Standardization in Project Management: 4 Reasons Why You Need It (Even If Not Everyone Wants It)

Recently, one of our team members sampled various versions of pasta carbonara all across Italy. Know what he found? Standardization is a good thing, whether it’s in project management or in a series of meals overseas.

Pasta carbonara was around long before the post-World War II rumor of its origins. That means it tastes best with Italian cuts of pork — guanciale and pancetta top the list. Not that it doesn’t taste heavenly with American-style bacon. Our intrepid taster found that so long as the chefs covered the basics — pork, pasta, egg yolks, freshly cracked pepper, and both sheep’s and cow’s cheeses — it turned out to be a tasty dish.

But the further chefs strayed from these basics, the less satisfying the dish became. The more egg-heavy the sauce, the better. Just one kind of cheese meant the dish had less depth. So-so pork made for so-so flavor.

To Resist Is Human

Why couldn’t they stick to the tried-and-true version of this ancient dish? Why is it so difficult to let a classic speak for itself? Because people have an irresistible desire to tinker with things, to try to improve them through trial and error. 

We resist standardization because we want to make something our own. 

We see this all the time in project management: multiple people trying to solve the same problem in their individual bubbles and using different approaches to communicate what they’re doing. 

Unchecked, it becomes…less than ideal. (Like being served penne with a white sauce instead of carbonara. It kinda looks the same but falls far short of your expectations.)

Creating and sticking to standards is an important way to keep everyone on track so they can make the best version of the thing, together, that they possibly can.

Standards Exist For A Reason

Standardization in project management is difficult to achieve and difficult to adhere to over time. But it’s essential to project management. It’s the best way to create a structure that supports the project sponsors and team members, to set and follow through on expectations, to aid transitions, and to reduce learning curves. 

Here are several reasons why standardization in project management is non-negotiable.

It’s Consistent For Your Team

Using the same tools, templates, and systems across teams ensures that coworkers can communicate and build on each other’s ideas without unnecessary roadblocks.

It Creates A Reliable Experience For Your Client

Standardization sets expectations. When a client or sponsor interacts with members of a project team that is adhering to standardized practices, they will be able to depend on having a similar experience each and every time. The ability to have a consistent experience, no matter who they’re interfacing with, will lead to more fruitful work and a better overall perception of the project.

It Makes For Quicker Onboarding And Transitions

Don’t make it harder on new employees or team members than it needs to be. Standardizing your project systems makes everything simpler to interact with — more viewable, understandable, and usable for everyone. This means new employees or team members can ramp up with fewer friction points and learn more quickly.

Sharing Leads To Success

Shared systems prevent unnecessary siloing. They also encourage collaboration and cooperative continuous improvement. When everyone is speaking the same language — or, as we might say here, working from the same recipe — it sets up a future of (delicious) success.

Let’s Talk Business Agility Transformation

How to make your work even better

The concept of business agility has been around for decades. It’s the child of Agile development, lean manufacturing, and the rapid pace of technological advancement in the 21st century. 

This year we began to get curious about the application of Agile development to business management so we started using Agile tactics to rapidly adapt to market changes and internal growth. 

We needed to get &%$# done — and we did! 

Feeling confident, we  gave a presentation to the IPMA forum in Olympia. Frankly, it didn’t go very well. We didn’t explain it sufficiently and got some blunt audience feedback. Luckily, they didn’t throw anything. We knew we could do better. Which is, ironically, the thing that made us want business agility transformation in the first place. 

So. Let’s try this again.

We started experimenting with Agile-driven business agility because five years into building our business left us overwhelmed by daily work. The success of FirstRule led to soul-crushing hours spent running the business (time reporting, generating invoices, orchestrating payroll, and dominating our social media presence) and not even close to enough time on transforming or automating our business. 

Our resident Agile expert, Hope Youngs, guided us through a new process we call “The Work.” Here’s what it looks like.

Declare your North Star 

Believe it or not, we didn’t have a clear vision, mission, goals, or priorities. So we planned and conducted a strategy session to select our organizational goals and objectives and affirm our business model. 

We’re lucky. Our team is culturally aligned. We have strong values and an appetite for growth. Now these shared attributes are codified and memorialized.  

How can you discover and declare your organization’s North Star? 

Bring your people together and ask:

  • Can you align your work with company objectives?
  • How do you identify the biggest barriers your team faces in meeting your agency’s objectives?
  • Do you know what’s in your service catalog? 

Develop A Roadmap

We needed a roadmap to communicate our vision and lay the groundwork for a cultural shift. We also needed to empower employees to make decisions, experiment, and learn from our failures.

 

We used the roadmap as our North Star to create Agile teams and encourage  self-organization and ownership for defining the tactics to fulfill the roadmap.

Does your organization need a roadmap? 

Ask:

  • Do you put up with inconvenient workarounds? 
  • Do you ever feel like there’s no time to explore new ways of doing things? 
  • Do you feel frustrated by your ability to keep pace with the demands placed on your team? 

If you answered yes to these (we did), then, yes. You need a roadmap.

Once you have one, you’ll have a simpler way to create a prioritized list of work that:

  • Identifies and visualizes your organization’s future state.
  • Is guided by your vision, mission, and goals.
  • Accounts for constraints.
  • Is prioritized within a framework that brings the organization closest to achieving its goals in a measured and reliable delivery cadence.
  • Encourages experimentation and innovation. 

Start Sprinting 

Based on the roadmap, we created an Agile backlog in Monday.com and designed a workflow for reviewing, prioritizing, and evaluating interim deliverables. Our structure called for two-week sprints and for breaking down tasks into mini-deliverables with more frequent team feedback to assist with iterative development. 

From here, we watched the magic start to happen: 

  • Teams self-organized into temporary working groups. 
  • Problem-solving became a team sport. 
  • Transparency led to collaboration and group prioritization. 

Voila!

Measure And Adapt 

We adopted a few KPIs to measure our effectiveness. We celebrated our ability to make data-driven decisions. We cheered when we could pivot and make changes based on feedback and performance data. 

Our biggest win was breaking down work into deliverables that operational staff could work on in addition to their regular client-facing or operational responsibilities. 

Now that we perform these rituals regularly, we see the real wins: 

  • We use intentionality and purpose to define how our team serves our clients. 
  • We carve out time to address operational obstacles.

We wanted to grow our business and to do it better. Making the right changes required us to become grounded in a well-articulated mission with aligned objectives, a clear product and service model, a roadmap, and a structure that frees us to be truly collaborative. 

We encourage you to do the same! Once you use a business agility model to transform your systems, you’ll have a foundation upon which to improve or automate your core workflows and experiment. 

Learning how to do The Work helped us see business agility as a framework for innovation, collaboration, and transformation. It’s exciting to prioritize together, form ad hoc teams to tackle a challenge, and decide as a group what to do — and not to do.

Our journey toward a business agility transformation is permitting us to respond to change faster and with more coordination than we did in the past. 

Today, our organization is thriving with cross-functional collaboration.

  • We adopted iterative work processes, we deliver incrementally, and we  cooperatively commit to building our product and service offering.
  • We’re fostering shared accountability and transparency to drive operational maturity.
  • We’re reevaluating and learning how to adapt to changing priorities while continuing to deliver to our clients.
  • As new ideas surface, we’re embracing an action-oriented way to drive results.
  • We’re establishing a rhythm of business to measure and share our wins.

It’s allowing us to continuously improve and to keep our team feeling more empowered and more efficient. And that creates value far beyond the deliverables themselves. 

What’s Happening With The Agile Delivery Model In Washington State?

In 2023, the Washington State legislature passed new project requirements based on a continuous Agile delivery model for publicly funded projects. Senator Joe Nguyen of the 34th legislative district wrote Section 701, the special appropriations language for the current operations budget (ESSB 5187). 

When we talked with him recently, he said he initiated this work because he wants to see projects delivered on time and on budget with usable, concrete deliverables rolled out along the way. 

“Progress is better than perfection in this case,” he says. “[I want agencies to] move away from a waterfall mentality. I want [to see people] do their jobs, do them well, and stay under budget. Don’t shrink back. Give me a plan and adhere to that plan.” 

The requirements, which are enumerated in Section 701, are complex and challenging for a lot of professionals to navigate because they use different tools and different approaches than the ones many PMs have used over the course of their careers.

But we’re here to tell you that it’s not impossible. In fact, we’re embracing the Section 701 funding model because, from experience, we have been able to be more productive and effective when we lean into the new best practices rather than away from them. As one of our consultants put it, Section 701 requirements have been ”a helper, not a hammer.” 

When we approach the projects in this way, we’ve been able to work more closely with the agency and the State of Washington to move toward “continuous delivery” of code. This was designed to help ensure that projects move forward steadily, something we can all get behind. 

FirstRule Group is not only familiar with Section 701 requirements, we are currently managing projects subject to this regulation and have successfully completed projects in compliance with this proven framework. In fact, our firm was the first out of the gate when these requirements were approved and  we’re well-positioned to help agencies adapt to these challenging expectations. This represents a significant change for organizations used to a Waterfall model.

What Does Section 701 Require For Public-Sector Projects?

Section 701 requires: 

  • Agile development methodology with a live system demonstration every two weeks.
  • Production deployment within 180 days of the signed contract.
  • Key project functions that are deemed critical must be retained by state personnel and not outsourced. 

What Other Changes Does Section 701 Make?

Section 701 makes changes to the requirements for both project technical budgets and investment plans. It also establishes new requirements for projects over $2 million.

Technical Budgets

Section 701 cleans up the technology budget approval process. Funding “gates” must include ways the project is putting functioning software into production in a way that addresses user needs and how the project is in compliance with the quality assurance plan. They must also meet a defined set of industry best practices for code quality.

It elaborates on expectations around staffing levels in the tech budget. For instance, key project functions that are deemed “critical” must be retained by state personnel and not outsourced, to ensure that knowledge is retained within state government and that the state can self-sufficiently support the system and make improvements without long-term dependence on a vendor.

It also specifies that a deliverables list must include software demonstration dates.

Investment Plans

Section 701 removes the requirement for an investment plan in some cases and replaces it with a requirement to have a project charter. It adds requirements to show staffing levels in the charter and to add a project roadmap that includes problems the team is solving and the sequence in which the team intends to take on those problems. The roadmap must be periodically updated to reflect learnings.

If the state does require an investment plan for a particular project, that plan must be developed in collaboration with the Department of Enterprise Services. It must define the circumstances under which the vendor will be terminated or replaced and establish the process by which the agency will transition to a new vendor with a minimal reduction in project productivity.

New Requirements For Projects Of $2 Million Or More

Larger projects must use an Agile delivery model. The OCIO may require both quality assurance and independent validation and verification.  At the end of every two-week sprint, projects must hold live demonstrations of functioning software that are developed using incremental user research and feedback. 

The project solution must be capable of being continually updated and be actually updated — natch!

Within 180 days from the date of an executed procurement contract in response to a competitive request for proposal, the agency and project must deploy usable functionality into production for user review. 

Finally, the OCIO must evaluate the project at each stage and certify that the project is putting functioning software into production that addresses user needs, is projected to be completed within budget, is in compliance with the quality assurance plan, and meets a defined set of industry best practices for code quality.

Conclusion 

Though agile delivery is not new, this new regulation has been challenging for some teams to adopt. 

Project Managers have had to adapt to new processes and this is generally good for the profession. FirstRule has enjoyed this transformation, from Waterfall to Agile, and appreciates the opportunity to teach, practice, and coach teams toward continuous delivery. 

“I just want to see your work and see it early,” Nguyen says, adding that if people think of ways that agencies can work smarter, legislators would like to hear about it.

Gathering Input For Effective, Meaningful Change: A Co-Design Framework Could Help Transform Your Process

It’s sometimes necessary to gather input as part of a project. If you need to solicit feedback from people who have interacted with the system you’re attempting to change, it’s important to do it in a way that’s respectful of contributors and that yields useful information for your team.

But, often, listening sessions and other data-gathering efforts are not as effective as they could be. That’s because they may not a) center the needs of the participants or b) be part of a wider effort to involve the people who will be most affected by the outcomes. A co-design framework is one way to address these shortcomings and create lasting positive outcomes.

What Is Co-Design?

Co-design simply means that the design process centers on the experiences and needs of the people who will be most deeply affected by a change.

According to the website and book Beyond Sticky Notes, co-design (or participatory design) is a way to design with, not for. It “brings together lived experience, lived expertise and professional experience to learn from each other and make things better…”

Design for Europe notes that the approach “goes beyond consultation by building and deepening equal collaboration between citizens affected by, or attempting to, resolve a particular challenge. A key tenet of co-design is that users, as ‘experts’ of their own experience, become central to the design process.”

When using a co-design framework, lived-experience experts contribute throughout the entire design process by courageously sharing their stories and experiences and by giving feedback that helps shape the design process and the final product. The work is, as our consultant Joanna Briese puts it, “client-centered instead of deadline-centered.” 

As a firm, we’re committed to building personal connections and to attentive listening, so we resonate with the co-design framework and its focus on deep, shared collaboration among all contributors. It’s not the only way to design  engagement, but it’s a powerful way to manage projects with heart and something worth striving toward. 

What Are The Benefits Of A Co-Design Framework?

Practitioners and researchers have noted a number of high-impact benefits to co-design. Co-design facilitates, among other things:

  • Generation of better, more original ideas.
  • A more accurate picture of user needs.
  • More successful innovations.
  • Increases buy-in and a firm or agency’s credibility. 
  • Higher-quality products or services.
  • Lower development costs.
  • More efficient decision making.

How Does Co-Design Work?

At the core of the co-design process is a collection of six mindsets that all contributors are encouraged to practice throughout the design process: elevating lived experience, practicing curiosity, offering hospitality, being “in the gray,” learning through doing, and valuing many perspectives.

During the co-design process, contributors build conditions, align with one another, participate in discovery, come up with the particulars of the design, test and refine, and, finally, implement and learn. The focus is on co-creating the design together forthe good of the end user.

Co-design is an active design model. Because it centers members of the public, everything from listening sessions to feedback is created to accommodate them. 

Lived-experience experts are compensated for their time, invited to contribute during times and in places that are convenient for them, and provided with professional services that make it possible for them to contribute fully, such as child care,  translation, or oral interpretation during listening sessions. If they will be sharing sensitive past experiences, as may be the case in social services settings, sessions are thoughtfully designed to avoid re-traumatizing participants. 

Further, an intentional feedback loop is implemented to help ensure that participants understand the impact of their sharing. They receive updates and explanations in a timely manner and in ways that respect their input, express gratitude, and clearly show the ways their contributions are being put into practice.

Co-Design Takes Time

Using a co-design framework is a robust, effective way to enact change. It also takes time. If you want to implement these processes, it’s best to do so from the very beginning of your project to allow time for mindful planning.

It will take time to plan, time to follow-up with participants, and time to weave learnings from all contributors together into an effective design that leverages the knowledge of end users and the public in order to make things better for everyone. 

Sources:

Benefits of Co-design in Service Design Projects, International Journal of Design

Beyond Sticky Notes

Design for Europe

How Does Leadership Influence Project Management?

Excellent leadership in project management centers on one thing: whether or not you’re able to be a catalyzing project leader.

A catalyzing leader adds value by applying a sharp eye to details, perfecting and employing a wide set of skills, and using years of experience to develop informed opinions, and understanding how to guide teams to achieve better outcomes. 

You know who isn’t a catalyzing leader? The type of project manager we refer to as “Binder Bob.” Bob shows up with a trusty checklist and starts handing out assignments. He’s organized. He’s been doing this a long time. He gets the job done.

The question is, what’s the job? 

If the job is to tick boxes so you can move from using System A to System B, then Bob might be your guy.

But if the job is to deeply assess the work you’re doing now and lead a positive, transformational change in your organization — think of it as moving from System A to System XYZ — you need a true project leader.

Here’s What Catalyzing Leadership In Project Management Means For Project Success

Part of a catalyzing project leader’s process is to help the project team figure out what their work is, not just how to implement that work. It’s their job to ask questions and to keep your team from jumping too quickly into work you assume is next, work that’s simply a repeat of a standard or rote process.

A catalyzing project leader is there to support your team, come up with innovative ideas to solve problems, and take advantage of risk and opportunity.

Supporting Your Project Team

The Binder Bobs of the world swoop in after a plan is in place and walk the team through a process to get tasks done. 

A catalyzing leader offers support from the very beginning of the process, during the planning stage. They start by pulling in key members of your team to help shape the plan itself. 

If the project team is not involved in the planning, it makes it hard for them to buy in. If they don’t see — and have influence over — the plan, then the tasks they’re being asked to do become to-do items that are disconnected from their daily work and hold little meaning for them. 

A catalyzing leader helps teams see how their work fits in with the rest of the scope of the  project, how it will help achieve the ultimate end goal, and even how it will benefit team members individually. Getting and keeping team members engaged is crucial to success. A catalyzing project leader  will get to know team members during this process, finding out what they like and don’t like and where each member’s strengths lie. They will also use this time to build rapport.

Developing Innovative Ideas To Solve Problems

Project management should not be a rote procedure you start up again every time you initiate a project. You should have higher expectations of your project leaders. 

The best solutions require stretching your team — and, sometimes, your entire organization — to do things you haven’t done before in service of better, more efficient work.

A catalyzing project leader will use planning meetings with the team to come up with innovative ideas together. She knows what questions to ask, how to listen with care, and how to combine various ideas into implementable solutions.

Communicating Risk

As much as we may try to glamorize risk, the truth is that many project leaders try to avoid it.

But risk isn’t something that should always be avoided. It’s not bad news. It just is. Recognizing and talking about it openly is part of any healthy change process.

A great project leader will find a way to make risk management about opportunity. Some sponsors we’ve worked with in the past, for example, didn’t want to hear anything that could potentially be perceived as bad news. Our catalyst project leaders know that if such an influential stakeholder (a sponsor) is resistant to having these conversations, it’s important to have them anyway and we work hard to train our sponsors to embrace risk planning.

Our project leaders also know how to frame risk in terms that team members and other stakeholders can appreciate. How will the action the project leader is recommending help? If you opt not to mitigate a risk, what are the consequences? We, like other catalyzing leaders, know how to frame a problem, its solution, and its outcomes so they resonate.

Our Big Why

Why do we love catalyst leaders? 

First, because it’s more effective. Lasting change happens when you break out of the project-by-checklist mode and embrace new ways of thinking. This is how you win the gratitude of your clients, because a long-aggrieved process is now workable and more responsive. It’s how you improve workforce productivity or increase compliance. Catalyzing project leaders are transformative.  

But we also do this work because it’s more fun. A great approach gives team members an opportunity to make a positive and lasting contribution to the way your organization operates. An inclusive project also nurtures the people involved by asking for their input and then helping them implement ideas they helped shape. At its best, change should be a journey along a path that allows your team an opportunity to be creative, intentional, and proud of the outcomes.

Why Hire A Project Management Consultant? For Their Opinion? Or For Their Support?

Imagine this: You’re a consultant and you’re in a high-stakes meeting. After a long discussion about a particular aspect of the project you were hired to consult on, someone looks at you and asks, “What do you think?”

You know what you think and what you want to say. You also know what your client, who’s also in the meeting and looking at you expectantly, wants you to say. And you know that their thoughts and yours are in conflict. 

What do you do? Say what you think or back up your client?

Daisye Orr, consultant and creative strategist with our firm, says the answer isn’t always clear. After all, she notes, the reason why an agency hires a project management consultant differs from project to project and from organization to organization. 

In her experience, organizations are looking for one of two types of consultants: an Advocate or an Innovator. 

The Advocate

The Advocate is the type of consultant you hire for their discrete skills to accomplish a well-planned or clearly defined scope of work. Maybe you were just given a big project to sponsor but you need someone to maintain your existing operational portfolio and keep your strategic priorities on schedule. Or maybe the new project could benefit from a full-time, dedicated consultant, freeing you up to focus elsewhere. 

Advocates are excellent if you need to fill a clear gap and get work done. They excel at one or more mature processes, whether it’s strategic planning, system implementation, or an organizational change management challenge. Advocates are also excellent in an emergency because they can cover your responsibilities if you need to disengage for a period of time. Advocates are professionals you engage to deliver on specific organizational priorities and goals. They have your back.  

This kind of consultant brings a get-it-done work style and attitude. Often you trust them to speak for you — and not to challenge you at every turn. They fit in, adapting so well to your environment that you forget they’re consultants. 

When asked, “What do you think?” the Advocate will speak for the project or speak for you. They will present critical or instructive feedback to you offline. 

The Innovator

The Innovator is the consultant you hire for their expertise and creativity. 

They relish making suggestions, regardless of the status quo, internal politics, or strongly held opinions. Innovators are valuable because they provide you with an experienced outside perspective. Sometimes they enjoy playing the devil’s advocate. 

When you hire a consultant from outside your organization, you’re hiring both their expertise and their neutrality. Innovators have been through many projects before and can clearly see possible paths and pitfalls.

An innovative consultant operates from a place of objectivity and perspective. While they may have skills and knowledge that your organization already possesses, here’s what they have that no one else in your organization does: distance. You hire an innovative consultant because they’re not embedded in your organization. You get full value from this type of consultant because they can be objective and challenge ideas. In fact, their objectivity allows you to be fully loyal to your bigger vision. 

When asked, “What do you think?” the Innovator will share the wisdom of their experience or challenge the status quo. 

“As a person, I have a strong loyalty value,” Orr says, “but I also have a truth-telling value. My job is to do what the client needs. But as a consultant, you’re making better use of my time and skills if you ask me to be objective.”

Now. How do you determine which type of consultant you need?

Ask Deep Questions, Define Your Expectations

Before signing a contract with a business consultant, it’s important for both the organization and the consulting firm to communicate clearly about not only what the consultant will be doing but how they’ll be doing it. 

If you’re in charge of bringing in a consultant to manage a project or support your team, it’s important to check in with your team first about the purpose of the contractor.

Problem assessment. Is the problem statement for your proposed scope complex? Does it involve a tactical challenge or attempt to change an entire system? What deliverables are you looking for? Are those deliverables well-understood and defined? If you want to examine multiple solution alternatives, you may want an Innovator. Straightforward projects with everyday challenges can be tackled by a seasoned Advocate.

Scenario testing. Picture your team in the middle of the project. Something is going wrong. Do you want to know exactly what’s happening? Or do you want someone to act as your agent  and do what you need in the moment? Do you want alternatives? Or do you have a clear idea about what you want to have happen? If you want a changemaker who has new ideas about how to approach a problem, you’re looking for an Innovator. If you need to get through this project without opening up a can of worms, you’re looking for an Advocate.

Outside factors. Does your organization need to comply with a very particular process or expectations due to a legislative mandate or grant funding? Your consultant needs to understand this and be aware of what role they play. If you need someone to help pay attention to details and check off requirements, your consultant can play more of a supporting role.

Expectations for outcomes. Spend time clarifying what kinds of outcomes you expect from the engagement. If you have an outcome in mind but you don’t know how to get there, an innovator will be more effective. Determine how open you are to different ideas. If you’re more open, ask for an innovative consultant. If you need someone to comply with guidelines and get the work done, ask for someone tactical.  

Picture It On A Map

If you still aren’t sure what you want out of a consultant, ask your team this question: Do you know the exact place you want to go? 

If your answer is “We don’t know where we want to go, but we can’t stay here,” you need an innovative consultant.

If your answer is, “We know where we want to go and we know how to get there,” you need a consultant who will support you and back you up.

Either way, there’s a consultant for you. How you answer the questions posed here will help us give you the right answer when you ask one of us: “What do you think?” 

Our Women-Owned Project Management Firm Started With A Culture Of Excellence, Newness, And “Yes”

Back in 2019, our founders had a Big Conversation.

Together, we had decades of experience as women in project management, consulting, and change enablement. We had big ideas about how to do our work even more effectively — and have more fun while doing it. 

We decided that if we started something new, and did it ourselves, we could create something really special. And all signs indicate that we have.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day — and of women entrepreneurs everywhere — here are the Big Reasons we started FirstRule Group. 

They guided us then. They guide us now. And we believe they’ll continue to guide us as we grow and continue to serve.

We call these Big Ideas “The Sauce.” We wanted to:

Say yes more often.

Instead of “I don’t know…maybe” or “let me check the data” or “let’s take that up in the next meeting,” we wanted to lead with enthusiasm. Bold Action is one of our core values. We ask: what can we do to make it happen? If someone needs something done and we can do it, we feel called to help. “Hell, yes!” is our motto. 

Provide a safe and encouraging workplace for people and honor our time together as sacred, inclusive, and rejuvenating.

Project teams shouldn’t be groups of automatons, fulfilling requirements that no one understands or cares about. Our time together should reflect the importance of the task. And if the task doesn’t strike anyone as worthwhile, we find meaning in other ways: in service, in dedication, in the value of a job well done. We should be excited to work together, confident about the possibilities, and positive about what our work will mean for the future of our clients. Endowing our efforts with meaning requires mindful contemplation and acceptance of what is – and that effort is always worthwhile. 

Try new things and create new possibilities.

We believe effective work is generative, creative, and fruitful. And we believe that only happens when we tap the expertise of everyone on the team. We recently led our team through a comprehensive assessment of our current state so that we could create our first-ever mission, vision and culture statements. We received some positive reactions, but we received even more feedback that we would classify as “here’s how you can make this better.” The volume of authentic, candid feedback tells us that our team is invested in our success and the possibility of a truly Great Place to Work. 

Support ourselves with our own wits and help other humans do the same.

One of the reasons we created FirstRule is that we wanted to work in a variety of industries and organizations. We had been healthcare consultants, with deep specialization in electronic health records, revenue cycle operations, and information technology. While we’re fond of our healthcare roots, practicality demands that we explore new vistas. We have done transformational work in elections, law enforcement, natural resources, recreation, conservation, ecology and more. We learned to learn. We built a team with diverse experience and the ability to easily acquire skills and expertise. We believe in our own big brains and big hearts as foundational components of our excellence. 

Promote the idea of the “FirstRule Way” which codifies and encourages the value of excellence, of going above and beyond — and leaving a place better than we found it.

We have a growth mindset around here. The FirstRule Way emerged after a few years of struggling to find our identity. We had some respectable competition in our target markets and desperately wanted to build a brand that really differentiated us. We found it: The FirstRule Way is a mindset that motivates us to always go “above and beyond.” Going above and beyond means more than “under promise and over deliver,” it demands that our consultants engage a concept called Extreme Ownership to become attuned to our clients’ and our own needs and desires.  

Provide clients with a new experience that of being served and cared for by a team of really bright, caring humans.

The concept of Extreme Ownership was created by a couple of former Navy SEAL officers but we heard about it from our former Marine, Jairus Rice. Jairus embodies this concept and it goes a long way toward providing our clients with the experience of being served and cared for. One of Jairus’ clients said: “He gives me exactly what I need – inputs that help me make the best decision.” While our goal has always been to exceed our clients expectations, we wanted this experience to feel new and somehow unique. When was the last time a client said you delivered “exactly what they need?” Extreme Ownership provides a framework. Of course, it works really well when you’ve got ONE focus, but when you combine that focus with self-care, marriage, kids and mortgages, it gets harder. We train folks to fill their own cup first so they can give with extreme ownership. 

We’re pretty damn proud of the work we’ve done, the talent we’ve attracted, and the culture we’ve built. We can’t wait to see how these ideas play out over the next year and into the future!

Workforce Upskilling: How To Train and Retain Your Best — And Most Skilled — Employees

Finding and keeping workers is the topic of the moment. As an employer, how can you help ensure that workers stay with your organization? What steps can you take to increase job satisfaction? And how do you do all of this just as AI is disrupting work as we know it? Workforce upskilling can help.

Since the pandemic, employees have looked for work that’s better, all the way around: well-paid, mentally stimulating, upwardly mobile, and emotionally satisfying. According to The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, something called The Great Reshuffle followed the high quit rates of The Great Resignation and is now driving employee demand for more from their workplaces. The reshuffle is a widespread worker transition “to other jobs in search of an improved work-life balance and flexibility, increased compensation, or a strong company culture.” Workforce upskilling is one way to provide your best employees the work experience they’re looking for and retain their skills for your organization.

The Importance Of Intention

Ben Robinson, one of our most experienced management consultants, says one thing comes up over and over again with clients: the need to significantly boost their retention efforts. What they’re doing just isn’t enough. 

“We’re heading into a period when five or ten percent tweaks aren’t enough,” he says. “No one knows how AI is going to pan out. No one knows [exactly what the future landscape will look like]. We need to do more than send out an occasional article to the team or pay for someone to attend another accounting conference. We need to be able to take on deeper issues.”

In his opinion, employers don’t have a choice. It’s difficult to hire people in the first place and difficult to replace workers if they leave. At the same time, an underutilization of continuing education dollars is common in state government; often, funds aren’t used until the very last minute. This is indicative of a weak program, especially in a time of transition, like this one. 

Instead of passively offering skills training, employers need to be proactive by setting up regular training modules that can shepherd workers along a satisfying career path. One of the most positive trends he’s seen is the rollout of bite-sized skills training modules in, say, six-month increments. This makes training feel more doable for employees and makes it simpler for employers to pivot as the landscape changes. 

What Kinds Of Upskilling Should You Support?

We believe the most valuable kind of workforce upskilling focuses on soft skills particularly those in leadership. 

Soft Skills

Often, upskilling focuses on increasing technical abilities. This is important, of course. It’s imperative to address the widening skills gap. According to Everything DiSC, “Whether it is a less engaged workforce or lost productivity, the detrimental effects of skills gaps can add up quickly.”

But even they reported in a recent publication that “Upskilling and reskilling your people, while looking beyond traditional qualifications like education or previous titles, is an effective way to start leveraging the talent that already exists in your organization by equipping them with the tools necessary to help them succeed.”

We agree. Soft skills, such as the ability to absorb feedback, listen actively, and solve problems creatively, are going to play a key role in organizational success. Disruptive times are on the horizon. AI is changing work rapidly and experts suggest that workers of the future will be working a decade (or even two!) longer than workers of today. The ability of your workforce to thrive in our future work landscape may largely depend on their flexibility and people skills, not just their ability to utilize the systems we have in place right now. 

Want to be a leader the future needs? Continually help employees improve their soft skills.

Focus on Leadership Upskilling

The most important set of soft skills are those that teach people how to lead. Though it’s valuable for your workforce to learn a wide variety of hard and soft skills to help them perform more successfully in their current roles, it’s even more valuable — for them and for you — to prepare them to take on new leadership roles.

Remember that just because someone is your top salesperson, Excel pro, or data analyst, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to lead people. Leadership requires an entirely new set of skills that employees can layer on top of their current expertise. If you promote them into leadership because you think they deserve it without giving them the training they need to succeed, you’ll end up with dissatisfied employees and trouble retaining a robust team.

“Try to create a workforce that can solve your future problems,” says FirstRule consultant, Jairus Rice. “What will you need to solve in the next three years? What will your competition look like? What economic swings might require us to do more with less? Are there any new regulations on the horizon that you can try to address now? How can you brace for the impacts climate change will have on your industry? Policies? Fewer resources?”

How To Upskill Without Losing Your Employees

When you’re thinking about how to not only train but retain skilled employees, make sure your program helps cement a career path in your organization for your employees. 

Workers shouldn’t have to guess what their future at the organization looks like. Every skill they learn should be something they can put into action immediately or in the near future — at your organization. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t sink resources into training that employees will only leverage to go elsewhere. You’ll drastically reduce that possibility if it’s clear from the start how they will use and hone the skills they learn now.

And be sure training is a two-way street. As your employee learns new skills, they add more value to your organization. Help ensure that they continue to want to use their value for you by compensating them well, financially and culturally. 

The Importance Of A Supportive Work Culture

A good training program helps ensure that the work remains interesting and demonstrates that your organizational leaders care about employees as people. Your upskilling program, whether you know it or not, is part of your work culture — emphasis on part. If people don’t feel supported at work, even the most intentional training program will fall flat. You need buy-in. And buy-in happens when people are happy to work for you.

This is particularly true for younger generations. In general, if a younger worker doesn’t feel like your organization is a good place to work, they won’t stay. 

When you acknowledge that job satisfaction has multiple facets, including salary, a clear career path, and attention to work-life balance issues, employees will feel like staying.

You’ve Hired A Business Analyst. Here’s How To Leverage And Onboard Them For Maximum Success

Now that you’ve hired a business analyst, how can you make sure they have what they need to succeed?

Business analysts are detail-oriented people — on steroids. You hire them to look deeply into your organization’s records, systems, and processes. In order to do that effectively, your analyst will need resources, access, and the right tools to be able to deliver the kinds of data and products that will increase your efficiency.

Here’s how to onboard your business analyst to get the most effective results.

Do These 3 Things For Your Business Analyst Immediately

Time To Consume Documentation 

Business analysts look at data and systems from every possible angle. They work deep in the details. But they can’t do that effectively unless they have enough time to find and absorb what’s out there — and figure out what’s missing. Make sure they have the freedom to designate significant blocks of time to become familiar with documentation.

These blocks may look like “open” times on their schedule. Far from it; this is their time to do an immediate deep dive into the topic. 

Key Stakeholder Introductions

Introduce your new business analyst to key stakeholders, the people who have a deep understanding of business or technical workflows. They need to know who they’re working with, what they do within the organization, and what role they’ll play in the project.

The Tools They Need (And Prefer)

Business analysts deliver highly visual work products that tell a story that isn’t visible to most people in the organization. In order to make your desired transformation comprehensible to a wide array of stakeholders — and to do it efficiently — analysts need the right tools.

They have their favorites. Visio (a visual diagramming tool) and Excel are standard but don’t assume these are adequate for the specific things they’re tasked with completing. Ask the analyst what tools they think would be best for the job. If at all possible, acquire their favored tools so they can, as FirstRule business analyst Lori Luppino puts it, “make it pretty and make it make sense.”

Clarify, Clarify, Clarify

Have Clear Expectations

Once your business analyst has the time, connections, and tools in hand, they’ll need to know your expectations. Begin by having a conversation about project milestones. What deliverables do you expect after the first 30 days? 60? 90? 120? 

Look at your charter. Is it clear? Does it contain a complete and organized explanation of the roles and responsibilities of the analyst and other stakeholders? Would expectations be clear to a newcomer? Have you laid out the outcomes and results you require?

Luppino notes that it’s important to clarify not only the outcomes but the format you expect to see them in. “Don’t be shy,” she says. “Share with me how you want to see the work. What do you want your end product to look like?”

Practice Openness 

Approach your analyst with an open mind and with generosity. Share everything you know. (These folks want all the back-end details!) Make it clear that you’re open to lots and lots of questions. 

Also: be open to the fact that the process, and even the product, might not end up being exactly what you thought it would be. Your business analyst is a member of your team. This is something you’re all creating together. 

It’s All About Outcomes

Once in place, these preparations and practices will lay the groundwork for outstanding insights and outcomes. A business analyst’s detailed analyses and high-level storytelling skills result in outcomes that can include:

  • Current state assessments. 
  • Business requirements. 
  • Gap analysis between current and future state. 
  • IT infrastructure and application analyses.
  • Systems interactions, integration points, and data exchanges. 
  • Exhaustive data analysis, including data pathways.  
  • Identification of the highest-value information and systems. 
  • High-impact recommendations.

The Bottom Line

Hiring a business analyst requires more than finding the right person and installing them in their new position. To be able to do the job well, and meet expectations, it’s important to have a robust onboarding process so they can be as effective as possible, from day one. 

How To Win A Government Contract: Bidding and Proposal Tips

The majority of our work comes from government contracts, specifically with state agencies. After many years of writing successful bids in response to agency RFPs, we have a number of tips on how to win a government contract. 

When we’re writing proposals for state contracts at FirstRule Group, we:

Bid Thoughtfully

When we’re deciding which RFPs to respond to, we’re careful to bid only on the ones we know we can achieve with full confidence. If we read an RFP and have someone or a small team on board with just the right skills, that’s a no-brainer. We get started on it immediately. 

If we don’t have someone on our team with the exact combination of skills needed, we reach out to consultants we know to see if we can find a fit. Once we find people with the skills and capacity, we proceed. 

We also like to stretch ourselves. If a potential contract is just outside a consultant’s scope but we’ve seen them succeed in a parallel situation, we’ll nudge them forward a little. Figuring out which RFPs to bid on and which to pass on is a balance between using the skills of the people in our network, stretching our capacity, and knowing when to leave something to others. 

Start Early

Once we’ve decided to submit a bid, we start researching, brainstorming, and pulling together a team right away. With so many projects in the pipeline, this can be harder than it sounds. Once you’ve given an RFP an internal green light, it can be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and put off the nitty gritty work of gathering information and getting started. 

Don’t. Instead, have a process in place — before you even make your decision to pursue it or not — that will help you move the process forward immediately after you decide to bid. 

Do Targeted Research

Once we’ve decided to work up a bid, we research the market so we know what the agency is facing, what barriers they’ve encountered recently, and what other organizations in similar situations have tried. 

We have an excellent track record of knowing what the environment looks like, what the client is facing, and what is needed to help them make change successfully.

We maintain an evergreen account plan for each client or target client. Every month we review new information and update the plans. This process has helped us become ready on short notice to make a decision to respond (or not) to an opportunity. 

Stay Organized

As management consultants, organization is one of our strong points. And we need every organizational skill we’ve developed to keep multiple bids organized, prioritized, and moving forward. 

Don’t assume your bid will take shape once you’ve done your research. Use tools such as Asana, Trello, Smartsheet, SharePoint or Monday.com to keep team members looped in and tasks organized. 

Start Strong

Once we’re ready to start the process, we evaluate the bid, brainstorm “win” themes, and develop an approach.

Three important things we have in place before we start writing are that we:

  • Meet the minimum qualifications for the vendor specifications. 
  • Address each project goal specifically and directly.
  • Understand the price point for our bid. 

Get The Right People In Place

We’re great at building and maintaining relationships. Because of this, we have a  robust resource network to tap when we’re ready to assemble a team. 

At the start of the bid development process, we reach out to key people who can create the kind of transformation the agency needs for its project and the desired end product. We might nudge a talented consultant or analyst to reach beyond their comfort zone but we never bring in people who don’t have significant skills and experience. We always gather the best possible team for each project. And we love partnering with firms who complement our skill sets.

Write A Bold Narrative

One of the first people we appoint is an excellent writer. Then we invite members of the team to take on various elements of the bid, according to subject matter expertise. Once all the sections are complete, the writer compiles all of the written material from the team and shapes it into a bold narrative.  

There’s a reason we do this. Even at this level, many proposals use bland, boiler-plate language. It’s understandable: when you have so many daily tasks to attend to, it’s simpler to pull language you’ve used before to fill in a proposal. 

But those aren’t the bids that get noticed. 

We take a riskier approach. We’ve been known to include elements that typically don’t appear in government bids, like bolded text, anecdotes, and value-added visuals. 

We also like to keep it short. Recently, WaTech instituted a 10-page limit on proposals that we really liked. Shorter proposals help you get to the point, make your case strong and direct, and lead with personality.

Review With A Keen Eye

We also never submit a bid without letting it sit for a day — or at least a couple of hours — before having a sharp-eyed team member read it for clarity, flow, and accuracy. You’d be surprised how many people submit proposals with typos and choppy language. 

Taking a little extra time to make sure our bids are fine-tuned is non-negotiable for us. We’re convinced this kind of attention to detail has made the difference between an almost-got-it bid and a winning bid.

Hope Youngs

Client executive and chief needle threader

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Business Architect certification; ScrumMaster certification.

 

Function and Specialization
​Hope is the Client Executive at FirstRule Group. She specializes in helping companies execute on strategic objectives and loves getting things done with a rousing “heck yes!”

 

About Hope

​When not working, you can find Hope sharing family time with her daughters, hiking in the mountains, or feeling the wind on her face sailing.

Jarius Rice

Jairus Rice

Consultant and Partnership Builder

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Public Administration; Bachelor’s in Political Science; Prosci Change Management Professional; LEAN Six Sigma Green Belt

 

Function and Specialization
Jairus is an executive leader specializing in designing and shepherding organizational change and process improvement strategies. He helps clients develop strong partnerships to achieve strategic goals, maximize performance, and increase value to their customers.

 

About Jairus
Jairus is a combat veteran who served five years in the United States Marine Corps. When he and his wife Jessica aren’t coaching their three kids’ sports teams, they enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping. 

Shelley McDermott

Partner and Diplomatic Hostess

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Shelley has more than 25 years of senior program leadership experience. She specializes in leading teams and optimizing high-risk, high-visibility projects.

About Shelley
Shelley enjoys cooking, remodeling projects, and spending time with family and friends. 

Stacy Steck

Stacy Steck

Partner and Illuminator

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Stacy is an expert in planning and executing transformational technology projects. She specializes in communication, facilitation, and getting things done. 

 

About Stacy
Stacy is passionate about fundraising and loves serving her community. She also enjoys traveling and writing.

Joanna Briese

Joanna Briese

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Secondary Teaching; Applied Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Joanna is a skilled project manager and curriculum developer. She specializes in e-learning and training and has even been a trainer in the specialty coffee industry!

 

About Joanna
Joanna loves the outdoors, cooking, family, travel, coffee, and curling up with her cats and a book.

Nissa Burger

Nissa Burger

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
20 years in elections managing statewide software implementations

 

Function and Specialization
Nissa is a seasoned project manager who specializes in all facets of software development.

 

About Nissa
Nissa loves summertime, cheering on her kids in their sports, and spending time with family.

Trish Coloma

Trish Coloma

Consultant and Transformation Specialist

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Sociology; Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Trish is an adept project manager focused on designing and implementing governance and helping organizations manage change and improve processes. She specializes in turning vision into action.

 

About Trish
Trish is an avid hiker and backpacker. She’s found that just like project management, a great hike is all about the journey and good planning!

Heather Coughlin-Washburn

Consultant and Negotiator

Education and Certifications
Studied journalism and psychology; sixteen years in the IT field; Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V) certification

 

Function and Specialization
Heather is a senior consultant who specializes in managing complex IT projects and quality assurance. She is passionate about building successful teams and achieving positive outcomes for clients.

 

About Heather
Heather has a background as a professional journalist specializing in government, politics, and law enforcement. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, photography, and camping.

Lindsay Flye

People Operations Manager & Bringer of Energy

Education and Certifications
Masters of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology 

 

Function and Specialization
Lindsay is the People Operations Manager for FirstRule Group. She focuses on recruitment, onboarding and offboarding, candidate experience, and human resources policies and processes.

 

About Lindsay
Lindsay loves to read, cook, quilt, and be outside with her pup. She also enjoys traveling, time with friends and family, and game nights.

Larry Holden

Larry Holden

Consultant and Creator of Big Hairy Spreadsheets

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Chemistry

 

Function and Specialization
Larry is an experienced project manager and analyst with a focus on finance and IT projects. He specializes in process improvement. 

 

About Larry
Larry loves cooking, skiing, Christmas movies, and hanging out with his kids. He is also actively involved in his community Little League.

Pamela Johnston

Consultant and Puzzle Solver

Education and Certifications
Master’s of Education in Counseling Psychology; Bachelor’s in Management Science

 

Function and Specialization
Pamela is a senior business analyst with extensive technical IT experience. She specializes in system integration and implementation, data analysis, and reporting.  

 

About Pamela
Pamela is a proud Duke Blue Devil2 who loves ballet, orchids, bowling, and line dancing. She is the mother to fur babies Dash and Valentino. 

Jessica Larson

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
Master’s of Public Health; Master’s of Health Administration

 

Function and Specialization

Jessica Larson is a seasoned project manager with demonstrated skill in all facets of project management. She specializes in helping teams identify and understand problems and develop impactful solutions.

 

About Jessica
Jessica has visited 7 countries and 39 U.S. states and is always planning her next trip. In between travels Jessica enjoys gardening, hiking, cooking and baking, rooting for Seattle sports teams, and spending as much time outdoors with family as possible.

Lori Luppino

Lori Luppino

Consultant and Intuitive Collaborator

Education and Certifications
Twenty years of experience in IT finance

 

Function and Specialization
Lori is a business analyst with an affinity for change management. She specializes in IT finance, budgeting, and business operations.

 

About Lori
Lori enjoys live music, the outdoors, traveling, painting, and her family.

Duncan McDermott

Finance Manager

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in finance

 

Function and Specialization
Duncan is the Finance Manager for FirstRule Group and oversees billing and contracts and supports other operational functions of the firm. He specializes in tall orders and a sunny delivery.

 

About Duncan
Duncan played basketball for Pacific University and enjoys boating, summer activities, and billiards.

Daisye Ore

Daisye Orr

Consultant and Creative Strategist

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Public Health with an emphasis in health communication

 

Function and Specialization
Daisye is an experienced program leader and systems thinker. She specializes in policy development, program planning, communication, partner engagement, and working from a place of equity and inclusion.

 

About Daisye
Daisye loves creating art, being in nature, searching for vintage treasures, reading, and spending time with her loved ones.

Ben Robinson

Ben Robinson

Consultant and Data Storyteller

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance

 

Function and Specialization
Ben is a management consultant specializing in business operations, financial forecasting, and data analysis and reporting.

 

About Ben
Ben is a lifelong learner. He enjoys backpacking, cycling, and adventuring with his family.

Eric Stout

Consultant and Technical Make-It-happener

Education and Certifications
Associate’s degree in Computer Science; Black Belt Candidate; Microsoft Product Specialist 

 

Function and Specialization
Eric is an accomplished consultant with deep technical knowledge. He specializes in cross-business partnerships, IT transformations, and program management.

 

About Eric

Eric is a father, musician, snow boarder, and boat captain.

Laura Scott

Consultant and Team Developer

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a major in Information Systems; Project Management Professional certification

 

Function and Specialization
Laura is a project manager specializing in technology projects. She is also known for creating inclusive, empowered, and high-performing teams.

  

About Laura
Laura is from Seattle and enjoys all things outdoors, such as hiking, snowshoeing, sailing, and gardening.

Insert Name

Consultant and Tenacious Observer

Education and Certifications
additional text about education 

Function and Specialization
additional text about specialization

About 

additional text about the person

Stephanie Telander

Stephanie Telander

Consultant and Insightful Connector

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional certification; Prosci Change Management Professional certification; IT Service Management (ITIL) and International Standards Organization (ISO/20000) certifications

Function and Specialization
Stephanie is an experienced project manager and business analyst. She specializes in taking complex things and making them easier to consume through diagrams, flow charts, and plain speak documentation. 

About Stephanie
Stephanie loves gardening, travel, cooking, crafts, family, and a good mystery.  

Chi Underwood

Chi Underwood

Consultant and Strategic Improvement Specialist

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration; Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Finance; LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt 

 

Function and Specialization
Chi is an experienced consultant focused on process improvement using Six Sigma methodologies and data analytics. He specializes in business analysis, team development, budgeting and the organizational design of new processes.  

 

About Chi
Chi is an avid fisherman chasing salmon in the Pacific Northwest. He is also a judge for the First Robotics competition. 

Sheri Anderson

Consultant and Chaos Controller

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional Certification

Function and Specialization
Sheri is an experienced consultant and an effective liaison between business and technical teams. She specializes in process improvement, business analysis, team leadership, implementations, data warehousing, user training, and testing.

About Sheri

Sheri splits her time between Utah and Arizona and prefers to relax around water and in the mountains.  She enjoys traveling with her husband and spending time with her two adult boys and grandson.

Christy Anna Gerber

Consultant and change advisor

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration

 

Function and Specialization
Christy Anna is consultant with a unique ability to see beyond challenges. She specializes in  creating pathways for opportunities, learnings, and desired outcomes.

 

About Christy Anna

Christy Anna loves spending time with family and friends especially if that time is spent outdoors. She loves skiing, mountain biking, and fly-fishing across the West. She’s also a fan of a great book and enjoys live music.

Malcolm Hooper

Consultant and Trusted advisor

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Education; Bachelor’s in Economics

 

Function and Specialization
Malcolm is an accomplished consultant with many years of experience managing operations, IT, and cybersecurity. He specializes in partnering with senior leadership to advise, develop, and implement strategic and effective IT initiatives.   

 

About Malcolm

Malcolm loves baking sourdough bread, perfecting recipes, traveling with his family, and training for his next ultimate tournament in his free time.  

Karen Langehough

Consultant and force multiplier

Education and Certifications
Bachelor’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in psychology; Certified Master Project Manager; Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources  

 

Function and Specialization
Karen is an accomplished senior leader and business-focused practitioner. She specializes in human resources consulting, change management, coaching, and development.

 

About Karen

Karen enjoys cooking, gardening, coffee, watching Seattle Mariners and Seahawks games, volunteering through her church, and spending time with friends and family.

Susan Meenk

Consultant and Mind Reader

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in organizational development; Bachelor’s in psychology

 

Function and Specialization
Susan is an executive leader with expertise in Human Resources. She specializes in strategic planning, leadership development, succession planning, conflict resolution, and team building. 

 

About Susan

When Susan is not spending time with her family, she can be found outside working in the garden, running, or paddle boarding. She is also an active community volunteer. 

Shawn Milligan

Consultant and Project Manager

Education and Certifications
Doctorate in Business Administration; Project Management Professional certification; ScrumMaster certification

 

Function and Specialization
Shawn is an accomplished project manager with extensive business experience. She specializes in bringing people together to make things better. 

 

About Shawn

Shawn is an avid international traveler and has visited all seven continents. She is also a nature and travel photographer.

Lindsey Phillips

Consultant and Intuituve Facilitator

Education and Certifications
Associates of Art’s in Liberal Arts & Sciences 

 

Function and Specialization
Lindsey is an experienced and versatile project coordinator known for her adept management and relationship-building skills. She specializes in spearheading projects, optimizing operational productivity, and providing excellent client service. 

 

About Lindsey

​Lindsey enjoys spending time with her wonderful family and two dogs, as well as expanding her skills through gardening, pottery classes, and other creative pursuits.​ 

Anne Shields

Consultant and Business Strategist

Education and Certifications
Project Management Professional certification; PMI Agile Certified Practitioner 

 

Function and Specialization
Anne is project manager who creates simple solutions while providing transparency into complex environments. She specializes in cross functional team coordination with multiple disciplinary dependencies.

 

About Anne

Anne enjoys traveling, yoga, gardening, cooking, and entertaining. She shares her Lake Tapps home with an 80-pound German shepherd-husky mix with adorably crooked ears.

Steve Smith

Consultant and Alchemist-in-residence

Education and Certifications
​Masters in Business Administration 

 

Function and Specialization
Steve is a distinguished consultant with experience in human services delivery, financing, policy development, and executive leadership in the government and non-profit sectors. He specializes in “How did he do that?” problem solving outcomes. 

 

About 

In addition to his standing as a top-ranked volleyball dad, Steve is known for his commitment to his fellow veterans, especially as an advocate for expanded veteran housing options. He is a member of the Orlando Housing Authority board of commissioners and the managing board of the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida.

Wendy Ld Helling

Wendy LD Helling

Partner and Thought Leader

Education and Certifications
Master’s in Business Administration

 

Function and Specialization
Wendy has deep experience in bringing complex, multi-year projects to life. She specializes in IT project management, data management, and strategic planning.   

 

About Wendy
Wendy loves traveling and hanging out in warm climates.