NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In the post below, Derek Alden Elder of member company Salient Federal Solutions explains how professional development is essential for success.


Today’s government, industry, civilian, and institutional professional leadership all agree on one thing: Professional development is vital to success. Yet it is becoming harder each and every day to find time for it. This is driven by many factors. The most obvious, of course, is the continual reduction in force to accommodate todays lower cost requirements. These strong economic and political headwinds demand we make a difference.

With less people doing more work it is impossible to ignore the implications to the remaining forces’ availability to support seemingly non-essential requirements, such as further developing their applicable capabilities through professional development, training, and education. We must have a relentless commitment to our customers, colleagues and our communities. Salient Federal Solutions believes that a viable solution exists which will mitigate this issue and we use it today.

In a rapidly changing environment, infusing current work requirements into the training our warfighters receive today is essential to increasing effectiveness within an experiential modality while also serving the trainee by assisting with the execution of their deliverables and concurrently advancing their knowledge base. Salient plans a custom approach to every requirement so it can and is being done today. We understand that success is dependent upon our situational approach and customized execution on each task – getting warfighters what they need and when they need it. Minimizing time spent while maximizing output to current requirements while broadening knowledge base will determine effectiveness and thus define return on investment of training to leadership. Although counter to most industry culture, this is the only viable path to solving the growing work/train/time issue we all experience in these leaner times.

Whether it be professional, technical, or personal development it is essential for the end user to insist upon their workload being infused to the exercises associated with our learning process, but similarly, we need to drive this approach from the top down as the leading providers to the education and training industry. This change can only be achieved if we stand together behind one simple truth; developing our workforce is vital to future success and it cannot be accomplished without fundamental changes to the approach most take today. If our workplace has become more efficient and lean then so must we with something as important this.


If you’re interested in professional development, get involved with NVTC! Attend an event for opportunities to see and be seen by industry leaders; join a committee to meet potential clients, build relationships, and learn about trends; and check out NVTC’s many other resources.

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In part three of her Engaging Your Total Enterprise Series, Board member Marta Wilson of Transformation Systems Inc. explains how a strategic plan can create impeccable decision-maker skills


How are you sure you’re moving forward in the right direction? Where’s the compass? Where’s the plan? One great misconception about strategic planning is that it sets in stone a course for the long haul. For those of us in the business of nimble, responsive strategic plans, the very idea seems linear, stale before it’s done—rote. I’m thinking of a word, and that word is “boring.”

Wordle: Strategic Plan

By contrast, a strategic plan can create impeccable decision makers. That’s because a successful plan puts everybody at work in the same place. In other words, a plan creates nexus. Everyone’s work is connected by common understandings. All the right people have all the right information to make all the best decisions that move everybody forward—one person, one decision at a time.

A strategic plan isn’t so much a piece of paper as a shift in mind. It moves responsibility for a company out of the hands of a few executives and into the hands—and heads—of everybody working the plan. For success, a strategic plan is a daily awareness. It’s simple. A strategic plan is what makes sure that the vessel leaves the hands of the manufacturer and is handed over to crew for passage to bolder destinations. Each person relies on his or her own power for many key decisions and knows when to turn to leadership for guidance with larger, collective changes.

A strategic plan is the best way—whether sailing is smooth or rough—for you to be involved in every decision without being in the way. The plan is a robust mechanism that keeps you from exerting a dampening influence on your teams. When you step out using a strategic plan you can count on unleashing the full power of your organization’s talent. Once a strategy is planned and in place, your only remaining challenge is stepping back, listening, and being humbled by the brilliance you find working for you.

How is this done? The well-crafted strategic plan isn’t complicated, although its development can take some time. The goal is clarity, and the process is energizing. What you have, in the end, is a shared understanding that becomes a familiar reference point. It’s used as a sure-fire way for each person to move forward independently without creating chaos or downward drag. This plan becomes the filter for sifting out meaning from all the noise among the rush of daily priorities.

A strategic plan doesn’t start on a blank sheet of paper. It builds on the organizational assessment that precedes it. Discoveries from the assessment are integral to how the business works and shares information—and also for the quality of information you have for keeping executive-level decisions in tune with what your people are doing. It also removes impediments to decision-making, because everybody knows the parameters for choices and the end goal that drives them.

Rapid response is possible no matter how large or far-flung your enterprise, and strategic planning is the key to rapid response, empowering everybody working ably within their spheres to be poised to make decisions quickly and in synch with everybody else.

All too often, though there is a plan, one no one takes it seriously as it sits in a three-ring notebook on an executive’s shelf. Having watched, over the years, the impact of a well-honed strategic plan on a business endeavor, I find it a shame that people slog to work to be part audience, part player in a poorly tuned, cacophonous symphony. It doesn’t matter if there is a skilled conductor— or executive—if there’s no sheet music from which to play. Just like an orchestra with its various instrumental sections, there are various subgroups within your enterprise. It’s natural for subsystems habitually to act independently and, all too often, at cross-purposes. But strategic plans are the integrating factor. They carry your leadership to the level of the individual instrument. They drill down into roles and responsibilities— and performance measures. Execution becomes smooth. There is little waste of effort and little reason for decision-making angst. Your team is finally working in unison, empowered to implement the daring decisions needed for triumph. Only with strategic planning can you get the musical score squared away so that you, as conductor, can restore order— enterprise integrity—among all the various parts of the ensemble.

A focus on the strategic plan typifies a skillful orchestral conductor who, amid the dynamic, ongoing flow of the music, can sense when the woodwinds are too soft, or the brass section too loud, and can guide the delicate adjustments that put the performance back into balance. When people in your group find themselves at that kind of nexus, there’s one way for you to be sure they can act with full ownership of the wellbeing of the organization: make sure they are fluent in the strategic plan and involved full force in the creative dialogue. Remember to keep everybody at the nexus: fully informed and informing decisions.

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When Vision is Not Enough

March 18th, 2014 | Posted by Allison Gilmore in Member Blog Posts - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. Kathy Stershic of member company Dialog Research & Communications shares her insights below.


A clear organizational vision is vital to moving your people in the same direction to meet strategic goals. Attaining a vision supposes a lot of things going right along your journey, or at least being somewhat in your control – but what happens when inconvenient realities make things go, well, differently?

Many of today’s leaders simply lack the time, bandwidth or vantage point to think beyond the near term. Yet never-ending change makes it increasingly important to examine macro forces that can impact your customers’ environments, and to prepare yourself for flexible decision-making in an unexpected future.

Scenario planning is a powerful but often overlooked tool in strategic planning. Scenarios don’t define the most likely future – they map uncertainties and explore alternative futures, so you are better prepared for both.

While employed by organizations as large as Royal Dutch Shell, the World Bank and the Military, even smaller to mid-sized businesses can incorporate at least some foundational work into their planning efforts.

The biggest premise in scenario planning is don’t assume the future will closely mirror the present. [Consider the unanticipated changes that resulted from the 1970s oil shock, the ripple effects of the 9/11 attacks or even the recent Target data breach.] Start outside-in. Invest in truly understanding your customer’s world – what are they planning for? What external forces must they anticipate or react to? Such forces can be the root of opportunities, surprises, or unforeseen crises.

Then shift to inside-out thinking to assess the implications of those external forces on your core business practices, organizational capacity, culture and current strategies. Develop a set of plausible ‘what if’ scenarios grounded in your customers’ contextual environment. Explore postures such as…

  • Does our current [intended] strategy hold up in each scenario? What are our strengths and weaknesses in each situation?
  • In 3 years, will there still be a fit between what we do and the customer environment?
  • Who or what kind of businesses will be successful in each scenario?
  • Can we be reasonably sure a certain change will occur? What could the outcome of that change be on our customers?  And what then is truly uncertain? What should we do or not do in each scenario?

Brainstorm, be creative, and stretch your thinking. A recent customer of mine reacted to our example scenarios as “mind bending” for the entrenched organizational culture. Generate options and test them against your scenarios. You can use a variety of tools – from team brainstorming workshops to highly structured analytical modeling.

Remember this is about plausibility, not prediction. But with this more informed perspective, you can design a strategic roadmap with enough flexibility to navigate unexpected turns. Then go for it.

For further reading: http://hbr.org/2013/05/living-in-the-futures/ar/1


Contributed by Kathy Stershic, Principal Consultant, Dialog Research & Communications

www.dialogrc.com, kstershic@dialogrc.com

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