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Center for Priority Based Budgeting - Annual Conference

Posted June 5, 2013 11:00 AM by Ted Jackson

Ascendant is excited about sponsoring the Annual Conference of the Center for Priority Based Budgeting because this event represents exactly what we are trying to promote--linking your budget to your priorities.  We believe strongly that strategy should be at the center of your management process.  This means that your budget should be linked to your strategy, and thus, you should use the lens of strategy to focus your community resources on results.  Please read more about this conference and if you are a municipality, please register and attend.  We look forward to meeting you at the event.


The 2013 "Summit of Leading Practices" Annual Conference is an excellent source of information about local government leading practices. The Summit will feature discussions, case studies and presentations on priority based budgeting, fiscal health,

civic engagement and high-performance organizations, all topics that are critical to the success of local governments.
Don't miss this opportunity to find out about these leading practice areas, and meet senior local-government managers and elected officials who have employed these strategies in their organizations.

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." - Steve Jobs
July 9 & 10, 2013     Arlington, VA     Hilton Crystal City Hotel

Lincoln "Today's challenges have required local governments to work differently, looking to new and innovative approaches to service delivery, while at the same time reducing costs and increasing efficiency of operation. While "best" practices are always important for managers to follow and implement, it is those "leading" practices-creative and innovative ways to approach service delivery-that hold the greatest promise for us to truly "reinvent" government and the ways we do business..."

Performance.gov |So what??

Posted January 31, 2013 8:11 PM by Brandon Kline

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the pleasure of supporting the Office of Management and Budget as one of our clients here at Ascendant. A lot has been accomplished in those 18 months, but one of the coolest achievements was finally launching Performance.gov. A website dedicated to showing the “performance side” of the federal government. In other words, it’s how the government is cutting waste, streamlining operations, and improving performance.

Admittedly, it was a long process bringing together the largest agencies in the federal government to report publically on top issues and priorities. But, it was worth it! If you follow our blog, check out Melanie’s post earlier this month to learn more about Performance.gov. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this post on essentially the same topic is because I was recently telling someone about the website and she asked me, “so what, why should I care?”  

It was an interesting question. Why should you care? My response – you should care because it tells the story of the impact that YOUR tax dollars are having on the American people. One of my favorite examples of this story is the Department of Interior’s goal of cutting violent crime in Indian communities across the country. High crime rates on some Indian reservations have been a concern for some time and DOI decided that they were going to change that. So, using performance metrics and review meetings to guide the effort, DOI developed a pilot program to reduce the violent crime of four specific communities with the highest crime rate.

The original goal was to reduce the crime rate by 5% and many considered that to be an ambitious goal at the time. To kick off the effort, Interior began collecting and analyzing crime data, identified trends, and began allocating resources to the areas of highest need. As the program progressed, regular reviews of the data became the norm, law enforcement strategies were continuously evaluated, and the communities were engaged on the front lines.

All of this effort began to pay off. By the end of 2011, the initiative had far exceeded its goal by reducing crime in these communities by a whopping 35%.  Now that is a performance story! Reducing violent crime on Indian communities by 35%! That means, through the Department of Interior, YOUR tax dollars have had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of people in Indian communities throughout the country.

So, back to the original question of - “why should I care?” I think this story is a perfect example of why you should. It shows real impact for real people. I’d like to encourage anyone reading this blog to check out Performance.gov and find similar stories of YOUR tax dollars at work.  

Reaching Your Goals In 2013!

Posted December 31, 2012 3:03 PM by Brandon Kline

Before I get started, I want to thank Angie for her post earlier today. It really got me thinking about the importance of starting the year strong, both personally and within your organization. However, while starting the year strong is important, I think we would all agree that keeping the momentum is the most crucial part (and the toughest). So, as we get ready for 2013, what are some things you can do to ensure that the momentum from the New Year is sustained?

First, make sure everyone knows that change, especially in an organization, is not a single event, but a process that takes time. You don’t simply decide to change something about yourself or your organization and then, poof, it’s done. It takes energy, focus, and a plan.

Next, develop a plan with specific goals. Specific goals help you to focus. Let’s say you set a personal goal to “lose weight.” It’s great that you want to lose weight, but as a goal, it’s not specific enough to force you to focus. Instead, try something like, “lose 20 pounds by the end of May.” By making your goals specific, attainable, and time-bound, you create a framework that you can manage to. In addition, it helps you (or your organization) visualize what success will ultimately look like if goals are met.

Once you have a set of goals, make sure someone or something holds you accountable. The first step towards accountability is making sure your goals are well known. If nobody knows what you are trying to accomplish, they can’t possibly hold you accountable. So, write your goals on the wall, post them on your website, or send a letter to all employees. Do whatever it takes to spread the word.

Okay, your goals are set, you’ve got an accountability mechanism, but how do you know if you’re getting any closer to success? That’s why you need to clearly and consistently measure progress against your goals. Tracking your progress not only lets you know if something is going awry, but it can also provide positive reinforcement when you’re doing well, and nothing is more motivating than proven success.

So, now that people know your specific goals, are ready to hold you accountable, and understand what progress looks like, just GET STARTED! Sometimes the hardest part is getting the ball rolling, but whether you’re trying to lose 20 pounds by May, or raise an extra million to support your cause, the only way you will reach your goal is by getting started.  

Cheers to reaching your goals in 2013 and beyond - Happy New Year!


Leaders - On The Field and In The Boardroom

Posted December 4, 2012 4:41 PM by Brandon Kline

If you know me, then you know that last night I was watching the Redskins v Giants game. Of course I enjoyed watching the Redskins win, but I also enjoyed the pure entertainment of watching two great quarterbacks battle it out. I can’t imagine the pressure a rookie quarterback encounters when facing a veteran, Super Bowl-winning quarterback. This of course got me thinking about the two other great rookie quarterbacks this season, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson. Each of these players has a set of characteristics that makes them and, as a result, their team, successful. Then, like any consultant would do, I thought about how these characteristics could be applied to the leaders of the mission-driven organizations we work with.

Below I’ve highlighted a few of the attributes that make these rookie quarterbacks successful. So, take a minute, think about these characteristics, and hopefully you’ll be able to see how they translate to the leaders in your organization.

Team Comes First Attitude. Have you ever seen a press conference with one of these guys? Reporters always ask questions about them as an individual, but they always seem to steer the answer back to being about the team. A good leader knows that they are only as good as the team that surrounds them and they acknowledge that fact openly.

Always Pushing Themselves. Everyone watches their talent on the field, but it’s when they’re off the field that the talent is nurtured and grows. After a series on the field, they come to the sideline, grab a drink, and sit down with the offensive coordinator to discuss the previous plays. They may be resting their legs, but never their brains. They are always learning, making adjustments, and strategizing about how to execute better next time.

They Have An Unrelenting Desire To Win. Do you think these rookies smile after they get beat? I don’t think so. They want their team to win, and not just once or twice, but always. If you ask them what they want from the season, I’m sure each would tell you that they want to win a championship. They want to be the best. A leader doesn’t settle for mediocrity, they always want to be better than the competition.

Respected. Despite their youth, these rookies garner respect from veterans with 10+ more years of experience. Yes, their talent has a lot to do with this, but it also relates to their discipline, work ethic, and commitment to the team above themselves. Not only do they have the respect of their teammates, but they show respect to them as well. Leaders recognize that respect is a two-way street.

They Make Everyone Around Them Better. This is the characteristic that really amazes me. Somehow, someway, everyone around them seems to play to their fullest potential. When all of the above characteristics come together, this is the result. These guys make everyone want to be better, work harder to get better, and ultimately become better. In my mind, this is what true leadership is all about.

I always find it interesting to compare leaders that operate in different atmospheres and, more often than not, I find that the skills and characteristics of good AND bad leaders are similar regardless of the environment. Hopefully some of these characteristics resonate with you and help you think about the leader you are or would like to be. 

Down. Set. Hike!

New Talking Points: Birds, Worms, Strategy

Posted November 7, 2012 10:46 AM by Angie Mareino

The election is (finally!) over, and we have just the thing to fill the void. (What’s that you say? You’re perfectly content with the sound of silence for the next month, at least?)


Each year, we host a conference* for strategy and performance managers across the social and public sector. We host a slew of presenters and keynote speakers that you’ll be pleased to meet, listen to, and learn from. Not to mention, ASMG will moderate and host workshops that serve to build your skills in alignment, visioning, goal setting and milestones, and more. It’s the kind of focused event that you’ll walk away from with news you can actually USE.

We’re pretty proud of our Summit, because we make sure our speakers know their stuff, practice what they preach, and present ideas that relate toward your mission-driven organization. In other words, at the Mission-Driven Management Summit, it's here’s to you.

That’s why I URGE YOU to check out our website with the full agenda and details, and sign up before November 16th–THAT’S 10 DAYS—to take advantage of can’t-beat, early bird pricing. And, with that in mind, over the next ten days I will count down with you, listing our top ten reasons the strategy Summit is the kind of event you’ll want to talk about (to your coworkers, your boss, your network….).


Meet fellow strategists and performance managers across the Mission-Driven sector (school districts, municipalities, nonprofits, federal government, and NGOs) and expand your network while learning how others manage strategy and performance.


Eventbrite - Mission-Driven Management Summit STAY TUNED FOR REASON #9 TOMORROW… and learn more at www.missiondrivensummit.com

* (and no, not one of those giant, tradeshow-style conferences, but a small, focused, two-day event that’s centered on content, not vendors)


Can the Sectors Learn From Each Other?

Posted October 2, 2012 9:06 AM by Ted Jackson

Private sector organizations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize return to shareholders.  Government agencies are tied to the political platform of their city, state or nation.  Charities are required to achieve their mission.  Can these organizations operating within completely different sectors learn from one another about strategy management?  Of course they can!  Let’s look at how.

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