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Interesting, yes, but I know what you’re thinking: How will this year’s “it” color help me? For starters, it’s a great, non-political trivia fact that can fill an awkward gap in small talk with someone you just met. More importantly, however, this year’s color is a good reminder that nature is eternally resilient and we must choose to be resilient. Resilience feels like the word of the year—our signal and guide to something better that can happen tomorrow if we harness today’s nervous energy and channel it wisely. I’m not saying that being resilient is easy or the cure to all of our problems, but learning how to bounce forward in the face of adversity shifts the momentum from negative to positive and refocuses us on what is possible tomorrow. To those of you that lead a team or an entire organization, you know how important it is to help others focus on what could be in order to fix what is. If you need to create resilience and opportunity for others in this time of uncertainty, here are 5 tips to keep in mind: 1. Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. This idiom is a favorite in my family, and all it means is don’t lose sight of the big picture. As a leader, others look to you for the playbook or path forward. When you or those you lead get so focused on the details, issues become overwhelming—that can trigger an unproductive emotional spiral. The best way to help others stay focused on the big picture is to create a space to communicate regularly so you can address questions openly and everyone hears the same message. If you find you can’t answer a question, take note and commit to seeking clarity from others on behalf of your team. Be sure you follow up, too, even if it’s only to say, “I’m working on getting an answer to your question.” 2. Be honest yet optimistic. When decisions are complex or information floating around is scarce (or inaccurate), resilient leaders are honest yet optimistic. I am a huge advocate of creating a “circle of trust” among team members so people feel comfortable to share both concerns and ideas openly. Such an environment is only possible if you share good information with your team and ensure the spirit is one of optimism, as opposed to a forum for airing grievances and spreading negativity. And, that optimistic spirit must be enforced by the entire team (not just you as the leader) so all team members stay positive if it isn’t their innate tendency in tough times. 3. Celebrate small successes. I see resilience as a bank of good will that fuels you through difficult times. Like most things in life, if you aren’t being proactive or monitoring things, resilience seems to follow Murphy’s Law: you...

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Federal Program Management Gets a Boost

Posted by on Feb 16, 2017 in Project Management | 0 comments

Federal Program Management Gets a Boost

In February of last year, we highlighted a new legislative effort to improve Federal management of programs called the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA) of 2015. This Act would amp up the Federal effort by formalizing the role that Program Managers play in Federal operations through a series of directed actions. Among the various actions President Obama took in the final days of his administration was to sign the new Program Management Improvement Accountability Act into law on December 14, 2016. As with the PMIAA 2015 version, this effort adds language to Section 503 in Title 31 of the U.S. Code, which applies to all Executive Branch entities (Defense excepted). Here’s a quick summary of actions the Office of Management and Budget and Agencies are assigned by the change: OMB Deputy Director for Management shall: Adopt governmentwide standards for program and project management Oversee implementation of program and project management standards, policies, and guidelines Establish and chair a Program Management Council comprised of the Program Management Improvement Officer from each Agency, five OMB executives by position (DDM, OPPM, OFFM, OFPP, and E-Gov), and others as appropriate. The council shall meet not less than twice per fiscal year and it will review “programs identified as high risk by GAO.” Establish a 5-year strategic plan for PPM Agency heads will designate a “senior executive” as the Program Management Improvement Officer who shall: Implement the agency’s program management policies Develop a strategy for enhancing the role of program managers within the agency to include: Enhanced training and educational opportunities for Relevant (private sector) competencies Training in cost containment Mentoring by experienced senior executives and PMs in the agency Improved career paths and career opportunities Plan to recruit and retain highly qualified individuals to fill PM roles Improved means of collecting and disseminating best practices to enhance program management across the agency The Program Management Policy Council will be the principal interagency forum for improving agency practices related to program and project management and shall: Advise and assist the DDM Review programs identified as high risk by GAO and recommend actions Discuss topics of importance to the workforce, including: Career development and workforce development needs Policy to support continuous improvement Major challenges across agencies Advise on the development and applicability of standards, governmentwide, for program management transparency Review information published on the OMB website on Transparency of Programs, Priority Goals, and Results The legislation has a very aggressive timeline: No less than 1 year after the enactment of this Act, OMB shall issue the standards, policies, and guidelines required by the Act. No less than 90 days after the above action, OMB shall issue any regulations as are necessary. No less than 180 days from when the standards, policies, and guidelines are issued (by OMB’s OPPM), OPM will issue regulations that: Identify key skills and competencies needed by PPMs (Program and Project Managers) Establish a new job series, or update existing ones, for PPMs Establish a new career path for agency PPMs No less than 1 year after enactment, OMB shall submit a report to Congress on the Strategy developed. No less than 3 years after enactment, GAO shall issue, in conjunction with the GAO High Risk list, a report on the effectiveness of: The standards, policies, and guidelines for PPM...

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3 Steps to Advance Your Contracting Career

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

3 Steps to Advance Your Contracting Career

Now that we’re halfway through February, how many of us are still working towards our New Year’s resolutions? If you’ve made it past January 17, the official Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day, then congratulations! And for those who marked the occasion, it’s still early enough in the year to get back on track. Focusing on career advancement commonly makes it to the top of the resolution list every year. Contracting professionals may find that challenging since getting to the next level typically requires successful completion of required training along with mastering certain professional skills. It’s easy to just concentrate on the technical component, but neglecting the “soft skills” can be a hindrance to achieving the next level of success. The Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) has outlined a Contracting Competency Model that includes technical components as well as professional elements essential for the contracting career field. Technical competencies are typically addressed through required courses for those who are seeking FAC-C or DAWIA certification. Honing your professional skills, such as problem solving, oral and written communication, and business acumen, requires a combination of training and non-training options. So, what should you do differently this year to move forward on your path to success? While there are often roadblocks to skill development in the Federal workforce, here are three steps you can always take that will help you reach the next level: 1. Identify Gaps Make an appointment to talk to your Acquisition Career Manager (ACM). Find out if your agency has a career progression model. Most models outline the progressive experience needed for advancement. Determine where your gaps may be through self- as well as peer-assessment tools. Your ACM may be able to direct you to the best options for these resources. 2. Make a Roadmap Create a map of courses that you need to take and supplement it with courses and other experiential opportunities to help develop your professional skills. If you need a roadmap to get you started, take a look at our Training Course Guide for Contracting Professionals. Post your roadmap in a visible place as a daily reminder of your progress and future goals. 3. Explore Options Outside of Traditional Training As training dollars continue to be tight, get creative. Seek professional growth opportunities through progressive assignments and cross-functional opportunities. Some departments have existing programs within the organization and possibly with other agencies to develop the skills you need. Consider coaching and mentoring as additional avenues to reinforce the learning, discover new breakthroughs for yourself, and provide the support to continue down your journey. Remember that you are in control of where you want to take your contracting career. Be an advocate for your own advancement. Resolve to be one step closer to your desired career progression by this time next...

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Finding Stability and Opportunity through Uncertainty

Posted by on Feb 14, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Finding Stability and Opportunity through Uncertainty

Last week, my colleague Debbie Eshelman discussed the ability of individuals to embrace the chaos in Federal organizations to move their career forward. For many workers, as Debbie rightly noted, it feels like we are living in a more chaotic world than ever before. Dramatic changes in leadership and associated policies, operating norms, organizational structures, and the workforce are creating tremendous instabilities in organizations. Fortunately for Federal personnel there can be benefits to the organizational instability created by uncertainties, anxiety, and rapid change. As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel famously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean [is] it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Perhaps your organization or team feels like it is in the middle of a crisis with an uncertain future and shifting leadership, and is caught in the mire of the Federal hiring freeze. If so, here are a few things you can do to help take advantage of the “crisis” and use a planned approach to organizational change to bring stability to your work environment: 1. Understand your networks and those of your colleagues. In her article on “The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents,” Dr. Julie Battilana of Harvard Business School indicates that her research on hundreds of organizational changes clearly demonstrates the need for effective use of informal influence that comes from organizational networks to achieve successful change. Understanding how individuals in your organization are connected through their informal networks, and not just in the formal hierarchy of the organization, enables you to predict how information about the change will travel throughout your organization and maintain control of the messaging about the importance and value of the change. Additionally, identifying people in your organization who are closely connected to influential “fence-sitters” or those who are likely to be ambivalent about the change. Identifying individuals who are highly connected across the organization—who aren’t outright resisting the change but maybe are slow to adopt it—and influencing them to endorse the change effort can dramatically enhance the chances of success for your change initiative. 2. Find the meaning behind the change. To paraphrase American author and humorist Mark Twain, the two most important days in your change effort are the day you start and the day the organization finds out why. While Twain’s famous quote was talking about ultimate purpose in life, the sentiment holds true for organizational change efforts. It essential to tie your proposed change initiative to a higher sense of purpose that is driven by the mission and values delivered by the organization. Workers in the Federal government are often motivated by the opportunity to add value to public life. And while there are still many unanswered questions about the origins and impact of public service motivation, it is clear that tying an organizational change to positive impacts on mission achievement and citizen impact can provide a much needed uplift in the likelihood of adoption. 3. Create safe spaces for failure and the resulting learning. One of the things that can significantly drive up anxiety in unstable organizations is the fear of failure. The high performers in your organization that you need to have onboard for successful change are often those who have a high need for achievement. This achievement...

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To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Workforce Management | 2 comments

To Overcome Anxiety in the First 100 Days, Coaching Is Clutch

Executive orders, cabinet confirmation hearings, and Supreme Court nominations are leaving many in the federal sector uncertain about how they’ll be impacted. This uncertainty can increase anxiety for Federal employees. This uncertainty, combined with how people feel about the uncertainty, affects people’s ability to tolerate ambiguity, increasing the intensity of their experience of anxiety. The experience of uncertainty can also in turn amplify a particular feeling you already have about what’s going on in your workplace. One of several factors that influence the human experience of uncertainty is the psychological safety they experience in their work environment. As someone’s boss, you likely influence the psychological safety a person experiences, even if you cannot change the objective uncertainty of the present moment. How you demonstrate transparency, trust, and yes, even care, for your employees can influence how they experience a sense of security at work. Your role is even more critical in steadying your team while they work through fears, anxiety, confusion, apprehension, and other negative emotions that can be brought on by significant transitions in the workplace. Emotional contagion, the phenomenon of a team’s attitudes and feelings—and thus, their decision making—being influenced by one another’s emotions, has gained increasing attention in recent times. If you’re a manager who isn’t paying attention to how your own emotions are influencing your people, you might be contributing unnecessary negativity to an already anxious group. Yet, you may not be experiencing a sense of stability from your own boss. So, you’re having to buffer against what’s coming at you from your boss, and prevent that from being passed down to your people… Enter coaching. Working with a coach (internal or external to your organization) can help you navigate your own feelings of uncertainty, while working on your capacity for self-control or empathy, holding difficult conversations, executive presence, and more. And, if you get serious about using coaching skills to help your own people, having your own coach can be critical in helping you understand what good coaching looks and feels like, and how it’s different from traditional supervisory conversations. According to our recent research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—82 % of the Federal workers we surveyed feel that their managers are unresponsive or slow to address reported employee issues. A study by DDI (Development Divisions International, Inc.) found that in the U.S., 56% of frontline managers fail because of lack of interpersonal skills. Moreover, negative outcomes like loss of leader engagement, team members leaving the organization, and profit and productivity loss, were most commonly attributed to lack of interpersonal skills. Are you that manager? Are you uncomfortable handling important, if difficult, conversations? Are you perhaps even uncomfortable holding check-in conversations that aren’t part of the official “performance review” process? I’ve encountered several clients who hesitate to initiate informal conversations with their employees because it isn’t part of their organization’s “culture.” They get self-conscious. They think it will be too awkward, or worse yet, that employees will question their motivations. Without putting in the time and effort to build rapport, they’re surprised when they don’t know how to motivate or support individual employees. And now, both the relationship and how to deal with uncertainty, have to be addressed. If you’re a manager who hasn’t picked up coaching skills—you can develop those...

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How Your Career Moves Forward in Chaotic Times

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

How Your Career Moves Forward in Chaotic Times

After the Presidential election, regardless of where your sympathies lie, it feels like we are living more than ever in a VUCA world. VUCA is a military acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, and it is used to describe our environment during times of turmoil and change. There are so many different viewpoints and perspectives coming at us from so many different sources—the media, our coworkers, and our family and friends—that we often don’t feel like we are standing on stable ground and can’t clearly strategize our future. People have diverse reactions and mindsets during these times of uncertainty. Many people view these times with great negativity, sharing their doom and gloom mindset while wringing their hands—and some people just passively “go with the flow” instead of engaging in processing the moment. However, others view turbulent times as the chance to look for new opportunities for career growth. How you view the political climate is dependent on your paradigm—your mentality that governs your thinking and actions, as influenced by your experience and personal outlook. If you have a scarcity paradigm, then you will see scarce opportunities and limited possibilities. On the other hand, if you have an abundance paradigm, prospects for new opportunities will appear regularly. Therefore, if you’re proactive about your career, and the careers of your colleagues and teammates, this is a time to be creative in your thoughts and actions. So, what are some actions that you can take to further your career in this VUCA environment, beyond attending classes or training sessions to acquire new knowledge? We have several ideas about what helps and hinders talent development in the public sector in our latest research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—but we’ll focus here on just a few of our tips. Consult Your Mentors In our report, over 50% of the respondents said they take advantage of coaching and mentoring opportunities. Do you currently have a mentor inside or outside your organization who you engage with on a longer-term basis to help with your career development? Some people have even developed a board of mentors. They have different mentors who focus on different aspects of their mentee’s career. For instance, one mentor can provide advice on how to be a more effective leader, while another mentor can share specific technical expertise. Work with a Professional Coach Have you considered working with a coach to address the development of a specific skill/behavior or assist with handling a job situation or relationship? Both coaching and mentoring are personalized approaches to helping you further develop your career. Make Time for On-the-Job Training Over 70% of Federal workers surveyed for our research report feel their organizations are facing critical skills gaps. Often when organizations need these critical skills, there is not the time or the money to put employees through formal training programs. So, organizations offer formal or informal on-the-job training—and if they don’t, it’s up to you to find job aids, webinars, and blog posts that help you expand your skills (and acquire new ones) in a short amount of time. Research has shown that on-the-job training is one of the most effective ways of learning and applying new skills in the workplace. Look for Opportunities, They’re Growing in Number During times of Presidential transition...

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The New Administration Signals Potential Changes for Grants Management

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017 in Grants & Assistance, Uncategorized | 4 comments

The New Administration Signals Potential Changes for Grants Management

Since the inauguration, the Trump administration has taken significant action, through executive orders and memorandums, which may affect Federal grants. The extent to which grants management will be impacted is still unclear; however, it is important for Federal awarding agencies and grant recipients to keep themselves informed. Here’s our rundown of what’s happened, what’s happening, and what’s on the horizon: One immediate impact for the grants community is that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website is currently not available. The OMB website contains grants-related documents such as the 2016 Compliance Supplement, guidance on 2 CFR 200, and required grant forms. Fortunately, the OMB website has been archived and grants-related documents can be accessed here and required grant forms can be accessed through Grants.gov or through the websites of funding agencies. For the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there was initially some confusion regarding an email sent to employees following the inauguration. The Washington Post reported that the email read, “New EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately.” One week later, on January 27, the Acting Administrator for the EPA announced via email that the temporary freeze had been lifted. The White House also issued a memorandum that institutes a governmentwide hiring freeze for all new and existing positions. The directive exempts positions related to the military, national security, and public safety. On January 25, OMB released a memo providing additional details regarding the hiring freeze. Federal News Radio posted a copy of the memo on its website. The hiring freeze will likely affect grants by reducing Federal personnel, which may delay making awards and reduce monitoring. Another memorandum, entitled “Regulator Freeze Pending Review,” prevents agencies from implementing new regulations until a Presidential appointee has assumed office for the agency. Additionally, any approved regulation that has not taken effect has been delayed for 60 days. OMB was currently in the process of amending 2 CFR 200, and the memorandum will likely delay the release of any changes. Finally, on January 30, an executive order was issued requiring agencies to repeal two regulations for every proposed regulation. The executive order directs OMB to issue further guidance, so the extent to which grants management will be affected is unknown. The grants community should closely follow this year’s budget. The White House is required to release the proposed budget on February 6, but, as Roll Call notes, new administrations are frequently late. The proposed budget will provide significant insight into the administration’s funding priorities. To help you stay informed of all the changes, Management Concepts Federal Grants Update Course provides training and guidance. We will also continue to update our blog page as new developments occur. Stay tuned and stay informed—subscribe to our blog, and keep the discussion going by commenting...

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How to Navigate an Uncertain Political Landscape

Posted by on Jan 31, 2017 in Leadership | 0 comments

How to Navigate an Uncertain Political Landscape

We are nearly two weeks into the Trump administration and one thing seems clear: change is happening. Since the transfer of power took place on January 20th, senior-level management officials at the State department have resigned, and President Trump has signed executive orders implementing a hiring freeze across the Federal government and reducing the number of regulations Federal agencies are allowed to impose on U.S. businesses. Depending on your political orientation, you may find these changes to be necessary course corrections, unfortunate shifts in the Federal landscape, or something in between. Regardless of your views, many government employees (and the agency missions they support) are now faced with uncertain futures. Workplace uncertainty can be emotionally taxing, particularly when you feel you have little or no influence over your future. Wholesale organizational changes in policy, structure, or culture are often beyond your control. However, focusing on your perceived lack of influence is counterproductive and demotivating. Instead, leadership professionals suggest concentrating on what is within your own “sphere of influence”. These are the elements of your life—thoughts, attitudes, emotional reactions, and work ethic—that are fully (or at least mostly) within your control. Concentrating energy and attention on these elements allows you to engage in higher levels of strategic and creative thinking, and tackle difficult situations by managing your behavior and emotional responses. If you are anything like me, focusing your energy and attention on only things within your control may not come naturally. I often catch myself lost in thought, worrying about what my life will be like 5, 10, or 20 years from now. In doing so, I lose the ability to impact what is in front of me in the present, adding undue stress to my life with no apparent benefits. When I manage to focus on what I can control—today, tomorrow, and next week—I find myself more efficient, effective, and efficacious. There are many strategies that can be used to remain centered in your sphere of influence—mindfulness meditation, metacognitive questioning (questions about how you’re thinking), and journaling, to name a few. However, simply asking yourself, “What do I have the power to change right now?” may be a sufficient reminder. Though change is inevitable, and sometimes unwelcome, it does not make us powerless. At a minimum, you are in control of your attitudes and perceptions of any situation. In the face of sweeping changes to the national landscape, you must remember to accept ownership and remain accountable for what you can control. As noted in our latest complimentary research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—organizations in the Federal government need to start addressing their skills gaps and talent management issues. You don’t have to wait for sweeping changes, expected or unexpected: ask yourself what you can do today and tomorrow to navigate the uncertainty and fortify your performance. Signing up for our training in adaptability, accountability, and resilience will help you advance your professional skills and goals, but you’re always your own best catalyst for the outcomes—big and small—you...

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Organizational Culture Clears the Way for Successful Change

Posted by on Jan 29, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Organizational Culture Clears the Way for Successful Change

Do opportunities exist to fortify culture when a big change occurs? Change is happening across the Federal government at all levels. Individuals are adjusting their attention, teams are shifting their focus, and organizations are responding to new priorities. The speed with which organizations must respond to change while maintaining effective and productive momentum is increasing, and the potential consequences will have a greater impact on agencies and the public served. Any change that is introduced to an organization has the potential to impact the existing culture. Change is happening, and a constructive workplace culture is needed for employees to meaningfully buy into the change effort. If people don’t buy in, then change becomes little more than a disruptive, disengaging force for everyone affected. The question is: When change is introduced, what opportunities exist for leaders to calibrate and make the necessary adjustments to sustain or improve organizational culture? As an organization embraces movement from the current to the new or desired state, there are four significant methods to create opportunities to improve or sustain organizational culture. These methods are used to ensure the best possible performance outcomes for the organization. 1. Assess the current state. When change is introduced, organizations often move quickly to implementation. However, dutiful observation and listening will allow organizations to identify what is needed to enable a successful implementation of the change event. The goal is to obtain an understanding of the as-is state to enable leadership to make informed decisions about what is needed to reach the desired state successfully. The current state can be assessed by conducting interviews or focus groups with key individuals who will be impacted by the change event. Questions to assess the current state: What cultural attributes exists today that will enable successful implementation of the change event? If the change is implemented today, what’s needed for it to be successful? What are our leaders doing to support the change effort? What do they need to do? 2. Identify the risks and opportunities related to the change event. Every organization faces challenges related to a change event. When change is introduced, initially organizations need to understand the impact(s) of the change event on the organization. For the change event to be successful, leaders must identify supporting systems, processes, and behaviors; as well as identify the inefficiencies the change event will address. Identifying the opportunities will allow an organization to preserve and reinforce the effective behaviors within the current state. Questions to explore risk and opportunity: How does this change impact or support your agency and operational division’s mission, vision, strategy? What are we currently doing that will enable a swift adoption of the change event? What are the best and worst potential outcomes of this change? In what ways are we unprepared to successfully adapt or respond to the change event? 3. Mitigate ambiguity. Change events are often followed by uncertainty by those directly and indirectly impacted. Leaders can mitigate the misunderstanding and concern by developing a clear and precise understanding of the road forward. Work to identify the message to communicate the who, what, when, and why story across the organization, specifically to the impacted individuals. When communicating information about the change event, an opportunity exists to reinforce elements of the existing culture that will remain in place...

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On the Horizon: The Status of Category Management

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in Acquisition | 0 comments

On the Horizon: The Status of Category Management

With the change in administration comes change in the Federal acquisitions horizon, and there is reasonable concern that the focus on category management could shift. However, while there is much on the new administration’s agenda, it looks like category management is here to stay—at least for now. The concept of category management – bundling similar items to gain a better price when purchasing in large quantities – is not new to Federal acquisitions. The resources to help agencies leverage the Federal government’s buying power to procure goods and services in a smarter and more efficient manner, however, are. The General Services Administration (GSA) launched the Acquisitions Gateway two years ago as a one-stop shop to provide contracting professionals access to tools, data, and a common workspace for key steps in the acquisition process. There is a government-only portal as a well as access for non-Federal and public users which contains a subset of what government employees can view. Recently, GSA announced that it reached 10,000 users who are using the site to learn about the 19 hallways and 10 common Federal Government spend categories. One of the hallways is dedicated to Professional Services. Working for a company that offers a broad range of professional services and has a comprehensive offerings list under GSA’s Professional Services Schedule, I am particularly interested in this topic. I want to know our customers’ buying and spending patterns—what major professional services contracts recently have been awarded and what’s coming down the pike, and how changes in the competitive landscape will affect companies in this space. Apparently, I am not the only one. Since last Fall, when the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) published in the Federal Register  its proposal for a new OMB Circular—Circular A-XXX, “Implementing Category Management for Common Goods and Services”—there has been much discussion about how Federal agencies would accomplish this and how it would impact the industry. From the proposed Circular’s summary, OFPP and OMB aim to: Establish a governmentwide approach to acquiring common goods and services. Emphasize the potential to achieve greater economy and efficiency across the Federal government. Define the strategies and policies agencies would follow to execute category management. Outline the governance and roles and responsibilities for all of the key players and stakeholders. Stress the importance of data analytics and information sharing through the use of the Acquisition Gateway. Identify the core metrics by which category management success will be measured. Given that agencies spent over $270 billion on common items and services, according to FY2015 statistics from the Federal Procurement Data System, harnessing that collective buying power would translate to substantial savings for taxpayers. Further, with the recent announcement of a governmentwide hiring freeze, agencies will be expected to continue to do more with less, or more with what they have. By leveraging best practices from other agencies through data contained in the Acquisition Gateway, contracting professionals can perform better market research, which leads to well-defined requirements, and ultimately getting what they want at a better price. There is still much work to be done on how to implement this approach governmentwide and how to involve industry at key points. Leading those discussions is the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC). On March 1, ACT-IAC and GSA are co-sponsoring the 2017...

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In 2017, Show the Way—With Data

Posted by on Jan 26, 2017 in Analytics | 0 comments

In 2017, Show the Way—With Data

This year, more than ever, Federal government leaders will benefit from those of us who are able to visualize data effectively to get their message across. There’s no better way to illustrate the ROI of a program than to literally illustrate it—with effective, irrefutable visuals of the data—which can serve as common ground for discussions about the work being analyzed. As we begin the first 100 days of new leadership in the Federal government, we’ve heard many reports from the Trump administration and media analysts about an increased level of accountability when it comes to government spending. Data-driven accountability supported by well-done analysis brings the advantages of precise measures, proof of performance, and clear communication about the bottom line. I mentioned in a previous blog post that analytics can keep us honest. Let’s look at this new administration as an opportunity to focus on analytics and honest assessments about program costs, benefits, and the impact on the constituents that each business unit serves. Interdisciplinary research on data visualization chronicled by scholars including Stephen Few and Colin Ware teach us that visuals help us understand the data, relate to it, and remember it. To show your program’s value, illustrate its impact and relative value to the organization’s mission to show why investments should be redirected or eliminated, illustrate the tradeoffs. (Check out our complimentary download for tips on The Language of Data Visualization.) Effective and worthwhile analytics is analytics that includes visuals. Visuals provide narrative and insight. Brent Dykes, Director of Data Strategy at Domo, writes, “Ample context and commentary is often needed to fully appreciate an insight. When visuals are applied to data, they can enlighten the audience to insights that they wouldn’t see without charts or graphs.” In addition to telling an effective story, visuals enable us to process ever larger pools of data. We can process information much faster than we can read. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine discovered that the retina communicates with the brain at approximately 10 million bits per second.  We cannot read anywhere close to this fast, however, and to communicate the same amount of information through text takes literally 10,000 times longer (we can read at about 1,000 bits per second). Data is one of an organization’s most valuable assets, and visuals empower us to unleash the value of that asset and analyze more effectively and communicate even more efficiently and persuasively. Most of us will not have access to virtual reality data immersion technology in 2017 that enables us to be surrounded by our data, but we can get more hands-on with the data we use by building effective charts and graphs to analyze it and paint the picture for us (and for our audience of decision makers). In 2017, let the following be our guiding wisdom: Above all else show the data. ―Edward Tufte, renowned statistician and Professor Emeritus at Yale University For more on our Analytics skills training opportunities, check out our Analytics course offerings to see our range of courses—find the training you or your team needs and see when our next classes run (or contact us about private group training). Enroll...

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Federal Financial Management Changes in 2017: It Started in 2016

Posted by on Jan 25, 2017 in Financial Management | 0 comments

Federal Financial Management Changes in 2017: It Started in 2016

It was a big year for Federal Financial Management in 2016, and 2017 is shaping up to be another important year for all of you FMers out there. Here’s a two-part rundown of big changes in 2016 that will continue to affect our field in 2017—we’ve included quick tips and reminders for adapting to these changes, and resources for how to stay up to date in our ever-changing field. 1. Revisions to the Red Book: Principles of Federal Appropriations Law What happened? In March 2016, GAO released revisions to the first and second chapters of the 4th edition of Red Book. What changed? GAO stated it will no longer publish hard copies of the Red Book and will annually update the 4th edition once it is complete (likely to start updates in 2018). What does this mean for 2017? Two big revisions in the Red Book involve resolving conflicts between statutes and unclear legislation. Here are some hints for making decisions in 2017: Resolving Conflicts between Statutes. Yes, sometimes laws appear to conflict with other laws. What do you do? GAO has established a set of principles in resolving conflicts between statutes. Follow these in order: 1) Harmonize Different statutes, 2) Specific laws control general laws, and 3) Later laws prevail over earlier laws. Unclear Legislation. And, sometimes we just do not understand the plain meaning of a law. What do you do? For unclear legislation, use legislative history. This refers to the body of documents from the time of introduction of a bill to the time of enactment and even afterwards. The order to follow is merely a guideline. Some may have greater weight than others. So, use the following sources of documentation: 1) Committee reports, 2) Floor debates, 3) Hearings, 4) Post-enactment statements, and 5) Development of statutory language. What resources can get you up to speed (and keep you on top of) changes to the Red Book? Look for GAO to announce additional revised chapters throughout 2017, and enroll in our popular Appropriations Law Seminar. 2. Revised OMB Circular A-123 What happened? In July 2016, OMB published a long-awaited revision to OMB Circular A-123. What changed? Agencies are now required to have Senior Management Councils overseeing internal control programs, ERM Programs including Risk Profiles, and rigorous documentation in internal controls assessments against more detailed internal control standards. What does this mean for 2017? There a few deadlines to watch out for that will be here before you know it! Due June 2, 2017: A risk profile developed in coordination with agency strategic reviews Due: September 15, 2017: ERM assessments integrated with management evaluation of internal control as required by FMFIA What resources can get you up to speed with the revised A-123? Download our complimentary webinar! And catch our follow-up blog post where we addressed questions from the audience. Management Concepts now offers a revised Internal Controls course that will help you meet the 2017 deadlines and create an efficient organization. The Federal workforce will see new challenges and opportunities throughout the year, and the Financial Management professionals will see the same workforce opportunities and challenges as everybody else. Stay up to date on Federal Financial Management skills and required knowledge by enrolling in training, and by subscribing to our...

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Improve the Hiring Process, Offer Realistic Job Previews

Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Improve the Hiring Process, Offer Realistic Job Previews

A couple of months ago, I decided to take a yoga class for the first time. I had done some yoga videos on my own, but I had never been to a class. I was a little nervous about what to expect, how I would fit in with others in the class, and if I’d actually be able to do any of those contorted yoga poses. When I found a nearby yoga studio, I was excited to learn that I could attend one class free of charge. This meant I could realistically answer some of my basic questions before fully committing. Wouldn’t it be great if a job applicant could do the same thing with a potential job? Well, short of actually performing the job duties before being hired, there is something that employers can do: provide applicants with a true sense of what a job entails and what the environment is like. It’s called a Realistic Job Preview. What’s in a Realistic Job Preview? A realistic job preview, also called an RJP, provides job applicants with an honest depiction of the job, including both positive and negative aspects. According to OPM, RJPs should include “information applicants are unlikely to know or are likely to have unrealistic expectations about.” This can include a variety of information: Specific job duties and expectations, such as learning to use a variety of computer systems What it’s like to perform the job duties; for example, there may be a lot of ambiguity, or you may have to make quick decisions with little information Job requirements such as working late, traveling, working outside in all weather conditions, or lifting heavy objects Aspects of the organization’s culture such as behavioral norms and values The key to creating an effective RJP is finding the balance between presenting the positive and negative aspects of the job. It is the balance between being honest, forthright, and upbeat, without concealing or over-emphasizing the negative aspects. So, when creating the RJP, to help with finding the right balance of information worth sharing, hiring managers should think about what aspects of the job have been problematic for new hires in the past: With what factors do people typically struggle? Why are people leaving the job within a few months? What didn’t new hires understand about the job that made it a poor fit? If you can identify those aspects, as well as the positive features of the job, then you will know what information to stress in the RJP. Another key to creating a good RJP is ensuring that the RJPs are presented to applicants early in the selection process. By giving applicants an honest and full description of the job and the organization, applicants can determine if the job is a good fit for them. Applicants can compare the information in the RJP to their own preferences. If the job is a good fit, then they can continue to pursue it. If not, then they can self-select out of the process before committing a lot of time and energy to interviews, personality tests, assessment centers, and other components in the hiring process. Finally, keep in mind that RJPs can take a variety of forms – a paper handout or downloadable brochure, a video, a tour of the work environment if...

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Presidential Transition Worries? Good Coaching Gets You Through It

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Presidential Transition Worries? Good Coaching Gets You Through It

I don’t know what to expect. I can’t share this with my coworkers, and I certainly can’t talk with my boss about this. I didn’t realize how much this is actually affecting me. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I hear these phrases a lot from my coaching clients these days. While they’re to be expected in coaching conversations, they’re particularly prevalent during this current change of Presidential administrations. According to the Senior Executives Association’s handbook on Presidential transition for Federal executives , “Over 4,000 political appointee positions will turn over with a new Administration and virtually all civilian employees will be touched by the changes.” For managers and HR professionals staying attuned to their colleagues, providing the right support during times of transition can significantly impact how individuals, teams, and, ultimately, organizations fare during a period of change and uncertainty. A transition can be like a roller coaster, and even if you’re in front leading the way, or have even finished the ride and are ready to move on, remember that the rest of your team might still be hanging on through loops, corkscrews, twists, and turns behind you. Same as having great internal communication, coaching helps get people through the roller coaster ride. In conjunction with solid communications with your staff, consider a three-pronged coaching approach within your organization: Engage in one-on-one coaching: Many factors influence how well individuals approach, and execute, a transition, including “self-criticism, self-doubt, identity shifts, boundary realignments, self-expectation to get it ‘right’ from the start” and more (Weinstock 2011). Whether an individual is experiencing a specific transition in their own role, or navigating an organizational transition, an external coach may be the support they need to reassess the specific behaviors, actions, and perspectives they’ll need to shift to be productive in the new organizational landscape. Create a peer coaching program: An economical and potent way to build empowered employees is to cascade voluntary peer coaching groups throughout your organization. In peer coaching, peers (who do not necessarily work on the same team) come together to build a confidential thought-partnership specific to the concerns of each participant, while learning key coaching skills that will serve them in any relationship and serve them when leading others. While the setup of a peer coaching cohort needs to be intentional, when managed well and trained in the appropriate process, employees can cover territory together that they might be unwilling to broach within their team or with their supervisor. Get coaching for groups or teams: Consider this approach to get your team collectively thinking about what the system of the team needs in order to be successful throughout, and beyond, the transition. You may take advantage of an assessment instrument to establish common data points from which to gain understanding and launch your work together. Making sure you think through which behaviors and business outcomes you’d like the team coaching to support will be key in measuring its effectiveness. Coaching focuses on taking action and changing behaviors—behaviors that are often expressions of our personal values. When employees have difficulty navigating a transition, they may not only be confronting the behavioral requirements of change, but confronting potentially conflicting values and beliefs surrounding the change as well. Not everyone recognizes the energetic toll it can take to self-regulate...

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Making Friends with Risk: How to Be a Champion for Your Program During the Administration Change

Posted by on Jan 10, 2017 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Making Friends with Risk: How to Be a Champion for Your Program During the Administration Change

“With Mick [Mulvaney] at the head of OMB, my administration is going to make smart choices about America’s budget, bring new accountability to our federal government, and renew the American taxpayer’s trust in how their money is spent,” announced President-elect Donald Trump in mid-December. There is still a lot of uncertainty around what is going to happen under the Trump presidency, but one change I feel confident predicting is that the new administration is going to be laser-focused on government performance and results. And the general sentiment of the president elect and his cabinet will be that “government should start acting more like a business.” This sentiment has many implications in terms of decision-making and performance management, most of which will not be clear for some time, but one implication that you can bet on now is the incoming leadership is going to expect program reviews to provide a level of transparency and data-driven analysis similar to that seen in the private sector. Further, the desired program management accountability and transparency will be closer to what a shareholder could expect in terms of reporting from a corporation on a stock exchange. In December, I partnered with Brodi Fontenot, former Assistant Secretary for Management for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, for a webinar titled Communicating Program Value Amidst an Administration Change that gives tips for communicating about your programs with incoming leadership in a way that establishes credibility and rapport. Each of the tips provided in the webinar are useful for you to consider as the administration change gets underway and program reviews start getting scheduled. There is one tip, however, that I think is particularly important because getting it right can make or break your ability to build trust and credibility with the incoming leadership—risks can be your friends. The phrasing of this tip is purposeful. Clearly, risks are undesirable and something we all try to mitigate and avoid in our programs. So, how can they also be your friends? If you do your homework and prepare to discuss them analytically, risks, and even program issues, can be your allies when it comes to building credibility during program reviews with incoming leadership. And, if you think about all of the comments the incoming administration has made about reforming and cleaning up all the problems in the Federal government, the new administration is going to expect to hear that there are issues within our government programs, so if you don’t discuss the issues within your programs with the incoming administration in a transparent and thoughtful way, you will quickly lose credibility. Here are some specific tips for ensuring you describe your program’s issues and risks in a way that builds credibility and trust: 1. Establish a framework or methodology for classifying and prioritizing issues and risks. Just as important as it is to resolve issues and mitigate risks, it’s important to be able to prioritize them among one another in terms of attention and resource allocation. When developing the framework, it is okay to leverage risk frameworks published by OMB, GAO, etc., but be sure to tailor it to the circumstances surrounding your particular program and be comfortable describing why you structured the framework like you did. 2. Work with your team to identify and vet a comprehensive list...

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How a Member of the Grants Community Prepares for 2017

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Grants & Assistance | 2 comments

How a Member of the Grants Community Prepares for 2017

What a year. And I’m not just talking about what you’re reading in your Facebook and Twitter feeds. We managed to launch or revise six grants courses, including Internal Controls for the Federal Grants Community. These were a labor of love, and I’m excited to see how you like what we did in the classroom. But it’s early January, and it’s time to make my top 5 New Year’s resolutions for work. Feel free to share yours with me – because as we know in the grants world, crowd-sourcing is essential. 1. Figure out what the impact of the NDAA language is. Did you read Shane Jernigan’s December post? Did you see this: The first bill that may impact the research community is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. Section 217 of NDAA: Increases the micro-purchase threshold for basic research programs and activities under the Department of Defense; and Adjusts the micro-purchase threshold for universities, independent research institutes, and nonprofit research organizations by: Increasing the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000; or At a higher threshold as determined by an agency and consistent with clean audit findings, internal institutional risk assessment, or state law. Say what? As a reminder, the NDAA often has language that makes changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which in turn can affect grants. When I read this, it seems like some very specific grantee (and contractor) entities have a micro-purchase loophole. But I have no idea how this is going to work in practice. Is this going to vary by agency? Or is an entity going to be able to request a higher threshold from their cognizant agency, and then say that’s it? What if the entity is a subawardee receiving pass-through funds from an entity still held to the $3,500 threshold? Please comment if you have thoughts on this. 2. Check the Federal Register for anticipated changes to 2 CFR 200. We’ve seen some talk during the past few weeks that OMB is working on updates to bring some consistency with the DATA Act. Hopefully this will be something we can celebrate. 3. Continue to learn more about data management and visualization. After decades of relying on Excel, I think it’s time to update my skills and know-how when it comes to organizing data and sharing what I learned. But before I take one of Management Concepts Analytics courses, I should start with the data chaos that is my messy desk. 4. Work on another webinar. I really enjoyed working with my colleagues on the “Get Your DATA Act Together” webinar last summer. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to know a bit more about, please let me know in the comments section. 5. Think about my 35-year plan. I know – what happened to the five-year plan? But in all seriousness, I’ve got to be honest with myself that I can’t imagine not working. That and I’ve got to be able to recover from my son’s college tuition. So that means learning from those who have had not one, but two or three long-term careers like our colleague, Chuck Williams. He provides our team with not only knowledge about our students and business, but inspiration that you can keep learning and growing for the long...

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How to Review 2016 and Gain a New Leadership Perspective on Your Organization

Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How to Review 2016 and Gain a New Leadership Perspective on Your Organization

New year, new strategic planning. It’s a solid best practice. But as you plan for the new year at your organization, how do you know that you’ve truly understood the year that just happened?  Learning from past experience is something that occurs whether we’re intentional or not, but formal self-reflection (and organizational reflection)—to the tune of New Year’s resolutions, which often have  unique charms of timely inspiration, honesty, and introspection—can help you see things with even greater clarity. Aligning your organization to learn from mistakes, tackle new challenges and changes, and be resilient and adaptable will be crucial for 2017. We know from our professional development courses and consulting engagements that it takes a special time and a focused method to effectively reflect, understand, and learn—but we think, with the upcoming Presidential administration change, now’s as good a time as any for some positive, mindful (re)thinking. So, with that spirit in mind, here are two lists of reflective questions for you and your organization: one for processing the year you just had, and another for the year to come. 5 questions to help you and your organization learn from 2016 At your organization, who were the most indispensable or influential contributors? What enabled their behavior, and how can you help others learn that behavior? What did you do that may have caused you to get in your own way? Did your actions impede anybody else’s progress? What did you say Yes to, that you hadn’t said Yes to before, and why? And what did you say No to, and why? Did you accomplish what you set out to do at this time last year? What were the high and low points for you and your organization? What’d you learn from these experiences, and did the organization learn something, too? What specific skill gaps were found by your organization, and what steps were taken to improve? 5 questions to ensure personal and organizational success in 2017 What will you and your organization do for the first time? What will no longer be done? How will you think differently, and what do you hope to learn? How will you open others to different perspectives? What skills (your own and throughout the organization) do you want to grow? How will you do it? How do you plan to mature your organization as a whole to meet your new goals? How will your organization adapt to and manage changes you know are coming? How will you and others remain resilient? How will you know you’ve taken performance for yourself and your organization to a new level? It’s quite possible the best rewards for your organization’s work in 2016 have yet to be realized, and no less possible that your organization’s best success lies ahead—thankfully, wisdom tends to increase over time. Here’s to the end of a year, and here’s to taking on the opportunities of the next one. (And maybe this blog post will help you give everyone a head start on their next individual development plan.) To everyone who worked with our instructors and experts for training, coaching, consulting, guidance, and professional growth, we at Management Concepts thank you—and we whole-heartedly support you as you continue to pursue (and achieve) success for yourself and your organization....

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The Test Your Organization Might Not Be Using, but Should

Posted by on Dec 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Have you heard feedback that your training participants “don’t like” the tests used in your training programs? In the training industry, many foundational courses continue to use multiple-choice tests quite effectively to ensure participants understand course material. However, for hands-on courses where participants learn a skill, the evaluation type should match the content of what participants learn. For example, the best evaluation of a skill such as data management would require participants to complete a data management exercise. For a course teaching conflict management, participants would take part in a role play requiring them to mediate between two employees. Simulations and exercises such as these are often expensive and time-intensive to develop, administer, and score, so training programs mainly do without them. Knowing this, how should those of us in the learning and development industry proceed when we have competing interests of a high-quality, reliable, and valid testing approach that doesn’t involve excessive development time and budget? One effective approach is to use a situational judgment test (SJT). SJTs present test-takers with written or video-based scenarios, and ask them to respond in one of two ways: (1) choose how they would likely behave in a given situation, or (2) evaluate the effectiveness of possible responses to a given situation. In the first response type, test-takers can choose the best or worst response from a list of potential responses, rate how effective each potential response option is, or even rank the potential responses in order of effectiveness. To develop the “situations,” or scenarios, and the list of potential response options, test developers work with subject matter experts (SMEs) in the area they intend to test. For example, in an SJT of leadership skills, test developers would work with SMEs to gather information about situations where performance is particularly good, or particularly bad, and then develop a list of potential responses to the scenario. These types of scenarios are called “critical incidents”. It can even be relatively easy to write these scenarios, as those of us without explicit SME-level expertise in leadership have seen plenty of situations, good and bad. Because SJTs are a method of assessment, and not an assessment of a specific construct (e.g., personality, intelligence, or work ethic), SJTs are flexible enough to test many characteristics, such as: Critical thinking and reasoning Supervisory potential Judgment in work-related situations Interpersonal skills SJTs can be video-based or paper-based; video-based SJTs have been promising for assessing interpersonal skills, although the additional expense may make video-based SJTs prohibitive for most learning and development organizations. SJTs have immense value to organizations—they predict on-the-job performance, and in some cases, they predict performance 7-9 years later. They demonstrate less adverse impact against minority test-takers than typical tests of cognitive ability, and are less susceptible to faking than other types of assessments like personality instruments. SJT items that assess personality ask test takers to indicate the response option that most often reflects what they would do, as opposed to asking participants to self-report on their own characteristics, making it more difficult to fake. Finally, SJTs are more cost effective than high-fidelity simulations like role-play exercises, but have similar validity for predicting job performance. An SJT is a good training evaluation option because responses simulate judgment processes in the work context, and can serve as proxy measures...

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2 CFR 200 Turns Two: The Research Community Seeks Greater Independence

Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

2 CFR 200 Turns Two: The Research Community Seeks Greater Independence

It seems like just yesterday that I was spending my vacation frantically reading the interim final rule for 2 CFR 200. As other members of my family were making final preparations for our holiday, I was busy trying to decipher the new personal compensation requirements and attempting to figure out how best to update Management Concepts grants curriculum. As the Uniform Guidance turns two, the grants community is entering that familiar developmental stage known as the “terrible twos.” To borrow from the Mayo Clinic’s explanation of this phase, “The terrible twos is a normal stage in which toddlers begin to struggle between their reliance on adults and their desire for independence. One minute your child might be clinging to you, and the next he or she is running in the opposite direction.” I think this is a great description for the current stage of the Uniform Guidance. With the implementation of 2 CFR 200, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sought to bring uniformity to grants management. What we are now beginning to see is the desire by some non-federal entities to begin exerting their independence and to have more flexibility with their federal awards. This strive for independence is particularly apparent with the research community, as the research community faces challenges in managing federal awards not common to other entities In December, Congress passed two bills that would provide the research community with specific exceptions to the requirements under 2 CFR 200. The first bill that may impact the research community is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017. Section 217 of NDAA: Increases the micro-purchase threshold for basic research programs and activities under the Department of Defense; and Adjusts the micro-purchase threshold for universities, independent research institutes, and nonprofit research organizations by: Increasing the micro-purchase threshold to $10,000; or At a higher threshold as determined by an agency and consistent with clean audit findings, internal institutional risk assessment, or state law. President Obama has not yet signed the NDAA into law. The 21st Century Cures Act, which President Obama signed into law on December 13, also contains multiple provisions in Section 2034 related to the research community, including: Establishing a research policy board to make recommendations “[r]egarding the modification and harmonization of regulations and policies having similar purposes across research funding agencies” and to minimize recipient burden; Directing the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to implement measures to reduce the administrative burdens related to monitoring of subrecipients of grants, including a potential exemption from subrecipient monitoring requirements; Requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collaborate with the NIH Director to “evaluate financial expenditure reporting procedures and requirements for recipients of funding” from NIH and to minimize recipient burden; and Mandating that HHS clarify the applicability of the requirements under 2 CFR 200 “regarding documentation of personnel expenses, including clarification of the extent to which any flexibility to such requirements…applies to entities receiving grants” from HHS. Any actions from HHS to implement the law’s requirements will take some time to come to fruition. Based on the success of the research community in obtaining greater independence, it will be interesting to see if other non-federal entities will also begin to seek entity-specific exceptions to the Uniform Guidance. For example,...

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The Presidential Transition and Beyond: HR Skills for an Even Stronger Federal Workforce

Posted by on Dec 15, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

The Presidential Transition and Beyond: HR Skills for an Even Stronger Federal Workforce

With the Presidential transition approaching, change is around the corner for over 4 million civilian and military employees in the Federal government. As in any organization, HR’s function is to support transitions in a way that maintains a ready and productive workforce. The Presidential transition, like other leadership transitions, presents both opportunity and uncertainty. Here are 5 challenges and opportunities for leadership and HR to take on in the coming months. Unsettled Employees amid Change Some people are uncomfortable with change—actually, most of us are. Change brings uncertainty, and it’s easy to overestimate the negative emotions we might experience as a result of change we think we do not want. It’s important for employees to have an opportunity to openly ask questions and voice concerns. Equally important is for managers and the transition teams to build trust, honesty, and address immediate concerns. Engagement and Motivation Data from the Merit Systems Protection Board research indicates that public sector employees are, on average, highly motivated by public service. Civil service work is in theory nonpartisan—it serves the public. Although change and uncertainty can feed into anxiety about the future and uncertainty about the direction of one’s organization, the ultimate goal of serving the public remains in place. Remind your team that that aspect of the work is not changing, and all civil servants have a responsibility to serve their stakeholder groups to the best of their ability. Workload Management If you’re part of a transition team, be aware of that rising workloads pose for increased stress and decreased engagement. In Management Concepts’ recent study on change management in the public sector, one of the most frequent challenges organizations face is the need to do more with less and balance larger workloads. As employees invest in learning about new initiatives or changes in their organization with the Transition, they’ll need to maintain continuity of operations. Prioritize the things that have a direct impact on the constituents your organization serves. This not only bolsters the organization’s results, but also provides something employees can remember to be proud of. Training and Development Investing in targeted learning opportunities among the existing workforce is one of the most effective ways to manage increased workload. Cross-train so that employees build their skills in different areas. Scale the workforce’s strengths in new subjects, so they’re equipped to be more knowledgeable, efficient, and adaptable in their roles. Career Planning This fall, I volunteered at the ACT-IAC Presidential Transition HR Forum, where one of the speakers (Ventris Gibson, Director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Human Resources) shared some useful advice—always have a plan B for your career. Be open to new opportunities that change may create—whether learning a new task, role, or department in your organization—observe as the change unfolds what additional opportunities you could be successful in. Slow-to-hire organizations or those undergoing a moratorium on hiring experience transition in an amplified way—workforce planning will need to be revisited regardless of who’s appointed where, who’s coming, and who’s going. Post-election and the first several months of a new administration are dynamic times in the Federal government. Yet, when the transition challenges are effectively surmounted, teams band together, bright new leaders emerge, employees gain new experiences and perspectives, and everyone realizes new strengths.   Here’s to 2017, and a...

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Developing the Next Generation of Government Leaders: TOC Panel Leads the Way

Posted by on Dec 15, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Developing the Next Generation of Government Leaders: TOC Panel Leads the Way

On December 13 at the Ft. McNair Officers Club in Washington, DC, a panel of distinguished millennial government professionals shared a wealth of wisdom and perspective, as well as a roadmap for overcoming generational differences and preparing the next generation for bright futures in public service. The panel event, put together by Management Concepts and the Training Officers Consortium (TOC), was moderated by Tim Bowden (Executive Director of People and Performance Consulting at Management Concepts), and the panelists included: Jovanka Balac – Director of Networking Events for Young Government Leaders (YGL) Melinda Burks – Youth Outreach Chair and Treasurer of the Carl T. Rowan Chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG) and Senior Program Officer at the U.S. Department of State Michael Dukes – Program Analyst, Diversity, Recruitment Work/Life Division Departmental Management, Office of Human Resources Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture Tim Bowden led the panelists through a series of questions, and then opened things up for a spirited audience Q&A. Here’s our paraphrased collection of the best advice and perspective shared at the event: What are some of the challenges the government faces in recruiting and retaining millennials? Melinda: There’s an image problem with how millennials perceive government work—it doesn’t seem like there’s technology in place or an appealing work-life balance. A lot of millennials aren’t exposed to or aware of the many career opportunities available in public service. Jovanka and Michael: Agencies should place more responsibilities earlier in the career path of millennials, give them better proximity to their directors and higher-ups, and flexible workspace and schedules. How do you think young professionals can effect positive government culture change that improves performance and career satisfaction? Melinda: Millennials fight cultures of risk adversity. Managers need to coach and mentor millennials on soft skills, and they can teach millennials how to take calculated risks. Listen and connect, and there’s a lot to be accomplished by this workforce. Jovanka: Any young professional needs clear exposure to opportunity, and needs to clearly see how leaders invest in their work. And if opportunity is not apparent, millennials will find a way to make it happen anyway. Michael: Through proper succession planning and engaging with the diverse thinking that millennials bring, more opportunities will present themselves. What advice do you have for millennials who aspire to leadership in the Federal government? Michael: Attach yourself to leadership. Find ways to make positive change, and before you decide your way of thinking is the right way, find out why others think the way they do. Take flexible approaches to steps in your career. Jovanka: Take your career into your own hands. Look for mentors, and look for leadership roles and opportunities (such as the government’s Open Opportunities program)—find or help create failsafe environments where you and others can experiment and grow with support from others. Millennials shouldn’t be stigmatized for considering moves between agencies, especially when it means they’re staying connected to public service and growing as professionals. Melinda: To exercise your leadership muscles, you just have to do it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. And become comfortable experimenting and taking risks, no matter the critical feedback you receive. What can millennials do to meet other generations “halfway”? Michael: While other generations do need to cater to millennials, since they’ll be the next leaders and decision makers,...

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Federal Spotlight: Alexis Bonnell

Posted by on Dec 14, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Alexis Bonnell

Alexis Bonnell serves as Division Chief: Applied Innovation and Acceleration for the U.S. Global Development Lab, United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? AB: I started at USAID as a contractor in 2010 as a Senior Advisor to the Chief Operating Officer focused on Business Transformation and Knowledge Management, then I became a direct hire as Chief of Engagement for the Office of Education in our E3 Bureau, then was the Director of the Office of Engagement and Communications for the new U.S. Global Development Lab, and a year ago moved to become the Division Chief for Applied Innovation in the Center for Development Innovation in the U.S. Global Development Lab of USAID. The main focus of my current role is to understand what innovations we have in our Innovation Portfolio, how they are performing, what is most promising, how we can help those innovators overcome their barriers to impact, and finally how do we focus on getting these innovations scaled and adopted in development programming around the world. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? AB: First and foremost, it is the people I work with. I feel so lucky to be in an Agency with the amazing mandate and focus of USAID to truly be changing and saving lives around the world, helping realize the potential of people currently facing extreme poverty. USAID and the Lab are filled with committed, brilliant people, and I think we manage to do amazing work while having fun, being inspired by our work, and consistently pursuing the evolution that we want to see occur in development around the world. Of course, USAID has always had a great history of innovation—what really excites me is seeing the appetite for innovation and evolution not only of USAID but across all of Federal government. There is a vibrant community across government that has been doing great work and has real enthusiasm to see the Federal government optimize the opportunities that the modern age provides us to maximize our impact and the lives of our citizens. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? AB: I think a recent one was the creation of the Global Innovation Exchange, an online system that brought together over 100 partners in our industry and really served as the one of the first totally open and democratic platforms collecting all development innovation, resources, etc. in one place. I think the element that I am most proud of in this project was really focusing on something that coordinated a shared value proposition across so many players, and that we created a vision for and executed the original beta in less than 100 business days. Proving that the government can move quickly and agilely within our constructs and develop something that is truly useful was awesome. Today there are more than 4,500 innovations, over $200 million in resources, and over 10,000 collaborators on the site. But most importantly, it serves as a business intelligence engine around innovation for our entire global development community. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? AB: I...

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Five Months Until the DATA Act Deadline: An Implementation Update

Posted by on Dec 12, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Five Months Until the DATA Act Deadline: An Implementation Update

The deadline for agency implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) is just five months away. By May 8, 2017, all Federal agencies must comply with the DATA Act, which requires agencies to report spending data using the governmentwide data standards. The DATA Act is designed to increase transparency of Federal spending by publishing all Federal spending on USASpending.gov. Additionally, the DATA Act will, for the first time, track Federal spending throughout the entire Federal spending lifecycle. Since President Obama signed the DATA Act into law in May 2014, Federal agencies have been developing plans, instituting new information systems, and testing their ability to meet the law’s requirements. Implementing the law has required a tremendous governmentwide undertaking to compile and validate data from hundreds of non-integrated computer systems across the Federal government. On December 8, 2016, the House Subcommittee on Government Operations held a hearing entitled “DATA Act Implementation Check-in.” The Subcommittee heard from representatives from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and three Federal agencies. On the same day as the hearing, the GAO released a new report, “DATA Act: OMB and Treasury Have Issued Additional Guidance and Have Improved Pilot Design But Implementation Challenges Remain,” which examined the government’s progress to meeting the law’s requirements. At the Subcommittee hearing, the GAO testified that significant steps have been taken “toward implementing the act’s various requirements,” but significant challenges remain to meet the May 2017 deadline. Based on their review of the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Agencies’ implementation plans, GAO identified the following challenges: Systems integration – Nineteen agencies reported difficulties related to systems integration, including: systems limitations, modernization efforts, and timing. The GAO stated that the “lack of properly integrated systems increases the risk that agencies may have difficulty in compiling and validating the information they are required to report under the DATA Act by May 2017.” Resources – The 24 CFO agencies reported that they need a total of $202.4 million in funding to complete the implementation process. Reporting – Thirteen agencies expressed concern regarding the DATA Act’s reporting requirements and their ability to report all the required data elements in the initial DATA Act submission. Guidance – 11 agencies cited as a hindrance the ongoing changes to OMB policy and Treasury Guidance. OMB stated that “because of the lack of timely and consistent guidance, agencies may need to continuously update or change their processes, which could adversely affect their ability to meet the DATA Act requirements.” To mitigate these problems, GAO identified seven strategies that agencies are currently using: Making changes to internal policies and procedures Leveraging existing resources Using external resources Continuing communications Employing manual and temporary workarounds Monitoring and developing guidance Enhancing current systems During the Subcommittee hearing, OMB testified that “significant” progress has been made and highlighted steps that have been taken to further the implementation process, including: Issuing additional guidance Continued monitoring of agency implementation through individual agency visits Establishing a governing structure for USASpending.gov data standards Creating the Data Standard Committee, composed of representatives from across the government, to maintain and further enhance the data standards Officials from the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration (SBA) highlighted their respective agency’s successes and achievements. David Lebryk testified that the “Treasury is...

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Leaders: Hold onto Your Wigs and Keys in 2017

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Leaders: Hold onto Your Wigs and Keys in 2017

I have no idea if David Letterman or another quick-witted individual is to thank for that hilarious yet odd phrase, but it feels timely as we look toward the coming year. Seasoned Federal employees, especially those based in the DC area, are no strangers to Presidential turnover and the organizational dancing that signals a new administration is coming to Washington. However, that doesn’t mean the process gets any easier to live through or lead others through. And, if you’re new to the government, I’m sure you’re sensing the uncertainty in the air. Regardless of who’s getting ready to move into the West Wing, it usually follows that a Presidential election creates chaos in government organizations. Departures are already underway, arrival announcements are forthcoming, and everyone is questioning how anything will get done (skillfully or even at all) in the transition. Lately, I see the overtaxed looks on our clients’ faces and hear the odd mix of hesitation, anxiety, and hope in their voices when we talk about what they anticipate 2017 will be like for them and their teams. All of these very interesting and diverse conversations led me to wonder: I can’t guarantee the suggestions that follow will solve all of your problems but maybe, just maybe, they’ll come in handy as we navigate through 2017. #5: Rally your team It doesn’t matter if you lead a team or are simply part of a team, being able to work effectively with others during challenging times produces better results than trying to go it alone. Especially when so many roles and responsibilities are in flux, it’s important to stay connected to your colleagues for support, information, and to help your organization stay on track towards its goals. Openly discuss what’s going well, opportunities for the team to contribute to the change differently/more effectively, and concrete actions you all can take to help each other stay on track despite uncertainty. #4: Think critically Change and complexity breed ambiguity and the tendency to respond with emotion or knee-jerk reactions—but that usually only makes things worse when it comes to resolving issues at work. It is human nature to let a tough situation take over our conscious mind, so we have to learn strategies to focus our brain on how we deal with the situation in a productive, positive way. When we can step back and logically evaluate an issue or situation, it helps reveal the best path forward. #3: Focus on what engages you (and others) When more days than not feel like a hike up a steep mountain, you and those you lead or work with will need extra fuel to make it to the next stage. You can drum up that extra energy in a couple ways. Re-commit to current tasks or projects within your role that you truly enjoy, and think about ways you can add even more value in how you do them. Also, take this opportunity to forge relationships that either provide you with more information about the change in your organization or inspire you to find personal motivation when you start to feel drained. #2: Be mindful during change Often change (even when you know it is coming) feels like it is being forced upon you. That may be true or simply the way you...

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The Lines are Blurring: How Leaders Can Respond to the Ever-Changing Work Environment

Posted by on Dec 7, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Lines are Blurring: How Leaders Can Respond to the Ever-Changing Work Environment

Organizational life in all sectors is feeling a lot different these days, but it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is different about it, let alone what to do about it. What is clear is that organizational life has changed, and it’s still changing. I recall reading an article some months ago about how the lines are blurring between technology and the human element, causing us to rethink how we do our everyday work. Since then, I have been thinking about other lines that are blurring in organizations—such as the increasing need for multiple organizational structures, the rising demand for integrated leadership and management skills, achieving work-life harmony, shifting job roles and responsibilities, and the multi-generation workforce—and shaping the way we work (and live), where we work, and how we interact with others. While these examples of blurring lines offer some clues as to why organizational life is feeling so different, it leaves many organizational leaders with a big unanswered question: What do all these blurring lines mean for the future of organizations? Organizational leaders can make things simpler for everyone in their organization if they see the blurring of lines as signals of the need for change to reach their desired future. And then take it one step further—do something about it. Old ways of thinking will not work. It will require viewing these blurring of lines from an integrated perspective where flexibility and choice are the norm, rather than viewing each different blurring of lines as a linear problem to be solved once and for all.  In other words, it is about being proactive, rather than reactive. Here are four highly recognized values of organizational change that will help you get to the heart of real organizational change—shifting the way people think and feel about the new workplace realities and creating new behavioral norms and practices that make it easier to chart a course to the desired future. Be clear on your purpose. When people believe in the overall purpose of the organization, they are more willing to change their individual behavior to serve and support the purpose. Effective organizational leaders often use story to help everyone make sense of the desired change. Involving the executive leadership team in refining the story helps prepare the next level of leaders to write a supplement to the original story that is relevant to their direct reports. Depending on the size of the organization, each next level can further supplement the story to make it meaningful to those involved until it gets down to the individual worker who will then be able to see what they need to do differently to support the desired change. When the stories shared at each level include how life will be better, it helps create the collective energy and interest to make it happen. Build new skills to support the change. Many organizational leaders make the mistake of expecting individuals to behave differently without preparing them to make the relevant changes in behavior. When learning experiences go at the same pace as the change, individuals are better able to absorb the new information, test it out in their work environment, and integrate it with their existing knowledge to make it real. This type of skill building to change behavior is critical at all levels...

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Well-Defined Roles Are the Basis for Long-term Talent Management

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Well-Defined Roles Are the Basis for Long-term Talent Management

In recent posts, we have discussed our experiences working on an assignment with a health care services organization to help them develop their organizational structures for job roles and job families. Until now, we have focused on the specific analytical diagnostics and processes for implementation of projects like this. In this post, we focus less on “how” we helped them and more on “why” organizations such as our health care services client are seeking assistance with their organizational structures. Truly well-organized and well-structured organizations enjoy many advantages that all flow from the strength of their talent management activities. Talent management includes everything that an organization does to recruit, develop, motivate and manage, retain, and replace its employees, and is integral to the organization’s ability to meet its mission. Every aspect of talent management is impacted by how we define our people’s jobs, specifically their job accountabilities, technical job competencies, and behavioral competencies. Without strong organizational structure (re: strong role and job family definition), organizational changes can take a heavy toll on the staff, responsibilities are muddled, accountability diminishes, and employees can be left feeling frustrated and confused about the integrity of their organization. Here are some of the specific ways overall performance is positively impacted by an organization’s talent management; all of which must be linked to well-structured job roles and job families. Workforce Planning: Workforce planning cannot be effective if the organization’s current state is not well evaluated and its challenges are not defined. Only then can managers measure and correct the divide between where they are today and where they need to be tomorrow. If we know what skills and expertise are needed, we can more efficiently understand what kind and how many people are needed to execute the strategic plan and meet the organization’s mission/objectives. Recruitment: An organized workforce structure provides the basis for all recruitment by enabling the efficient development of position descriptions which are complete and contain distinct job accountabilities, technical job competencies, and behavioral competencies. If managers can articulate who they want to hire, it increases the likelihood of recruiting the right people who will add the required skills and experience to the organization. Conversely, without well-defined jobs and roles, the likelihood increases that managers will make hiring mistakes such as designing jobs around a candidate they like rather than one with the required expertise. Learning and Development (L&D): For an L&D function to have the most impact, the organization needs to understand the skills and abilities it wants from its workforce. If not, L&D can become a passive and reactive group, working in an ad hoc manner to fulfill requests for training from individual managers that satisfy short-term knowledge gaps. With a comprehensive, documented blueprint for the job accountabilities, technical job competencies, and behavioral competencies of individuals and teams, the prescription for L&D is clear. By understanding what the whole organization needs, L&D can effectively evaluate the workforce, develop training programs to address all of the organizations needs, and evaluate training effectiveness against a refined set of criteria. Performance Management: Similarly to L&D, performance management requires straightforward criteria against which to evaluate and develop employees. By having transparency and setting clear expectations for what is required of them, employees are more likely to understand and positively respond to evaluations and focus on...

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Federal Spotlight: Christian Blackman

Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Christian Blackman

Christian Blackman serves as the Region 6 – Disaster Grants Branch Chief at the Department of Homeland Security – Federal Emergency Management Agency. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Christian Blackman: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? CB: If I were to start at the beginning, I had an internship during my junior year of college. I was a recipient of a Florida Georgia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation grant and interned at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Tifton, Georgia in 2000. When I graduated, I became a Federal contractor at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia. From there, I went to state government and then returned as a Federal contractor from 2009 – 2011 with the USDA Forest Service and the Department of Interior. I became a permanent Federal employee of the State Department in 2011 and served as a warranted grants officer. I ended my time there working in the Bureau of Administration, International Programs Branch, where I developed, implemented, and managed Federal systems programs and signed up to $10 million per transaction. My family life changed in 2016, which brought me to Texas and my current position as Disaster Grants Branch Chief for FEMA. I manage a team of grant management specialists to help communities recover from natural disasters and implement hazard mitigation measures following a Presidential major disaster declaration. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? CB: My father was in the military; therefore I grew up with the mindset of working with the government. I like Federal assistance—which people primarily just refer to as grants—because I can see the direct impact it makes on people’s lives domestically and overseas. I’ve worked on all different kinds of programs, including Hurricane Katrina—a national emergency grant focused on assisting individuals get back to work after being displaced by Katrina; at the Department of Interior I also worked on restoring coastal areas, including wetlands in Mississippi and Alabama. Here at the State Department, I work on a vast array of projects ranging from cultural preservation in Bamako, Mali to countering violent extremism in the United Kingdom. As a civil servant working in the public sector, I’ve been able to work on a wide range of different issues that affect people, allowing me to see the impact. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? CB: I think I’ve done a good job throughout my career with continuously learning, making forward progression professionally, and finding mentors. I’ve been able to establish and maintain good working relationships that have been a great asset to me throughout my career and helped me to become highly proficient in my career in Federal assistance. To me, that’s an accomplishment—especially being a minority female with aspirations of obtaining a senior-level management position within the Federal government. I’m very proud of that. I graduated from Albany State University, an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and that experience serves as my foundation for success in growing professionally and being able to recognize and take advantage of opportunities. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? CB: Be flexible. I would have never thought that...

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Improve Your Workplace Culture: Visualize It

Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Improve Your Workplace Culture: Visualize It

A few weeks ago, I blogged about what it really takes to shift individual and collective mindsets in organizations—the capability to intentionally create new neural networks or pathways—to make real, desired change. Now, I share with you a great technique that uses mindset for culture change as a creative force to unleash something new or different, regardless of the current situation. The technique is called visualization. We all visualize, whether we realize it or not. Most often, we visualize experiences that have already happened, using our senses, feelings, and emotions to help us understand them better. Visualization can be even more valuable when we use it to create a picture in our mind of something that has not happened—exactly as we want it to be—with the intent that it will actually happen. This future-focused visualization is particularly valuable for organizational leaders who want to think in new ways about their organization to meet its evolving mission and include an often-missing piece—how to change and align their organization’s culture. If you already practice visualization, or if it’s new to you, these five tips will help you close in on your next breakthrough for the desired culture at your organization: 1. Put in the time to think, specifically, about what you want the organizational culture to be—what features it will have and what it can achieve. Take time out several times a day for several minutes over several days. Your ideas will get clearer and stronger as you go. (Tip: generate new ideas, and don’t get hung up on the same thought for too long.) 2. Write out as many details as possible about your desired culture to help you clarify your thinking—while full sentences are ideal, fragments, phrases, and themes can be just as helpful. Writing helps to shape your thinking and engage your subconscious mind, where intuition, new ideas, and inspirations come from. 3. Questions are a good way to collect the details. Some good questions to ask yourself: What cultural attributes will get you where you want to be? What contextual factors will influence what you want to have? When will you know that you have reached your desired culture? What critical information is missing for you to complete the picture? How do you visualize yourself in the new culture? What personal growth will be needed to be the best leader in the desired culture? What emotions will the culture change trigger? How will you bring the collective organization along? 4. If writing out the details is not enough, create an image or graphic that brings your vision to life. It can be photograph, a diagram, or a hand-drawn picture—whatever creates the best and most vivid mental picture. At some point, it may be important to have culture assessment data to back up your desired change, and a creative visual will be crucial to simplifying your ideas, your process, and your data. 5. The limits of visualization are entirely up to you. It is your own thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge that limit you. The more open-minded you are, the bigger you can think, the greater the possibilities, opportunities, and outcomes. When a shift is desired in an organization’s culture, visualization is a great way to help individuals and the collective organization understand the details of behavior change that...

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Why We Need Agile Performance Management More than Ever

Posted by on Nov 18, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Why We Need Agile Performance Management More than Ever

While presenting on a panel about Agile Performance Management at yesterday’s NAPA Fall Meeting (National Academy of Public Administration), a member of the audience asked a question that I think gets at the core of why we chose the topic for the panel. Paraphrasing, the audience member said, “When you talk about Agile Performance Management, it sounds like old ideas with new lipstick. What’s so new about it when it comes to managing your workforce?” First of all, as the panel member who proposed the panel topic to NAPA, I readily admit the audience member’s instincts are correct. A buzzword like agile makes its way into the marketplace all too often as a way for consultants to repackage old ideas and sell them as new. And to be perfectly honest, he was right that several of the examples of agile performance management that we gave are far from innovative. Having regular check-ins with employees and giving regular feedback, collaboratively setting goals and building professional development plans—these are things that we intuitively know are good to do when it comes to managing people. So, what is new about agile performance management, and why did we decide to talk about it on a panel? I think there are two significant changes in the workforce that make agile performance management a much more important model for managing the workforce of today compared to that of 30 years ago. Career Paths. The first major change is the fundamental shift in the way workers thinks about their career paths. We are way past the time when people committed to their first jobs for the duration of their careers. Over the last 30-40 years, we’ve seen a workforce made up of people who change companies every few years and/or move not only up the ladder, but laterally to new paths in different functions of the business.The impact of this new norm on organizations is significant—it’s no secret that employee turnover represents a huge cost to an organization. There are many things organizations can do to better retain employees, but in absence of successful solutions to the retention problem, another way to reduce the costs associated with turnover is to mitigate the productivity lulls that inevitably occur with new employees. And a good way to do this is by increasing the frequency of feedback so they can quickly make corrections and ramp up to fully operational. This is an agile concept. Information Processing. The second major change has to do with how employees process information. Several studies have shown that in the age of smartphones and social media, people consume information more frequently and in smaller chunks, and this behavior is in turn impacting the conditions in which people most effectively process information. So, if the workforce is used to consuming information more frequently and in smaller bursts, doesn’t it make sense to have a more agile approach to performance management with more frequent, smaller-scope performance check-ins and a scaled-down annual review? By definition, Agile Performance Management offers employers and managers the ability to pivot and adapt to environments that are in a constant state of change, and to a workforce that no longer advances linearly. And agile is gaining importance in performance management beyond managing people.  It’s increasingly important across many functions of the organization...

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Like Wearing Seat Belts, SES Reform Is Not Just the Law, It’s a Good Idea

Posted by on Nov 17, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Like Wearing Seat Belts, SES Reform Is Not Just the Law, It’s a Good Idea

The recent election results and upcoming change in administration cast doubt on the ongoing commitment to execute several of President Obama’s Executive Orders (EO). One EO in particular, about which we have written previously, relates to improving the Senior Executive Service (SES). We believe that the Executive Order was created to upgrade long-overdue Federal executive hiring and development practices to mirror common practices in the private sector. We encourage the new administration and its agencies to continue modernizing practices relating to SES hiring, onboarding, development, and succession planning. Here’s how SES Reform would help the new administration, which seeks to fill approximately 4,000 political appointment positions: Streamline Hiring: The Trump campaign ran on the platform of bringing new senior executive leadership into government service. This means creatively sourcing, recruiting, and hiring from resource pools different from where the government found its current civil servants. Potentially thousands of SES positions across government will need to be filled within the next few months, as the smooth transition of power occurs. For executive candidates from the private sector to feel attracted to public service, government must act quickly to streamline its hiring practices, by limiting the bureaucratic burden on executive candidates, reducing overall time-to-fill SES positions, compensating candidates fairly, and working to create an environment for new hires to be successful and productive. Onboarding: Particularly for executives new to working in government, hiring agencies must support incoming leaders and smooth their way to becoming effective as soon as possible upon arrival. Transitioning from the private sector to public sector isn’t easy under the best of circumstances. Departmental onboarding teams should support these worthwhile activities by doing the following: Develop and deliver orientation sessions providing the big picture of the department, its mission, structure, and its functions Build briefing books detailing the specific initiatives for which the incoming executives will be responsible Plan introductory events for executives to meet their teams Create networking opportunities for the cadre of newly-arrived and existing SES members to get to know each other and build a foundation for collaboration Development: Developing and retaining SES executives who have absorbed intimate knowledge of agency functions is critical. At a time when American citizens are looking for greater value to be derived from SES and government at large, keeping executives engaged, challenged, and growing new skills is of utmost strategic and operational importance. Using data gathered from multiple sources—the hiring process, periodic 360-degree feedback assessments, performance observation, and individual executives’ goals—executives can create a development plan that addresses current needs and helps pave the way for future career growth through the acquisition of new skills and greater exposure. This personal and professional development may include accepting temporary rotations into other departments or agencies. Succession Planning: Federal agencies must continue serving the American people without gaps in service caused by transition of personnel. This principle is what keeps our government running and delivering services during times of change. Understanding the strengths of current executives, identifying potential organizational risks or vulnerabilities, assessing executive bench strength, and creating development plans to grow skills of current and next-tier talent to manage those risks are desired best practices. Risking an agency’s ability to function due to a lack of leadership causes a multitude of risks. Failure to manage these risks effectively may potentially create gaps...

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#GPAConf16: Good Times and IDC Dreams

Posted by on Nov 16, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

#GPAConf16: Good Times and IDC Dreams

I had such a good time at the 2016 Grant Professionals Association National Conference that I think I need a week to recover. I enjoyed meeting and reconnecting with colleagues from around the country who are dedicated to making the world a better place through grants. But there is a dark side to going to events like this—you might go to a session on a topic that causes you to look at things from another perspective. And this perspective interrupts your dream cycle with scenarios and spreadsheets on indirect cost (IDC) rates. As the person responsible for our grants curriculum, I think that it’s important to check in on what the others are saying about topics covered in our classes, like indirect costs. So, I think that I have a good handle on the underpinnings of what indirect costs are at any organization—those things that require financial resources to do business, and can’t be charged directly to a project. Think health insurance (hey, it’s open enrollment season). Like most things, indirect costs through the lens of Federal grants get a bit more complex. For instance, taxpayers don’t want to pay for fundraising costs, even indirectly. In other instances, a program’s authorizing statute might limit indirect cost recovery to something like 8%. Note: there is a reason we offer a two-day course on this subject. And then I learned that many foundations only allow direct costs or cap the IDC rate at 10-20%. So, if an organization is savvy and lucky, it has multiple streams of grants revenue. And it’s conceivable that each award has a different rate. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation, represented in the table below, of a recipient organization with four IDC rates from four different funders. Looking at this situation, I think you’d agree that: This is a complex situation You don’t know the organization’s overall IDC rate I heard many insightful questions posed to experts on whether or not to pursue a negotiated IDC rate with their Federal cognizant agency, to use the de minimis rate allowed in 2 CFR 200, or to seek recovery of IDCs at all. Managing all of the variety of IDC rates is complex—and costly. That said, I am of the opinion that avoiding the complexity and cost creates long-term risk in many cases. At the strategic level, when you don’t recognize the total cost of carrying out your mission, you may inadvertently signal to your funders a gap in your organization’s business acumen. Tactically, you may miss the opportunity to recover some of the real costs of maintaining insurance, making payroll, and promoting your organization’s mission. I want to close out with my most recent IDC dream: I win the lottery and then set up a foundation that funds the establishment and maintenance of IDC rates. I could be a winner. I’d like to credit Dr. Richard Redfearn from the University of Arkansas and the participants who peppered him with questions for inspiring this...

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Are You a Good Data Storyteller?

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

Are You a Good Data Storyteller?

Data talks. It conjures images. It tells stories: of success and ambition, as well as failure and challenge. It looks to the past and to the future, while delivering a clear and accurate now. But data professionals know it speaks best when arranged with a simple visual alongside a cogent message. Visuals show the story of your data, but are your visuals telling the right story the right way? When data storytelling goes wrong—when the visual is too complicated, when there are too many meanings in the graphic, when the message can’t be read quickly or clearly—your audience will not hear the story. And just as a great visual presentation can be remembered for a long time, some stakeholders may take a long time to forget a bad one. Get data storytelling right with our top five tips for making compelling visuals: Imagine the visual first. Think about what your ideal chart for your upcoming presentation would look like: what stands out? What color, shape, or line length best highlights your point? Professionals often make the mistake of forcing their information into a pre-set visual template that never truly fits the story they’re trying to tell. Sketch your visual on paper first, then create the digital version—this helps avoid the distraction of the default settings and options your software will interject. Focus on the audience. Your visual is a vehicle to transform troves of data into a concise picture. This picture should help you get your point across, so consider what your audience will be interested in, what will hold their attention, how quickly they’ll process the meaning, and what might distract them (avoid the latter). Whether they want breadth or depth, construct a visual that will readily highlight what you need them to know. Use the right type of chart. Charts are not one-size-fits-all: line charts are effective for trends over time, but misleading for categorical comparisons. See the following example, which can misrepresent one department’s expenses as a decrease from another’s (e.g., Accounting is a decrease from Acquisition), when the two are unrelated. Stick to contiguous data points for line charts, which highlight trends over time. Use a bar chart to make categorical comparisons, as in the example below. Stick to one message. The power of visuals is that we process them faster—60,000 times faster—than text. Do not risk having your message get lost by trying to say too many things in one picture. Keep it simple; your audience will appreciate it (and they’ll remember it). Eliminate unnecessary details. Ask yourself: is every part of my visual, including the style and colors used, contributing meaningfully to the story I’m telling? Using lots of color, gridlines, or “flare” can be distracting and may actually take away from the impact your data can have. Try a minimalist approach—you may be surprised how simple and clear your data’s story becomes. And a little minimalism can go a long way toward keeping your data details lean and necessary. Storytelling with great data visuals ensures the audience grasps the main point. Software will help make the visual precise, but the best visuals are thoroughly planned before you even turn on the computer. So, grab a pencil and paper, start sketching your next great chart, and tell just one story at a...

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A Salute to Veterans

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

A Salute to Veterans

On November 10 in Washington, DC, the Department of Labor hosted a Salute to Veterans ceremony in anticipation of Veterans Day. The event began with opening remarks from Mike Michaud, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS), including a pair of video messages from Congressmen. Then, a panel of distinguished speakers shared their personal experiences, successes, and efforts as leaders, veterans, and supporters of veterans. Here’s a quick digest of what the panelists and speakers discussed: Celebration of the 5th-year anniversary of the VOW Act, which offers many forms of support to veterans, including: transition assistance, education and training opportunities, incentives for employers of veterans, and more Thanking veterans and reminding us of the importance of supporting our veterans when they return to civilian life Working tirelessly to reduce the unemployment rate for veterans: Making the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) mandatory; getting veterans in front of employers; getting employers to better understand the resumes of veterans, and to better understand how to support and develop veterans after hiring them; and collaborating with employers from both the public and private sector to create opportunities for (and better understanding about) veterans. What can we do better? Resolve unemployment issues for long-term unemployed veterans, and do more to get veterans employed immediately. Sustain the momentum gained in recent years in improving the unemployment rate (which is now below the national average)—the problem of veterans’ unemployment has not been solved, and it requires a sustainable long-term effort and strengthening of partnerships with employers and programs. As President Obama once put it, Veterans Day is not about how we treat Veterans on this day each year, but about how we treat them every day of the year, and how we can serve them as well as they have served America. There are many ways to support veterans, and Management Concepts honors and remembers all veterans for their service. Saluting and saying thanks is a good start, but if you’d like to learn more and do more, check out the following resources—programs from the DOL, DOL VETS, and Dept. of Veterans Affairs—for other opportunities to engage and support America’s military service veterans and veterans’ organizations: Volunteer with the HVRP—the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, funded by the DOL. Share the DOL VETS resources for Women Veterans. As an employer, connect with the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to find opportunities to employ veterans or to find resumes. Volunteer your time and skills with VAVS – the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Voluntary Service program. Connect with the Small Business Administration’s Boots to Business program for supporting veterans with entrepreneurial aspirations. Boots to Business offers information, training, tools, and more for transitioning service members. #SaluteVets #Vow2Vets...

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Making the Mark for Millennials in Public Service

Posted by on Nov 9, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Making the Mark for Millennials in Public Service

On November 3, 2016, Management Concepts participated in the third part of a four-part professional development series with the Young Government Leaders (YGL) – Atlanta Chapter and Blacks In Government NOW Generation (BIG-NOW). We have joined forces to create these events in an effort to increase the participation and engagement of underrepresented groups within public service. Over 80 participants joined us for our first event in Atlanta for breakfast and a lively discussion on how Millennials today are needed more than ever to fill the talent gap facing the government workforce. Based on PWC’s 14th Annual Global CEO Survey, it is projected by 2020 that Millennials will comprise half the global workforce, which means they will increasingly be in positions to hire, cultivate, train, and promote workers. Our keynote speaker was Kay Lawton of the Centers for Disease Control.  Ms. Lawton has spent her entire professional career in public health, first as a nurse at a local health department and then at the Federal level at CDC. Currently, she is the Management Officer for the Center for Global Health, overseeing a budget of approximately $3B, and 2,000+ staff working in 60 countries.  She shared key points from her own personal experiences as well as various articles, such as: Forbes, November 6th, 2015 – Millennials in the Workplace, They Don’t Need Trophies but They Want Reinforcement INC.com, July 30th, 2015 – Millennials in the Workforce: They’re More Different Than You Think Harvard Business Review, August 17th, 2016; Millennials are Actually Workaholics, According to Research   Additionally, the program included a panel moderated by Tim Bowden, Executive Director, People and Performance Consulting from Management Concepts. We heard from the following panelists: Naima Halim-Chestnut, EEO Officer, Environmental Protection Agency Melanie Johnson, Program Branch Chief, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Lola Kress, Regional Communications Director, Small Business Administration Eric Zdanowicz, Regional Manager, Peace Corps The panel agreed that all generations need to work together to change the culture and perception of Federal agencies. The voice of Millennials should not be muted but instead embraced and channeled to fuel innovation and creativity. They urged the audience to train supervisors and managers to communicate openly and frequently. No matter what generation you are, it is known that managers have major influence over employees’ desire to stay in a job. Millennials want feedback frequently and value relationships with others who take an interest in mentoring them. This panel of dynamic speakers dispelled many of the myths we hear and read daily. To those who attended in Atlanta: Thank you all for your participation. You are all truly #ChangeAgents leading our country, and I am truly excited to have met you and heard your stories. I feel that the more we talk in an open forum and lead in numbers our voices will be heard and change will be...

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How Coaches Overcome Generational Differences

Posted by on Nov 2, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

How Coaches Overcome Generational Differences

It’s popular these days to generation-bash. Who among us hasn’t heard colleagues decry the disloyalty and entitlement of millennials, or the outdated thinking and rigidity of boomers? Who hasn’t come close to, or fallen into, perpetuating generational stereotypes, even by way of commiserating silently with others?  When working with millennials in particular, coaches have to be able to break through the catch-all stereotypes of generational difference. Leaders are right to be concerned about the impact of beliefs, expectations, and behaviors held by all generations in their workforce. And we are right to consider how our current context can create perceived differences in personality and values. Increasingly, however, research is finding that differences we often attribute to someone’s generation have more to do with a person’s age, maturity, and experience than the grouping of years in which a person was born. With a growing number of millennials and later generations taking leadership roles in organizations, it’s important to understand how to more effectively coach these emerging leaders to build the capabilities organizations need to thrive in the future. While research is still limited in the area of generations and age in relation to coaching effectiveness, we do know a lot about what makes coaching effective. In a study published in 2015, the top three factors with the most impact on coaching effectiveness include factors associated with the coach, with the client, and with their relationship: With the coach: Do they create trust with their client? Do they have solid management communication skills? What’s their commitment to the individual client and the organization? Can they motivate? With client behavior: How motivated is the client to learn and change? How committed is the client to their development and do they feel responsible for it? With the coach-client relationship: Is there trust? Is it confidential? Respectful? Authentic? A more recent study suggests that in a strong coach-coachee relationship, effective tasks and goals may be more influential than bonding. Matching based on personalities might not be as necessary or effective for coaching outcomes as you might like to think. Instead, coaches need to look less at stereotypical generational differences and more at personal-level differences in maturity, experience, and age.   How does age come into play? It turns out, in results from another recent study, executives between the ages of 30-39 exhibit lower levels of self-reflection and a lower degree of observed behavior change (as judged by organizational stakeholders) than those executives between 40-49 and 50-59. Clients in the 30-39 age group were not defensive and were willing and eager to participate in the coaching experience. However, what they might need is extra motivation to explore more deeply. This might be prompted by difficult feedback in a 360 review or a direct conversation with the coach or a supervisor. If you’re a coach working with coachees ages 30-39, remember they’re likely focused on performance, and adherence to the rules it takes to establish themselves professionally. Deep self-reflection might not come without a struggle, or feedback indicating that a closer look in the mirror is warranted. This can easily be misinterpreted by younger individuals unwilling to self-reflect or unsuitable for effective coaching. But, before we jump to that conclusion, let’s remember a few things: Coaching is personal, not general. Whatever you believe to be true...

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How to Fix Your Organizational Structure, One Role at a Time

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How to Fix Your Organizational Structure, One Role at a Time

In a recent post, I discussed how a lack of a systematic approach to role definition and organizational structure design can create issues that reduce organizational effectiveness. In response to some excellent follow-up questions, I wanted to shed further light on the specific approach we used for a client in healthcare services that had experienced a period of rapid growth resulting in a muddled organizational structure. To resolve a problematic organizational structure, one of the first things to do is to perform detailed discovery work to assess the current state of the organization and the elements that need the most improvement. It’s crucial to quickly develop and define an accurate picture of the current situation, being sure to incorporate data from all stakeholders to compile a broad base of information. The foundation of our approach is to define and document clear job accountabilities as well as technical and behavioral competencies. These will be used to create job levels and job families, both of which contribute to job descriptions and defined job roles. Accountabilities are the specific outputs that an individual is responsible for completing in their role, and can be specific or general but must comprise of actual deliverables and measurable job results. Technical Competencies are the skills, knowledge, certifications, education, and experience required of individuals to complete their required accountabilities. Behavioral Competencies are the expected behaviors that an individual will demonstrate during the performance of their job that are critical to task completion. Examples of behavioral competencies include business acumen, communication, critical evaluation, and relationship management. Levels are specific expectations of a role as it relates to scope and span of responsibilities, behavioral standards, and leadership expectations. Levels should be defined by the scope and impact of the role’s accountabilities on the organization’s performance and should be comparable across functions. For example, an Accountant level 2 should have accountabilities consistent in scope and impact to a Marketing professional at the same level. Job Families are groupings of jobs that are usually defined by the similar accountabilities and technical competencies required to complete them. They generally have a natural hierarchy and similarity; examples would include accounting, marketing, procurement, sales, etc. Having documented the job accountabilities, job levels, technical competencies, behavioral competencies, and job families, the next step is job leveling. Job leveling requires a close examination of the different job families to determine whether the accountabilities and levels are comparable for similarly titled and compensated roles across the organization. For example, does a director in marketing have similar job accountabilities as a director in accounting? After determining and recommending necessary changes, the next step is to develop and promote an implementation plan for moving from the old to the new organizational structure. The key lesson we have learned from our experience with clients is that attention to stakeholder management is the major difference between a successful implementation and having our recommendations gather dust on a shelf. Change management should be part of the approach from day one, as well as collaboration across the organization with all key stakeholders. Effective and coordinated change management is critical; as the proposed changes often have broad implications for many stakeholders. Management Concepts has completed job leveling assignments across a range of organizations including commercial and government, as well as large and small work...

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Top Insights from the Ultimate Culture Conference: How to Nurture, Measure, and Shape Organizational Culture

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Top Insights from the Ultimate Culture Conference: How to Nurture, Measure, and Shape Organizational Culture

I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Ultimate Culture Conference and the Schein Culture DNA Seminar on October 18-19 in the great city of San Francisco, CA. Many diverse viewpoints on culture and leadership were shared by an impressive lineup of innovative practitioners (from Zappos, Lyft, Inkling, Google, Intel) and thought leaders (including Edgar Schein, Robert Cooke, Josh Bersin, James Rodgers, Daryl Conner, and Bill Parsons). I, like many others in the room, engaged throughout each day in spirited culture conversations and left with a variety of valuable insights on how to nurture, measure, and shape organizational culture as we look ahead. Here are my top 10 takeaways from the conference. Your culture DNA drives daily behavior. It is the underlying assumptions and beliefs you have learned and take for granted. It is the shared experience of survival, success, and growth. When you hit barriers at work, it really is resistance to the culture DNA. Organizational cultures are nested in other cultures that influence behaviors and actions. Some examples of nested cultures are: founding organizational values and historical experience; changes in core technology underlying the work; functional subcultures like the executive function, managerial function, design and engineering; geographic subcultures; occupational cultures, and national culture. Before you attempt to measure anything in the culture, you need to be clear about the problem you are trying to solve. Involve senior leadership in identifying the business problem and owning the next steps of culture assessment. It is most effective to use quantitative and qualitative culture measures that help you identify the elements of culture DNA that help or hinder the problem you want to solve. It is good to get a pulse from 10 miles out as well as a more detailed look from 10 yards out. An internal research project can be a door opener for understanding values and associated behaviors that are serving or not serving an organization. Accept culture for what it is, then face the facts to change it to what you desire it to be. Diversity management is necessary to influence behavior, and it includes learning about diversity (human conditions) at all levels, building cognitive skills of managers, and taking a culture scan (how people respond). According to a Deloitte study, 92% of organizations are not organized properly to get their work done. A shift is needed from an industrial, hierarchical model to collaborative management through networks of teams. Such a shift requires shared values and culture, transparent goals and projects, rewards for people based on skills and abilities rather than position, and employees being viewed by senior leaders as a little more important than customers. Organizations that are systems of self-organization (rather than hierarchies) get better at what management of culture change is all about. Why? Because individuals own the decisions for their work, they have more clarity on what change is needed, and they know how the culture helps or hinders the change effort. Some effective culture change practices that can help to nurture and shape organizational culture include senior leadership team coaching, built-in feedback loops, and insight-based learning using short 2-to-30-minute applied learning situations. Culture starts with leadership and is owned by everyone. You can’t transform a culture if you don’t transform yourself as a leader. It is about shifting your mindset...

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The Best of FedTalks 2016: Leading and Adapting in Government IT and Cybersecurity

Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Best of FedTalks 2016: Leading and Adapting in Government IT and Cybersecurity

Last week, leaders from the tech and government IT communities gathered in downtown Washington, DC for FedTalks 2016. This day-long conference featured influential speakers on everything from cyber security and White House policy, to how technology (and smarter purchasing and implementation) supports ongoing change and improvement for the government and private citizens, and how to lead people through complicated change. This year’s conference boasted over 1,200 attendees, leaders from all over the tech and government landscape. In case you weren’t one of them, or you couldn’t stay for every speaker, here are some of the highlights: 1. From U.S. CIO Tony Scott’s speech on IT Modernization: The themes and strengths of new and robust government IT and cybersecurity: Speed Flexibility Adaptability Agility 2. Some of the best advice from Veterans Affairs CIO LaVerne Council’s inspired speech on leadership through change: Prepare for the unknown by planning for success It’s not what’s going to happen to you, it’s what’s going to happen with you When a new administration comes in you don’t restart, you just regain your energy 3. From Ann Dunkin, CIO of the EPA: Focus on user experience, on what the user actually wants. But also, you must educate your users while being wary of cyber fatigue. 4. From NSA Director Mike Rogers’ discussion on cybersecurity readiness: What do you want your government to do, to protect? Public dialogue is necessary. To generate positive outcomes for private citizens, we must incentivize positive outcomes. 5. From the panel discussion featuring Eric Hysen (Digital Services Executive Director, DHS) and Aaron Snow (Co-Founder and Executive Director, 18F), moderated by Brian Roach (Managing Director, SAP): Make successes and innovations accessible to all in the federal government Foster the idea that it’s OK to experiment in the government, at an appropriate scale Who in the government actually likes the slowness and awkwardness of digital adaptation? How to overcome the high walls of commercial enterprises getting involved in government partnerships? Just get started; help the government be a better shopper for services; the government has to do more to reach out and walk new vendors through the process. 6. From U.S. CISO Brigadier General Greg Touhill’s presentation on the U.S. Cyber Strategy: Cybersecurity is risk management Manage risk by following clear directions Manage risk acceptable to your risk tolerance Making cybersecurity “fighter-pilot simple” vs. “simple enough for my mom” The goal of the U.S. cybersecurity strategy should be understood by citizens and federal employees, supported by an open and transparent government The five lines of effort for U.S. cybersecurity strategy: (1) Better training for the workforce, (2) Treat information as an asset, (3) Do the right things the right way, (4) Continuously innovate and invest wisely, and (5) Make informed cybersecurity decisions. 7. From Haley Van Dyck’s and Mikey Dickerson’s presentation on the status of the United States Digital Service (USDS, or as Haley and Mikey put it, “Peace Corps for nerds”): Lessons learned from the first two years of USDS operations: Hard deadlines are crucial Nothing gets done without air cover (i.e. support from executive leadership) Successful projects defy organizational boundaries Technology alone doesn’t change things FedTalks 2016 was fun, informative, and comprehensive. Here’s to next year’s...

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Federal Spotlight: Max Finberg

Posted by on Oct 24, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Max Finberg

Max Finberg serves as the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA at the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program and leads national service and volunteer initiatives for the nation. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Max Finberg. MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is the main responsibility for your current role? MF: At the end of this year, I will have served a total of 14 years in the Federal government in a variety of capacities. I started in the legislative branch on Capitol Hill, working with a member of Congress, followed by a position with the State Department. Next, I did a stint with the Department of Agriculture where I was able to do a detail with the White House. About nine months ago, I came over to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Federal agency that administers the national service programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. Currently, I am the Director of AmeriCorps VISTA—Volunteers in Service to America. This is the program that was created as the domestic Peace Corps to combat poverty across the U.S. in 1965. In 1993, when CNCS and AmeriCorps were created, VISTA joined the AmeriCorps family. Each year, CNCS supports about 8,000 AmeriCorps VISTA members throughout the country who serve over the course of the year in their various communities with different non-profit organizations, local government entities, tribal governments, and others—all focused on building the capacity to address poverty in their context. That could be housing. It could be employment. It could be economic opportunities. It could be around education. It could be around hunger. It varies a great deal, but all of them are focused more on building capacity rather than performing the direct service that other AmeriCorps members might do. My responsibility is to make sure that opportunity exists for those who want to serve—allowing them to contribute to efforts that uplift communities and create additional opportunities for residents in these communities to escape poverty. MC: Great. Could you talk a bit more about the VISTA program? MF: AmeriCorps VISTA is open to all Americans 18 and over. While a majority of VISTA members get involved immediately following or a few years after college, there are individuals who may begin their service a year before, or while taking a break from, their higher education path. In addition, many older Americans, such as retirees, may find that serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member allows them to put a lifetime of skills and experience to use in a new way. As director of the program, I’ve met a number of AmeriCorps VISTA members who have retired and decided to give back to their community in this way. We are excited it’s not just young people. The AmeriCorps VISTA programs provide an opportunity to springboard into public service in a variety of ways. That’s what the hallmark of this program has been for the entire 51 years of existence. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MF: Government has a role to play in serving the community and the country, and I have been privileged enough to be part of that. I’m excited by opportunities for taxpayer resources to be stewarded and used...

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Is Fear of Protests Guiding Your Behavior?

Posted by on Oct 20, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Is Fear of Protests Guiding Your Behavior?

We often hear students and agencies wanting to know how to avoid protests. I think we first need to establish that companies competing for government business have a right to protest when they feel the source selection was improperly conducted. We believe properly conducted debriefings that communicate why the losing offeror was not selected significantly help to prevent protests that offerors feel are the only way to obtain a fair explanation. Other explanations for protests have been argued but the fact remains that transparency in the debriefing can effectively dissuade protests. Of course, failure to document the rationale for your decisions will not help. Bob Antonio, owner of the website Where in Federal Contracting? (aka Wifcon), has posted a blog that summarizes the results of GAO-sustained protests over the period FY2013 through FY2015. As Antonio reports, many protests are dealt with at the contracting officer level and do not reach the GAO level. Further, the GAO statistics do not address protests that go directly to the Court of Federal Claims. Antonio points out that the top reasons why protests are sustained have not varied much over the FY2013 through FY2015 period: Failure to follow the evaluation criteria Unreasonable cost or price evaluation Inadequate documentation of the record Unequal treatment of offerors Unreasonable technical evaluation Unreasonable past performance evaluation Flawed selection decision This information should be instructive as to what contracting officers can do to have the best chance of staving off protests and subsequently defeating any protests that are lodged. LPTA (lowest price, technically acceptable) seems to be used as a means of avoiding protests. The best way is to choose the source selection method that is best for the acquisition, do what you communicated in the solicitation, document your decisions, and provide meaningful debriefings. While there is no way to protest-proof your acquisition–it is a right competitors have and it helps maintain a fair source selection process–you can help reduce the number of protests by avoiding the pitfalls others have suffered. Transparency in debriefings goes a long way to satisfy companies’ need to understand why they lost. Documenting your decisions is important for reasons greater than the mere act itself—it makes you consider if your rationale for the decision is supported and can be explained. We’ll update this information when GAO releases the FY2016 data. Sustainment rates have declined over the period from 17% to 12%, so we hope to see continued reduction in the number of protests that are...

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Q and A: All about the New A-123

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Featured, Financial Management | 0 comments

Q and A: All about the New A-123

In September, Management Concepts presented a free webinar—Easy as A-123: What You Need to Know About the Update—highlighting the significant changes to OMB Circular A-123 Management’s Responsibility for Enterprise Risk Management and Internal Control. During the Q&A, there was time to answer only a few questions from agency staff, but many good ones were submitted. Below are answers to the most representative questions. What is required for Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) in 2016? Whereas A-123 is generally effective for 2016—except for some ERM deadlines in 2017—not much of anything could practically have been implemented during FY2016 and for FY2016 reporting. Here’s why: based on my observations over the years, agencies generally have collected and analyzed their internal control assessments by late August of each year. That schedule makes it next to impossible for agencies to have implemented the new requirements in A-123, which was issued in July. Even to implement all the new requirements for FY2017, agencies will likely have to begin right now. Is the Internal Control Over Financial Reporting (ICOFR) statement required for the FY2016 statement of assurance? While A-123 did not address this specifically, and I cannot speak officially to this, my guess is that agencies will still report their ICOFR statements. Check with your agency internal control program office. Should the Green Book be updated to reflect changes to the new A-123? Not really. The 2014 Green Book reflects the latest approach to internal control standards and the new A-123 recognizes that by putting more emphasis of following the revised Green Book. Do the new requirements apply to government contractors? No, Federally required internal control assessments have always applied only to executive branch agencies. However, any controls impacted or operated by contractors may need to be considered in management’s assessments of controls, there is no requirement in FMFIA or A-123 that contractors assess and report on internal controls. Where can I find the CFO Council/Performance Improvement Council Playbook? The ERM Playbook can be accessed at CFO.gov. From the CFO.gov home page, scroll down slightly, and you will see “Featured Initiatives.” Click on “ERM” and you will get a short write-up. On the write-up page you will see a column announcing the release of the ERM Playbook, with a “Read more” box at the bottom—click it and you will get a link to the Playbook. What is your prediction on staffing? In my opinion, most agencies were understaffed in terms of personnel assigned to work full-time and part-time on implementing the internal control assessment and reporting requirements. And that was before the greatly expanded mandates of the new A-123. At a minimum, for those agencies that do not currently have an ERM program, they will have to add resources to design and implement one. The amount of resources will depend on the emphasis an agency puts on ERM. (Hint: there may be great career opportunities for those who get involved in this area!) Do the FMFIA and A-123 apply to legislative agencies? No. Both the law and the circular are addressed to executive branch agencies. That being said, legislative branch agencies are free to adopt concepts and practices from laws and regulations applicable to executive branch agencies, and some do. Is ERM expected to be evaluated at the assessable unit (AU) level, or is this to...

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Shifting Mindsets: How to Make Culture Change Real

Posted by on Oct 13, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Shifting Mindsets: How to Make Culture Change Real

One of the new roads I drive every day to and from work had been only partially finished for almost a year. There was a good-sized bump in one place. It became a habit to slow down every time I came to the bump. The road is now finished and the bump is gone, but I catch myself applying the brakes even though there is no need to do it anymore. Why does this happen? The twice-daily repetition and reinforcement created a “bump” mindset. As I learned at a coaching conference some years ago, once the interaction of our thoughts and emotions and the corresponding images we create become routine, a neural network forms, keeping our mindset on “autopilot” that gets stronger with repetition. When the road situation changed, my “bump” mindset needed to be knocked off autopilot so my foot would stay on the gas pedal when approaching where the bump used to be. It is easy to say, but not so easy to do. The good news: once I intentionally gave it some focus, my mindset began to shift. This simple story illustrates that shifting mindsets is about intentionally creating new neural networks on a personal level so that a desired change can be realized. Everyone needs to have this capability—even more so to keep pace with continual advances in technology and the changes it brings to how we live and work every day. For organizations to make real culture change, shifting the collective mindset is where the change work begins. On a personal level, some things you can do to make it easier to shift your mindset: When you feel resistance to change, recognize it as the strength of your neural network that makes you feel that way. Stop and notice what is going on in the moment without judgment or discomfort—it will help you prevent old habits from taking over. Give attention to the mindset you want to have, it helps to pull attention away from the mindset that no longer serves you well. Get emotionally engaged in the mindset change you want to make, it will help you learn faster and change your habits easier. Neural networks facilitate not only automatic thoughts and actions, but also emotional reactions. This means changing your mindset involves processing and shifting your feelings behind the mindset, too. If you have a major mindset shift to make, find a smaller and easier shift you can make to get a feel for the work involved. Share with someone the shift you want to make and get their candid feedback on how you are doing. Organizational leaders who achieve the greatest collective impact approach shifting mindsets in the following ways: Acknowledge that each person comes to an organization with their own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and habits. Organizational change begins with individual change. Gather evidence in the form of data, stories, and lessons learned to help others better understand the shifts that are needed. Make sure the repeat behaviors seen in the workplace represent the organization’s expected behaviors. By changing the most critical behaviors, the mindset will follow. Help individuals and teams create new “now vs. then” stories through continuous learning, improvement, and growth opportunities. Use the power of questions to help shift conversations when they go off track or get bogged...

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Analysis Paralysis: Find Time to Get the Croissant with Your Cup of Coffee

Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in Analytics, Financial Management | 0 comments

Analysis Paralysis: Find Time to Get the Croissant with Your Cup of Coffee

You’ve just submitted the report that your supervisor wanted on projected HR costs for next quarter. As you lean back to enjoy your second cup of coffee and begin to tackle your next project, an email asking you to run the analysis based on a different set of assumptions pops up in your inbox. So much for getting a head-start on that other project. We’ve all been in this situation at least once. I’ll be the first to admit that in my early years as an analyst, I found myself copying and pasting – creating new worksheets for each request. Soon my workbooks looked like an eight-headed beast that couldn’t be slain, like the mythical Greek hydra. Changing one or two input items yielding different results that management can act upon is referred to as “modeling”. Fortunately, Microsoft Excel’s “Scenario Manager” provides the functionality that allows an analyst to generate these different scenarios with a minimal amount of tedious copying, pasting, and formatting. This function allows the analyst to establish a menu of scenarios that will be used to produce the target value (HR costs in my example) and create a production-ready summary table. Here are some tips for using to help free up the time to enjoy that second cup of coffee. Think through the computations and how you structure that within the worksheet. For example, if I am modeling HR costs based on number of FTEs (employees) and benefit costs (fixed and variable), I put those input items in separate cells. Many analysts will limit themselves to one input item, but Scenario Manager allows for multiple items that can be varied. Use named ranges for the input items that will be changing. Scenario Manager will use these names in the output. If you don’t name the ranges, only the addresses will be used – e.g. “$B$1” – which will only lead to questions and confusion. My personal preference is to use three scenarios. One will represent the status quo and the other two will be aggressive and conservative. Alternatively, you could use the terms Low, Medium, High. Exhibiting more than three will likely generate more questions…which means more work for you! Even though a variable may not need to be changed, I tend to include it in my output report, but the value will remain constant. I do this for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds me of the variables I used to construct the model. Second, it demonstrates to the audience that you are proactive and considering other items that could impact your analysis – even though you are keeping the value constant for the current analysis. Let me share a bit more detail, using the example of HR costs… Below is the section of the worksheet where I put my computations. Notice that I have used named ranges and they are used in the formula in cell B6. Based upon this structure, my scenarios can vary any of the four input items: FTE, Fixed Benefit $, Salary, and Variable Benefit. I am going to run scenarios that change the number of FTEs and Fixed Benefit and keep the other two constant. These scenarios will be (Low) 25 FTE, $250 Fixed Benefit; (Medium) 50 FTE, $100 Fixed Benefit; and (High) 100 FTE, $75 Fixed Benefit....

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Are you a #ChangeAgent: Be the Change You Want to See

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Are you a #ChangeAgent: Be the Change You Want to See

It has been a year in the making but we have finally garnered the interest of key federal government officials to ask Management Concepts to help them tell their story about culture and change management at their agency. On September 29, 2016 we sponsored an event with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) on the topic of  “Positive #ChangeAgents Transforming Work Cultures By Delivering Results Differently and Better”. This opportunity came about when Dr. David Bray, CIO of the Federal Communication Commission approached us to have a conversation about the Importance of change agents in Public Service. The discussion covered topics such as: Diversity Empowering the edge, and Embracing ecosystem approaches. We mobilized our contacts and created a great program where we were able to position ourselves in the marketplace as experts on these topics. In addition we developed a “fresh thinking” panel and they discussed how they are #changeagents in their respective agencies and what needs to be done to continue working with all generations in the workplace.  The various panelists were from the Federal Communications Commission,  U.S. Department of Labor, General Services Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Carl T. Rowan Chapter of Blacks in Government, Senior Executives Association and US Department of Agriculture. One of the main take-a-ways from the event is that cultures are transformed by delivering results differently better.  If you tackle changing cultures directly you’ll not succeed, however if you focus on changing how you deliver results differently and better — then you’ll also change work cultures as a consequence. Be the change you want to...

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Open Data: Your Future, Your Now

Posted by on Sep 30, 2016 in Analytics, Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Open Data: Your Future, Your Now

I spent a lot of time this summer focused on our curriculum for pass-through entities (PTE) and recipients alongside implementation of the DATA Act. This past Wednesday, I took the opportunity to reflect on  these topics while I attended the Data Transparency 2016 + White House Open Data Innovation Summit. I approached my day from the perspective of what can I share with non-Federal entities (NFE). Here are my key takeaways: Open Data in Ecosystems. The question of the day seemed to be, “we have the data, now how do we use it.” From the White House Chief Technology Officer to the most junior participant, there was a strong understanding that open data has to be made and used in ecosystems.  We know that ecosystems are made of people and it’s a good reminder that data by itself is worthless unless it’s used. That means you need to seek ways to share your data, and find users. It also shows how important leadership, communication, and collaboration skills are in this space. NFEs can (and should) participate in DATA Act implementation efforts. In case you didn’t know, gov is in beta testing now.  I was able to add my small suggestion of what I want changed and then I had a great conversation with some members of the USAspending.gov team. I found out that I could help with some of the beta testing….and so can you. Think about what you’re not getting out of the data now, log onto the beta site, and be an active stakeholder.You also still have time to participate in the Section 5 Pilots. The HHS DATA Act Program Management Office (DAP) continues to seek feedback on the proposed improvements on the Federal Financial Report, Single Audit, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research library, Notice of Award, and Learn Grants. So if you have any issues with definitions or forms, speak up. So many resources are available to use now. One thing that I have found hard is figuring out what to do about the DATA Act now, besides keeping up-to-date and participating in pilots, if you’re a NFE. Part of the impact of the DATA Act and the open data movement in government is already available in the form of publicly available information. NFEs need to learn more about these data sets. Many of us know that the Census Bureau has many data sets available for you to use in your grant applications and project approaches. Or if you’re a pass-through entity, information to help inform your subrecipient risk assessments. Here’s some of what I found just by walking around the information tables: gov – 200K+ searchable data sets (start here) Global Innovation Exchange – Brings together information on funders, innovators, and resources in the development area; and not just US sources EPA Environmental Dataset Gateway – Information on climate change resources, maps and other information supportive of research and environmental justice Transportation Secure Data Center – Wide range of transit, energy, and homeland security information in one place With so much data available and crisp fall air moving in, pour yourself a nice cup of tea and explore visualization tools and resources to increase your knowledge of the varied uses of...

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EEOC Executive Leadership Conference Wrap-Up

Posted by on Sep 29, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

EEOC Executive Leadership Conference Wrap-Up

Last week Management Concepts facilitated a workshop on data visualization at the EEOC Executive Leadership Conference. It was great to see so much interest in the topic since organizations are faced with more data than we sometimes know what to do with. Because we process graphics much faster than text (60,000 times faster) , creating visuals to convey information in the data is critical to making the most of the data you have. I wanted to share some key takeaways based on themes that resonated most in the workshop discussions. Make one key point per visual. Good data visuals help communication be clearer and more efficient. Limit yourself to one key point per chart—this makes your point obvious and avoids the risk of your message getting lost in the visual, which is what you’re trying to avoid by summarizing the data visually in the first place. Use the right chart type for the point you want to make. Different chart types effectively convey different messages. For example, if you want to compare two data sets, use a bar chart or bullet chart to show progress toward a goal or budget. For the EEO space, this could include progress toward placement of at-risk employee demographics, or progress toward grievance cases resolved. Use relevant metrics and be transparent. Metrics such as pay by gender and total charges are meaningful, but they’re always only part of the picture. Qualify what’s behind the metric and the context for the data. For example, EEOC publishes litigation and charge counts. Observing that charge and litigation count in a particular category has decreased or increased is only part of the picture. Workforce growth or culture factors can shape whether problems are more or less likely to occur, so be sure to explain the narrative around the data. Be tuned in to the audience’s expectations and manage appropriately. The objective of using visuals is to communicate data effectively, so if your audience is expecting to see the data in a specific format or chart type, don’t stray too far from that even if you’re trying to improve the accuracy or effectiveness of the chart. The best chart is the one your audience understands, so it’s a chart used in a regularly released report, for example, consider modifying an existing charts rather than wholesale replacing them with a new one that may fall short of expectations. Use colors with reserve. Your agency may have a color palette typically used in formal presentations or reports, but this doesn’t mean you have to use it in your charts. Most of the time, the chart elements and axes sufficiently communicate the quantitative information, and black or gray ink is sufficient. Colors can convey qualitative distinctions but aren’t precise for conveying quantitative information. They also can have unintended meaning—red, for example, is often interpreted as negative; yellow, as requiring...

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Federal Spotlight: Wanda Killingsworth

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Wanda Killingsworth

Wanda Killingsworth serves as Senior Program Analyst with the IRS, and president of Federally Employed Women (FEW). MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? WK: I have more than 25 years of Federal service with the Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS). My current role is as a Senior Program Analyst. In this position, I serve as a Team Lead and Subject Matter Expert responsible for providing Risk Management infrastructure to various IT projects and ensure projects receive training on the Risk Management process and tools. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? WK: What keeps me motivated is my passion to help others. My parents instilled in my siblings and me the essences of hard work and volunteerism. My dad and grandfather were very active in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. But it was my mother that made the greatest impression on me. I am inspired by my mother’s dedication and commitment to public service. She was employed with the Cleveland Public School System and was president of two nonprofit organizations Union-Miles Development Corporation and Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP); she was the founder of ESOP where she was president for 20 years. I draw on my passion from watching my mother; being a full time employee with the school system, president of a nonprofit organization, wife, and mother. She did her part to better the neighborhood in which we lived and eventually dedicated herself to eliminating predatory lending by banks. She persuaded many bank lenders to sign agreements reducing foreclosures, improving terms, and treating African-American borrowers equally. Some national bank lenders offered to change their habits just in Cleveland, Ohio, but my mother demanded that they make these changes nationwide. She had testified before congress about the impact of predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis that was sweeping the nation. She was just an amazing woman. I am very passionate to be an advocate for women’s rights to ensure that we as women have the same rights as men and have equal access to training and career opportunities, and have more women in senior level positions. I am also motivated by my involvement with Federally Employed Women’s (FEW) and its mission for the advancement of women in government. FEW has made a real difference in the advancement of women in Federal service through of its focus area of legislation by being both pro-active and defensive in monitoring Congressional proposals in order to assess the impact on women. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? WK: One of my biggest achievements was having the opportunity to raise more than $20,000 for two schools in New Orleans, LA. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans’s lower 9th ward a group of FEW’s National Officers donated our time and talent to lend a helping hand by painting houses and cleaning up New Orleans. I thought it would be a great idea to do more as we were planning to host our National Training Program in 2010 in New Orleans, so I created the “FEW: A Helping Hand,” initiative to give 100% of all donations collected to providing such items as uniforms and school supplies to students in two schools in New Orleans. I was...

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Defining and Refining Organizational Structure to Improve Performance

Posted by on Sep 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Defining and Refining Organizational Structure to Improve Performance

At Management Concepts, we are often asked to help clients rationalize and reorganize their organizational and functional structures when they reach a level of inefficiency that threatens to impact performance.  In a recent example, the CEO of a healthcare services company had begun to notice that a recent period of rapid growth had led to a muddled organization structure. The organization had gone through a period of rapid expansion with significant growth in staffing through organic growth, as well as through acquisition.  The organization had historically made hiring decisions based on immediate business needs, with choices made in isolation by individual managers and departments.  The organization had enjoyed some success with this approach and was able to find people with the necessary skills and experience it needed. However, without a systematic approach to job titling and responsibilities, structural inconsistencies were being created that would increasingly result in under-performance of individuals and the organization as a whole. The unstructured approach to job creation and hiring had resulted in major variations in people’s job titles, scopes of work, job responsibilities, and compensation. Across the organization, we encountered seven different supervisory job levels, a wide range of compensation and responsibilities across departments for corresponding job titles, and many people with unique job titles that could not be mapped to another position within the firm or benchmarked to outside comparisons.  As a result, the organization was facing several issues that threatened future growth and reduced their ability to respond to organizational change, these included: A lack of clearly defined job accountabilities and expectations, that made it very difficult to adequately understand and define what is necessary to perform roles successfully. No technical and behavioral competencies that could also be used for performance management, career path development, and to recruit the right individuals to roles. Difficulty in determining if individuals were being fairly compensated for the work they performed. Reduced opportunities for personal advancement within the organization as career paths were not defined, as the organizational structure was based on the actual individuals in place rather than the work that those people were supposed to perform. An inability of upper management to efficiently make necessary changes, since the organization structure was overly complicated and based around individuals already in positions. Inability to efficiently integrate acquired firms into the organization as there was no single standard by which to assess employees of the acquired organizations. Management Concepts was brought in to work with the organization to assess the situation, work through a process of job leveling and use this to develop a set of accountabilities and technical competencies by which all jobs could be evaluated. The end result was a framework used to place all positions consistently across all functions of the firm and that could be used as the basis for all company workforce planning, recruiting, learning and development, performance management, succession planning, and ultimately compensation. Without a framework to provide structure as the underpinning for roles with an organization, it is inevitable that managers will make hiring decisions in a vacuum that may or may not meet the long-term needs of an organization. With a comprehensive competency framework that all jobs can be aligned to, organizations have a rational basis for all hiring decisions, greatly increasing their ability to respond to all forms...

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Quit Moving the Target: How to Set Clear Expectations and Not Drive Your Employees Crazy

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Quit Moving the Target: How to Set Clear Expectations and Not Drive Your Employees Crazy

Have you ever felt like you are chasing a moving target?  My first supervisor had me feeling like that constantly.  I had to commiserate with my teammates and turn it in to a joke so we wouldn’t go crazy.  We called it the “Gwen Guessing Game”*, or the “G3″ for short.  I don’t know if it was the type of job it was, the fact that many of us we’re right out of college, or maybe it was just the way she had learned to manage her team, but we found it very hard to understand her expectations. Gwen made a lot of requests; the problem was they were always vague.  She would provide little to no direction about how to successfully carry out a request… just a “get it done” kind of attitude.  I’m not saying we needed the hand-holding, coddling type of directions (no one wants to be micro-managed!) but there was never any explanation of what getting it “done” entailed, or what “done” even looked like. Picture Meryl Streep (Miranda Priestly) in The Devil Wears Prada…. “That’s all.” I can look back now and see that my frustration was coming from a lack of engagement and knowing what my target was.  How was I ever going to figure out if what I was doing was exceeding, or even meeting expectations if I didn’t know what the expectations were? How would I move up and grow in my profession? Needless to say, I didn’t stay long. Gwen probably hated this time of year.  Now that budget season is coming to a close and the focus is shifting to performance planning it’s the perfect time to set, or reset, expectations. Communicating expectations sounds so simple but if you look at it in the context of performance planning it’s actually only one piece of several interconnected activities.  Taking a systematic approach to performance planning gives you the framework to communicate how the work of your team is to be accomplished and enables you to support your employees’ performance while they work to achieve their goals and the goals of the organization. “We cannot focus on improvement in processes without a complementary focus on the people we rely on to do the work.” With the increased focus on accountability and people performance, particularly in the public sector, there is an increased demand for supervisors to communicate performance expectations more effectively. When you combine that with the cultural workplace shift where employees expect more personal conversations, there is a need for supervisors to master performance-focused conversations. A few things to keep in mind when planning and engaging in performance-focused conversations include: Remember that both parties need to prepare for the process; employees should develop personal goals and supervisors need to communicate what is expected for the meeting Look at past, present and future to determine your expectations Consider individual context, goals, capabilities, and potential stretch goals Be authentic and supportive in order to build shared ownership of the process The more effort you put in to improving performance conversations, the more likely you are to get to a shared understanding of expectations…. And not cause your employees to play the G3.  This small, but important step in the performance planning process can set the stage for an increase in successful performance...

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The Power of Shared Learning and Experience in the Workplace

Posted by on Sep 15, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Power of Shared Learning and Experience in the Workplace

I remember as a child my mother saying to me, “most often two heads are better than one.” This phrase still pops into my head when I am contemplating whom to involve in an upcoming work project or initiative. On occasion, working solo is the right course of action, but in most situations, involving others produces better outcomes for everyone. The part that was left unsaid by my mother is what happens when the shared learning and experience involves two, three, four or more individuals. Here are some things I have learned about the power of shared learning and experience in the workplace. Change in people and in organizational culture is stimulated and inspired through shared learning and experience. It is easier to ask for or receive feedback, offer advice, and show support and encouragement when others are dealing with the same challenge or situation. One of the most memorable special action teams I was on required a wide range expertise from its six members, but we were the strongest when we collectively worked through highly visible fieldwork issues and made learning from each other intentional. The grounding I have today in using questions to engage others and open up discussions is the result of this team experience. When individual assumptions are suspended, it opens the door for genuine thinking and talking together, creating the possibility for shared learning and experience. Reflecting on and questioning the roles and practices of others helps to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of your own role and practices. This practice is particularly useful when there is confusion among a group of people as to who is responsible for what. It is easy to make assumptions that may not serve you well. When individuals challenge their own thinking by listening to the perspectives of others, they are able to interact in new and different ways. Easy to say, but not so easy to do.  It takes practice to get comfortable with it.  In my professional leadership coach training program, I had many opportunities to practice using my listening skills and through this practice I could see myself get better and better at closing off everything but what should be my immediate focus. Shared human experience creates deeper relationships and meaningful learning. When shared as stories with others, it has even greater impact.  For example, while it has been 15 years since 9/11, the powerful Man in the Red Bandana story continues to connect people in new and special ways. Organizational leaders that recognize the power of shared learning and experience use many of the following practices to engage with others: Create connections. Identify individuals from different parts of the organization to work on specific organizational improvement initiatives so they can wrestle with new or different perspectives and try out various ways to work together and communicate with each other. Be intentional about making desired behaviors a key focus and provide opportunities to test understanding and concerns about the new behavioral expectations to help them take shape. Give focus to the habits, such as being curious, failing fast, and encouraging others, that are formed by groups working together so they can be applied to new and different situations. Identify opportunities for immediate interactions, such as teaching others or sitting alongside someone to share experiences....

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3 Keys to Applying for a Federal Job

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in Human Resources | 1 comment

3 Keys to Applying for a Federal Job

With more than 2 million jobs, the Federal government is the largest US employer with many thousands of vacancies at any time. The average annual Federal workers compensation, including pay plus benefits, exceeds $124,000, but the competition for those jobs is considerable, and finding the right Federal government job for you can be a daunting journey. It is not for the faint of heart and can be somewhat frustrating. The biggest turn-off for many would-be applicants is the hiring process, which requires patience and persistence. But if you lay the foundation by completing the following three simple tasks, prior to applying, you can significantly improve your chances for success. 1st Key: Dust Off Your Resume This is not the time to use the old cookie-cutter resume. Remember, the competition for Federal jobs is high. You have to be a standout, and it starts with the resume. The typical two page resume will not cut it.  Federal resumes require more detail and are therefore a bit longer than traditional resumes. A Federal resume uses the same information from a typical resume, but goes into more depth about your skills, past duties, and accomplishments. Entry level positions often require resumes between three and five pages in length. While conducting a review of your resume, here are a few things to focus on: When did you last update your resume? Does your resume highlight your skills and abilities? Does it reflect where you are now and where you want to go in the future? Can you see your passion in it? Your resume should set a clear vision of what type of job you want to get, and what you bring to the table if you are hired.  Identifying the most suitable jobs for you will only help you better navigate through the complicated job search process. As an applicant, you need to be able to articulate what you want most in an employer so that you find an agency and a position that you are excited about. Key help for federal resume building: http://gogovernment.org/how_to_apply/write_your_federal_resume/writing_tips.php http://www.federaljobs.net/resources.htm The Book of U.S. Government Jobs: Where They Are, What’s Available, & How to Complete a Federal Resume (available in your public library or for purchase online) 2nd Key: Take an Agency Tour You have dressed up your resume, assessed your skill sets, and have a clear idea of what types of jobs you are interested in and suited for.  However, the Federal government is large and may have opportunities that you have not considered.  It is time for the agency tour. Searching for employment in the Federal government is not just about the job. It is also about the agency where the job resides. Not all agencies may have a need for your demonstrated skill sets. And even if they do, they may only have a few positions in that area. Your goal is to research and find those agencies that not only have a need for your skills, based on their organizational mission and direction, but also can offer you the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Think about it!  232,812 individuals were hired in the Federal sector (nationwide and overseas) in 2015. This means that here are always thousands of vacancies to choose from, making it even more critical for you to narrow...

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How Much Data Do I Need?

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

How Much Data Do I Need?

As an analyst and evaluator, the most frequent question I am asked is, “How much data do I need for this analysis?” You need to have enough usable, representative data to answer your questions. Here’s how you get there. Representativeness It’s common to focus on a response rate for a survey or count rows of data as a way to show we have enough data. When I teach Management Concepts five day Analytics Boot Camp course, I conduct an activity using marbles to illustrate the importance of knowing how representative your data is of your whole target group. If I have all solid colored marbles, but I know there are cats-eye marbles in the bag, I might have to keep selecting marbles to find one. If they’re all at the bottom of the bag, and I don’t ever see them, is that okay?Here are some things you should find out before you collect any data, whether from people or from databases: How many should I have in my target group? How many do I have in the sample I’ve selected? What are the characteristics of the target group? (age, education, years of service – if you can imagine a category, think about what the possibilities are within each category and write it out) Do those look the same, proportionately, between my sample and the target group? If someone were making a decision about me based on this information, would I be comfortable with it? What might cause me to be concerned? What constitutes “enough” data in this situation? (Hint: Ask your stakeholders before you start collection.) These analytic questions apply whether you are conducting an employee satisfaction survey or pulling large volumes of data from a government database. In many cases, you can’t get everything you want, and having all the data may be impossible (think about Department of Labor datasets, for example). I often see people collect data that doesn’t look at all like they intended – they want a cats-eye marble and only have solid color marbles. It’s hard to answer anyone’s questions when you don’t have what you need. Just because you have access to some marbles doesn’t mean they are the marbles you need for your analysis. Usable Data Not all data is clean or good for analysis. People responding to surveys may skip questions, leave out information, or answer in a way that is unclear. We can’t guess what they meant, so that data has to be excluded from analysis. In the cleaning and screening process (where analysts look at all the details and decide what can actually be used), in some cases as much as 20% of the data is unusable (depending on how it was collected) and that  impacts representativeness. That means that if you thought you collected enough data, you now may find that it’s not enough because some of it can’t be used due to being incomplete, error-laden, or  other problems (such as a software error). You have to plan ahead for some of the data being unusable for reasons that are beyond your control. Tips for Collecting the Right Amount of Data Know what your data should look like when you get it (based on the categories that describe your source – like age, total number of employees, ethnicity,...

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Federal Spotlight: Rebecca Rose

Posted by on Sep 7, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Rebecca Rose

Rebecca Rose serves as the Assistant Director of Communications at the U.S. Department of Energy. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Rebecca Rose: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? RR: I’ve been in the Federal service for close to 10 years now. I have two current roles: By day I lead a team of more than 20 geographically dispersed employees with a $5 million budget for strategic communications and outreach within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) that has close to a $2B Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&D) portfolio. EERE leads the Department of Energy’s efforts to develop and deliver market-driven solutions for energy-saving homes, buildings, and manufacturing; sustainable transportation; and renewable electricity generation. The rest of the time I serve on the board of Young Government Leaders (YGL) as their Strategic Communications Director, which involves developing an overarching communication strategy to promote YGL to members (more than 8,000 across the nation) and the public at large. YGL is the only 501(c)3 non-profit professional organization founded and led by young government employees. YGL actively builds and maintains a leadership community for young public servants across the country through professional development activities, networking opportunities, social events, seminars, fellowships, and scholarships. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? RR:  Seeing the impact I make through my work for the American public is what keeps me motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector. I get to see my work in the news and social media on a daily basis.  MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? RR: Completing my master’s degree. I’m the only one in my family to have a four year degree or an advanced degree. I was also recently accepted into the Partnership for Public Service Excellence in Government Fellowship program. The program prepares leaders to be more than managers. They are innovators whose creativity in problem-solving stands up to the complexity of our 21st century challenges.  MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? RR: Don’t be afraid to change jobs or agencies to build the kind of work experience you want. Also, know when to leave – If you’re no longer challenged by your current position it’s time to move on to a new experience. MC: What advice would you share with young people on entering government? RR:  Be persistent. Getting into the government can be a challenging process, but it’s worth it.  If you’re new to government, learn as much as you can and take advantage of professional development programs offered by your agency, which can include academic lectures, leadership training, and mentor programs. *Answers reflect Rebecca’s own personal views and do not reflect those in her official capacity. — Read more Federal Spotlight interviews by clicking here. And subscribe to this blog using the form at the top-right of this...

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Federal-Wide Research Terms and Conditions

Posted by on Sep 6, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Federal-Wide Research Terms and Conditions

Last October, the National Science Foundation (NSF) published proposed Research Terms and Conditions (RTCs) for Federal awards. The proposed RTCs update the current RTCs by implementing the requirements under 2 CFR 200. In some instances, the proposed RTCs modify the requirements under 2 CFR 200 to address the unique nature of research awards. The Federal Register notice stated that the “use of RTCs is envisioned as a streamlined approach that supports the implementation of the Uniform Guidance by providing clarification, supplementary guidance, and, where appropriate, selected options, while meeting the spirting and intent of a uniform implementation.” The NSF developed a crosswalk that identifies the differences between 2 CFR 200 and the proposed RTCs. All provisions in 2 CFR 200 would apply to research awards unless identified on the crosswalk. Upon final completion and approval of the RTCs, the Federal research awarding agencies will release three appendices to the RTCs: Appendix A, Prior Approval Matrix Appendix B, Subaward Requirements Matrix Appendix C, National Policy Requirements Matrix The NSF is the lead agency on developing the RTCs. Others Federal agencies participating in the development process include: Department of Commerce – National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Department of Commerce – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Department of Energy Department of Health and Human Services – National Institutes of Health (NIH) Department of Homeland Security Department of Transportation – Federal Aviation Administration Environmental Protection Agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) National Science Foundation U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture The NSF has not announced when the RTCs will be finalized. In the Federal Register Notice, the NSF wrote: “After obtaining and considering public comment, the [Interagency Working Group] will prepare the format for final clearance.” The public comment period closed on December 14, 2015 and the NSF received two comments. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report in June 2016 entitled Federal Research Grants: Opportunities Remain for Agencies to Streamline Administrative Requirements. The GAO report provides extensive background to the development of the RTCs and made recommendations to reduce recipient administrative...

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BIG is Committed to Excellence: Think Big!

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

BIG is Committed to Excellence: Think Big!

Management Concepts was a proud gold sponsor of the Blacks In Government (BIG) 38th Annual National Training Institute (NTI) held in Atlantic City, New Jersey from August 22-25, 2016. This was a very special year for the organization as it celebrated its 40th year as a national organization. This year’s theme was “Commit to Excellence: Think, Believe, and Achieve BIG!” and more than 1,600 attendees had access to 100+ workshops and agency forums addressing an array of critical topics to help them achieve excellence in their careers. The program led with a motivational speech by Denise Turner Roth, the 21st Senate-confirmed Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and ended with a teary eyed Honorable Darlene H. Young, National President of BIG as she passed the baton to the incoming President Dr. Doris Sartor. For those of you that don’t know, BIG’s NTI is designed to elevate the day-to-day work performance of government employees. With the increasing challenges and complexities facing all levels of government today, the BIG NTI focuses on providing critical management and supervisory training to enable and assist managers with developing highly capable and competent employees to perform at their maximum level of contribution. We helped them achieve this goal as we presented four training sessions for the first time at the conference. The following sessions were met with rave reviews from more than 150 attendees: Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace and Fostering Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience both presented by Maria Morukian, Instructor at Management Concepts Mentoring for Millennials, presented twice  by Natalya Pestalozzi, Practice Lead, Coaching & Mentoring at Management Concepts and Marcus Brownrigg, Director, Program Impact and Operations, AmeriCorps VISTA, Corporation for National and Community Service Additionally, for the second year in a row we were able to present the Blacks In Government and Management Concepts National Leadership Certification Program, encouraging others to think big as we awarded two training scholarships. We received many stellar applications and selecting recipients was a truly hard decision. The winners were: Gerald Wilson, Supervisory Management Analyst, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services Fawntrella Thompson, Auditor, Office of the Inspector General, Department of Treasury We also had the opportunity to expand our relationship with BIG’s NOW Generation, their under 40 organization that strives to build up the leadership of the next wave of executives in government, by hosting a Munch & Mingle during the conference. It was standing room only and we had both current BIG President Darlene. H. Young and President-elect Dr. Doris Sartor stop by to reiterate their support of the next generation of leaders and encourage them to think big! Lastly, we sought to #thinkBIG and #winBIG with the exhibit hall attendees. The new addition of the Management Concepts prize wheel proved to be a big draw for the attendees. More than 300 surveys were completed and we were able to engage in great conversations as they stayed to find out more about our products and services. Looking forward to a repeat performance for Atlantic City 2017,...

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How Assumptions Impact Organizational Culture

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

How Assumptions Impact Organizational Culture

We all make assumptions as we go about our daily life, with a good portion of them being made while at work. Many of these assumptions are made without knowing it or thinking about it. Assumptions are usually based on something we have learned previously and do not question.  As part of our belief system, assumptions help us form judgments, make meaning, and draw conclusions about what is happening and what others are thinking. When information is missing, they help us complete our own story. Assumptions are also an important part of daily life in organizations. They are the invisible, taken-for-granted beliefs and values that form the culture of an organization and impact how the organization performs.  In the words of Edgar Schein (2004), “organizational culture is a pattern of shared basic assumptions that a group working together for a common goal has created in learning to cope with the problems of external adaptation and internal integration.” It is about the correct way to think, talk, perceive, feel and act, in certain situations. Think about your own organization for a minute. What assumptions are you making about your organization? Do others in the organization share your assumptions? Is there a set of shared assumptions that guide how work gets done, how people relate to each other, and how decisions are made? How easy would it be for everyone to identify the shared assumptions and describe the collective meaning of each? Are the shared assumptions serving the organization well?  If not, how hard would it be to change them? Answers to all of these questions will help you begin to see the impact assumptions have in your organization.  Because the impact of assumptions is felt individually and collectively in organizations as outcomes, it is useful to know what actions will have the greatest positive impact on organizational culture. Ways to Strengthen the Impact of Individual Assumptions on Organizational Culture Know your ground truth — your beliefs and values. Know how you plan and think through every day situations. Know what information is relevant and accurate to making an assumption. Be open to the perspectives of others. Listen first. Seek to understand with questions before making an assumption. Test your assumptions to make sure you understand the intent of others. Use your critical thinking skills to break apart, analyze and improve your assumptions. By paying attention to how assumptions are made, individuals begin to notice what they and others are taking for granted.  This learning leads to new insights, different experiences, and ultimately improved assumptions. Ways to Check the Impact of Shared Assumptions on Organizational Culture Shared assumptions represent the most powerful aspect of an organization’s culture, but they are often not clearly articulated.  However, it is essential for organizational leaders to have a strong grasp of their shared assumptions.   Without this understanding, it is difficult to create and maintain a high-performing culture that encourages and rewards collective effort.  Some ways for leaders to check the impact of shared assumptions are: Observe what is going on around you Listen to the stories shared in and out of the organization See how others respond when acting as a role model or coaching others Notice what people pay attention to Check out the language and symbols commonly used Is purpose seen as bigger...

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The DATA Act: Expanding Open Data and Transparency

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

The DATA Act: Expanding Open Data and Transparency

Last week, I had the opportunity to present Management Concepts’ “Get Your DATA Act Together” webinar. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) is designed to enhance transparency of Federal spending by making all public spending, throughout the entire spending lifecycle, available to the public in a searchable and downloadable format. In the webinar, we looked at how the DATA Act will affect the roles and job functions for anyone involved with awarding or reporting Federal spending. Federal employees will need to ensure spending data is accurate, consistent, and complete Federal financial officers will need to develop data analytic tools to synthesis their agency’s spending data and verify adequate controls are in place to guarantee the accuracy of submitted data Federal managers need to take the proper steps to train employees on the new spending data standards and that all employees understand their responsibilities under the DATA Act Grantees and contractors should review the 57 governmentwide financial data standards to understand the information that Federal awarding agencies will be collecting regarding their awards Starting on May 8, 2017, all Federal agencies must begin reporting their spending data using the governmentwide financial data standards. In preparation of this deadline, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides frequent updates on implementation of the DATA Act. In the past month, GAO issued two reports: DATA Act: Improvements Needed in Reviewing Agency Implementation Plans and Monitoring Progress (GAO-16-698) The GAO examined agency DATA Act implementation plans and found none of the 42 plans agencies submitted to OMB and the Department of the Treasury addressed all  51 plan elements found in implementation guidance. GAO recommended additional documented internal controls and processes to ensure agency implementation. DATA Act: Initial Observations on Technical Implementation (GAO-16-824R) The GAO examined the implementation of the IT infrastructure to integrate Federal systems in accordance with the DATA Act. The GAO did not make recommendations in the report. On August 12, 2016, Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act agencies submitted their latest implementation plans to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The implementation plans discussed: Recent agency progress and milestones Anticipated additional costs to implementing the DATA Act Updated risks and a risk mitigation strategy Hopefully the new implementation plans will alleviate the GAO’s concerns. We also need to keep our eye on Congress. In addition to the DATA Act, Congress continues to look at ways to further expand open data requirements across the Federal government. In May 2016, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data Act (OPEN Government Data Act). This legislation would codify Executive Order 13642, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information. The bill would require Federal agencies to: Make their enterprise data inventories available to the public in an open format on Data.gov Designate a point of contact to assist the public and respond to complaints about adherence to open data requirements An identical bill has also been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has not taken any action yet. The concepts of open data, accountability, and transparency are not new to the Federal government. These concepts have been a driving force for the Federal government for the last decade, and the DATA Act is an extension of those...

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Federal Spotlight Recap: OPM’s Rebecca Ayers and Your Next Career Decision

Posted by on Aug 26, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight Recap: OPM’s Rebecca Ayers and Your Next Career Decision

In her Federal Spotlight interview in November, OPM’s Rebecca Ayers shared her insights on a rewarding career and building a satisfying career in the Federal government. My take-aways from her interview: find something rewarding and work with people who share your passions. With September upon us—a time when job search activity increases, job market activity spikes, and our Federal government approaches a new fiscal year in October—Ms. Ayers’s words are relevant for employers and employees alike. If you’re data-driven (like I usually am), it’s great to remember that hosts of studies—many well-documented—reinforce the idea that employees and employers alike benefit when we find our work rewarding. Recent Merit Systems Protection Board data backs up the principle that employees are more engaged, and therefore more productive, when they find their work rewarding. Employees who feel productive report higher rates of job satisfaction—one of the biggest factors that shapes whether we stay or leave. Positive coworker relationships also contribute to job satisfaction, and a workshop I recently attended by Shane Yount drove home the point that rather than focusing on differences between employees, strong coworker relationships and team bonds can be forged by focusing on the one thing everyone has in common—the organization’s mission. Ms. Ayers mentioned that she finds it rewarding to work with people who share her “motivation and passion for public service.” If employees are all genuinely motivated by the organization’s mission, this also contributes to a positive, engaging work environment where employees are likely to stay. If you’re on the recruiting or hiring side of the job market, it’s good to remember that we need to seek employees who will find the work rewarding and be part of a team that’s invested in the work. If you’re on the job seeking side, it’s good to remember that title, compensation, or other “convenience” factors (commute, workload, working conditions) aren’t everything—your potential to be motivated by the work and build good working relationships with coworkers matters for whether you’ll like the job and want to stay. If you missed Rebecca Ayers’s interview, check it out here. It provides a refreshing perspective for employers and employees—private or public...

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SES Reform Implementation Tips

Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

SES Reform Implementation Tips

You may recall a blog piece from a few weeks ago describing President Obama’s recent Executive Order directing the Federal government to improve the performance and return on investment of the Senior Executive Service (SES).  The order highlights succession planning, streamline hiring, onboarding, and development and rotations as focus areas as areas for improvement. Federal departments are deploying phased changes over the next few years, and the early adopters are now busy creating and refining processes for implementation. I’ve had experience leading and supporting large scale organizational change initiatives. Recent experience with this SES Reform initiative allows us to share some best practices for implementing changes sustainably in your organization: Establish a clear vision for how your organization will implement and resource this initiative. Creating a clear vision at the top of the organization for addressing the requirements of the Executive Order is essential. SES members are tuned into the many ways an organization can show them they are valued. Being realistic about the amount of effort and support a change of this magnitude will require, and resourcing it appropriately, sends a strong message to the executive corps about how much they are valued. It also conveys how important this initiative is to the enterprise. Identify initiative leads to drive implementation of the changes. Designate skilled individuals to pull the team together that will plan for implementing the initiatives outlined in the EO. They can hold people accountable for creating the necessary policy, guidance, standards, and tools that will form the backbone of the process changes. Allow flexibility in crafting solutions for diverse sub-organizations within your department. If your department has a consistent culture throughout, a one-size-fits-all approach to complying with this Executive Order makes sense. But what if your organization is made up of sub-organizations with very unique subcultures? In that case, consider creating a department-wide solution that sets basic compliance standards, while providing room for agencies to tailor their solution to the requirements of the EO to meet the needs of the highly specialized subcultures. Emphasize Organizational Change Management activities in enacting the desired changes. People don’t typically embrace change easily. That may be true especially about senior executives who have grown up and become successful through the status quo. Soliciting input early and often from those who may be affected by the changes, and communicating frequently, positively, and honestly about the concerns they share will go a long way toward setting the tone for and selling the need for change to those who are most affected. This will foster adoption of new processes to help positively impact the culture of the organization in the spirit of the executive order. Ensure the implementation teams collaborate across work streams during the solution phase. The four topic areas offer high potential for overlap; for example, hiring and onboarding are great mechanisms to identify development needs and rotational opportunities, which feed succession planning. Aligning processes and activities strategically across work streams helps ensure that each SES member experiences an environment of continuity in which he or she is welcomed, supported, and empowered to model the mission of the SES Program within the Department in which he or she works. Publicize early “wins.” Communicate with individuals going through the hiring, onboarding, and development and rotations processes, and learn what has and...

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Speaking the Same Generational Language

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Speaking the Same Generational Language

I have mixed emotions. The Olympics are over (sigh) but a new school year is around the corner and pre-season football is in full swing (hooray!). That’s three tell-tale signs that fall is on the way. It also means Performance review season is here for most Federal employees. While performance reviews add another significant task to your ‘to do’ list as supervisors and managers, the hours that go into them are time well spent for you, your direct reports, and the organization as a whole. As you step back and assess how well each individual performed this year—and begin to formulate what you want to accomplish as a team in FY17—I encourage you to add another question to your assessment: Are we leveraging the strengths of each team member and the generations we represent? Having so many generations in the workplace can generate mixed emotions for supervisors and managers. It presents well-documented advantages but also produces palpable challenges when it comes to getting a team to function like a well-oiled machine. At times, it can seem like your team members speak the same language but have no idea what each other are saying. Here are a few tips you can lean on to help your team members set goals that will foster a unified, strong team: Ask your team to take an introspective look at themselves and their generation We all have strengths, weaknesses, assets, limitations, and emotional responses, and they are influenced by the environment and time in which we exist. Knowing the self that you bring to the team and considering the effect of your journey will open you to new perspectives and self-development. Encourage each team member to find out what unites them with their colleagues Fixating on what is different about you and your team members can block you from seeing how you complement each other and what you can accomplish as a team. Identifying individual strengths and what you have in common reframes your view to what’s possible as opposed to what’s standing in our way. Create an opportunity to discuss and share insights about the generations on the team Once your team has engaged in a bit of self-reflection and considered what each team member contributes to the team, facilitate a conversation about the generations you represent. Ask each team member to identify three words that describe their generation and one stereotype that is untrue to get the ball rolling. I’ll bet the conversation eventually leads to realization that while each generation is defined, the definition rarely offers a fair and full assessment of a generation. To ensure the self-reflection and team discussions have lasting effect, you have to create the right conditions for your team to adopt a new mindset: Are you fostering an environment of inclusiveness? Being inclusive means all your team members feel valued, connected, and involved in decisions and processes. Evaluate what you are doing—or could do better—to make sure your team understands their roles in decisions, give them consistent information, hold each member of the team to the same standards, and provide opportunities for professional development. Are you taking an appreciative approach when you communicate? Supervisors and managers aren’t mind readers, though it would be near the top of my super power wish list. When challenges arise, are you...

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Top 5 Questions from Our DATA Act Webinar

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

Top 5 Questions from Our DATA Act Webinar

With so many questions asked at the end of our DATA Act webinar last week, we were unable to answer them all on the spot, but here’s a follow-up on the top five questions asked. (If you were unable to attend the webinar live, access a recording here.) To whom does the DATA Act apply? The DATA Act applies to all Federal agencies. By May 8, 2017, all Federal agencies will be required to report their spending information in compliance with the new data-centric reporting structure. No later than August 7, 2018, OMB will decide whether DATA Act standards apply to all grantee and contractor reporting—OMB will submit a report to Congress one year prior on the two pilots (one for grantees, one for contractors) to help evaluate the decision of how far to extend the DATA Act requirements. Will FFATA go away? In a word—no. The DATA Act is actually just an amendment to FFATA. If you’re within a Federal agency, some of your reporting processes and requirements will change. Exactly what will change varies by agency. What are the pilots and will I hear about the outcome of the pilots? Section 5 of the DATA Act specifies that two pilots must take place. OMB is tasked with leading the pilot for contractors to identify recommendations and test processes. They are working with HHS to implement the grants pilot, which will test several reporting processes and use of the Common Data Elements Repository Library. OMB must submit a report on the pilots to Congress by August 7, 2017. Is my agency already compliant with the DATA Act? Ask around within your agency to find out where you are in the process since it’s different for everyone. Your CDO, OIG, CIO, or CTO offices are likely to be involved, so communications from those offices are a good place to start. The DATA Act Information Model Schema was just finalized in May 2016, so it’s not likely for anyone to be in full compliance yet. In November of this year, the Inspectors General office of every Federal agency is required to submit a report on implementation progress. Full compliance is not required until May 8, 2017. Will Management Concepts offer additional updates and resources? Absolutely! Stay tuned for future blog posts on data security, legislative updates, DATA Act implementation milestones, and more. To support your work with Federal financial data, browse our training in data analysis, Federal financial management, grants management, or contracting. For support with leading and managing implementation, look to our IT PM training or change management training or consulting. If you have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at...

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Performance Review Season

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

The national conventions have wrapped up but campaign season is far from over. Everywhere you turn you are inundated with the latest breaking political news…. And maybe a few resurfaced stories. As bogged down as I have become with the flood of politics on the news, in my social media thread, and creeping in to dinner conversations, I have to admit – I like the attention that the “plans” are getting. It may be campaign season for some Feds, but for most of us it is performance review season and the perfect time of year to take stock of your professional development and makes plan for next year. As we all know planning, in the work setting, is often the thing that suffers in our fast-paced, results-driven environment. When push comes to shove, and I’m under tight deadlines, the last thing I want to do is stop and document a plan. The presidential candidates’ plans remind me that planning is incredibly important; it’s the backbone for everything that comes after. I take my professional development very seriously (I’ve even built a career around it!) but my individual development planning could use more attention. I spend the majority of my time supporting other individuals, teams, and organizations in leadership development but I have to remind myself to take the time to plan my own professional development and career path. If there is one thing I have learned from the work I do to design leadership programs for others, it is to take a systematic approach to career planning. Career planning is the process of matching an organization’s business needs with the career goals of individuals. This process includes: Understanding the mission and goals of the organization Determining career goals Exploring career options Assessing personal and professional interests Identifying opportunities for development Understanding one’s own goals is fairly simple – communicating that, working it in to team and organizational goals is a little more complicated. But it’s in the alignment of those multi-faceted goals where the real magic happens! Managers, HR professionals, and those charged with supporting professional growth within organizations must be equipped to assist the organization’s employees through the intertwined process of career development. Consider this time of year a reminder to take stock of how professional development can better both individuals and organizations. It starts with an Individual Development Plan (IDP) where goals, interests, strengths, and areas for skill building are identified. That planning phase is what sets the stage for identifying gaps with current and future states of an organizations’ workforce and finding effective solutions to address those gaps. It requires a strategic view of the organization’s mission, vision, and goals to turn individual development plans in to a career progression. Career planning is not as simple as having employees fill out IDPs and posting the organization’s mission statement in the break room, it requires careful planning and a strategic approach to workforce planning and goal alignment....

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Comparisons of Agile vs. Traditional Approaches

Posted by on Aug 17, 2016 in Project Management | 0 comments

Comparisons of Agile vs. Traditional Approaches

Can this discussion be condensed down to a set of graphs that illustrate the areas of “applicability” for both Agile and current best practices for project management, or “traditional” project management? Fortunately, the answer is yes, and the following graphs are offered in support of this response. The first graph illustrates the comparison of Agile, traditional, and other project management philosophies and methods when plotting two independent variables: The size of the project team as a proxy for size and complexity of the project The proximity of the team and project/product owner These variable are independently correlated since the literature currently discussion both Agile project management philosophies and traditional management philosophies do not indicate that by choosing a team size automatically determines the proximity of the team and owner, or vice versa. From this graph, Figure 1, it can be seen that each philosophy and/or methodology has its area of ‘applicability’ as determined by the practitioners of the specific discipline. What that reader should take away from this quadrant graph is that it shows why the application of traditional project management (the green area) just barely touches the applicability of the Agile methods. This would seem to show why Agile is enjoying such successes in the small team size within close proximity of the project owner while the more traditional project management methods had such a difficult time in providing the environment for success. The reverse conclusion is that until the Agile philosophies and methods come to grips with distributed or remote located project owners and team sizes in the 25 to 75 range, (current research is under way to attempt such solutions) the Agile methods will do better when paired with projects where these parameters are the project characteristics. Major Differences between Approaches What are the major differences between the Agile philosophies and traditional project management? Figure 2, The Area of Applicability based on the Physicality of the Deliverable, or ‘Bits vs. Atoms’ illustrates where these disciplines have their best impact. This can lead to understanding where practitioners can best deploy particular philosophies and their associated methodologies. The project manager or Scrum Master (each philosophy has differentiated roles and titles) will have to decide if their particular philosophy is the correct choice given the particular characteristics of the deliverables they have agreed to offer to the project owner. Can each particular practitioner be counted to be objective enough to accept the limitations and boundaries of their particular form of project management? This is one of the questions that each organization must answer before deciding on a particular philosophy opposed to all others. An analogy of myopic perspectives comes down to this quotation by a very observant practitioner of management philosophies: “If all the dogmatic practitioner has in his toolbox is a hammer, then everything must look like a nail; if not, than he will apply his hammer until it resembles a nail.”  CJ Stoneman, 1989. Agreements and Points of Contention Organizations must first understand the areas that Agile and traditional project management excel in given their particular strengths and weaknesses. Then, they must decide if these two development philosophies can work in conjunction within the framework of the organization’s expertise and human resource talents. It is precisely because Agile and traditional do not overlap in major applicability that...

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The HUD Federal Coaching Conference – Our Take

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

The HUD Federal Coaching Conference – Our Take

For anyone who was still skeptical about the value of coaching in the workplace, the HUD Federal Coaching Conference unabashedly put stakes in the ground, with thought leadership from academia, and both the private and public sectors making case after case for why coaching works and why it isn’t going away. Scholars and practitioners from Georgetown, George Mason, the Department of Defense, Treasury Executive Institute, Management Concepts, and others fielded questions as fundamental as “what is coaching?” and “how is it different from mentoring or therapy?” to more complex concerns about how to judiciously use coaching behaviors like listening, asking, and involving staff in their own solution-making. A coaching mindset can be quite a shift after years of managerial training and experience have left deeply ingrained habits and incentives for telling, directing, and having all the answers. The theme “Transforming Government Through the Power of Coaching,” struck a chord for attendees who need an approach that provides the capacity to work as deeply as their struggles are difficult. For organizations navigating a change process, trying to shift their culture, or simply giving managers new tools for performance improvement, coaching has the beautiful ability to be effective at the individual, team, and organizational levels. The use of coaching skills empowers the person using those skills as well as the person receiving coaching. It reawakens individuals’ ability to choose how they are responding and behaving in any given moment—if they chose to accept such awareness. While HUD’s coaching conference signals that coaching is still an emerging tool for many Federal employees, efforts like HUD’s to educate employees from across the government can raise awareness about what it means to be a coach and what it takes to build coaching skills. And the content and questions from the HUD conference mirror a shift in the profession of coaching at large. The 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study Executive Summary shows that of respondents, 73% of leaders using coaching skills have received accredited or approached coach-specific training of some kind. Yet, a significant gap in training and credentialing still exists between leaders using coaching skills and professional coach practitioners (those whose primary job is as a coach). 68% of coach practitioners have received 125 or more hours of accredited coach training, compared with 42% of leaders using coaching skills. And while 79% of coach practitioners say they “currently hold a credential or certification from a professional coaching organization,” “more than half of managers/leaders using coaching skills said they do not hold any certification or credential from a professional coaching organization.” So what does all of this mean and why is HUD’s conference important? First, we are seeing the organic expansion of beliefs about who can use coaching skills and in what context. The International Coach Federation acknowledges a meaningful “coaching continuum.” No longer can we simply sort the industry by whether or not someone is a professional coach. On the continuum exists not only internal and external coach practitioners, but others who are using coaching skills in roles like Human Resources, Talent Development, Manager, Director, and Leader. It also means the bar continues to be set higher for anyone who says they do coaching or are one. HUD’s conference not only built interest and credibility, it provided key distinctions of which everyone should be...

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Picture This: Data Visualization

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

Picture This: Data Visualization

Three Reasons You Need to “Visualize” Your Data In an earlier blog post, I wrote about how an evidence-based culture supports making data-driven decisions. As I was reviewing our data visualization course this week, however, I was reminded of why it’s so important to communicate clearly about the information your data surfaces. Communicating about data requires us to look beyond the raw data and find the story within it. Whether you use a chart, slide deck, or run-of-the-mill Pivot Table, clearly conveying your data insights can go a long way toward facilitating data-driven decisions and making a habit of it. First, data keeps us honest. Without data it’s easy to speculate and hypothesize about what’s really going on. Recent inspections within VHA provide a great example here. It was known that there were delays in scheduling, and the inspections revealed that in most cases the delays were due to a shortage of specialty provider care rather than problems within the scheduling process itself (which had in the past been speculated as the root cause of the delays). Data is often counter to our intuitions. This is clear when I look at my own to-do lists. If I have a mile-long to-do list, it’s easy for me to feel like I’m not being productive. In reality, focusing on what remains to be done averts our focus from what’s already checked off the list. I don’t build a bar chart to compare the number of tasks I’ve completed to the number that remains, but I bet if I did I might be surprised. The same is true for monitoring performance at the organization level—sometimes we need the reality check that data provides us, to show us that reality is better (or worse) than we expected. Finally, data raises questions just as much as it provides answers. I can look at data in a variety of formats—a table, a list, or charts—and all will help tell the story behind the raw data. In doing so, it inevitably invites me to probe deeper. Once I have the data behind one question, I usually have follow up questions in droves. Putting some data on the table is often the first step in building an evidence-based culture that routinely makes data-driven decisions. In your work, consider how you can communicate clearly about data. A picture is worth a thousand words, and visuals help convey qualitative and quantitative data. I often find that charts, color-coding for good vs. bad vs. neutral, or tables help highlight the main points I want to make. Consider what media and format you use to convey your data, and where you’d like to reap the benefits of an organizational culture that prioritizes data-driven...

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OMB Circular A-123 Revision

Posted by on Aug 11, 2016 in Financial Management | 10 comments

OMB Circular A-123 Revision

ERM – Far Reaching Requirements for Agencies in new A-123 The long-awaited OMB Circular A-123 Management’s Responsibility for Enterprise Risk Management and Internal Control finally was issued on July 15, 2016.  We all knew that it would contain new requirements for Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) but did not know exactly what it would require, and what else would change or be added.  For starters, the document grew from 16 substantive pages to a little over 48 pages.  That gives you some idea of the scope of the changes.  Below is a definition of ERM and a summary of the significant additions/changes to the circular. ERM as defined in the Circular: “ERM is an effective agency-wide approach to addressing the full spectrum of the organization’s external and internal risks by understanding the combined impact of risks as an interrelated portfolio, rather than addressing risks only within silos.” In other words, rather than looking at risks just on a program by program basis – or just by division, directorate, function, or even bureau – entity-wide (i.e., department-wide, agency-wide, etc.) assessments will be done.  In the past A-123 did not address risk this way, and most agencies did not do entity-wide risk assessments, while a few did set up formal ERM programs. Summary of New A-123 Requirements Agencies are required to implement an ERM capability coordinated with: The strategic planning and review process established by GPRAMA The internal control processes required by the Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA) GAO’s Green Book That’s a lot of new work for most agencies! This is the first time agencies have been required to associate internal control assessments with the overall performance and strategic planning processes required by Government Performance and Results Modernization Act (GPRAMA).  OMB provides references in A-123 to pertinent parts of OMB Circular A-11 Budget Formulation and Execution in order to make the association. In terms of deadlines and deliverables, agencies must: Develop an ERM implementation approach. DUE: As soon as practicable before June 2017. Develop a risk profile in coordination with agency strategic reviews. DUE:  June 2, 2017 Integrate ERM assessments with management evaluation of internal control as required by FMFIA. DUE:  September 15, 2017 (to be covered by the annual statement of assurance and reported in the Agency Financial Report (AFR) or Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) Other New Requirements for Assessing Internal Control While the above points represent the new A-123 requirements for ERM, it should be noted that there are further requirements for enhancing the internal control assessments that have always been required, most notably the following: While internal control assessments were always supposed to be done by measuring against the GAO’s Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government (the Green Book), the new A-123 lays down much more detailed guidance on how to use the standards.  For example, agencies must now document assessments not only for the five components of the standards, but also for the 17 principles underlying the components.  ALSO, if an agency concludes non-achievement of one of the principles, it must report that as a material weakness in its annual statement of assurance. Have questions on this news? Keep an eye out for our A-123 Complimentary Webinar on September 28 – more information coming...

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NCMA World Congress 2016 Recap

Posted by on Aug 10, 2016 in Acquisition | 1 comment

NCMA World Congress 2016 Recap

Last week, I attended the National Contract Management Association’s (NCMA) World Congress 2016. It’s the premier education event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals – and it was their largest one to date. Although I’ve been a member of NCMA since 2012, this was my first time attending World Congress, as well as my first time presenting at the event. The event started with a keynote by Denise Turner Roth, Administrator at the General Services Administration (GSA). In her keynote, Administrator Roth discussed how GSA is seeking to eliminate government contracting inefficiencies across the entire executive branch through a rationalized and streamlined – “Act as One” – mentality. An example of “Act as One” is the Acquisition Gateway online community, which aims to provide better value, transparency, and efficiency across the Federal government. Further, she stated that this “Act as One” framework would not be complete without category management – which is a procurement approach currently being pursued by the Federal government. Category management is supposed to move toward a single enterprise procurement structure that results in a smarter and more leveraged approach. Most of the discussion from the keynote stemmed from Administrator Roth’s mention of the TechFAR Hub, which is currently in its alpha release stage. The TechFAR Hub was developed to assist the Federal government in applying industry best practices when acquiring digital services. As a proposed next step to the TechFAR Handbook released by the GSA’s Digital Services team back in 2014, the TechFAR Hub provides a practical digital service acquisition framework for Federal acquisition professionals. From a Federal acquisition practice standpoint – and, particularly IT acquisition – Administrator Roth’s keynote was definitely the most informative. However, there was also a wealth of information provided in each day’s main stage presentations – from the use of social science in procurement, as presented in David Loseby’s keynote on “Behavioral Procurement,” to workforce management, as discussed by the final day’s panel on “Bridging the Contract Management Age Gap.” There was even a debate, which you can view on the NCMA YouTube channel, where senior procurement executives from various organizations discussed their perspectives on Federal acquisitions. Overall, World Congress was definitely one to remember, and it wouldn’t have been complete for myself and my co-presenter – and, also first time attendee – 1Lt Kevin Bess (Active-Duty USAF) without our session on critical thinking in the acquisition workforce, particularly in regards to the controversial Executive Order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces – the final rule of which is set to be released this month. Back in February, I wrote a two-part blog post on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces discussing what Federal acquisition professionals should know about the proposed rule and guidance. (To learn more about Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces – feel free to read Part 1 and Part 2 of my post.) As such, instead of holding a session on what was contained in the proposed rule and Department of Labor (DoL) guidance, 1Lt Bess and I decided to hold a session that would force Federal acquisition professionals to think critically on how these regulations might positively or negatively affect their jobs. We began by asking the audience whether they had even heard of Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces, to which 100% of respondents answered “yes.”...

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Federal Spotlight: Manny Ramirez

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez serves as the Diversity Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Manny Ramirez: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? MR: I began working for the Federal government in June of 2010; this summer will mark my six year anniversary as a Federal employee. I was originally hired as a Program Analyst in the Child Nutrition Division. In 2013, I took a detail in the Human Resources Division to work on the Diversity and Inclusion Program, which led me to my current position with the agency.  I am the Diversity Program Manager for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). I serve as the primary advisor to FNS senior leaders on workforce diversity and workplace inclusion by managing the Diversity and Inclusion Program. I am fortunate to work with management and staff in a variety of areas to spearhead the agency’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. I manage the Special Emphasis Programs, Diversity Leaders Council, and administer training that empowers employees with the tools to exhibit inclusive behaviors and build inclusive teams. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? MR:  I have worked in a variety of industries in my career, but being a public servant has been a very rewarding experience with a great purpose. My biggest motivation is striving to make a difference in an organization that has a wonderful mission of providing assistance to the American people in need. Each and every day I get to work with talented individuals, and they inspire me to have a positive impact in all aspects of my life. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? MR: I have been blessed to be part of individual and team success that I can be very proud of, but my biggest achievement is going back to school full time to graduate from George Mason University in 2013. To achieve my educational goals, I balanced work, school, and family life – which includes being a husband and father to three kids. While continuing my studies, I felt it was important to keep family as a priority without letting my work suffer. It was critical to coach my kids’ sports teams, be present for school events, and help my kids with their school work.  Finishing my studies has been a dream of mine that I never lost sight of throughout the years. But, I noticed that completing my educational goals were no longer just about me.  When I walked across the stage during graduation, I kept a childhood promise to my mother, and set the example for my children to follow and reinforced the importance of education. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? MR: I am fortunate to have two family members that have more than 60 years combined service to the American people. The long standing devotion to being a public servant for many years has had a great impact on me and my family, and I would encourage folks to follow down the same path. The Federal government provides a wide variety of careers that require diverse skillsets which allow...

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DATA Act Implementation Impact

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Grants & Assistance, Workforce Management | 1 comment

DATA Act Implementation Impact

If you’ve already read the two DATA Act reports issued by the GAO since late July, you already know that the government watchdog has documented its concerns about DATA Act implementation. It’s only eight months away. One of the things that surprised me is that OMB still does not have a complete list of the Federal agencies that will need to be DATA Act compliant. I understand the approach of starting with the 24 CFO agencies – but what about the goal of having transparency on every Federal dollar spent? Between this lack of clarity and the release of the DAIMS just in May 2016, it makes sense why we’re hearing, “I know about the DATA Act. But how is it going to affect me?” And if you haven’t, looking at data schema and dictionaries in an effort to understand what’s happening may make your eyes roll back into the back of your head. If you fall into this group, I recommend taking these initial actions: Keep the “So What” in mind. The Public, Congress, and Federal government should know who receives Federal funds from contracts and grants. In our day-to-day work of processing transactions and reports, it’s easy to lose sight that these funds are part of large investments in government services and policies to benefit the public. Find out more. Participate in our complimentary webinar on August 18. We’ll share with you the essential information you need to get started on your DATA Act journey, and share resources so you can keep current. Expect to use data more – because you’ll have more of it. The congressional team that drafted the DATA Act did so with the intention and expectation of receiving more and more accurate information on the government’s fiscal activities. We all need to increase our abilities to analyze and present data in support of our organization’s mission and goals. Ask around. The DATA Act won’t be successful unless all Federal agencies work together. Ask your colleagues if they’ve heard about this important law. If yes, inquire if they are working on implementation efforts and how they’re going. If you’re ready to go to the next step, I’d start with the data definitions. Why? Because for the DATA Act to work, we need to start speaking the same language (and ensure our systems do as well).  I like to think of this as we all understand what personal income is thanks to the fact we all complete our Federal income tax returns. It doesn’t matter what our background is or where we work. Using the same terms has the additional benefit of making it easier to discuss the impacts as the government continues to plan and execute the implementation. This is especially important as agencies work to catch up from earlier delays. It’s going to be a long journey.  Better information to base decisions on will be worth the...

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Building Your Own Olympic “Dream Team”

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Building Your Own Olympic “Dream Team”

The opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games takes place this evening, kicking off more than two weeks of exciting competition involving the world’s best athletes. As an avid basketball fan, I am most interested in seeing if the U.S. Men’s basketball team can win a third consecutive gold medal. With NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving on the team, the United States enters the Olympics as one of the most heavily-favored teams in any sport. It is easy to take this level of success for granted. In the 2004 Olympic Games, a U.S. team comprised of future NBA Hall of Famers Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Tim Duncan failed to make the championship game after an upset loss to Argentina in the semi-finals. This loss forced USA Basketball to make wholesale organizational changes. One of the most critical changes was hiring legendary college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski in 2005. According to many current and former players, Krzyzewski’s leadership skills and coaching acumen are responsible for the gold medals won in 2008 and 2012. Krzyzewski wrote a book in 2010 (The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team) that explores the leadership choices and challenges he faced when rebuilding the U.S team. In reading this book, several pieces of advice resonated with me and my own work in organizational teams: “You do not select a team; you select a group of people and then work together to develop into a team.” Leaders must take the time to figure out which experiences and expertise is needed on the team. However, even with the right people identified, it takes additional effort to form a cohesive, effective group. “Whether your team’s mission is preceded by failure or success, you have to have a complete comprehension of your current situation before you can improve upon it.” Many teams are formed in response to organizational failures or gaps. However, even teams with a long history of success must have a shared understanding of past performance in order to set goals for the future. “Communication brings about trust. One facilitates the other.” Having open communication is crucial to the development of successful teams. Teams must have time to form a common internal language and identify standards for how teammates should communicate with one another. “When leaders make clear their willingness to change, it establishes an environment in which everyone can be comfortable adapting.” Krzyzewski was a championship coach before accepting the U.S. job and could have easily forced his new team to accept his normal leadership style. Instead, he tailored his coaching style to accentuate the strengths of the individuals on his team. This flexible approach gave him real credibility with his players. A common theme that emerges from these quotes is that building successful teams takes time and attention. Simply having the patience to allow relationships to strengthen over time is a critical leadership skill that is often overlooked. Enjoy the...

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NAPA Culture Event: Changing the Culture of Government

Posted by on Aug 4, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

NAPA Culture Event: Changing the Culture of Government

On July 28th Management Concepts sponsored a breakfast event with the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA), the theme was “Changing the Culture of Government.” NAPA brought together experts in organizational culture like Tim Kuppler, Director of Culture and Organizational Development at Human Synergistics, Inc. with leading Federal executives to talk about the unique culture that is government. NAPA’s President Dan Blair moderated a Federal panel that included: Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Myra Howze Shiplett, Former Project Director on the Academy’s Centers for Disease Control Project Dustin S. Brown, Deputy Associate Director for Performance and Personnel, Office of Management and Budget Following the panel, the keynote address “Changing the Culture of Leadership – One Leader at a Time” featured Dr. Don Kettl, Professor, School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. During one of the Q&A sessions, a question was raised about the best way for Federal agencies to keep culture in mind while navigating the multi-level leadership transitions that will happen as a result of the 58th quadrennial U. S. presidential election in November. Leadership transitions are a common occurrence in Federal agencies and how they are regarded impacts not only the new leadership, but also the entire agency. Making culture an integral part of leadership transitions is an effective way for agencies to focus and prepare current members for upcoming changes. It also provides a way to share valuable insights with incoming leaders about the organization they are joining. Paying attention to culture is about taking a broader view of leadership transitions and preparing the agency to tell its current story in a way that enables transitions to create value more rapidly. Some specific culture-focused leadership transition practices that will accelerate organizational change and speed up time to performance include: Before the transition: Pull together all existing quantitative and qualitative culture and climate data to create a picture of the current operating environment. If you have data from past years, use it to look at trends over time for an additional perspective. If you do not have any real culture data, take the time to do an assessment. You need insights about the current operating culture before any organizational change initiative launches. You will need an answer to the question, “how will our current culture help or hinder this change effort?” Select an interim leader with the skillsets that will help the transition. Interim leaders are not just placeholders; they are a new set of eyes with new perspectives on the organization. Strong communication and decision-making skills are a must, along with an ability to be flexible and adaptable to a changing environment. Communicating the selection to the rest of the organization and sharing the relevant objectives of the interim leader will keep others focused on supporting the transition activities. Do your homework and find out as much as you can about the incoming leader. The perspectives and experiences they bring will impact how they connect with others in their new organization. If possible, gain some insights into their leadership philosophy and how they approach both the strategic and operational aspects of their role. If you can begin to get an idea of the different “from-to” shifts they will need to make to be successful in their new role, you will be that...

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OMB Releases 2016 Compliance Supplement and the Revised SF-SAC Form

Posted by on Aug 3, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 1 comment

OMB Releases 2016 Compliance Supplement and the Revised SF-SAC Form

Last week, I wrote about my daily disappointment in waiting for the release of the 2016 Compliance Supplement and the revised SF-SAC Form. Well, good news, both documents are now available. On Monday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published the 2016 Compliance Supplement on the Office of Federal Financial Management Single Audit webpage. This year’s Compliance Supplement is currently not available through the Federal Register or on the OMB’s Circulars webpage, as in previous years. Fortunately, with all the recent changes to grants management, this year’s Compliance Supplement does not present too many changes! As I read through it, I highlighted the following items: Part 1 – Background, Purpose, and Applicability: The Compliance Supplement has been updated with the appropriate usage of the words should and must under 2 CFR 200, provisions and statements using “should” represent a recommended or best practice, and statements using the word “must” indicate required actions. Part 2 – Matrix of Compliance Requirements: On this year’s matrix, OMB now indicates with a “Y” or an “N” which of the 12 compliance requirements are applicable to each Federal program. In previous years, OMB used a gray box to indicate a requirement’s applicability. Part 3 – Compliance Requirements: OMB retains the 12 compliance requirements for Federal programs and provides guidance on how to audit awards made before December 14, 2016, located in Part 3.1, and for awards subject to the provisions under 2 CFR 200, located in Part 3.2. OMB has also revised Part 3 to indicate the effect of additional Frequently Asked Questions that may be published within the next year. Part 3 also highlights that the micro-purchase procurement threshold was increased to $3,500 last year. Part 6 – Internal Controls: This year’s Compliance Supplement provides guidance on internal controls. Last year, OMB removed this section due to time constraints. Part 6 provides suggestions to both auditors and non-Federal entities on implementing and evaluating internal controls based on the principles found in the “Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government” (Green Book) and the “Internal Control Integrated Framework” issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. Under 2 CFR 200.303, a non-Federal entity’s internal controls should be in compliance with these principles. Appendices: Appendix II, Federal Agency Codification of Governmentwide Requirements and Guidance for Grants and Cooperative Agreements, provides a useful table indicating the location of each agency’s implementation regulations Appendix VII, Other Audit Advisories, provides additional audit guidance. I found the discussion in Part I, Effect of Implementation of the Uniform Guidance on Major Program Determination, insightful. OMB has identified a significant transition issue regarding major program determination that could potentially increase the audit burden for some non-Federal entities in the third fiscal year under 2 CFR 200. To alleviate this potential problem, OMB gives auditors leeway to audit some low-risk Type A programs as additional major programs in the first and second fiscal years. Grants administrators and auditors should also carefully review Appendix V, List of Changes for the 2016 Compliance Supplement, to identify any compliance requirement changes for specific grant programs. The Federal Audit Clearinghouse (FAC) has published the revised SF-SAC Form to be used for all audits conducted under 2 CFR 200. As with the Compliance Supplement, OMB has not yet published a notice in...

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The Key to Successful Change – Focus on Motivation

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Key to Successful Change – Focus on Motivation

For complex organizations like Federal agencies, undergoing change can be very difficult. As the recent report by Management Concepts and Human Capital Media, “Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector” found, Federal agencies have a mixed record of achievement as they struggle to deal with changes arising from organizational realignment, new technology implementation, and changes in the Federal workforce. Despite this mixed record, the major elements of a successful change management are now well understood, and require a comprehensive approach that includes having a vision of where the organization wants to go, making sure individuals are skilled in change management, providing sufficient resources to support change management activities, as well as creating and sticking to a detailed change action plan. Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Change However, there is one additional area that is singularly important when it comes to executing effective change management initiatives; finding levers to motivate people to buy into and embrace the change. Too often we see organizations that fail to address motivation incentives early enough or at all. Motivation incentives can include: interesting and expanded roles and work responsibilities, pay, opportunities to advance quickly, training and development opportunities, etc. If the desired organizational change is in conflict with existing incentives, the organization risks creating unnecessary resistance, and achieving no change as people seek to protect the status quo. Vision + Skills – Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Resistance In my experience, an effective structure of incentives is the single most important part of any change because if you create the desire for a critical mass of people and parts of the organization to pull in the same direction, motivation and momentum builds and issues are more easily overcome.  By motivating to become change agents, the organization can focus on moving forward without having to spend as much effort overcoming resistance. If people are motivated towards change everything else becomes easier, they will: Easily develop and stick to a vision for change because more people can see themselves in the new situation, and understand how it impacts them in an overall positive way Seek to develop and hone their own change management skills, rather than wait to be sent to training they don’t actively engage with More freely provide resources for change management rather than holding on to them to protect their own interests Create and execute Change Management plans easily because everyone is aligned and committed to delivering their assignments and sticking to deadlines. Changing the incentives removes resistance and helps everything else work better. However, I recognize that Federal agencies face challenges in providing incentives that private businesses often do not. In private business, compensation structures and organizational structures can be changed to align with business priorities. For the Federal government, pay and organizational structure are mandated by statutes and managers have limitations on changes they can make. However, Federal managers have a toolkit of potential things they can do to increase motivation and drive incentives for change. These include: Appeal to a sense of connection to the wider agency community by invoking  a public service ethic and overall agency mission Offer future opportunities to work using new technology tools that are more effective and efficient Develop opportunities to master new skills in the...

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Management Concepts FEW Recap

Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Management Concepts FEW Recap

Management Concepts was a proud Emerald Sponsor for the second year in a row for the 47th Federally Employed Women’s (FEW) National Training Program (NTP) held in Dallas, Texas from July 11-14, 2016. The week was packed with exciting speakers, workshops, motivational keynote speakers, thought-provoking panels, and many opportunities to meet a diverse group of people from all over the country who are seeking professional development opportunities. There were more than 850 attendees in Dallas, and we were excited to have Maria Morukian, an instructor with Management Concepts, teach two training sessions to 200 of those individuals. Her sessions included excerpts from: Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace: In today’s multidimensional society, organizations recognize that it is a business imperative to maximize the diverse talents of their workforce. This session will provide participants the opportunity to explore the many dimensions of identity that make our workplace diverse, and ways to create inclusive work relationships. Fostering Accountability, Adaptability, and Resilience:  Organizations are in a constant state of flux. This can create uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments for the people who work within them at the individual, team, and organizational level. This course is designed to help participants develop the knowledge and skills needed to systematically conduct AAR on a day‐to‐day basis. Additionally, I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Naomi Bell and Ms. Linda Patrick to present the 2016 FEW/Management Concepts Leadership Certificate Program Scholarships. The winners of this year’s scholarships were: Helen Robinson, Program Support Specialist, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services Tamara Jackson, Administration, Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs This year’s NTP theme was In the Spirit of to Excellence, and those who applied for the scholarships were given the theme as the topic for the essay submitted with the application. We received many stellar applications and selecting recipients was a truly hard decision. A couple of statements extracted from the essays are: “The value of education is something that I have understood since a very young age. The spirit of excellence is what my family instilled in me. ” “Excellence! I strive for the highest quality and continuous improvement by being thoughtful and decisive in leadership, accountable for my actions, willing to admit mistakes, and rigorous in correcting them.” What’s the underlying theme? Continuous improvement! It is apparent that these applicants are continually trying to advance their career by seeking professional development opportunities like these scholarships and the training at NTP. Our booth was a hit again this year with surveys, raffles, giveaways and a polling question about the need for HR certification in the Federal government where the voting process featured candy! More than 250 people completed the surveys and were completely engaged with our staff. Finally, I leave you with FEW’s President Michelle A. Crockett’s words mentioned at the event: “I am certain we can agree on two things: you are here because you believe this training is essential to your career; and, this small investment of time and money will lead to a more robust and profound Federal career.” We are happy to continue this partnership to support and provide the members of FEW with content, training opportunities, and resources to help them achieve excellence. See you next year, FEW!...

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Strengthening the Senior Executive Service (SES)

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Strengthening the Senior Executive Service (SES)

On December 15, 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order designed to improve the performance and return on investment made in the Senior Executive Service (SES), a government wide program managed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The SES Program consists of executives charged with driving the transformation of government. These leaders are specially selected for their range of experience and commitment to public service, and they help serve as a bridge between political appointees and their respective organizations. They serve at executive levels in 75 Federal departments and agencies, and, as members of this select corps, can move between departments and agencies to help spread the vision, strategy, and tactics of creating change in the Federal government. In the Executive Order, President Obama calls for reform of four major components of the SES Program to help develop this cadre of leaders, while at the same time improving the service it provides to the Federal government. The reform rollout is taking place in three phases over several years, so that some organizations can lead the way by piloting programs, while OPM and other organizations can benefit from the lessons learned during implementation. These four areas of Reform focus include: Succession Planning:  Succession Planning looks at the strategic needs of the organization in relation to the current and future executive corps. It identifies and seeks to develop “bench strength” and creates a formal plan that will enable seamless transitions and progress toward the organization’s goals, by tracking executive capabilities and developmental needs on an ongoing basis. It promotes long range planning to ensure the health of the organization over time, and directly impacts the engagement of executives, which trickles down to the rest of the workforce. Organizations that create a succession planning-based culture benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of its strengths, weaknesses, and ability to maintain continuity of operations if a planned – or unplanned – change in leadership takes place. Development and Rotations: At the Executive level, it becomes more difficult to find truly developmental activities; traditional classroom experiences may not suffice. Action learning as a developmental strategy offers the promise of learning in a protected environment while delivering value to the organization in the process. One element of the current SES Program is that by agreeing to become members of the cadre, executives agree to the possibility of rotating into 4-month assignments within or outside the Department in which they serve. Rotations can be a powerful developmental tool, in the right conditions. Executives would leave their current assignments for the express purpose of developing greater acumen in their new temporary assignment, while, at the same time, bringing their already-acquired skills to bear on the needs of the hosting organization. When they return to their original assignment, they bring the new skills and depth they acquired during the rotation, so everybody benefits from the experience and knowledge gained. The ability of an organization to cope with an executive temporarily transferring out is an indication of its maturity and reflects the strength of its succession plan. Many organizations simply throw money at trendy, high-ticket training or degree/certification programs, or worse, ignore the ongoing learning needs of their executives and risk having them stagnate or seek additional development elsewhere. This turnover creates significant risk, which, with some planning and...

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People Analytics Is Trending Up

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

People Analytics Is Trending Up

This summer, I have been watching a lot of baseball. The sport has always captured my attention because it is highly strategic game. Baseball managers are faced with hundreds of analytical decisions each game, including who to start, when to substitute players, what pitches to throw, how to align the defense based on a hitter’s tendencies, and how aggressively to approach base running (just to name a few). Baseball franchises have increasingly turned to analytical models in order to make more informed decisions in constructing rosters and projecting likely outcomes on the field. In fact, most of the top professional baseball franchises now employ teams of analysts who use empirical data to look for competitive advantages with personnel and financial decisions. These types of decisions are at the heart of people analytics. People analytics is a rapidly growing branch of data analysis that is particularly useful in the field of human resource management. It involves a thorough analysis of organizational “big data” to discover how employees, processes, and teams are performing, and how they are likely to perform in the future. People analytics provides a data-driven way to make sense of complicated workforce issues like employee satisfaction, retention, individual and team productivity, recruiting, marketing, sales, and compliance. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 publication, recent investments in people analytics are starting to pay off for businesses around the world. The number of businesses that report being ready to incorporate people analytics has increased by a third (24% to 32%) and the number of businesses ready to develop predictive models of performance has doubled (4% to 8%). According to Deloitte, these advancements in people analytics capabilities are attributable to the increased availability of integrated systems and the willingness to invest in building analytics teams. Though significant gains have been made in this field, there is still room to improve for most organizations. The report details that 62% of organizations surveyed rated themselves as “weak in using big data for recruiting.” Additionally, more than half of respondents reported using HR data inadequately in predicting workplace performance and improvement. However, the report predicts dramatic improvement in these categories in the upcoming years, as technology continues to improve to meet business needs. Just as baseball franchises search for a competitive edge in building a winning team, organizations across the globe are investing in human resources to make data-driven decisions about how to best manage their employees. People analytics allows organizations to hire, retain, and motivate the right people to achieve their business...

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Five Reasons Your Organization Needs to Invest in Training

Posted by on Jul 27, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Five Reasons Your Organization Needs to Invest in Training

An organization’s workforce is its most valuable asset. It’s also the driving factor that shapes how an organization succeeds in the face of challenges or crises. Training is an effective way to build a top-notch workforce with all the right skillsets and its payoffs extend beyond the skills gained. In addition to the personal payoffs of investing in employees, organizations need to consider five business payoffs as part of any investment in the workforce: Increase productivity and efficiency. Whether by raising competency levels or filling competency gaps, a more knowledgeable and skilled employee translates to better job performance. If budgets are cut and you need to do more with less, make the most of each employee’s time and invest in their potential for more productivity. Save time and money on recruiting. It is often more cost-effective and faster to train employees to perform new tasks than to transition them out of the organization, recruit, onboard, and train new employees. Retain employees who want to learn. Training incentives are valuable to employees with in-demand skills, particularly in fields where there are critical skills gaps, and they support a holistic retention strategy. This saves on recruiting and transition costs, and keeps employees who seek to learn. Build on institutional knowledge. Even as the work changes, employees in an organization maintain tremendous institutional knowledge. Training builds on that knowledge and can transform seasoned employees’ experience into new skills and competencies. Establish a new baseline. A team in the workplace is like any sports team—everyone needs to know the same playbook. Training streamlines change implementation by establishing a baseline of knowledge and skills to get everyone working from the same playbook. Whether it’s the need to adapt to new mission objectives or adjust to budget constraints, successful organizations in the public sector identify training as an effective strategy to manage change, according to the Management Concepts 2016 report conducted with Human Capital Media, “Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector: How governmental agencies implement organizational change management” As budget season carries on, assess where training can provide payoffs in your organization. Training can be its own goal or one step in a broader strategic plan that integrates with consulting, process improvement, or other change management strategies. And if the training is on-point for the needs in your organization and well-planned, you’ll be able to see that ROI translate to cost-savings in areas that are strategically important for organizations to manage. Kim Coelho contributed to this blog post....

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Anticipation Builds for OMB Audit Guidance

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Anticipation Builds for OMB Audit Guidance

For the last few weeks, the first thing I do after making my first cup of coffee is to frantically check the Federal Register. I open my browser, click on the “current issue” link, and hold my breath. Then, as is becoming all too familiar, severe disappointment sets in — there’s nothing new from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB is scheduled to release two important documents relating to audits of Federal grants: the 2016 Compliance Supplement and the revised SF-SAC form. The annual compliance supplement is guidance designed to assist auditors conducting single audits and to determine recipient compliance with applicable Federal laws and requirements. The SF-SAC form is the data collection worksheet auditors complete which summarizes audit results. The three portions of the compliance supplement that will be fascinating to see this year are: Part 3 – Compliance Requirements. Last year, Part 3 contained two subparts; Part 3.1 applied to audits for awards issued before December 26, 2014, and Part 3.2, which discussed audit requirements for awards made under 2 CFR 200. I am interested to see what additional guidance OMB provides regarding this bifurcated audit process and if any additional guidance or insight is provided regarding audits under 2 CFR 200. Part 6 – Internal Controls. Part 6 is designed to assist auditors test a recipient’s internal controls and can also be used by grant recipients to develop and implement effective control over their Federal awards. 2 CFR 200.303 requires non-federal entities to develop and implement internal controls and suggests the use of either the COSO Internal Control-Integrated Framework or the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, known as the “Green Book.” In 2015, OMB was unable to update Part 6 in a timely manner and removed it from the compliance supplement. According to rumors, the 2016 Compliance Supplement will contain updated internal control guidance. Appendix 5 – List of Changes. This appendix provides all updates and revisions from the previous compliance supplement and is first item I review each year. The SF-SAC form is a required element of the single audit reporting package under 2 CFR200.512(b)(1). OMB is currently revising the form to align the data elements with 2 CFR 200. OMB published a notice and request for comments regarding the new form in the Federal Register on December 9, 2015. On April 22, 2016, OMB published a second notice and request for comments. The proposed SF-SAC can be viewed here. Without the approved SF-SAC, auditees are unable to submit a single audit reporting package to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse (FAC). As a result of the delayed approval process, OMB has provided an extension for submitting the single audit reporting package until September 19, 2016.  This is the second extension OMB has granted. The original extended deadline was July 31, 2016, but OMB recently provided a further extension. It is important to note that the extension is for submitting the audit, not for conducting the audit. Auditees should also be aware that the extension is for single audits conducted under 2 CFR 200, and A-133 single audits must still be submitted on time through the FAC. OMB previously announced the 2016 Compliance Supplement would be released in “mid-July” and based on the deadline extension for submitting the audit reporting package to...

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Technology Modernization: A Good Test for Real Culture Change

Posted by on Jul 21, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Technology Modernization: A Good Test for Real Culture Change

Change in government doesn’t always happen at the fastest pace, especially when technology is involved. Each year millions of dollars are taken away from needed technology innovations to maintain outdated IT systems. With legislation like FITARA, expanding DevOps practices and tools, and new proposed IT funding legislation, Federal agencies have an opportunity to design a new and different kind of legacy modernization approach. Creating a sense of urgency around this opportunity will be even more important with Federal spending for IT projects expected to be flat over the next 5 years. Technology modernization means stepping into uncharted territory and countless things about it are not well understood, causing Federal agency leaders to feel uncertain about the best way forward. I’d like to offer a way to think about designing a new and different kind of approach to legacy modernization. The approach puts an organization’s internal operating environment and its people on center stage by making real culture an integral part of the technology modernization effort. It is a way to earn an “A” for real culture change and alignment that has sustaining power over time. Your current reality is what everyone in a Federal agency lives in day after day. Consider the following: What are three words that describe your current technology state? Your answers likely illustrate there are no real advantages for Federal agency leaders to deny the need for technology modernization. External forces are showing signs of support. New and more favorable legislation and emerging business practices are making it harder for Federal leaders to let external forces drive agendas and priorities or delay the complicated and messy technology modernization work any longer. What is holding technology modernization projects back is how Federal agencies currently do what they do to accomplish their missions. In other words, how an agency defines the technology problems, designs, and delivers the way work gets done is where new thinking, behavior, and actions is needed. What will this current reality require Federal agency leaders to do differently? Make Technology Modernization the Highest Priority Leaders will need to convey the decision to the rest of the organization, making sure the words and actual experience match. They will also need to create intellectual and emotional energy in others so they want to be involved in the priority technology work. Envision a Different Future for Technology No matter what the present circumstance may be, envisioning a different future is about creating a story of the power of technology to change the way of working. It goes beyond what the organization does to who the agency is as a result of the new technology environment. Leaders will need to clearly describe this new and improved scenario and repeat it often in order to create alignment in the future state. The type of leadership that is displayed will impact how the desired culture is shaped and the ease with which technology will be utilized to further the mission of the agency. The missing link in many organizational technology change initiatives is culture. Many agencies struggle with culture work, overlook it, or avoid it all together because it seems out of reach or is too hard to figure out. Perhaps these feelings have contributed to why the success rate of organizational change initiatives has hovered around thirty percent...

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Sustainability – Looking Beyond Federal Funding

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

Sustainability – Looking Beyond Federal Funding

Last week, I had a generational difference moment during the week’s Grant Chat – using virtual reality as a method of communicating and demonstrating grant recipient performance. Not only was I searching for the tools called out by my colleagues (Fyuse, anyone?), but I also was struck by the thought that staying current with technology options is one aspect to sustaining an organization’s mission and projects. But maybe not the most important aspect for a grant-funded organization. During the past few months, I’ve seen and heard more people asking about project sustainability. I see this as a natural outcome of increased competition for Federal funds, uncertainty in the Federal budget process, and recognition that grants can and do end. So where to begin? Let’s start with the concept that project sustainability ties to performance. Thanks to 2 CFR 200, FAPIIS, and SAM.gov, we now live in a Federal grants world where consideration of past performance is the expectation. Non-Federal Entities (NFE) that want to continue to seek and receive Federal grants therefore need to (continue to) apply all of their grants management and administration know-how on a regular basis. This includes managing a project’s schedule, scope, and cost as well as submitting financial and performance reports on time and accurately. Fortunately, demonstration of good performance for a Federal grant can be used as “evidence” when seeking non-Federal funding. At the same time, NFEs should build sustainment into their internal grants processes. For example, a university could add sustainment elements to their internal review criteria when considering which applications and projects to submit for Federal funding. This would force the primary investigator or applicant to think about their long-term prospects and plans for their project or effort. Consider this the change from “if” to “when” Federal funding streams will end. I also recommend expanding a project’s scope beyond the parameters of a Federal grant award to include things like: Stakeholders representing future budget streams (ex. Operating Budget Office) Documented risks for activities without sustainment funds and resources Milestones for budget transfer and fundraising goals For instance, when a fire department is applying for a new cache of radios based on the current state-of-the-art technology, it needs to factor in the anticipated maintenance and operations that are often ineligible for Federal funds.  Does the department have support from their city council to use tax dollars to cover those costs? What about making sure the new equipment is interoperable with the 5-year-old 911 system?  Can virtual reality capabilities be added to the radios? Is the equipment usable if funding for maintenance and operations doesn’t come to fruition? Of course, finding and applying for additional sources of revenue takes a lot of time and effort. For instance, 93% of respondents to the Spring 2016 State of GrantseekingTM Survey received one award when submitting at least three applications. That means that NFEs need to include their leadership to: Educate their governing bodies on their institutional long-term needs and goals with aggregated information on funding, performance, and risk Reinforce understanding that Federal funding is discretionary Build capacity to find, secure, and manage new funding streams This is only a start on ways NFEs can improve how they factor in long-term project sustainability. Please share your success stories in the comment...

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IT’S CRUNCH TIME! Fiscal Year-End Spending

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in Financial Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

IT’S CRUNCH TIME! Fiscal Year-End Spending

The end of the fiscal year is rapidly approaching…and you know what that means… Yep!  We’ve got a lot of things to get obligated – things we need but either haven’t been able to purchase yet, or things we haven’t had the funding for.  There’s hope that – as often happens – “they” will find some funding that’s available and we’ll get some of it.  It may be late in the year, but we’ll take it! Did you miss our complimentary webinar last week on the ins and outs of fiscal year-end spending? Don’t worry – an archive recording and the presentation are still available for download. In the meantime, here are the top 10 things to remember as we try to manage our year-end spending: The “Bona Fide Needs Rule.”  It says that you can only buy for needs that exist in the fiscal year to be charged.  That means, for FY16, you can only obligate for bona fide needs of this year.  You can’t use FY16 funds to buy next year’s needs (unless you follow some specific exceptions to be explained below). Have your priorities listed before the funding arrives so you can move fast and get them obligated before funding expires. Under the stock replacement rule, you can replenish stock (like office supplies) and purchase up to one year’s worth any time in the year (amount ordered has to be based on historical usage for one year). If there’s a long lead time for something that has to be ready early in the next fiscal year (like provisions for a ship that has to sail October 15), then you have a need to get the provisions ordered this fiscal year to meet the sailing date. You can register for a training class, or order a class to be delivered at your site, with FY16 funds and attend/take delivery of the training in FY17 (usually in the first quarter) as long as you (your agency) has no control over the timing and the length of time for attendance/delivery is not excessive. Severable services contracts (for recurring services like monthly copier maintenance) are legal even though they may cross fiscal year lines; i.e., you obligate the entire contract with FY16 funds even though some of the services will be rendered in FY17. Such contracts are limited to a maximum of 12 months. For non-severable contracts (those for taking delivery of some completed product or item at the end of a period of performance), you must obligate for the entire cost of the item with FY16 funds, and may still take delivery of the item sometime in FY17 or even beyond. If you have some type of subscription (new or renewal) that must begin on October 1, then you have a need to order it in FY16 in order for it to begin on October 1. For indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts whose period of performance crosses fiscal years, you obligate for the minimum order stated in the contract with funds available when the contract is signed. Then for orders placed after the minimum amount is ordered, you obligate them with funds current at the time the orders are placed. Don’t be tempted to “park” funds just to say they’re obligated so they won’t expire. This takes place...

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Embedded Change Management contributes to Organizational Resiliency

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Embedded Change Management contributes to Organizational Resiliency

The Oxford Dictionary defines resilient as “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.” Recognizable behaviors that make a person resilient include a positive attitude, optimism, perseverance, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. A classic example of a resilient person is someone with the fortitude and mental toughness to repeatedly withstand personal or professional challenges, and who inevitably comes out ahead each time. But is resilience is a learned skill or an inherited trait? Current research suggests that resilience is primarily learned and is often developed out of the challenge to maintain confidence and self-sufficiency. Additionally, what researchers are learning about resilience is that it’s a characteristic embodied not only by individuals, but also by teams and organizations.  Organizational involves being adaptable, agile, responsive, and robust. One tried-and-true method organizations can use to cultivate organizational resiliency is the development of Organizational Change Management (OCM) capabilities (including Leadership Alignment, Governance, Stakeholder Analysis & Engagement, Change Analytics, Communication Strategies, and Project Management) that become embedded in the organization’s culture. In the recent Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector Report developed from the 2016 Changing Government Workplace Survey, we found that successful organizations employ similar embedded Change Management strategies to mitigate effects. Organizations should: Recognize and learn from past organizational change initiatives:  Identify what worked, what didn’t, and why from past initiatives. Regard future organizational change as both a challenge and an opportunity. Develop an OCM Center of Excellence (CoE): Create an active community that collects and shares OCM experiences, knowledge, and best practices and whose purpose is to advance OCM organizational awareness and capabilities. Integrate, coordinate, and communicate across the various operational disciplines and organizational divisions: Make it a normal practice to engage and share information broadly so that effective communication practices (both push and pull) become an organizational asset long before difficult change happens. Operationalize an enterprise-wide OCM approach: Adopt or develop a standardized methodology and toolkit that will be taught throughout the organization and used during change initiatives. Establish high-level critical success factors for change. Identify potential OCM risk factors and develop mitigation strategies. Leverage Change Agents before, during, and after change initiatives: Identify a pool of employees representing a cross-section of the organization who are recognized as evangelists of their own innovative practices and problem solvers who have the answers. These will be the go-to influencers helping to build grassroots momentum for future change. The benefits of developing a resilient organization far outweigh the effort to develop organizational change capabilities.  An organization that is capable of rapidly adapting to change will benefit from a workforce that is better equipped and prepared to support the organization’s strategic priorities, adapt to technological advances, adjust to leadership transitions, and respond unfettered during times of conflict. What additional methods should organizations use to build...

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Strengths and Weaknesses of Agile

Posted by on Jul 11, 2016 in Project Management | 0 comments

Strengths and Weaknesses of Agile

Agile style methodologies seem to have had some success in environments with common conditions: Software deliverables Small team sizes (5-9 is usual sizes surveys contend) Co-located deliverable’s owner or owner’s representative Senior developers populating the team Beyond these four most commonly discussed Agile/Scrum project characteristics, the success rates from the last Agile community survey from Scott Ambler indicated that for 2009 the respondents said their Agile-inspired projects enjoyed a 10 point (58 vs. 48%) improved success rate over the “traditional” project management current best practices. There also appears to be some anecdotal evidence that Agile style methodologies have a statistically significant impact on projects that are of larger size and complexity. When confronted with the aspects of building something like the Hoover Dam, the Freedom Towers in NYC, the ‘Big Dig’ in Boston’s Harbor, or again, the Millau Viaduct in France, Agile practitioners seem to be a bit less vocal about the benefits of Agile-style methodologies. For proof of these discussions, check out any of the Agile Forums and ask the following questions. Please explain how Agile/Scrum would be used to manage a project that had as a deliverable like the Hoover Dam? Please explain how Agile/Scrum would be used to manage a project such as the ISS (International Space Station)? Please explain how Agile/Scrum would deal with the legislative and legal requirements of documentation for a Phase III FDA clinical trial by a major pharmaceutical company? Then sit back and let the community go to work; during the information annealing process that will take place, the range of answers and suggestions will most likely be both wide and broad. The answers will discuss having a Scrum of Scrum architecture where virtual teams are connected via their Scrum Masters that collectively form a Scrum Oversight Council (SOC). The SOC will then transfer the necessary information between Scrum teams, allowing a nine person SOC to coordinate up to 63-81 Scrum team members depending on the size of the Scrum teams. The question that will remain open is how does Scrum deal with deliverables with an atom-based physicality? How are requirements firmed and agreed to when they form the basis for the physical reality of the deliverable (i.e., the formula for 1000 tons of quick-drying concrete that must be able to withstand underwater pressures of 2000 lbs. per square foot)? Three standups a day even with the owner in the room may not be enough to provide the documentation or requirement firmness a physical deliverable may demand. Strengths and Weaknesses of Predictive IT Project Management However, the strengths and weaknesses of current project management best practices can be very quickly grouped into the following categories with the necessary details being discussed: Strengths: Well-known processes with over 400,000 practitioners trained in their use Significant number of successes in the physical deliverable arena Support of very large project team with distributed locations and languages Knowledge of what constitutes a successful completion (if planning done correctly) Arms-length relationship between project owner and project team Up front estimation of project’s scope, schedule, and budget Identified responsibility for the project’s success or failure Weaknesses: Rigidity when applied to “bit-oriented” deliverables such as software projects Limited ability to respond to scope changes during project execution Overhead in definition of requirements, scope, and costs before anything happens Limited...

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The Presidential Transition as a Change Driver

Posted by on Jul 8, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

The Presidential Transition as a Change Driver

In 196 days the next President of the United States will be inaugurated, marking a major milestone in what is one of the most significant and predictable cycles of change in the Federal government. The 2017 change of administration has been the focus of a number of efforts aimed at improving the effectiveness and continuity of operations for Federal agencies undergoing potentially significant leadership transitions.  Organizations including the Brookings Institution, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), and the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) offer recommendations for a smooth handoff, even the current administration has established a White House Transition Coordination Council to “undertake all reasonable efforts to ensure that Presidential transitions are well-coordinated and effective, without regard to party affiliation.” The sheer volume and frequency of attention being paid to the process for this monumental shift in Federal leadership point to the complexity and importance of the pending change in administration. Adding to the complexity of the Presidential Transition is the pace and volume of change already occurring in public sector organizations. Earlier this year, Management Concepts, in partnership with Human Capital Media, surveyed 473 public sector employees to understand the drivers of change and strategies for successful change in the near and mid-term future.  Somewhat surprisingly, according to the survey, less than 1/3 of respondents believe the Presidential Transition will be a major driver of change for their organization in the next three years. Here are three reasons why I think the impending change of administration may not be top of mind for many Federal workers: Many, perhaps most, Federal workers have more immediate issues to tend to: According to our survey budget uncertainty, the pace of technology change, challenges in recruiting and retaining talent, generational shifts in the workforce, and expectations for improved or increased services are all identified as high impact drivers of change for public sector employees. The impacts of these changes are already being felt in Federal organizations today. The need to adapt and respond to the current changes facing Federal employees is significant enough that planning for the future shift in administration is just not a top of mind priority. The impacts of the administration change will be limited until 2019: The new administration will inherit the 2017 budget and has limited flexibility in the 2018 budget. Because of this, significant shifts in investment priorities and the changes those bring are two, or more, years in the future. With the pressing challenges facing Federal personnel today (see #1), anticipating and planning for changes from a new administration shouldn’t be the focus of large portions of Federal employees. The mission matters most: Many Federal employees join and stay with the Federal government because of a motivation to serve and help their agency achieve its mission. While changes in priorities and areas of focus will most certainly come with the change of Administration, sweeping changes to the mission of an organization are much less likely to occur. Maintaining a focus on delivering the high quality citizen experience that is the mission of Federal agencies is a primary focus of Federal employees and that focus will remain no matter who is in the White House. There is no question that the pending Presidential Transition will drive a significant amount of change...

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Why Don’t We Make More Data-Driven Decisions?

Posted by on Jul 7, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

Why Don’t We Make More Data-Driven Decisions?

As of this writing, Data.gov hosts 184,055 datasets. We have petabytes upon petabytes of data, yet struggle to find the best answers for common problems like employee engagement, program schedules, and budget forecasts. In a recent panel on data-driven government, public and private sector leaders alike agreed that to use our data effectively it’s imperative that organizations apply good data governance strategy and processes. While this is true (more on that in a future blog post), whether you make data-driven decisions is also driven by culture—ironically, a factor which, unless you have data on it, is unruly to address. Three themes can help you identify where your team or organization is when it comes to making data-driven decisions. Where do you fit in? Do you have an evidence-based culture? In Carl Anderson’s Creating a Data-Driven Organization, a hallmark of data-driven organizations he identifies is an evidence-based culture. Evidence-based cultures prioritize having data to support major decisions, open sharing of the rationale for decisions, and democratic distribution of information. How mature are your analytics processes? In 2008, the SAS Institute parsed out eight levels of analytics maturity within an organization, which provides a good gauge for how habituated your organization is at making data-driven decisions. If you use data mostly to understand what is happening, to understand ad hoc issues, or to tabulate requirements, you’re likely on the low end of the spectrum for capabilities to enable data driven decision-making and build an evidence-based culture. To promote evidence-based thinking and analytics maturity, OMB provides organizational incentives to departments that integrate evidence into their reports. This extends the benefits of evidence-based thinking beyond the inherent value to incentivize behavior changes that can build new habits. Are you interacting with your data? Data is not information. That bears repeating: data is not information. Once you process the raw data, clean it, organize it, interpret it, and summarize it, leaving it in a data file is not sufficient for driving a data-driven culture. We are more likely to remember information and apply the data the more we interact with it—a concept known as disfluency. We need to work with data enough for it to challenge our assumptions, introduce new findings, and extract information it contains. Print it out, hang it up, view it in multiple formats and on more than one occasion, create a lab or workspace where people can interact with the data sets. Data governance and effective data management establish a framework and infrastructure that support collaboration across data, but culture is important, too. To drive data-driven decision making in your organization, team, or even in your individual role, consider where you identify with these cultural indicators. Develop your “culture” infrastructure for data analysis along with the technical infrastructure....

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Federal Spotlight: Honorable Davita Vance-Cooks

Posted by on Jul 6, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Honorable Davita Vance-Cooks

Davita Vance-Cooks serves as the Director of the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the 27th Public Printer of the United States. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Davita Vance-Cooks: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? DVC: I started Federal Service with the Government Printing Office , which is what it was called back then, in August of 2004. I was hired to be the Deputy Managing Director of Customer Service, and at that time I was responsible for providing print procurement products and services to all of the Federal agencies across the United States. You see, the GPO is the official printer of the government, and that includes all Federal agencies. When they need printing jobs, like the Census or different products for their mission, they come to the GPO and we use printing companies across the country to procure those services for them. Over my 12 year career at the GPO, I have been fortunate to work in multiple business units across the agency with increasing responsibilities. After the Deputy Managing Director of Customer Services, I became the Managing Director for Publication Information Sales, Chief of Staff, Deputy Public Printer serving as Acting Public Printer, then Public Printer in 2013. In 2014, the name of the agency changed to the Government Publishing Office in recognition of our transformation to a digital publishing operation. The title for the head of the agency changed from Public Printer to Agency Director. I am responsible for leading the strategic direction of the agency. Our organizational strategy is a transformation from a print-centric functionality to a content-centric publishing operation. I oversee a workforce of 1,750 employees at the GPO. Back when the GPO was print heavy, maybe 20, 30 years ago, we had as many as 8,000 employees. Today I’m the person who sets the strategic direction and the tone for the agency – that’s what I do today, and I’m loving every minute of it. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? DVC:  Well, I really believe in the GPO’s mission and I believe in my GPO employees. The mission of the GPO is to Keep America Informed, and that’s because when we were created in 1861, our job was to tell the American people about the business of the government. We publish information products for all three branches of government, and you can really see it in products such as the Congressional Record and the Federal Register. I believe very passionately in the importance of producing these documents, and I’m also very passionate about our employees because they believe in that mission. They’re committed to it and that keeps me motivated, because I watch them every day bring excellence to what they do in serving Congress, the Federal agencies, and the library community, so I really enjoy it. I’m excited about the transformation of us shifting into that digital information platform. We are here to make a difference. I’ll give you two examples. First, with the Congressional Record, as you know it is issued every day when Congress is in session, and it describes what happened the day before. When Congress’ lights go out for the day, they start to send their...

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Technology, Risk and Change Management

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Technology, Risk and Change Management

Sometimes it feels like technology can solve all of our organization’s problems.  Organizations of all sizes regularly make major technology investments in an attempt to realize productivity growth and performance improvement as well as conform to regulatory requirements. Organizations have transformed their accounting, customer service, marketing, human resources, web-content and many other business functions by adopting new systems, the results of which have been highly variable and often necessitate even more change in the future. Today the pace of technological advance continues to accelerate and organizations feel like they need to respond to take advantage of the potential productivity gains.  Competition is fierce and organizations that do not invest fear they could be left behind. The risks of missing out on opportunities created by technology can appear larger than the risks of implementation, though the reality is not so clear. The one thing that is not changing as quickly as technology is people.  Within organizations, the ways that people are organized and the knowledge, skills, and abilities they bring to their jobs do not always keep up with the implementation of new technologies. Not all technology adoption projects go smoothly, and the downside risks are significant.  Just because it can work somewhere doesn’t mean it can work in every organization, and often large systems don’t always allow for easy customizations needed to work in all business or other organizational environments.  If you want to effectively manage these risks, you need your people fully on your side. Depending on what technology is implemented, it has the potential to fundamentally change or even eliminate people’s jobs.  And yet for technology implementation to be successful organizations depend on the support and adoption of this change by their workers. Within organizations we often find people who are suspicious of change, who don’t see the need for it, or who are worried about how it will impact them personally.  If these concerns are not properly addressed people can easily turn against the change, and what could have been an organization’s greatest change assets can become active resistors. Large scale change that is often experienced with the adoption of new technology platforms is never an easy undertaking for an organization.  To increase the likelihood of a successfully change, organization’s must plan for effective risk management that includes an understanding of the technology risk but also the people and organizational risks.  Just because it is possible to get the technology in place does not mean the organization will have a successful implementation. As evidenced in the Management Concepts Report, Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector, change management that addresses the needs and priorities of the organization’s people is an essential element of any technology project and should be included from the beginning.  Some best practices that can be used to accomplish this include: Support from senior leadership is critical. Senior leadership can make or break a change project depending on their level of engagement and commitment. They control resources that are necessary for effective change management, but more importantly, they can also influence people throughout the organization to embrace the change and motivate them to actively work for the project. Build in change management from the start. Change management that meets the needs of your workforce cannot be simply bolted on as an afterthought....

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NCMA World Congress 2016 – Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces

Posted by on Jun 30, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

NCMA World Congress 2016 – Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces

After attending my first ever NCMA conference last year – the Government Contract Management Symposium (GCMS) – I made it my mission to secure a spot as a breakout speaker for this year’s NCMA World Congress, the organization’s largest education event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals. Now, only six months removed from GCMS 2015, I am not only hosting a breakout session on a highly relevant Federal acquisition policy issue, but also facilitating that session with a very promising active-duty acquisition professional that I met at GCMS last year – 1st Lt Kevin Bess (United States Air Force). On Wednesday, July 27, 1st Lt Bess and I will be facilitating a discussion on the highly anticipated, and highly controversial, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (FPSW) final rule – which is a resultant artifact of President Obama’s Executive Order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces. If you’ve never heard of FPSW, then you can’t afford to miss our session. With the final rule set to take effect in the coming months, after a rather extensive comment period, FPSW is all set to splash onto the Federal acquisition scene. Whether that splash results in ripples or waves is yet to be determined, but in order to understand how these regulations might impact you, your organization, and our profession, you have to become informed. That is why our session will focus on harnessing your critical thinking faculties to address this issue by conducting team-based research, engaging in interactive discussions, and challenging preconceived notions, in a session that is sure to have you leaving the Orlando conference with a different pair of shades on. So, I urge you – come to GovConGreyMatters (G14) in Room Sun A at 9:45am on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. Note: Be sure to bring your phone, tablet, and/or laptop – whatever you prefer. You’re encouraged to use your phone during the presentation!...

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Juno to Jupiter: Navigating the Creative Space

Posted by on Jun 29, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Juno to Jupiter: Navigating the Creative Space

In this fast paced environment creative thinking and innovation are vital to individual, team, and organizational success.  Through information overload, expectations to multi-task, and pure exhaustion, many people struggle to find and utilize their creative capacity.  Some people may resign to the idea that there are creative people and there are those without the talent.  I don’t buy it.  I think it’s a skill, like many others we work to grow in the workplace.  Even the most creative people have to work at being creative. What sets a creative mind apart is being aware and being proactive about getting in to a creative space. I’ve been reading about NASA’s Juno mission where they are in the process of sending a probe to Jupiter to learn about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. The Juno Mission is part of an integrated exploration strategy that aims to take the information gathered about Jupiter and use it to help answer the world’s biggest questions… quite literally! According to the National Research Council, some key questions include “what processes marked the initial stages of planet and satellite formation?” and “What planetary processes are responsible for generating and sustaining habitable worlds, and where are the habitable zones in the solar system?” I’m not an astrophysicist but I think that translates to “Where did we come from? And are we alone?” Reading up on the Juno mission reminds me of when I read The Martian (maybe because I recently re-watched the movie about my favorite “space pirate.”)  The book reads as a stream of consciousness where you are inside the incredibly creative mind of Mark Watney.  Although the plot and astrophysics were critiqued and modified by fans over the course of the story’s inception, it’s still fiction.  The Juno mission is not – but the similarities are striking!  From budget constraints, to overcoming Jupiter’s intense electromagnetic pull, to the dangers of nearing the Great Red Spot, NASA’s articles about the Juno mission read like a series of innovative problem solving genius. Like all government agencies, NASA had a budget constraint that required it to use an existing rocket to launch Juno in to orbit.  This rocket would not get Juno close enough to Jupiter (which is approximately 1.74 billion miles away.)  The solution: the Rich Purnell Maneuver.  Ok not exactly, but similar to the solution in The Martian, NASA used a fly by and Earth’s orbital motion to slingshot Juno all the way to Jupiter! Crazy right? Well it worked, and now Juno is days away from entering Jupiter’s orbit and capturing vital information to answer those questions. If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it. —Albert Einstein So what can we learn from NASA’s Juno Mission about breaking the barriers to creativity and innovation?  Like I said before, I think creativity is a skill that if nurtured, can flourish in anyone willing to work on it.  While practicing, individuals must be able to fail and learn from their mistakes.  In the workplace this means organizations must work on fostering an environment that allows for creative thoughts to be generated and considered. The ideal environment for encouraging creativity would: Build flexibility in to work processes Equip individuals with a variety of creativity tools, and the time to use...

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Fourth Quarter Preview: What is the SBA up to?

Posted by on Jun 24, 2016 in Acquisition | 0 comments

Fourth Quarter Preview: What is the SBA up to?

As we approach the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, we are coming upon the time of the year when the most simplified acquisitions and awards to small business concerns occur. According to Guy Timberlake of the American Small Business Coalition, during fiscal year 2014 (FY14) “[Federal] agencies spent $11 billion of $19 billion from Q1 to Q3, [meaning] over $8 billion [was spent] from the start of July to the end of September.” Of that $8 billion, $6 billion was obligated under purchase orders and definitive contracts. Furthermore, $5 billion of that $6 billion was awarded to small business concerns. With numbers like these, I believe it is safe to assume that most of this was through simplified acquisitions – what Mr. Timberlake calls “low-hanging fruit” – as is the typical case during the last quarter of the fiscal year. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss some of the changes the Small Business Administration (SBA) made recently that may ease your contracting office’s small business set-asides and simplified acquisitions for Q4 of FY16. After all, during this quarter – the busiest quarter of the fiscal year – we could all use some external assistance in easing the dollars out the door. Right?! With that said, on May 31, 2016, the SBA passed a rather lengthy final rule stemming from the Small Business Government Contracting and National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 Amendments, including revisions to the following items: Procurement Center Representative Responsibilities Limitations on Subcontracting HUBZone Program Subcontracting Plans Affiliation Joint Ventures Calculation of Annual Receipts Recertification Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs Size Status Protests North American Industry Classification System Code (NAICS) Appeals Nonmanufacturer Rule Adverse Impact and Construction Requirements Certificate of Competency Out of this long list of revisions, five of these may impact your small business set-asides and/or simplified acquisitions during the final quarter of the fiscal year: (1) limitations on subcontracting (2) joint ventures (3) size status protests (4) nonmanufacturer rule (5) certificate of competency So let us discuss these: First off, the SBA revised the Small Business Act language concerning the limitations on subcontracting to bring it more in-line with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The revision provides the SBA’s statutory authority for exempting small business set-asides valued between $3,500 and $150,000 from the limitation on subcontracting. The guidance at FAR 19.508(e) already contains this exemption, stating that “[t]he contracting officer shall insert the clause at 52.219-4, Limitations on Subcontracting, in solicitations, services, and construction, if any portion of the requirement is to be set aside or reserved for small business and the contract amount is expected to exceed $150,000.” Therefore, there is no need to change the way you’ve been doing business. It’s just nice that the SBA has clarified this exemption on their end – so you’re covered either way. Second, the SBA has broadened the exclusion from affiliation for small business joint ventures. Under the final rule, the SBA sets forth language allowing two or more small businesses to joint venture for any procurement without being considered “affiliated” with regard to the performance of that procurement requirement. This allows two or more small business concerns, who are small under the applicable NAICS code for the procurement, to form a joint venture and compete...

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Generational Shifts: A Change Lever to Align Culture

Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Workforce Management | 1 comment

Generational Shifts: A Change Lever to Align Culture

For as long as organizations have existed there has been a need for people from different age groups to be part of the workforce, with some entering, some advancing, some scaling back, or some departing over time.  Similar movements are occurring among the four generations currently in the workforce, creating new opportunities for organizational leaders to tackle escalating levels of uncertainty and change (size, type, speed, complexity) across their organizations. A lot of media attention has focused on the labeled differences among the four generations. This focus does not help organizational leaders determine how to get the most from the changing mix of generations or how to define the collective behaviors needed to deal with the unprecedented uncertainty and change. By viewing generational shifts as a change lever to get everyone working well and moving together in the desired direction, it will increase the possibility of making real organizational change happen.  At the same time, it will help to redirect the conversation on generations away from differences to “how to” achieve desired organizational outcomes through shared learning and experience. Acknowledging that generational shifts can be a valuable lever to impact change is an important first step.  In a recently released report on Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector published by Management Concepts and Human Capital Media, generational shifts were identified as a high-impact change lever by 37.7 percent of government respondents who completed the Change Management Workplace Survey. This type of acknowledgement allows organizational leaders to shift their focus to understanding what the generational shift currently looks like in their organization so it can be used as a lever for desired change.  Gaining an understanding of the current generational shift is not about knowing how many of each generation makeup of the total workforce.  It means understanding the people that are part of the mix of generations in an organization from an individual, team, and collective organizational perspective. Some effective ways to gain an understanding of what the current generational shift looks like in your organization include: Recognize how the external and internal contextual factors (i.e., technology, information, diversity) affecting the current generational shift are influencing how everyone in the organization learns, works, and connects with each other Identify the individual values held in common within the organization to give you a view of what brings the organization together Look at the assumptions and behavioral norms that impact how the mix of generations makes decisions, takes action, and achieves results Engage the collective organization in understanding generational shifts occurring and how to best leverage the strengths of individuals and teams Pay attention to the common language and way of communicating. Does it help or hinder how work gets done? It is one of the easiest ways to build or breakdown trust and respect among generations Take a look at current rules, practices, processes, and procedures. How do they support the needs of the collective generations to increase effectiveness, improve performance, or be innovative? How is performance tracked? Are behavioral expectations clear? Is ongoing feedback provided? Answers to these questions impact the everyday operating environment of an organization and influence the individual and collective mindsets, behaviors, and actions Once there is an understanding of the generational shift that is present and influencing what happens in an organization, the...

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It’s About Control

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 0 comments

It’s About Control

I had the opportunity to spend two days with a local agency and our instructor Patrick Smith. We had a good time tackling the issues of 2 CFR 200 implementation. But we know that this agency has identified a lot of follow up tasks. Some are small, while others will require full project and communications plans. By the time we arrived for the training, these local agency officials had taken the most important step – informing their leadership that they need to make policy, procedure, and systems changes to become fully compliant with 2 CFR 200. As Patrick said throughout the two days, “management sets the tone” for how well an organization’s internal controls will be adopted and followed. Here are some of my other takeaways: Non-Federal Entities (NFE) taking advantage of the procurement policy grace period need to make sure they’ve documented this with their awarding Federal agencies. You may remember last fall, the Office of Management and Budget extended the deadline for incorporating applicable 2 CFR 200 procurement provisions into NFE policies. Adoption of the current micropurchase and Simple Acquisition Threshold levels require more than policy changes. You need to think about the impact of the changes in terms of volume (i.e., lower micropurchase level means more transactions needing more than one bid), and procedure change (e.g., certain purchases can no longer be done with a purchase card). Not to mention, how you’re going to communicate changes to all staff. The FAIN (Federal Award Identification Number) should go everywhere. The FAIN is a small detail, but essential for achieving transparency. That means if you are a Pass-Through Entity (PTE), you need to make sure that you mark all subaward documents with your FAIN. Remember, a key tenet of grant reform is transparency – the public should be able to follow the money. Finally, I don’t think I could do the subrecipient vs. contractor exercise enough. Even when it seems clear after a review of the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act‘s delineation between a grant and a contract, I think you need to take a look at each individual transaction. It’s essential that PTEs choose the right instrument…otherwise you may miss flowing down the appropriate Federal requirements. Uniform Guidance implementation is hard – and if you’re an NFE, your to-do list probably remains long. Remember you should tackle issues one step at a time and ask for help when needed. I continue to challenge anyone to show me an NFE that is fully compliant with 2 CFR...

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Planning is Critical in Successful Organizational Change

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Planning is Critical in Successful Organizational Change

One of the contributing factors to project and program failures within public organizations is the lack of organizational change management planning. This is well documented in Management Concepts recent report, “Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector.” While project and program managers often focus their plans on the technical aspects of what needs to change in order to realize project success, they may often underestimate the impact of changes on personnel and the level of planning it takes to mitigate this impact. The risk is that if the people impacted by change are not on board, sustainable change cannot be achieved and mission-critical objectives may not be realized. Several negative consequences to the organization can result from inadequate planning and neglecting a change’s impact on personnel, including productivity loss, employee disengagement, turnover, and resistance. Those negative consequences and risks will often result in financial consequences. It will take longer for employees to get on board and begin using the new system, process, etc., longer to master, as well as longer for the agency to see a Return on Investment (ROI). By using effective change management processes and planning, you can mitigate some of those issues and meet program goals successfully on time and on budget. Here are a few tips that will help to contribute to overall success: Executive Sponsorship: Ensure that the sponsor is effective and is actively engaged throughout the entire process. Data shows that the number one contributing factor for a successful change management project is how visible the sponsor is. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Communicate early and often throughout the entire process. It’s important to make sure employees fully understand what the change is, the business need for the change, what the change will mean for them, what will be required of them, how the change will occur, and one of the most important items, the risk of not changing. If employees are told only what the change is, without the why, a common response will be “so what?” If they don’t understand why a change is needed and the benefits of the change, there will be no desire to conform. Important role managers play: Managers must understand how important their role is throughout the entire change process. To be most effective, managers must first fully understand the change and how it impacts them prior to communicating it to their teams. They should remain positive about the change and “lead by example.” Additionally, they should facilitate feedback between the project team and employees and vice versa. Managers should also coach employees through the change, as not all employees handle change in the same way. Managers then must reinforce the change. Resistance Management: Resistance is a natural human reaction to change, so it’s important to expect and plan for resistance at all levels of an organization. The primary reason for resistance is lack of awareness of the need for change. To address resistance, there are several approaches you can use, but it’s best to try to understand where the resistance is coming from first. A few suggestions include: listening and understanding objections, focusing on the outcomes, removing any roadblocks, and providing clear choices and consequences related to adopting the change. Change management planning is an integral part of successful change in organizations. It isn’t performed by...

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Grants.gov: Applying for Grants Made Easier

Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 in Grants & Assistance | 3 comments

Grants.gov: Applying for Grants Made Easier

As most grants applicants have experienced, applying for a grant is a team effort. Individuals may be tasked with separate responsibilities, such as developing and completing a budget worksheet, writing the project narrative, and collecting supporting documentation. In the final hours before a deadline, team members may find themselves frantically editing, searching for, and collating each part of the application package for submission. In October 2015, Grants.gov launched a new feature, Workspace, designed to promote the ease of team collaboration. Workspace is a platform that enables multiple team members to simultaneously access, edit, and upload forms associated with a grant application. When submitting an application through Workspace, the separate forms and files are automatically combined into a single package. A workspace must be created for each grant application; however, organizations may reuse saved Workspace forms to apply for other grant awards. Grants.gov identifies four reasons why organizations should utilize Workspace: Collaboration is streamlined and made easier Forms can be reused, saving applicants time Forms are validated when uploaded, which helps reduce submission errors Context-sensitive help is provided for all pages, tabs, and windows within a workspace By using Workspace, organizations can assign roles to determine the level of access for each team member. Grants.gov created the following graphic to depict the workflow in Workspace. To assist users in creating and managing Workspace, Grants.gov has published multiple instructional videos on YouTube. Has your organization used Workspace? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.   Save...

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ACQUIRE Conference Recap

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

ACQUIRE Conference Recap

The first ever ACQUIRE Conference and Expo started with an excellent presentation by Joshua Cooper Ramo on his book The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune and Survival in the Age of Networks. His overall premise was to tie the term “networks” to mean interpersonal, sociological, and information networks. His theory is that everything is tied together and will only become more and more complex over time – definitely a thought provoking topic to start the day. Another interesting session dealt with the millennial generation – how they think, what motivates them, and how to market to and retain this segment of the workforce. Gabrielle Bosche provided some interesting statistics – for instance, the average longevity at an individual company or agency is currently 11 months. The exhibit hall keynotes and expo sessions were well attended, with particular focus on sessions that speak to Agile project management in the Federal environment. A small but spirited group of attendees made our “Contracting for Modular Development in IT” training session an informative and interesting experience. Paul Lohnes delivered another Management Concepts sponsored session, “Disciplined Agile for IT Project Success.” His expo session was standing room only, largely due to the Federal focus on adaptive/Agile development and the challenges this presents for the acquisition workforce. As Federal agencies move toward Agile development methodologies the ability to execute Agile contracts and the need to understand Agile development is driving interest in Agile acquisition. Day two kicked off with the incredibly inspirational Mark Kelly providing opening remarks. His wife, former Representative Gabby Giffords, made a triumphant visit to the stage and said a few words as well. Their thought provoking story of courage and persistence sent a strong motivational message to the crowd. Finally, the smell of hot buttered popcorn drifted over the crowd and brought hungry attendees to the Management Concepts booth for a welcoming break and a chance to connect with current and future clients and students on offerings in Federal acquisition and contracting, FAC-P/PM, and IT project management. See you next year, ACQUIRE!...

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Culture: What’s Your Story?

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in Workforce Management | 2 comments

Culture: What’s Your Story?

Every organization creates stories. Whether intended or not, these stories reflect who you are. These stories tell the tale of your organizational culture and what others inside and outside your organization think, feel, or accept as true about you. Does your culture inspire connection, innovation, energy, or agility? Does it incite uncertainty, confusion, negativity, or frustration? Or is it a mix of these attributes? We all have a unique lens through which we see and experience organizations. When individuals share stories with others about your organization, these stories become “your organizational story. ” If you want to change the stories that are shared, it may be time to look inside your organization to better understand what is going on. The good news is, whatever your current story may be, you can consciously create the organizational culture you desire. Consciously Creating Your Culture Alignment Story Consciously creating a desired culture is about aligning the expressions of culture (mission, vision, values, and every day habits) with the work of the organization to create the story you want shared. Organizations that achieve the strongest alignment between the work and expected behaviors and the mission, vision, and values of the organization make it a priority to focus on culture in two distinct ways: EXAMINING the impact of culture. At the heart of examining the impact of culture is identifying and measuring how culture supports the organization over time. Both quantitative and qualitative tools and techniques are needed to answer such questions as: How do we know and feel what is really going on? How does the current culture enable or restrain the work of individuals or groups? What is our common language and way of communicating about our culture? Is there clarity on the desired culture? How wide is the gap between the current and desired culture? What do we do if something goes wrong or does not go as planned? Is there willingness and ability to change as needed? CHANGING the impact of culture. Once there is an honest and true accounting for who and why your culture is the way it is and what you want it to be, the focus turns to changing the impact of it by defining and shifting cultural attributes. It is important to note that: Attention should be given to cultural attributes that have the most immediate impact on performance The hardest work will be internalizing the expected behaviors for each cultural attribute across the organization. Culture change is real when new behaviors are successful after working for a while and become a “norm” in the organization Individuals change when they want to. It happens on an emotional level through new insights that shift thinking and prompt a change in behavior Role models in the organization can help others learn and change more quickly. When shared learning and experience are valued, others in the organization are there to support, encourage, reinforce, and show empathy through the change and beyond so it lasts It takes reinforcement and results for expected behaviors to become real. When behavior issues are not addressed, it slows down, or prevents the behavior change process from working as intended. Engaging individuals, teams, and the collective organization is critical to examining and changing the impact of culture because of the shared and emergent learning...

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Value of Peer Coaching

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Value of Peer Coaching

Perhaps you have heard of the practice of coaching, where individuals receive coaching from external professional coaches, internal coaches, or managers; and the benefits of coaching for improving self-awareness, leadership, and organizational performance. What is less widely understood or implemented, but may have a broader organizational impact, is the practice of peer coaching. In my last blog I wrote about the democratization of coaching—making coaching skills training and one-on-one coaching available to employees regardless of supervisory status. Peer coaching is a great example of doing just that. So what is Peer Coaching? Peer coaching occurs when a group of peers, who may or may not be from the same team, first learn or review coaching skills together so they are all operating with the same understanding of the coaching toolkit, then agree to partner with one another to practice those skills while addressing real concerns they each have. In peer coaching, participants are intended to support one another in ongoing one-on-one coaching conversations after they’ve been trained in using coaching skills. They might call their counterpart a “learning” or “accountability” partner. Regardless, they typically commit to working with someone in a series of coaching conversations. The intention is to combine the learning and practice of coaching skills with a “safe” peer partner with whom to build rapport and gain new perspective. Informally, meetings can occur at whatever frequency feels appropriate to the pair, whether that means impromptu calls, or meetings every other Friday like clockwork. They bring real topics they want to be coached on, and the partner-coach helps their peer design their own intrinsically motivating solutions. Like every other coaching relationship, trust and confidentiality are key. Partners are meant to listen, inquire, reflect back what they are noticing, make requests, and give feedback in service of their partner’s growth. This only works if each person in the partnership is truly interested in creating change of some sort; gaining new perspective, exploring ways of thinking that are otherwise keeping them stuck, seeking a new approach to a difficult relationship, etc. Without a desire to get introspective and try something new, coaching with a peer, or anyone else, is not likely to be a good fit. Why invest in peer coaching? When done well and supported by senior leadership, peer coaching can help to create new norms for engaging with others in the workplace. Peers, whether in teams or not, can create a habit of making one another part of their own solution, rather than ruminating in venting conversations, or commiserating together without owning any part of the needed change. Often, peer coaching is seen as a way to provide coaching skills to employees so that they can better support one another in addition to using those skills with their direct reports. In this way, coaching spreads through an organization rather than sticking within a small group. This might stem from a desire by leadership to give the group more tools. It might occur as a result of tightening budgets that don’t allow for the expense of external coaches. Maybe an organization doesn’t have internal coaches but wants to find a way to support employees through the use of coaching. Whatever the reason, the value of peer coaching often is best achieved when coaching behaviors are endorsed and modeled by...

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Succession Planning as a Change Management Strategy

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Succession Planning as a Change Management Strategy

Succession planning is becoming a valuable strategy for organizations to undertake when looking to minimize the impact of changes on its workforce. Although still not widely utilized across Federal agencies, it is becoming recognized as an important talent management and change management strategy for retaining leaders at all levels and thus reducing disruptions caused by continual turnover. Here are two reasons this rings true: Management Concepts recently partnered with the Human Capital Media Research & Advisory Group (the research division of Human Capital Media) the publisher of Workforce, Talent Management, and Chief Learning Officer magazines to launch “The Changing Government Workplace Survey.” By exclusively surveying government employees, we were able to gain deep insight on how the public sector practices successful change management at the Federal, state and local levels. When asked what strategies or actions their organizations are undertaking to minimize the impact of change in their workplace, more than 41% of the respondents said that one of their key strategies is to formalize and implement a succession planning process. A second reason why succession planning is gaining more traction in the public sector is evidenced by an Executive Order (EO) on Strengthening the Senior Executive Service (SES) issued by the White House on December 15, 2015. The Executive Order is focused on strengthening the recruitment, hiring, and development of the Federal government’s senior executives. A key component of this EO speaks to establishing an annual talent management and succession planning process to assess the development needs of all SES members and to inform readiness decisions with regard to hiring, career development, executive reassignments, and rotations. Therefore, the objective of the succession planning effort is to ensure every organization has the highest quality talent ready to fill planned and unplanned SES vacancies, thus reducing the stress caused by leadership positions being vacant for prolonged periods of time or by filling the position with someone who is not totally qualified and thus unsuccessful in the position. Every organization will have job vacancies due to attrition or people retiring from their jobs. We all can remember a time we suffered some stress and anxiety while waiting to learn who the new leader(s) of our organization would be and what impact it would have on us and our colleagues. We know the management of this type of change is always smoother and less disruptive when the leadership replacements are quickly identified, in place, and effectively performing their role. This happens when organizations institute succession planning (or even better, succession management) on a regular basis; it helps to keep the organization healthy by ensuring the right leadership is in place at the right time. It is encouraging to see that public sector organizations are recognizing this and using succession planning as an important talent management and change management strategy.  ...

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Federal Spotlight: Karen Rainey

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Karen Rainey

Karen Rainey serves as an Information Technology Specialist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Here’s our Federal Spotlight interview with Karen Rainey: MC: How long have you been in Federal Service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? KR: I can’t believe it’s been 10 years of Federal Service with the Department of Treasury. Throughout my career I was afforded many opportunities in leadership. Currently, as an Information Technology Specialist, I provide dedicated server support to the Internal Revenue Service infrastructure and ultimately our nation’s taxpayers. In this role, I work with a team that is responsible for operations and maintenance of servers including patching, installation updates, security standards, and overall consistency throughout virtual environments. MC: What keeps you motivated and passionate to stay in the public sector? KR: What keeps me passionate about the public sector are the vast amounts of memorable opportunities I’ve received in my career. One recent example was when I worked on a detail as a manager overseeing filing season projects. It was a huge challenge, but through it all, we worked as a team and I was motivated by colleagues. Joseph Campbell said that “Passion will lead men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures.” I found that Feds are results driven and their passion comes from providing the best service they can to the American people. MC: What is one of your biggest achievements? KR: One of the biggest achievements I’ve had is on a personal and professional level. I was fortunate enough to join Federally Employed Women (FEW) in 2011 and had the honor of being selected to serve on the National Board of Directors. FEW is an employee organization that promotes a diversified workforce that includes women and their masterful ability to add value to every agency. In 2015, I was chosen to lead a highly successful National Training Program for FEW which provided training to women who sought excellence in their career. Last year we took a “Journey to Excellence” for self-development and improvement for a stronger Federal workforce. Though training, we provided information on how to utilize process improvement methodologies to help attendees with their everyday work life and how to establish best practices. MC: What advice would you share on making public service a career and not a pit stop? KR: The Federal service offers great career opportunities in a variety of positions. President John F. Kennedy said it best: “You, the Federal employee, provide the mind and muscle for carrying out national and international policies, commitments, and programs. . . . Our country counts on you to meet the special challenge with a special effort.” My advice would be to make your career in public service a true investment in yourself and this country. Most Feds work a minimum of 20 to 30 years and never leave until they retire. It is my belief that we invest quickly because of our sense of loyalty, respect, and dedication to public service and this country. FEW has done a six month study on how “Federal Workers Keep America Running.” Take some time to read how every hour of every day women impact this county. Choosing a career in public service is a decision no one will regret. MC: What advice would you share...

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FLSA Update: Overtime Pay

Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

FLSA Update: Overtime Pay

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs minimum wage and overtime pay for full and part-time employees in the public and private sector. On May 17, 2016, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) released a final rule that will go into effect on December 1, 2016, increasing the salary threshold for overtime pay. It is important for employers and employees to be aware of the new regulations as they pertain to executive, administrative, and professional workers in order to be fully compliant. It is estimated that 4.2 million more salaried workers in the United States will now be eligible for overtime pay on December 1, 2016. When the new rule goes into place, the salary threshold for the white-collar exemption from overtime pay will adjust to $47,476. This means that salaried workers who earn up to this amount are eligible for overtime when their workweek exceeds forty hours. The ruling also requires that the threshold for overtime pay be evaluated every three years. The first review date will take place on January 1, 2020, so this is something employers will need to continually monitor. One interesting amendment to the current regulations is that employers are allowed to use nondiscretionary bonuses, incentives, and commissions to satisfy up to 10% of the new salary threshold provided the amounts are paid quarterly (or more frequently). Since many employers now use incentive compensation to drive performance, the Department of Labor appears to recognize this growing trend in employees’ compensation. As a reminder, job titles do not make an employee exempt from overtime nor does their salary. The DOL made no changes to the current job duties tests. The exemption comes from the specific job duties performed by the employee. Employers should also note that when the FLSA and state law apply, an employee should receive the most favorable provision offered. If you still have questions about the upcoming changes, there is a lot of helpful information on the DOL’s website including a comparison video which outlines the old regulations and the new...

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Breaking Down Big Data

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 in Analytics | 0 comments

Breaking Down Big Data

The term “Big Data” is thrown around a lot in the IT and data analytics communities. Managing the size and complexity of available data has become a primary challenge for systems administrators, IT professionals, and data analysts alike. For those of us used to interacting with only a few hundred records in a data set, the idea of “Big Data” can seem overwhelming. However, the exponentially growing availability of “Big Data” provides government and business professionals with unprecedented access to information that can lead to better decision-making. What is Big Data? “Big Data” refers to large, complex data sets that require processing beyond the normal capacity of a storage system. Advances in technology have allowed for greater collection of data across all elements of human life. There is an ever-increasing pool of resources available to measure societal patterns and trends, as well as the personal data—web histories, social media accounts, commercial transactions, etc.—we produce each day. This compilation of Big Data is usually measured in petabytes or exabytes of information, and cannot be easily analyzed or processed by normal software programs. This leaves organizations with the task of analyzing a massive collection of data with varying degrees of structure. How is Big Data being used in the Federal government? In 2012, the Obama administration announced the “Big Data Research and Development Initiative,” aimed at improving the how the Federal government collects, analyzes, and interprets Big Data. The larger goal of this initiative was to empower Federal agencies to more efficiently organize and communicate data trends in the fields of science, education, and national security. In addition to the six agencies provided funding for the president’s initiative, a number of government agencies have used “Big Data” to find innovative solutions to problems central to the agency mission. Why does Big Data matter?                                                Decisions are more effective when they are data-driven. Having comprehensive processes for managing “Big Data” allows an organization to convert raw, unorganized data into actionable information in real time. Organizations can use this information to: Perform risk analyses Protect data security Reduce the cost of data storage Develop predictive models for future events Improve operational efficiencies Quickly identify problems and take corrective action Collaborate with other organizations toward achieving common goals The increasing prevalence of “Big Data” provides Federal agencies with challenges and opportunities. Effective data analytics processes allow us to turn seemingly unmanageable data sets into useful and useable...

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Agile: Bits vs. Atoms?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2016 in Project Management | 0 comments

Agile: Bits vs. Atoms?

Building on the frustrations now evident at the basis for the Agile Manifesto’s creation, where did the current project management best practices seem to go “off-rails,” when this previously venerated philosophy had worked so well in the heavy construction, civil engineering, and physical product development environments? The answer to this question lies in understanding one of the causes for such an alarmingly high rate of failure when IT projects are attempted using this previously universal form of project management philosophy. The themes or indications of application for Agile methods illustrate a point that seems to have been missed by many project management thinkers and philosophers when understanding why so many IT projects fail. For proof of this statement, check out the Standish Group’s often quoted project failure studies of 2003 and 2009. As mentioned previously, a strong basis for the project management “current best practices” of stringently defining requirements with copious amounts of documentation had their roots in the construction industry of the 1930-1960’s when humans were doing some of the most complex building projects outside the ancient projects of antiquity. Software development, however, is an entirely different endeavor from hard construction, and to apply concepts involving the creation of physical artifacts to the construction of computer applications appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the core difference between these types of projects, and that is: The physicality of the deliverables, where hard construction delivers physical artifacts (atoms), and software projects deliver non-physical artifacts (bits). The 17 signatories of the 2001 Agile Manifesto were software engineers attempting to deal with the frustration, overhead, strict, and probably inappropriate nature of normal project management methods when applied to the computer software development environment. The need to define requirements when producing ‘atoms’ overly constrained the software project where deliverables are ‘bits.’ Agile style methods appear to solve the problems of managing work product when the deliverable is not physical or analog, but digital in nature. This difference in deliverable physicality is at the heart of the current Agile revolution where software project management is finding its own voice in managing “bits” to a successful outcome requires very different methods than managing or producing “atoms.” With an understanding of Agile, its values, and principles as a foundation, the next discovery phase needs to uncover the move of Agile concepts into the larger realm of general, or non-IT project management. This leads to the question: What is Agile Project Management (APM)? Is APM an attempt to apply the values and principles of the Agile philosophy to the problems of “atoms-oriented” project management? Can these values and principles hold up when the deliverable is not “bits,” but atoms in varying shapes and sizes? To put a finer point on it: could the Millau Viaduct in France have been built using the values, principles, and practices of Agile? Are the values and principles of APM different from those of the Agile Manifesto? What is common amongst most of the practitioners of the Agile philosophy of project management is that is works well in certain areas of application, but there have been few case studies of application when the deliverables are “atoms” and not “bits.” The project management blogosphere has had significant discussions on the use of Agile-based methods for large projects such as the Boeing 787...

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What the Federal Government and Toyota Have in Common

Posted by on Jun 1, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

What the Federal Government and Toyota Have in Common

Budget crunches, recruitment challenges, and knowledge loss as experienced employees retire—these together can sound like a recipe for disaster, yet history shows they can be a groundswell for innovation and increased productivity. The automotive industry—the Toyota Production System in particular, which influenced the famous NUMMI plant—demonstrates how pinching resources drives creativity and spurs innovation. In our recent Federal government change management survey completed in partnership with Human Capital Media, participants indicated that the three biggest factors driving change—budget uncertainty, challenges retaining and recruiting talent, and retirement—indicated a common squeeze associated with the drivers: increased workload for individual employees. A familiar example is the IRS, whose leadership has long voiced concern over budget and staffing cuts and the strain of increased workloads. Budget cuts, staff reductions, and retirement all contributed to increased workload which employees—and taxpayers—felt in very real ways. Increased workloads due to budget and staffing constraints places pressure on leaders and individual contributors alike. This strain decreases morale, productivity, retention, and productivity. It doesn’t have to be bleak, however: agencies who successfully manage increased workload find efficiencies, invest in employee knowledge, and ultimately become more lean. “Lean” organizations do more with less, building processes that are more efficient which is key to effectively managing the increased workload employees face. A classic model of lean operations, the Toyota approach eliminates waste in areas such as: Overproduction Unnecessary transport Excess inventory Worker motion Defects Overprocessing or overengineering Wait times Small opportunities to be lean include placing commonly used resources (supplies, filing cabinets, forms) in a central location to make them quicker to access, or finding out what time of day your team’s productivity peaks and avoiding meetings during that time. Bigger opportunities should be systemic—allocating decision-making to those closest to the work, or redesigning processes that have become too complicated over the decades. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is revising hiring practices to become more efficient—drawing on the Toyota philosophy in concrete ways such as collecting input from coworkers most impacted by the hiring process. The misconception sometimes persists that lean applies to manufacturing or software development. As a Harvard Business Review analysis demonstrates, lean operations deliver results in knowledge or service industries, too (which is much of the Federal government). Federal agencies can and should use multiple strategies to manage change. In addition to collaborating with HR, leaning on your HR business partner to design your organization effectively and implement a good succession plan, use budget and staffing change drivers as an opportunity to innovate and create ways to be lean and come out ahead of the change. As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” we can adapt this adage for change management and budget cuts: “When the going gets lean, the lean get going.” A smaller staff or tighter budget might initially raise concerns about decreased services, but they present pivotal opportunities to innovate and develop new, improved processes for Federal...

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DATA Act – Federal Countdown to May 2017

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Analytics, Workforce Management | 0 comments

DATA Act – Federal Countdown to May 2017

Last week my colleague Kim Coelho brought us up-to-date on the data standards updated by Treasury last week. This hopefully will allow movement on DATA Act implementation. Several agencies reported to the Government Accountability Office prior to April that their progress was hindered due to the lack of a final DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS). Any delays are concerning at this point as the statutory deadline for most requirements is May 2017. It may be that the release of the DAIMS will enable those people in the weeds of DATA Act implementation to make definitive changes in the business systems and processes that many Federal employees interact with daily. For some, there will be definite differences, like changing the structure of an agency’s award numbering system to meet the governmentwide requirements. So what should you do now? Educate yourself. The GAO released this infographic in January 2016 to provide the 50,000 foot level view of the DATA Act. It starts with the point of the law – “Citizens want to see how Federal money is spent.” Determine if you are involved. Many of us hear data, and immediately think that the people involved are mainly going to be someone from the department’s IT team. After all they design and build the systems. While that may be the case, we recommend reviewing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ManagementProcedures Memorandum No. 2016-03. You may find that your office may need to adjust its award making processes to meet the requirement of matching financial assistance awardee names identical to those entered on SAM.gov. Budget time, people, and resources accordingly. Because the DATA Act is not new, most agencies should have included implementation activities as part of their annual budget requests. Now that Treasury has published the DAIMS and Congress is still working on FY 2017 appropriations, agency officials can take time to reassess if these requests have changed. Still feel like you’re deep in the world of technical mumbo-jumbo? Then it’s time to take the long view of the goals of the DATA Act – transparency on how our taxpayer dollars are spent. We expect that as a result of these changes, Federal departments and agencies will need to meet increased expectations on what information they can and should report. That means an increased proportion of the workforce needs analytics skills so they approach, analyze, and visualize their data effectively for the public. This summer, Management Concepts is hosting a webinar on the DATA Act and data transparency in the Federal government. Stay tuned to learn about how the DATA Act will impact your role and the wider Federal...

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Democratization of Coaching

Posted by on May 27, 2016 in Coaching & Mentoring | 0 comments

Democratization of Coaching

You name it, it’s being called for. Bringing to the masses what has previously been available to only a few. From leader development, to information and data, to change management, a trend toward demystifying these domains and making them accessible and applicable to employees of all levels is in the organizational air. I’d like to join in the ranks of many others who are calling for a “democratization of coaching,” meaning: In support of employees – regardless of seniority or supervisory responsibility – having access to skills training that will better prepare them for supporting others through learning and growth-oriented conversations. This also means supporting a culture that actively supports learning and growth through everyday conversation and strengthened relationships, as well as the possibility of engaging in a more formal relationship with a professional coach for their own personal and professional development. This doesn’t mean everyone gets to call themselves a coach, nor does it dilute the quality of coaching skill among trained and certified coaches. It doesn’t mean people will find themselves in coaching conversations against their will when they just wanted to run an idea by someone or provide an update. It does mean, though, that employees could learn to use coaching skills to support one another at appropriate moments. It calls for a shift in our perceived role in the growth of those around us. On the notion of creating a coaching culture, Magdalena Mook, Executive Director of the International Coach Federation, writes that in addition to senior leaders demonstrating their support for coaching by engaging in it themselves, “ultimately, coaching should be made available across each level of an organization, to professionals of all ages and levels of experience. This is crucial for a lasting, enterprise-wide impact.” Named leaders and unnamed influencers (that’s the rest of us) impact one another with every interaction. Studies on mirror neurons, theories of emotional contagion, generosity, reciprocity, mindfulness, neurological responses to non-saber-tooth-tiger threats—these are just some of the more well-known, yet growing bodies of research that inform our consideration of what impact, and dare I say responsibility, we have to one another as socially attuned beings in the workplace. And there we have the heart of it. Are we willing to acknowledge our impact on one another and become intentional in it? Are we willing to provide skills to employees that allow them to demonstrate concern and support for others and set the expectation that it’s okay to actively do so? Whether you’re trying to create a coaching culture or not, the value of coaching is stifled if the only people in the organization who have access to it are unseen by the majority of employees, and if coaching skills are only put to practice behind closed doors in one-on-one meetings. With just a quick glance at the Gallup Q12, meant to gauge employee engagement, a third or more of the 12 indicators could start to be addressed through the active use of coaching skills by any employee with another. Of course there are caveats, including the need for trust (which can also built by taking a coach approach) as well as permission to inquire of others. Champions of using a “coach approach” are important models for others, especially at the senior level. Let’s bring coaching skills to the...

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Flipping the Engagement Curve

Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Flipping the Engagement Curve

There is an old saying that “what goes up must come down,” and when it comes to employee engagement in government organizations, the idiom is accurate. Last year in a report issued by the GAO, it was reported that OPM’s Employee Engagement Index (EEI) dropped from a record high of 67 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2014. When you think about the turmoil government employees endured in that four-year period—notably, an extended government shut down, stagnant pay, and massive budget cuts—this quick drop in employee engagement seemed like a reasonable reaction to some very difficult circumstances. Hold on though. There’s another old saying that “the devil is in the details” and if you read beyond the headline, you will find the GAO report also uncovered that despite a falling governmentwide EEI figure, many agencies managed to maintain or slightly increase employee engagement during this same period of time. Fast forward a year and results from the 2015 Best Places to Work rankings show that the trend is, indeed, reversing. “Governmentwide, Federal employee job satisfaction and commitment increased 1.2 points” from 2014-2015. No, 1.2% isn’t a dramatic shift, but it does shed light on many efforts already underway in government organizations to improve engagement and retain top talent despite nearly constant change. Our current government leaders have a very important role to play in keeping the momentum going and driving engagement scores back up and closing the gap between public and private sector engagement levels. In our report on Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector, we asked current government leaders about the biggest workforce challenges they’ll face because of change efforts. 54.4% of respondents felt change will have a negative impact on workforce morale. Translation: Employee engagement is at risk if efforts to support current employees in navigating change are handled poorly. Our respondents were even more concerned about increased workloads for employees and addressing critical skill gaps. When you look at these top three concerns, where should leaders put their attention to make sure employees stay engaged while participating in change efforts? Leaders should not lose focus on two key areas: Building a Diverse Team In addition to planned change efforts, issues like budget cuts, retirements, and changes in technology will undoubtedly create skills gaps and stretch the bandwidth of employees. As these changes occur, focus on building a diverse team so you maximize creativity, innovation, and the collective talents of employees. Diversity is often thought of in terms of visible attributes like age, race, gender, and ethnicity. It also includes dimensions such as individual personality, work styles, and educational experience. Government employees already do more with less but in order to establish a sustainable pace and foster resilience, you will need a team with complementary skills, strengths, and styles. Supporting Work-Life Fit Recognizing individual work styles is vital to organizational success. In an environment where you’ll need to ask more of your employees to achieve change, it’s critical for you to understand individual preferences around quality of life and where work fits into that equation. Schedule time with each employee to discuss how they want to balance life at work and life outside of work. Once you understand the individual preferences, work as a team to build a plan or schedule that maximizes everyone’s...

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Do You Have What You Need for Succession Planning?

Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Human Resources | 0 comments

Do You Have What You Need for Succession Planning?

31 percent of Federal employees will be eligible to retire by 2017. Succession planning is complex, though, and retirement is only part of the picture. Attrition comes from turnover, retirement, promotions, lateral movement, and any number of triggers that shape your workforce. To approach succession planning, here are some tools you need at hand in your organization: Workforce Plan A good workforce plan works in concert with your organization’s strategic plan. The strategic plan outlines the organization’s plan for growth, and the workforce plan outlines new capabilities needed and decline in demand for other capabilities. It’s critical to look on the horizon at pending legislation that can influence your workforce plan. The Senate recently passed a bill that would require new positions and functions in program management and performance standards. This could affect agencies’ staffing and skills gaps in addition to their work processes. Individual Development Plan Data Succession planning is critical for leadership positions, but it’s important to succession plan for technical positions, too. Too much transition out of technical roles—whether laterally into a different technical capacity or into a management or leadership capacity—can leave technical skill gaps that are costly and inefficient. Know where employees are tracking for their next role and plan for succession at every level in the organization. Retirement Data Know how much of your staff is eligible, and make the data as granular as you need it: some teams and organizations will have higher retirement eligibility than others, so know what’s specific to your team so you’re approaching succession management informed. Note that retirement-eligible does not necessarily mean that employees are guaranteed to retire—depending on their classification and status. Policy changes that incentivize or disincentivize retirement create shifts in how your workforce plans for retirement. If the Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act passes, agencies with GS-0083 employees may see higher retirement rates earlier than planned. Similarly, economic conditions may influence retirement-eligible employees’ decisions to stay if retirement is not required. Training Needs Data Use your organization’s competency map to highlight the top training needs for your team or organization. Management and HR should collaborate so that managers have input on their functional area’s needs, and HR can support needs strategically across the organization. For some agencies, training needs are critical at a technical level if you have a large workforce; others may want to focus on training needs that support an integrated leadership development approach. Whether in response to increased retirement rates or as part of consistent turnover, succession planning is an important process for HR and management to invest in. An effective succession planning process enables efficient hiring and employee development—making human capital management more cost-effective for the organization—and should be on every agency’s process improvement list....

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How Does Critical Thinking Inform Our Problem Solving?

Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

How Does Critical Thinking Inform Our Problem Solving?

In an increasingly complex world, the ability to think rationally and solve problems effectively is even more critical. In the modern workplace, we need to work effectively with others to solve problems. This requires working together to navigate different perspectives and collaborating to choose and implement the best, systematic solutions. This becomes particularly challenging with complex, and seemingly ambiguous, problems. Problem: Design the Perfect Team Take for example, designing the perfect team – one that works together cohesively to produce high-impact results. Is that really possible – is there a science to team construction? There are countless studies aimed at determining what makes a team effective. Should you balance introverts with extroverts? Is it better to have similar educational backgrounds? Do they need to have similar professional goals? Surely if there is a pattern, in this data-driven world we can find it, right? Framing the Problem Fortunately, Google, the algorithm master, has in fact tried to answer these very questions. Through the Aristotle Project, the tech giant took a look inwards to see if they could find the recipe for designing the perfect team. They applied the principles of critical thinking – beginning with an analytical, inquisitive, and systematic approach to framing the problem. They sifted through a decade of data they had collected on various aspects of its employees’ lives to analyze if the best teams were made up of like-minded individuals, with similar interests or personality types, or if it mattered more that they had similar hobbies, similar motivators, or departmental goals. Or was longevity of the team itself the key? Breaking through Perceptions After examining 180 teams from different parts of the company Dubey, the Aristotle Project leader admitted “we had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.” As they struggled with their pragmatic approach to find patterns, they called on another critical thinking skill and expanded their circle of knowledge to look at research by psychologists and sociologists that focused on group norms. Group norms can be thought of as the rules teams cultivate that enable success. Finding the Root Cause Through the refined lens of group norms, Google found that two important trends emerged: First, they found that on high performing teams, members spoke in roughly the same proportion. They called this “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking” and it boils down to each person having a chance to talk. Second, they found that high performing teams had what they call a high “average social sensitivity,” also known as emotional intelligence. The best teams were collectively good at identifying how others felt and providing the members “psychological safety.” Implementing the Solution Google sought to answer a specific problem—the composition of the perfect team. However, using an open-minded critical thinking approach focusing on data-driven results, Google was able to define (and ultimately address) the true problem at the core of team-building—how we can structure team interactions to achieve greater results. The Aristotle Project teaches us that critical thinking – thinking that is comprehensive, systematic, and traces the broad and deep implications of an issue – is what will give us a deeper understanding of our complex, ambiguous workplace problems. In...

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Federal Agencies: Still Do More with Less

Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Agencies: Still Do More with Less

Just last week I was doing some research for a project I’m working on when I came across this lead quote from a story in the Washington Post about the challenges facing the Federal government: “Now more than ever, Federal workers are being told that they will be expected to do “more with less” for the foreseeable future.” The article describes the steps many agencies are taking to increase efficiency and maintain critical citizen support functions in the face of shrinking budgets and fewer staff and it includes this line from an employee at the Department of Commerce: “If it were possible to do more with less, eventually we would be doing everything with nothing.” The article is from 2011. For more than half a decade Federal agencies have been challenged to meet increasing expectations for citizen services, improved citizen experience, and effective performance with declining resources. And the results from our survey captured in our report on Successful Change Management Practices in the Public Sector suggest that the trend will continue for at least the next three years. In fact, 85% of respondents from public sector organizations expect retaining talent to be a major driver of change over the next three years. However, 70% of those respondents also say they don’t anticipate negative impacts on productivity or performance due to shortages of talent, suggesting that those organizations have, indeed, discovered the secret to doing more with less. But, given the long period of time when Federal agencies have had to navigate the complexities that come with fewer resources but greater expectations, it’s not a stretch to believe many agencies may be approaching a breaking point. So, how can you avoid going over the edge and maintain productivity and performance with fewer resources? One key may be building organizational resilience. Resilience is the ability to effectively recover and thrive after facing stress, challenges, or adversity. Resilience is fostered by maintaining balance physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and by keeping a strategic view of the work of the organization. Here are a few tips for building resilience in your organization: Clarify goals, expectations, and priorities – When the organization is clear about where you are heading and has guidance to help in making difficult decisions on priority work, there’s less stress and uncertainty. Focus on the positive – Identify and put energy towards the things the organization has power to influence. Maintain awareness of outside influences and environmental conditions that may impact the work of the organization, but don’t dwell on things you can’t change. Be realistic – Communicate openly about the reality of the situation and what limitations exist. Set reasonable expectations, and be clear when impediments to success exist that may ultimately limit the ability to achieve goals. Take time to invest – Pay attention to what’s happening in your organization and do frequent “pulse checks” to detect changes and risks early. Ask questions, listen, and critically examine what you hear. By gathering valuable information about what the organization, and in particular its workforce needs to be successful, you can head off potential risks before they impact results. There’s clearly some fallacy built into the notion of asking agencies to do “more with less,” particularly after five (or more) years of the same mantra. But Federal agencies can...

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