The Value of a Summer Intern

The summer is that one time of the year where many business owners can expect to have many of their employees out of the office.  Depending on the industry,  demands may be slower during summer months, and the influx of work may be at a minimum.  However, there are some tasks that must be completed in order to keep the business afloat. Hiring a summer intern may be a solution to assist with completing tasks while employees are out of the office.

Many business leaders have apprehensions toward hiring interns for various reasons: their lack of experience, lack of employees willing to mentor/manage, and the lack of relevant work.  Although these are legitimate concerns, there are more benefits than drawbacks to having an intern during the summer. 

1. Innovators: Many interns are young, college students seeking to gain real-world experience.  They are full of ideas and can bring new energy into the business that may be missing.  As the “new kids on the block” they may be able to provide an unbiased view on operations and provide solutions that can help the business operate more efficiently. 

2. Cost Efficient: Let’s be honest, we’re in a recession, and finding ways to cut the budget without compromising value should be at the top of all business leaders’ minds.  Having an extensive recruitment process to find the best talent can be costly, but hiring an intern may give the biggest bang for your buck.  It’s all about non-traditional thinking while building teams.  

3. Future Employees: To an intern, the only thing greater than temporarily being exposed to real-world experiences is landing a permanent job.  A lot of interns who are passionate about their field are also go-getters that are willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.  Giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents and capabilities can sometimes help business leaders fill a current or future employment gap. 

This summer, be ahead of the curve. Approve those vacations slips for your employees with confidence, knowing that tasks will still be accomplished because you expanded your team with a summer intern.  I’m sure someone helped you get to the top, so don’t hesitate to turn around and help those behind you. 

Written by:

 

Janeese Parker

 

Strategic Communications Specialist

 

Chandlerson Strategic Management

 

Washington, DC

 

Janeese@chandlerson.com

 

 

Ways to Benefit From a Strategy Session

When you have a moment, check out our blog www.chandlerson.wordpress.com. Throughout the month I post some of my “Ah! Hah! Moments” and quick reads that can guide readers through the intricate details of strategic management.  Blogging has been a forum to release my thoughts, and I find that I carve out time to read other blogs for more casual insight.  Recently, I noticed a recurring question on blogs that I have visited: What can I do to get the most from my strategy session? From my experience, the most beneficial strategy sessions include: (1) pre-planning activities; (2) employee participation; and (2) post-planning activities.

If you have a strategy session on the horizon, consider the following:

  1. Plan Before the Strategy Session.  Pre-planning activities make a difference.  The Strategy Officer or Head of the Strategic Planning Committee should make time to meet with the facilitator prior to the scheduled strategy sessions, or retreat, to devise a gameplan before the team shows up. The Strategy Officer should work with the facilitator to discuss desired outcomes, the cultural environment, strategy team dynamics, and logistics, which will allow the facilitator to develop the best approach for productivity. The fundamentals for strategy sessions are universal, but the approach will vary by organization and team dynamics.  Lastly, the facilitator should be required to send an agenda at least a week ahead of the session so all participants will be knowledgeable of what to expect and how they can contribute during the sessions.
  2. Involve Employees from All Levels. The structure of the strategy team can have a negative impact on the strategic planning session.  More often, the strategy team consists of senior level and management staff, but rarely consists of the superstars and veterans that are on the line-staff level. Organizations that have participation from each level of the organization are more transparent, have company cultures that value inclusion and minimizes the “do as I say” tone that typically surfaces after the plan is developed.  Implementers and employees on the field level have the ability to balance the realistic and theoretic strategies that are developed, and they have the highest potential to serve as cheerleaders during execution.
  3. Be Sure to Follow Through.  What happens after the strategy sessions is most important. After the facilitator compiles the data and submits the final documents from strategy sessions, then the work will begin.  Consider utilizing the facilitator to coach the Strategy Officer or Head of the Strategic Planning Committee on how to determine the critical next steps. These activities include project management, alignment for performance management and communications.  Once the framework is developed at the retreat, follow-up with the individuals that were assigned to certain outcomes to ensure that they are equipped to lead through execution.  Lastly, keep the entire organization in the know.  Provide a summary of the retreat and what employees should expect in coming months.  Information is power!

As you prepare for your strategic planning session, be willing to accept that you will have to roll up your sleeves before the session, keep a clear mind during the session, and connect the dots for your staff, afterwards.  Always keep your customers and end-users front of mind and know that the strategic planning sessions consist of a committee of employees working towards a common goal.
Until Next Month,

Arrelle Anderson, MBA
Owner/Chief Business Strategist
Chandlerson Strategic Management
Washington, DC
(202) 683-6165 x 100
Twitter: @theStrategyLady
Facebook: Chandlerson Strategic Management
Linkedin/Skype: Arrelle Anderson

Strategic Plan Prep Talk

Nowadays, “a strategic plan” tends to be the new need that is mentioned in board meetings.  Many leadership teams are thinking about strategy and strategic plans, which is a good thing, but I caution the individuals that are demanding or asking for a strategic plan to be ready for what comes with it.

In my mind, if your organization or team is at a point where all of the employees are thinking about the years ahead and are yearning for a roadmap to get there, then I highly recommend that you seek out the best facilitator to come in to get the ball rolling.  Before you embark on setting up your roadmap for the next few years, just be prepared to think from an “operational” perspective and equip yourself for the common debate:  should everyone in the organization be working on the strategic plan and should all employees’ daily jobs be reflected in the strategic plan?

I encourage my clients to keep the roadmap simple.  Make sure you have clear outcomes and have goals that are attainable.  Create a strategy team that will hold the core managers or task owners accountable for what they are responsible for within their teams.  As you develop your plan, always think alignment.  What I find is that as organizations develop their strategic plan, they must think about strategic planning, project management and performance management. All three work together and contribute to the best roadmap ever.

If you are ready to create a step-by-step gameplan for the years ahead in the most simplistic way, then yes, invest in a strategic plan, but make sure it does not sit on the shelves.  Make it interactive, communicate its value across the entire organization, be ready for push back, but remember to focus on the purpose of the plan and have checks and balances in place to ensure you are on the path to accomplish your goals.

Improve Accountability by Knowing Who Is Responsible

***********************CONGRATULATIONS******************************
Ms. Arrelle Anderson, Owner/Chief Business Strategist, was invited by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to join a discussion with the Department of Education and Presidents of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU), to provide solutions on how to incorporate entrepreneurship on college campuses. Ms. Anderson advised that we have to think strategically and reach back to create a Push-Pull Strategy on the elementary school level where we penetrate our youths’ minds about business ownership, which will force the students to demand entrepreneurial courses upon college enrollment. As a result, the colleges will be required to have a curriculum that responds to the demand.
*********************************************************************

For most of us, April is the beginning of the second quarter of the fiscal year. During this time, we tend to look back at the first quarter to identify what we’ve accomplished, and look ahead to determine if we are on track to meet our annual goals. It is also common for us to realign our employees’ workloads that may have shifted due to promotions, resignations or new initiatives. No matter the reason or where you stand, now is the best time to focus on accountability by confirming that your employees are knowledgeable of their responsibilities, and how their performance will be monitored.

Many of my clients are inclined to use project management software to capture project information and force accountability into the solution that was chosen. I am not opposed to that approach, but whenever there is a moment where accountability appears to be “forced”, it is critical to step back and explore other options. For starters, as business leaders, we must accept the fact that everyone is not a project manager; however, many employees have the capacity to learn how to manage projects.

The difference between the two is the level of authority and skill. Project managers have full responsibility and authority to make sure a project is complete. They typically manage the constraints of the project that include time, scope, costs, and quality. Yet, managing projects is based on a skill set. If employees are given a responsibility to manage an initiative or project that has a beginning and end, then they will coordinate the necessary steps through implementation. The finite difference between managing projects and being a project manager may be based on the size of the project and number of team touch-points that are necessary for the project’s success. That is why there are other resources that are available to assist employees as they manage projects.

The most common management tool is a Roles and Responsibility Assignment matrix, known as R.A.C.I. The acronym R.A.C.I. stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consult, and Inform. Many organizations use RACI as a supplement to a project plan to visually display core activities that are assigned to individuals who should complete a certain task. RACI is also useful when there are many teams that are involved in a project. To learn more about RACI methods and to view sample matrices, visit http://www.valuebasedmanagement.net/methods_raci.html.

The value in having a Roles and Responsibility Assignment matrix is for accountability and to be able to manage up, down and across. Competing priorities often exist on cross-functional teams, so having access to a tool that clearly outlines a task by owner will allow employees to manage their projects with ease. When building the matrix, it is best to insert the employee’s name (or position title) next to the tasks that he/she will be completing. The accountability typically will rise to that individual’s manager. There are some Do’s and Don’ts but once the matrix is populated, it is easy to use and will contribute to a different mindset.

When I participate in meetings within organizations that utilize RACI, I hear staff using phrases like “we should consult with the financial analyst before we decide,” or “who will be accountable for this adjustment,” and sometimes I hear, “we must inform the coordinator upon implementation.” I am an advocate for utilizing resources that clearly delineate ownership and accountability. I get most excited when I hear clients speak the terminology. I must admit, once teams adopt RACI, I encourage them to “think RACI thoughts”, and that may be the true foundation of it all.

Whether you task your team with managing projects or if you hire a project manager, it is imperative to know the difference and be prepared to provide resources to implement the projects successfully. Also, be aware that managing projects may require a shift in your employees’ mindset, especially if they will be accountable while others are responsible for many tasks. I encourage you to explore other project management tools within in your organizations, which will improve accountabilitiy with knowing who is responsible.

Until Next Month,

Arrelle Anderson, MBA
Owner/Chief Business Strategist
Chandlerson Strategic Management
Washington, DC
(202) 683-6165 x 100
Twitter: @theStrategyLady
Facebook: Chandlerson Strategic Management
Linkedin/Skype: Arrelle Anderson
Blog: http://www.chandlerson.wordpress.com

Do You Need a Strategist?

In my experience, when some organizations are going through a period where they are struggling, they are unsure where to turn. They sometimes aren’t aware that a business strategist can assist them during these times and inspire the leadership teams to direct change in a positive direction. There are several tell-tell signs that indicate that you may need a strategist; let me know if any of these sound familiar:

1) Do you ever feel like you are driving a car, changing the tires, pumping the gas and staring at the moving windshield wipers all at the same time?
2) Have you ever looked around during a team meeting and saw all blank stares directed toward the manager and you thought you needed to quickly fix your face before you appear like the others, so you decided to blink several times, nod your head in agreement, and then smile?
3) What about the times when you developed a game plan, shared it with your team at a kickoff meeting, then gave them the signal to “go,” but they kept typing on their laptops or texting.

The list can go on and on, but my point is, if you ever feel like “no one gets it, but they have to get it or I’ll lose my job,” then it is time for a strategist. Business strategists, like myself, love what we do! We love chaos and truly enjoy coming into a situation where teams have so much mental noise that they are frozen. It makes us THRIVE! It may sound weird and crazy, but we are the 2% of the population that believe in the impossible!

Change Can Be a Good Thing!

I appreciate all of the emails and text messages in response to last month’s newsletter: Take a Pause and Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone. I was a little hesitant before I wrote the newsletter, but I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, and I am so glad that many of you found value in the insight that I shared. Keep up the great work!

As you know, 2012 is going to be a big year with the presidential elections, and we may hear echoes of “change,” similar to 2008. President Obama branded his entire campaign around “change” without using it in a negative light. The word “change” can be very scary and ignite mixed feelings, but as business leaders and managers, we should try to label “change” positively and strive to have our organizations follow suit.

On a daily basis, I work with executives, managers and employees who focus heavily on developing initiatives and managing tasks for a desired outcome. It is my core responsibility to empower each individual to embrace change from a strategic perspective. The most interesting fact is that change appears in all forms and can be initiated from multiple directions. No matter what, I work with my clients to prepare them for change, encourage them to accept it in a positive way, and show them how to manage it for the months ahead.

Technological advancements, employee diversification, and market demands are forcing organizations to realign themselves so they can compete and attract the best talent, which is great! In order for this shift to occur successfully, staff at all levels must be knowledgeable of the external and internal demands that may impact how an organization operates. Below are three quick techniques that will guide you during a time of transformation:

1. Preparation. Stay abreast of the happenings in your industry on a local and national level. This will give you a heads up on important things that are on the executive team’s radar. When you are aware of best practices, industry trends, and political initiatives/shifts, you can somewhat predict the direction or next “marching orders” you will receive from the leadership team. Be sure you read everything such as news blogs, political columns and even your company’s internal newsletter. Once you dissect all of that information, you will gain a clearer picture of what is happening or is forthcoming and you will be prepared for change.

2. Positive Acceptance. Have you ever returned from vacation, refreshed and recharged, ready to share your new ideas with your co-workers? If you have, I know some of your colleagues may have been excited to hear your ideas, while others were nonresponsive and disinterested. I’m sure we have all experienced those “bumps on a log” that can be draining and discouraging. Those are the teammates that will need that extra push of motivation during times of transformation. When everyone is knowledgeable about where the team is heading and aware of how they can contribute, there is potential for the staff to get excited to accept change with a smile. It may be a challenge, but open communication and spreading the joy and benefits of trying something new can be beneficial.

3. Management. Once you are prepared for change and are thinking about it positively, the only component left is to know how to manage change. As business leaders, we have to encourage that 360-degree feedback loop to take a temperature on how our employees are embracing change. We have to be flexible enough to scale back and assertive enough to keep moving forward. As employees, we have to adjust to change and adopt the necessary tools to manage change. We may have to learn how to use another gadget, convert to a different accounting system or commit to communicating in a non-traditional way. No matter what the shift is, just be equipped to manage it in an efficient, effective, and timely manner.

As mentioned in previous newsletters, “change” should not be a bad word. So as the United States prepares for the 2012 elections and your organization moves forward on its strategic initiatives for the next quarter, challenge yourself to be prepared. Also, take a step further to think positive and be ready to manage change with ease.

Until Next Month,

Arrelle Anderson, MBA
Owner/Chief Business Strategist
Chandlerson Strategic Management
Washington, DC
(202) 683-6165 x 100
Twitter: @theStrategyLady
Facebook: Chandlerson Strategic Management
Linkedin/Skype: Arrelle Anderson

Take a Pause and Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone

******************** ANNOUNCEMENT ********************
Arrelle Anderson, Owner/Chief Business Strategist at Chandlerson Strategic Management, participated in an exclusive discussion with Marie Johns, Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Cathy Hughes, Founder/CEO of Radio One and TV One. Ms. Hughes also serves as the Chair of SBA’s Council of Underserved Communities and is committed to strengthening entrepreneurship and expanding opportunities for small businesses in underserved communities throughout the United States. Ms. Anderson had the opportunity to share many entrepreneurial challenges and survival techniques that contributes to her success as a small business owner.
*******************************************************************
As business leaders, we have to continuously study our crafts and invest in ourselves, professionally and personally. Sometimes, we spend the first 30 days of a new year planning for the months ahead, but rarely make time to confirm that we are on track for success. This month, I was fortunate to attend the annual Women of Power Summit hosted by Black Enterprise Magazine. The summit provides panels and events that uplift women holistically, and typically has over 500 attendees from all walks of life varying in age, ethnicity, and status. During the 4-days, we let our hair down and formed a strong sister-circle that was truly uplifting. The theme, “Your Truth. Your Power. Your Time,” was perfect, to say the least. I left the conference feeling energized and empowered to embrace the journey ahead.

Typically, our monthly newsletter, Strategic Perspective!, provides tips and techniques for all professionals, but I felt obliged to share what I learned during the conference so you too can feel energized and empowered to excel. Below is a summary of what the speakers shared on three of the several panels I attended, but I encourage you to visit: http://www.blackenterprise.com/events/women-of-power-summit/ to learn more, watch videos and view photos from this year’s summit.

1. Managing Sabotage: How to negotiate success in an unfriendly environment. In today’s work environment, employees are faced with downsizing, new initiatives and confusing direction. In these settings, knowing yourself, your reputation, and the value that you contribute to an organization will help manage sabotage. Try not to own the problems for everyone in the room, and be aware that some games will be played. As you navigate through unfriendly environments:

a. Know who you are: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
b. Know what pushes your buttons.
c. Understand that relationships, at all level of an organization, are critical.
d. Take a moment to reflect in silence.
e. Be flexible enough to embrace challenges, and be willing to change.

2. The Anti-Social Executive. How to step out of your comfort zone for career advancement. This panel by far, was my favorite!! Although many people consider me a social BEAST, there are moments when I have to push myself beyond my comfort zone to be present in the moment. Anti-Social is drawing lines and missing the opportunity to build bridges. The panelists eloquently gave us insight on how to be an executive with personality and winning social skills. After the discussion, I truly realized that it is not so bad if my colleagues know more than my name! I also learned a few more ways to move beyond my comfort zone:

a. Make small sacrifices to invest in relationship building beyond your usual “circle.”
b. Meet people at all levels of the organization, not just the C-Suite or front office.
c. Understand that decisions are made outside of meetings.
d. Find value in small talk.
e. Realize that you are not alone.

3. Embracing Change. How to get unstuck to uncover your next move. Change seems to be such a dirty word. Who wants it? How do we deal with it? Can we ever prepare for it? After attending this panel, I knew I could handle change in any form. I am ready. As professionals, adversity is married with risks, but having the correct mindset will prepare us for battle:

a. Be willing to cross lanes; never feel like you have to stay in your lane because you may miss an opportunity for advancement.
b. Take calculated risks that will give you exposure and force you to become a strategic thinker.
c. Think of risks as opportunities and focus on the upside of change.
d. Do not hesitate to say “no” if you are not equipped, but arm yourself for the next chance.
e. Live within your means, which will give you flexibility.

The recurring message throughout the summit was take a moment to pause. You may have already had a setback or two, and may be struggling with self-motivation. Just take 5 minutes or 30 minutes a day for YOU. Remember, you are all you have and self-care is most important for being able to endure during times of change. Just like Dr. Crawford, founder of Crawford Ministries, reminded us at breakfast one morning, “I am an intentional statement of God’s Glory.” I believe in you, so keep the faith and press forward with excelling in all your goals.

Until Next Month,

Arrelle Anderson, MBA
Owner/Chief Business Strategist
Chandlerson Strategic Management
Washington, DC
(202) 683-6165 x 100
Twitter: @theStrategyLady
Facebook: Chandlerson Strategic Management
Linkedin/Skype: Arrelle Anderson
Blog: http://www.chandlerson.wordpress.com