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Collaboration Fridays: The Escape Room

High Performing Teamsby Fabiana Beltran

If you were stuck in a room with only a handful of clues and a team of your peers – would you be able to escape in under an hour? An indicator of a high-performing team (HPT) is its ability to effectively collaborate. Evans Incorporated (Evans) hosts a monthly “Collaboration Fridays” exercise where staff can come together to team-build and innovate in a fun and engaging way. On September 14, 2018, the Evans team created their own Escape Room. The group was equipped with a background story and a series of riddles that, when solved, pointed to clues that would unlock the door.

“Collaboration Fridays” was designed to provide Evans staff and leadership with hands-on opportunities to test the models they offer to their clients. Collaboration is a pillar of the High-Performing Teams archetype and the foundation for the human-centered solutions Evans delivers.

So, did the Evans team escape the room? Yes, with only minutes to spare, the group worked together to arrive at a winning solution. But how?

Communication and Knowledge Sharing

Once presented with the challenge, the seven-person team splintered off into pairs or singles to solve individual puzzles.

When a pair arrived at a potential solution, they circled back to alert and receive feedback/buy-in from the others. Members actively listened to one another, asked clarifying questions, and offered alternatives when disagreements arose. This allowed the group to incrementally build upon one another’s individual findings.

Dive In, Fail Fast

Resources were limited and were created by piecing together of fragmented information. As a result, trial and error was the name of the game. To arrive at an answer, individual members knew they had to share a theory that could be tested and potentially debunked. They learned to “dive in and fail fast” to brainstorm and effectively problem-solve.

Tracking and Reviewing

When the team identified a clue or new lead, they recorded it. This not only kept the group organized and focused but helped to create a roadmap for the final solution.

Connecting the Dots

The key to unlocking the Escape Room door was the team’s ability to find the pattern that lived within the various clues they found. This could only be done by augmenting one’s finding through the contribution of another. Each building block brought the group closer to the ultimate objective.

Takeaways

Following the exercise, the Evans team highlighted the benefits and potential pitfalls of using such a tool to enhance the client experience. They underscored the advantages for leadership training and found the experience, “…interesting to see how we all worked together.” Though not having a clear end goal was disorienting, the team stated they found it was easy to connect the dots when they communicated effectively. Ultimately, the group learned that success could only be achieved when they worked together. They acknowledged that any future victories could in large part be attributed to the solid foundation of trust and rapport cultivated by the talent at Evans Incorporated.

To learn more about the Evans human-centered approach to High Performing Teams, visit us at EvansIncorporated.com and be sure to fill out our contact form to learn more about our services.

Program Management Optimization to Improve Government Performance

By Richard Hudson, Senior Director of Client Services, Evans Incorporated and Jim Wright, Director of Business Development, Evans Incorporated

Program Management Optimization (PMO) is an essential ingredient in ensuring an organization achieves – even exceeds – the potential from its strategic programs, while also controlling costs, increasing overall efficiency, and ensuring overall success. When fully optimized, an organization’s programs should resemble a ‘well-oiled machine.’

In recent years, Program Management has been recognized for the unique discipline it is, along with the particular skill sets it requires. A recent mandate by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also now requires certain standards of Program Management be put in place and followed in government programs as a result of the recognition and appreciation of the significant benefits it delivers.

Here at Evans Incorporated, we put our own spin on our approach to Program Management Optimization. We start with a Program Management Assessment Tool (PMAT) to set a maturity baseline for an organization’s program(s) and prioritize key initiatives. Then, we proceed with the following to ensure a successful approach is in place from the get-go:

  • Ensure the organization has clear expectations on the role of their PMO and then training and equipping your project and program managers to be effective;
  • Understand an organization’s current maturity level and develop targeted action plans to address gaps in realizing desired maturity; and
  • Monitor progress towards achieving the PMO vision and updating your implementation plan based on a robust assessment of your alignment with stated requirements.

Visit our website for more information about our Program Management Optimization Services and expertise, and click here to access a recent whitepaper developed by our expert team.

Successful Program Management Requires Self-Aware Leaders

By Laura English

The nuances and complexities of Program Management can push and pull on leaders’ strengths and comfort zones.  The Government Executive article, “Program Management Is Much More Complex Than Many Leaders Understand” proposes that programs can holistically fall into four quadrants – Collaboration, Innovation, Results, and Control and thus leaders must consider the skills and strategies needed to support those approaches.  While knowing the category in which their program falls from a broad perspective is useful, leaders would also benefit from considering where their own personal strengths lie in these categories. Self-awareness is one of the key tenants for being a strong leader and it helps be able to build strategies to meet twists, turns and challenges of running programs.   If a leader finds that she is adept at collaboration, but the program needs a strong control approach, she would be well served to understand these differences and develop capacity either in herself or through building her team to complement her strengths.  Additionally, programs move through phases in each of the quadrants; for example, at the beginning stages of the program innovation and collaboration may be highly valued and once the program is launched results and control may be more valued.  One of the best ways to gain self-awareness and to expand growth-oriented approaches is through leadership coaching. 

Evans coaches support leaders and take a strength-based approach to helping them understand where they have the most impact as well as building strategies to deal with challenges.  The many areas in which leaders have found success with regard to coaching is creating personal development plans, building and empowering teams, engaging stakeholders, developing accountability tactics, and improving communication and employee engagement (to name a few).  Understanding the nuances of a program and understanding one’s own leadership nuances helps to develop an agile approach to meeting the complex needs of a program.

To learn more about the Evans human-centered approach to Program Management Optimization, visit us at EvansIncorporated.com and be sure to fill out our contact form to learn more about our services.

 

Evans Risk Management in Action

By Dawn Stevenson

It’s important for any program to have mechanisms for managing risk, but particularly a program that’s innovative and partnership-based, where responsibilities are shared. Evans can help!

In 2017 the government began launching an innovative program to create a tool automating certain requests for airspace access. The tool is reducing a large backlog of requests from when each was processed manually, reducing the workload of FAA and the time that requesters need to wait. It is a radical departure from prior, more typical systems in that it’s a partnership with industry: the government exchanges data with (approved) companies to process requests. Companies led solution development, testing, and implementation, which means significant cost savings for the government and faster progress on a solution. The rollout of this innovative approach is exciting, but also poses risks for the stakeholders involved.

Evans is working with the program team on program management, including Risk, Issue, and Opportunity (RIO) management support. The RIO process pro-actively identifies and manages risks and benefits from opportunities in the program. A Standard Operating Procedure defines the scope of the RIO Management work, and Evans supports trainings for stakeholders to help them understand their roles in the RIO management process and how each can contribute. Starting risk management support during the testing phase set up the program for more likely success as it rolls out to more users, because the program team can make informed decisions about technical elements, communications around rollout, and requirements for the companies with which government is partnering. Our RIO approach places a premium on expert facilitators and adept communicators, to ensure the program’s RIO process is driven by professionals consistently capable of helping competing perspectives and different roles work toward a common goal and make progress against both the risks and opportunities identified within the program.

Are you part of a program taking a unique approach? Don’t let the risks deter you, but do take risk seriously. Evans can help you manage risks and get the full benefit of opportunities to set you up for success. To learn more, register for our free webinar on August 28, Program Management Optimization – Do You Want to Fight or Prevent Fires?

Challenged by Delivering Projects Successfully – Have You Considered PMaaS?

By Richard Hudson, Senior Director Client Delivery

Many offerings these days are being provided as a service.  We have Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and even Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS)!  All the activities and products that can be performed more effectively and efficiently once they have been standardized can be provided as a service.  This includes Project Management as a Service (PMaaS).

Many organizations do not have the skills or the infrastructure to create a robust Project Management Office or manage a portfolio of projects or a large deployment.  Challenges Evans often hears voiced by our clients are:

  • Difficulty in maintaining staff continuity and disruptions caused by Project Manager (PM) turnover on projects
  • The cyclical nature of the demand for PMs and how various types of projects require different styles of management and domain expertise
  • The cost of investing in training to keep PMs current in leadership disciplines and tools
  • Maximizing PM focus on core work activities and minimizing focus on administrative support

Evans response to this is to offer PMaaS, applying talented and experienced Program/Project Management professionals with a comprehensive PM toolkit that offer efficiency and value-creation in successfully delivering your portfolio of strategic and large programs and projects.  Aspects of the Evans PMaaS include:

  • A ‘stacked staffing’ lifecycle PM model to minimize disruption
  • Evans PMaaS portfolio management to ensure our PMs fully understand the business drivers and can enable innovation, integration and quality control for delivery to approved milestones
  • Dedicated and experienced Project Analysts to execute administrative support duties in support of IT Capital lifecycle processes (e.g. Cloud, Advanced Analytics, etc.)
  • A pool of professional PMs with a diverse range of relevant domain experience
  • An onboarding process that includes partnering with an organization to ensure we maximize our efficiency with minimal transition time

The Evans PMaaS ensures consistency in application of PM best practices across multiple units within an organization along with accrued expertise through ongoing professional development/execution.

To learn more about the Evans human-centered approach to Program Management as a Service, visit us at EvansIncorporated.com and be sure to fill out our contact form to learn more about our services.

Managing Risk, The Evans Way

By Ryan Burke, PMP, RMP

Proactivity is an essential ingredient in an effective, impactful Risk Management strategy. Evans Risk Management (Evans RM) delivers a streamlined, customized approach that focuses on keeping clients one step ahead of potential issues at all times, through identifying any and all:

  • Risks
  • Certainties
  • Opportunities, as well as a real-time structure to process changes as they come up in order to keep clients on the path to success.

Additionally, Evans RM’s process involves creating a ‘Risk Positive Culture’ within its client’s organizations, comprised of a tailored risk management assessment and service overview that aligns with the clients’ overall priorities and strategic goals, and the teams collaborate to identify and prioritize ‘fears’ in order to meet them head-on if -and before- they happen.

The Evans RM difference is clear. We not only manage the risks within various levels of an organization, we work alongside our clients to identify and manage opportunities to improve the organization as a whole in the process. We focus on developing relationships with key stakeholders at all levels, maintaining open communication channels, and always asking the right questions to be sure we are always head of the game when it comes to potential risks and threats to increase lasting organizational growth and success.

To learn more about the Evans RM approach, and how we are bringing a tailored, streamlined, and impact-driven approach to help our clients manage their risk efficiently and proactively, we invite you to read our White Paper on Risk Management.

Program Management – One Size Does NOT Fit All

By Richard Hudson, Senior Director Client Delivery

The Government Accountability Office has long bemoaned the dearth of effective program management across government, and concluded that “institutionalizing the discipline of program management across the federal government should be a top priority.” This led to the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act, which was signed into law at the end of 2016.  The Act, along with associated implementation guidance, seeks to create an integrated approach to program management, establish a professional program management community, and clarify roles and responsibilities. The Act also requires agencies to develop specific implementation plans, starting in July 2018.

But before an agency gets too deep into the specifics of management competencies, roles and standards, and the establishment of a Program Management Office (PMO) to support delivery and implementation, we believe it is critical to define what the agency wants to achieve, and what is realistic based on what’s already in place and the types of programs the agency manages.  Some of the basics to consider are:

  • What is the agency’s timeline for improvement?
  • Which pain points must be addressed regarding project / program / portfolio execution?
  • What role does the agency envision for its Program Management Office (PMO)? Specifically, is the PMO simply to be a resource for tools, processes, and best practices (i.e., “support”), a standards-setting and enforcing organization (i.e., “control”), or the organization that actually performs program execution (i.e., “directing”)?
  • What maturity level does the Agency wish to achieve for the standard process areas of program management?

Evans has both the experience and expertise to help agencies establish their visions for program management improvement and offers a Program Management Assessment Tool that can be used to establish an agency’s program management maturity baseline, representing its current practice, and then to prioritize initiatives for moving towards the agency’s vision.  This assessment is usually repeated every 6-12 months to monitor progress and re-prioritize so that the agency can be confident of realizing the desired outcomes.

To learn more about the Evans human-centered approach to Program Management Assessment, visit us at EvansIncorporated.com and be sure to fill out our contact form to learn more about our services.

Developing A Positive Risk Culture

By Ryan Burke, PMP, RMP

One surefire way to derail a highly-functioning risk management process is by creating or enabling a negative risk culture within your organization. Upon beginning a project, one of the first steps that should be taken is to conduct a risk culture analysis to identify the most prevalent type of risk attitude within the project team. Often times multiple risk attitudes will be present.  It is the responsibility of the Risk Manager and the Project Manager to create a positive risk culture within the project that sees risk management as a tool that will increase the likelihood of achieving project objectives, rather than a sign of a poorly managed project.

When conducting the risk culture analysis, the key stakeholders within the project will be placed within one of the following risk attitudes:

Risk Averse – Not comfortable in dealing with risk. Will take steps to avoid risk rather than deal with developing unique mitigations. This can lead to cost and schedule delays as project plans are changed to avoid risk.

Risk Taking – Very comfortable in dealing with risk.  Will often seek out risks based on the opportunity that they present. Excessive optimism about risks can often lead to negative impacts as the project takes on too much risk, or does not properly managed the mitigations.

Risk Neutral – Neither risk averse nor risk taking. Instead, this person will deal with risks in a methodical, objective, and unique way. Often using tools such as Earned Value Management, Schedule Analysis, and Decision Trees as a way of making an informed decision. This is the preferred risk attitude.

Risk Tolerant – Will often ignore risks until they become a larger issue. Very comfortable in dealing with risks but tend to downplay the importance of risk management throughout the lifecycle of a project, which leads to headaches when dealing with larger issues that were previously ignored.

When conducting a risk culture analysis, it is important to remember that the risk mentality of the group can often differ from that of the individuals.  Risk culture should be managed and assessed throughout the lifecycle of the project to ensure that proper risk attitude and culture is leading to the successful completion of project objectives.

To learn more about the Evans’ human-centered approach to portfolio risk management, visit us at EvansIncorporated.com and be sure to fill out our contact form to learn more about our services.

Creating a Portfolio of Success

By Ryan Burke, PMP, RMP

When examining ways to increase the successfulness of an organization, one approach is to incorporate a top-down risk management process throughout a group of portfolios. A portfolio should include similar programs or projects, and each should be working towards a combined goal or set of objectives that is managed at the portfolio level. Once the portfolio of programs has been established, the first step in achieving success is to develop a list of fears and aspirations (what keeps you up at night and what would you like to achieve?). This list will ultimately lead to the development of overall portfolio risks and objectives.

Once the prioritized list of risks and objectives has been established, we can begin to break down each objective into its subtasks.  We will begin to identify the requirements of each subtask and which program within the portfolio is ultimately responsible for completion of these tasks.  If we properly analyze the requirements of each subtask responsible for the completion of a portfolio objective, we can also identify the gaps and areas of risk that lies within these tasks.  Upon completion of the subtask risk analysis, the portfolio level should have an accurate list of risks to the completion of each major objective. These risks will be filtered down to the program level for management and mitigation.

The end state of this process is to mitigate as many sub-task risks as possible and develop new internal controls along the way.  With each successful risk mitigation, the overall portfolio objectives are that much closer to being successfully completed. If all involved in this process are diligent in their approach to risk mitigation and committed to the communication of shared risks, the overall success of the portfolio will be greatly increased.

To learn more about the Evans’ human-centered approach to portfolio risk management, visit us at EvansIncorporated.com and be sure to fill out our contact form to learn more about our services.

 

The Partnership Between Risk Management and Earned Value Management

By Ryan Burke, PMP, RMP

In a previous blog, the importance of accurate cost estimating for a project was stated. Once a cost baseline has been established, the continuous monitoring piece comes into play and is just as, if not more important than establishing an accurate baseline. Keeping track of a project’s cost, schedule and risks can go a long way in increasing the ability of that project to complete on time and on budget. By utilizing a proactive risk management and earned value management solution, a project’s cost performance can be accurately estimated from the beginning and tracked throughout its lifecycle to greatly increase the chances that the project achieves its goals and objectives.

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