The Management Strategies team was excited to meet up last week at our annual All Hands meeting in Washington, D.C. We reviewed 2022 results, discussed our strategy for continued success in 2023, and enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas in person.
“It is the responsibility of all contractors and Federal employees that create or receive recorded information which contributes to the missions of an agency to preserve those records in accordance with approved record schedules.”
Records are the memory of organizations such as Federal agencies. In today’s nearly all-digital work environment, most Federal agencies are saddled with a large number of electronic records (email, video, voicemail, etc.) and some physical records that they must properly organize and store. Not all records are created equal—records designated as permanent are kept “for the life of the republic”—while temporary records are destroyed after their fiscal, legal, and/or administrative use is up. There are rules and regulations that outline how records should be managed and every Federal agency should have an approach to managing records that meets their unique needs. Your agency may be missing an opportunity to streamline processes and may even be at risk of lawsuits if it lacks a detailed plan for managing its records.
Records Management aims to manage records across their entire lifecycle (creation or receipt, maintenance and use, disposition) with the goal of:
- Promoting effective file maintenance practices;
- Preserving records of continuing value;
- Removing noncurrent paper records from office space to less expensive storage facilities through either physical transport, or conversion to an electronic format; and
- Destroying records (both paper and electronic) of temporary value as soon as they have served the purpose for which they were created and are eligible for destruction.
Rules and regulations for Federal records management are covered by the Federal Records Act, which dictates that agencies must create a records management office to manage the records of the agency. Agencies create records schedules to provide mandatory instructions on how to treat records when they are no longer needed for current government business. Once a record becomes inactive, obsolete, or is superseded, a records schedule provides instructions on how to handle that record (the disposition). It is the responsibility of all contractors and Federal employees that create or receive recorded information which contributes to the missions of an agency to preserve those records in accordance with approved record schedules.
Getting Started with Federal Records Management
Management Strategies has supported several Federal records management initiatives. Our typical Federal records management support project begins with a kick-off meeting with the appropriate Federal personnel to outline goals of the effort and lay out a high-level project schedule. It is imperative in these engagements to work with the Federal personnel who have been given authority to manage records and the personnel who are producing the records that must be managed. Once we have outlined our proposed approach, we need to identify where records are stored so that we can perform a records inventory. We will work to map the inventory to existing records schedules, create a file plan to serve as a quick reference and begin the process of creating and managing a folder structure in accordance with established processes to help facilitate better records management practices moving forward.
How Our Work Supports Federal Records Management Initiatives
Management Strategies is proud to support Federal records management efforts across several Federal organizations including the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. If you are interested in learning more about how we can support your organization with records management, please contact us at email@example.com.
Our team here at Management Strategies wishes everyone peace, health, and joy during this holiday season and throughout 2023!
Today’s work environment is becoming more diverse and inclusive than ever thanks to White House Executive Orders, Federal and state laws, changing organizational ideas of diversity and inclusion, and organizations’ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives. Despite recent strides towards DEIA, there remains ample opportunity for organizations and teams to continue to improve through the strategic development and implementation of DEIA plans. The White House’s update to the President’s Management Agenda states four goals: creating more equitable employee engagement, revamping federal hiring process, attracting new federal workers in mission-critical jobs, and promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. DEIA is on the precipice of unprecedented momentum because of the commitment from the White House to use metrics to measure agencies’ performance. It will take strategy and leadership to usher in these priorities.
What is DEIA and Why is it Important?
There are four tenets to DEIA and are defined as follows per the recent Executive Order (see the Executive Order for expanded definitions):
- Diversity – The practice of including the many communities, identities, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, abilities, cultures, and beliefs of the American people, including underserved communities.
- Equity – The consistent and systematic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities that have been denied such treatment.
- Inclusion – The recognition, appreciation, and use of the talents and skills of employees of all backgrounds.
- Accessibility – The design, construction, development, and maintenance of facilities, information and communication technology, programs, and services so that all people, including people with disabilities, can fully and independently use them.
DEIA is important because it spotlights underserved communities and helps bring more talent to the modern workplace. It drives innovation by bringing more minds to the discussion, drives retention by having valued employees feel welcomed and supported in the workplace, and creates opportunity for employees no matter their needs.
Getting Started with DEIA Initiatives
Studies have shown that diverse groups increase performance, increase quality, and foster team collaboration—understanding the value of a DEIA-centric work environment is a necessary prerequisite. Getting started with DEIA initiatives requires a planned and coordinated approach. The first step to creating a fair and inclusive workplace is to develop a DEIA Strategic Plan. These plans are customized to each organization and guide an organization—along with its vision and mission—holding leadership accountable, guiding recruitment, hiring, and retention, developing employees through training and activities, and guides marketing and branding efforts along with many other aspects that create an overall healthy and flourishing environment for employees.
Examples of DEIA Initiatives
Examples of DEIA initiatives in the public sector include:
- U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) – The GSA recently issued Requests for Information (RFIs) regarding DEIA Practices in the Design and Construction Industries. These RFIs support the set of recently released public buildings goals outlined in GSA’s Equity Action Plan for Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – The CFPB is a government agency dedicated to making sure consumers are treated fairly by banks, lenders, and other financial institutions. CFPB’s DEIA initiatives include monitoring progress and best practices with regulated entities. CFPB reaches out to minority-owned and women-owned businesses to offer information and assistance. The CFPB requires all contractors who work with the Bureau to certify that they have made good faith efforts to ensure the equitable inclusion of women and minorities in their workforce.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) – The NIH have many DEIA initiatives. For example, they announced the launch of the UNITE initiative, which was established to identify and address structural racism and to establish an equitable and civil culture across all of NIH. Also, the NIH has a centralized interpreting program that enables employees who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing to request interpreters or Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) services. And more recently, during COVID-19, NIH ensured that the Director’s town halls were fully accessible by providing closed captions and certified American Sign Language interpreters.
How Our Work Supports Federal DEIA Initiatives
Management Strategies is proud to be supporting critical components of DEIA initiatives across several Federal organizations. This includes project management and communications support for DEIA-related efforts, and the design and administration of DEIA-focused leadership surveys and climate assessments. The latter delivers actionable data that helps our clients shape their DEIA strategies and plans, prioritize their activities and efforts, and allocate their resources for maximum impact. If you are interested in learning more about our DEIA-related capabilities, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Process and Task Automation?
Process and task automation has quickly become an essential tool that enhances modern teams and organizations, especially those teams that are looking for ways to reduce time-consuming, routine, and administrative tasks. Implementing process and task automation into your organization should not require the purchase of elaborate tools or in-depth technical resources. Members of our client support teams often use automation to streamline internal business reporting processes (invoicing, financial reporting, and dashboards) as well as client support initiatives (risk reporting, project status dashboards, and document compilation and formatting).
Process and Task Automation using Power Automate
In addition to using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), Management Strategies also specializes in using Power Automate, a low-code automation platform that makes it easy for developers and non-developers to automate the most repetitive and mundane processes and tasks. Automation is the key to enabling teams to focus attention on where it is needed most. Power Automate is available across desktop, web, and mobile. Some examples of what you can do with Power Automate include:
- Automate repeatable business processes
- Send automatic reminders for past due tasks
- Move business data between systems on a schedule
- Connect to more than 500 data sources or any publicly available API
- Automate tasks on your local computer like computing data in Excel
All it takes is a little experimentation with your first Power Automate flow and you then start to see other examples of manual processes and tasks that are perfect for automation.
Management Strategies uses Power Automate for process and task automation across client support activities and company operations. The use of automation frees our team members to focus on value-added, high-skill activities. Some specific automations we use include:
- Automated Email Reminders – When an activity is not completed on time, Power Automate will send an automated email reminder.
- Recurring Tasks in Microsoft Planner – When a Planner task is marked as recurring, Power Automate will create a new task once the original task is completed.
- Create Tasks from Teams Chat – When discussing a new task with a coworker on Teams, you can prompt Power Automate to run a workflow that will automatically create a task in Planner based on a specific chat message.
- Automatic File Backups – When Outlook receives an email with specific keywords, Power Automate will automatically save a file to a folder to serve as an automated backup.
How Can We Help You?
Task automation using Power Automate is a powerful tool that teams and organizations use to maximize efficiency and free up personnel to focus on more value-added activities. To discover more about process and task automation and how Management Strategies customizes our support for your team or organization, please contact us at email@example.com.
What is Executive Coaching?
Executive Coaching is a term that many have heard, but few understand fully. When a leader is motivated to make a change—whether it be to change oneself, a team, or an entire organization—they may seek the support and guidance of an executive coach. The best executive coaches bring years of experience successfully navigating executives through complex changes. The typical coaching process takes place over 6-12 months but can also last multiple years. The approach is highly customized based on an individual’s goals, areas of strength and opportunities for growth. As with any change initiative, there are some keys to executive coaching success:
- Focus on development rather than performance,
- A motivation to change,
- Management support, and
- Ability to prioritize the coaching.
Management Strategies & Executive Coaching
Our team of executive coaches provides executive coaching and leadership development services to leaders across a number of federal agencies. Our work typically involves us developing custom programs to provide senior leaders with a baseline of leadership and management knowledge and skills, while also helping them achieve the leadership and professional development goals they have established for themselves and their teams.
How Can We Help You?
If executive coaching sounds like something you or someone in your organization could benefit from, contact us to discuss more about how we can help: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are happy to announce that Management Strategies was recently certified as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Federal Contracting program. This new certification allows us to compete for WOSB set aside federal contracts and allows the government to directly award us sole-source contracts. The federal government’s goal is to award at least 5% of all federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses each year.
Achieving WOSB certification is no easy feat. The eligibility requirements to qualify as a WOSB are fully defined in Title 13 Part 127 Subpart B of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). To be eligible for the WOSB Federal Contracting program, a business must:
- Be a small business according to SBA size standards
- Be at least 51% owned and controlled by women who are U.S. citizens
- Have women manage day-to-day operations who also make long-term decisions
Partner with Us!
Let us help you achieve greater business and mission success. We are an award-winning management consulting firm supporting federal agencies with strategy and management services. Learn more about our services and partnering and industry information.
Wishing you and your family joy, health, and cheer this holiday season and throughout 2022!
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant changes in all our lives. Perhaps one of the more significant shifts has occurred in where and how we work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey (ATUS), the percent of people working at home nearly doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, rising to 42 percent. Management Strategies observed a similar shift in our workforce as several employees shifted from on-site client support to remote support. As with all significant life changes, there were challenges and opportunities to learn and improve. A few of our employees offer their pandemic lessons learned related to the workplace:
Have a dedicated workspace.
Tyler learned early in the pandemic that having a dedicated workspace at home is essential to productivity. “Your at-home workspace does not have to be an office—it could be a specific seat at a table—just make sure you have dedicated space to work that it is free from distractions. Most importantly, shut down your at-home workspace when you are done for the day. It is important to set clear boundaries between your work and home life, especially when you work from your home.”
Be aware of local norms and protocols.
Jim discovered that although some D.C. metropolitan area neighborhoods are geographically close, norms and protocols, especially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, can change significantly from area to another. “I live and work outside of the D.C. beltway. In June 2021 when Maryland no longer required masks, I learned that masking and distancing norms differed widely by community. So even if I traveled a short distance, I needed to prepare to confirm to the norms of where I was going.”
Make time for conversations.
Brandon discovered that once his work week shifted to fully virtual, he had few opportunities for spontaneous, less formal professional conversations and opportunities to network. “My work week is often booked with Teams meetings and little time for valuable side conversations with colleagues. Whenever possible, I try to plan or attend virtual or even in-person gatherings over lunch to create more opportunities to get to know my coworkers better.
Stick to a schedule.
Even though working from home can allow for more flexibility in your workday, Rachel recommends developing and sticking to a routine so work remains properly prioritized. “From your morning routine to regular work hours, keeping a schedule will help you be more productive, accountable, and prevent burn-out from over work. Just because working from home allows for a more flexible schedule, inconsistent schedules should be the exception, not the norm.”
Take advantage of the flexibility and prioritize mental health.
Annie learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that working from home gives her the ability to manage life in a more efficient and healthy way. “Without having to worry about a stressful commute around the D.C. metropolitan area, I am now more efficient during the workday. I can more effectively juggle critical work deadlines, enjoy more non-work hours during the day, and overall find it easier to maintain my mental health.”
If you suddenly adopted new working habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can likely relate to many of our team’s lessons learned. If you have any other lessons learned that were especially helpful for you, please leave us a comment on LinkedIn.
Our team often hears a recurring pain-point from our clients: back-to-back meetings without breaks is exhausting and impractical. This pain-point is growing more familiar to many of us as the current pandemic requires us to work remote and meetings are scheduled to compensate for a lack of face-to-face time. When meetings are scheduled back-to-back, one meeting going over the allotted time can have a domino effect on the rest of the day’s meetings, throwing off everyone’s schedule. Even when meetings end as scheduled, often there is no transition time before the next meeting starts. Without time to reset and refocus, employees can experience fatigue and distraction setting in, which can then cause real problems for teams.
We host many meetings and are always looking for ways to alleviate scheduling pain-points. An effective tool that many may not be aware of is the ability to automatically shorten meeting times in Microsoft Outlook to allow for more meeting transition time. You can even choose different standard meeting durations depending on the length of the meeting. The option is also available as an enterprise-wide default for organizations that want to standardize the practice of giving their employees a bit of buffer time.
If you use this option, meeting facilitators still need to make sure meetings end at the scheduled time, but enabling the feature will remind everyone of the importance of having a break in between calls.
How Can We Help You?
Could your organization use a team like ours to help coordinate activities and identify and alleviate pain points? Contact us and let us know how we can help you and your organization achieve greater business and mission success: email@example.com.
Management Strategies is an award-winning management consulting firm with 12 years of experience helping federal agencies address complex business challenges and manage mission critical programs.
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