“I wanted to just pause and tell you what a fantastic job you did in helping us design and carry off the summit. At one point on Wednesday morning, I looked at the delegates working in their groups, the walls covered and the banner hanging and said "damn, it really worked." And that would not have been possible without your guidance throughout. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I will carry this wonderful experience with me.” Debra Tidwell-Peters, Contracting Officer’s Representative, Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Advisory Panel
“I went through the draft strategic plan in great detail as a final review prior to its inclusion in the Board book. What a pleasure it was to review the results of your hard work. You did an absolutely outstanding job in producing this document! I am very pleased and was most happy to make almost no change to the draft. … Nothing pleases me more than quality and working with quality people -- this document embodies quality – WELL DONE to everyone!!!!” Bob Chamberlin, Chief Executive Officer, NISH
"Congratulations—Talltree South Condominium Association is Washington Metropolitan Chapter Community Associations Institute's 2010 Medium Association of the Year! On behalf of Washington Metropolitan Chapter Community Associations Institute I'd like to congratulate you and thank you for your commitment to providing better living through community associations!" -- Sarah A. Patterson, Executive Director, Washington Metropolitan Chapter Community Associations Institute
Dorothy Firsching has been president of Talltree South since October 2008. See http://www.talltreesouth.com.
"Dorothy Firsching took time to get to know our business and our way of looking at things. We quickly established rapport and trust in her advice. She provided us with options that were new to us, and delightful in their appropriateness. We now have a completely redesigned website that conveys who we are and invites interaction. Contracting with Ursa Major Consulting was the best business decision we made that year." -- Jim Heegeman, President, The Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, DC
"A good consulting firm has to have depth of experience in best practices, combined with a thorough understanding of what makes a client's situation unique. Ursa Major Consulting gets top marks in both categories. It is with great pleasure that we recount our experience with this firm.
We needed help with information technology to improve our marketing and to make our internal communications more effective. We had specific objectives in a request for proposals, and in evaluating the responses we decided that Ursa Major Consulting would give the best value for the money. In fact, we got superior service that went way, way beyond our expectations." -- Jim Heegeman, President, The Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, DC
Our approach to performance management is that:
- You have got to get clear on your goals before you measure performance, and
- Once you measure performance, it means nothing if you don't use the information to manage your operation to achieve results.
We therefore work with organizations to make sure that their goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound), and develop strategies to support making the measurement results actionable.
Ursa Major's approach to strategic planning services is (1) tailored, (2) informed, (3) collaborative, (4) effective, and (5) focused. We regularly team with International Leadership Consulting / Catoctin Consulting and provide an experienced team to facilitate consensus on goals, objectives, strategies, performance measures and targets, and reflect the business knowledge of the organization and its stakeholders that participate in the process.
- Tailored. We understand the specific needs of the organization, and tailor the methodology to meet their needs.
We have extensive experience with a number of frameworks, including brainstorming, creative problem solving, the Balanced Scorecard, performance-based budgeting and the logic model.
- Informed. We analyze the current state of the organization compared with existing strategic and business plans, and the external environment, review perforamnce results, and interview key stakeholders to conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis, and possible goal areas. We may do data mining or trend analysis of performance data or conduct gap analyses.
- Collaborative. We conduct design meeting(s) with the organization's planning team and plan group and stakeholder participation to develop buy-in through facilitated collaboration. We tap into existing experience of diverse stakeholders and obtain cross-organizational input.
- Effective. We have an extensive set of field-tested tools and templates and may develop strawman plans to speed the process. We use non-threatening techniques and small group work to draw out those who may be reluctant to speak, honor everyone's participation, and focus the discussion. We use technology where appropriate.
- Focused. We design and facilitate meetings and workshops to achieve objectives. We document meeting results and support the organization in implementation, assessment, and performance management.
Facilitation is the art of tapping into the knowledge and experience that clients already have, and working with them to help them achieve their objectives. We clarify the strategic intent, and then specifically design both the process and the agenda to achieve the objectives of the event, whether they be purely business oriented, interpersonal or team oriented, or a combination of the two.
We plan for the personality and needs of the group. We carefully orchestrate the desired atmosphere, to create an environment conducive to open communication and creativity. As appropriate, we develop processes to reach out to and involve diverse stakeholders, whether that participation is directly at a facilitated in-person meeting or via other methods such as teleconference, survey, or web collaboration. We have facilitated groups that range in size from a few people to hundreds of people, and know how to tailor the agenda and facilitation plan to meet the needs of groups of various sizes.
Working with diverse stakeholders requires a wider range of skills than does facilitating a group of people from a single organization structure. We have been successful on many projects that involve cross-organizational input and participation from Congress, Federal agencies, State and local agencies, policy makers, political appointees, scientists, academia, national nonprofit organizations, local nonprofit agencies, industry representatives from large and small firms, and private citizens.
We use a variety of group facilitation techniques and tools including icebreakers, brainstorming, breakout groups, flipcharts, etc. We use specific techniques to move a group toward consensus, for example, dot-polls for rough prioritization. We use tools such as sticky walls (rip-stop nylon sprayed with an adhesive) to flexibly place and re-arrange items recorded on pieces of paper when the ability to reorganize is important. We use laptops to project text in large fonts and make changes the entire group can see when the changes are not extensive. We also take copious notes and provide meeting minutes or a draft and final report following each meeting. We support planning and coordination of meeting logistics, development of background or read-ahead materials, note taking and/or transcription, and publishing of reports, including graphics and printing where appropriate.
When we undertake an organizational assessment, we select the appropriate tools and techniques to meet the specific objectives. We may use interviews, surveys, assessment instruments, and/or facilitated workshops.
Our team includes several consultants with PhDs who specialize in survey research and ensuring the validity of results. We design instruments and administered surveys using a variety of techniques, including web-based and email surveys.
We have conducted analyses and studies covering a wide variety of objectives and methodologies – program evaluation, strategic planning, need assessment, communications research, marketing research, segmentation, demographic research, concept tests, customer/patient satisfaction, qualitative research, and litigation support studies.
For example, we recently met with department managers and key staff of an organization trying to automate its case management functions, to determine how to "break the logjam" and help them get their implementation on track. We identified key "critical path" requirements to be researched with vendors and applied project management techniques to bring structure to the process going forward. We are convinced that the right solution will greatly reduce redundant work, improve planning and scheduling, and overall allow the organization to continue expansion with less stress on its staff. We really enjoy the chance to help take an organization to the next level!
Ursa Major's website development process focuses on understanding your:
- Goals and Objectives for the Site
- Audiences and Messages
- Business Functions Needed
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Marketing Plans
We have experience defining requirements for enterprise level projects requiring integration of custom and off-the-shelf products, and supporting competitive procurement of solutions meeting those requirements, but less extensive website development projects follow a simple process.
We review your existing site or any background material you can provide, and then conduct a structured interview process with you. We use a standard questionnaire, customized with what we already know about the project, to save time and make sure that we get the information we need. We use this information to develop a proposal to formalize our agreement.
We ask you to organize and provide us all content you already have for the site, including any logos, photos or other graphics, color choices, etc. that you want to have included. We review your existing site, including your plans for change, your hosting, and your current site traffic and SEO status, as applicable.
We then proceed to develop an initial site map and wireframe or set of wireframes for discussion and approval. Using that input, graphic design is done and/or a template is selected (if an off-the-shelf template is close to what is desired). Using an off-the-shelf template with a few tweaks may provide a great look and functionality for minimal cost.*
The flexibility of content management systems such as Joomla! and Wordpress means that navigation can be prototyped with a subset of actual content examples, while some graphic design decisions are still being made. Seeing is believing, and navigating real content stimulates further discussion of ways to enhance the site or the user experience.
Upon completion, we will do a full site review to test and correct any errors and ensure that the site meets your requirements. We'll ask that you then do the same, and let us know of any other changes that are needed. Scope management may dictate that some enhancements be delegated to a waiting list, but the productivity of Joomla! often means that a few extra features may be accommodated on the spot. We document what we have done and provide orientation and training of your staff, as agreed, so that they can add content as needed without relying on a developer.
We will host your site, recommend hosting, or use your current hosting. If desired, we will be available to support your SEO and site security.
More Complex Projects
While we love the productivity of Joomla! and WordPress, and the wide range of off-the-shelf widgets and components (particularly for Joomla!), some projects may need other tools or custom development. We will evaluate alternatives and provide you with our recommendations, staff the project appropriately, and incorporate the necessary quality assurance and testing into our project management plan. We will demonstrate the site on our test server so that adjustments can be made as appropriate.
Even for Joomla and Wordpress, note that the flexibility of templates varies, and customization of an existing template vs. development of a new, custom tempate presents real tradeoffs. When you're not exactly sure of what you want, letting us know examples of any sites you like (and what you like about them) is very helpful. We will have to help you know what to look for in templates. These days, the focus is increasingly on responsive design, and many currently available templates are not fully responsive. It all depends on what you need.
We have experience with e-commerce sites. Please contact us with your requirements.