Index

OUR NON-NEGOTIABLES: INTEGRITY

At The Gunter Group, the leadership traits and characteristics that define us are our Non-Negotiables: Collaborative, Integrity, Intellectual Curiosity, Thrives in Ambiguity, Emotional Intelligence, and Grounded Confidence. These traits and characteristics guide us every day in our interactions with clients, each other, and our community.

Thinking of INTEGRITY as something that is non-negotiable requires that you define it as so much more than simply the absence of questionable behavior. At The Gunter Group, integrity is actively demonstrated in everything we do and is baked into the fabric of our culture, business, and day-to-day work.

Sometimes making choices based on integrity can be difficult or unpopular, but it’s critical in our work that we be willing to say what needs to be said.

Before joining The Gunter Group, I spent six years in the seminary, a career that offered no shortage of time spent discussing the meaning of integrity. My pastoral experience taught me how hard it can be to translate ethical theories into action—especially in the business world. When I first heard someone at The Gunter Group talking about integrity as a non-negotiable, I was skeptical. However, I quickly saw tangible evidence that not only convinced me of their commitment, but actually deepened my understanding of what true integrity looks like.

As an employee, I expect my employer to treat me with dignity and respect. In this way, The Gunter Group exemplifies this kind of integrity on a daily basis. The transparency and candor of our leadership team, the fact that they seek and incorporate feedback, and honor the diversity of experience, perspectives, and needs of employees sets the tone for the entire company. I’ve seen our Partners make long-term investments in their people, even at the expense of short-term gains. Rather than seeking growth and profit for their own sake, they see building a successful business as a means to provide opportunities for their employees and constantly seek improvement in everything from our 401k and health benefits to family-friendly policies and events.

In our work with clients, we practice integrity by focusing on results, first and foremost, and being truly worthy of trust as opposed to gaining it as a means to an end.

Each consultant contributes to The Gunter Group’s commitment to integrity. Sometimes making choices based on integrity can be difficult or unpopular, but it’s critical in our work that we be willing to say what needs to be said. No matter which client we are currently working with, integrity requires an honest assessment of our abilities, asking for help when needed, and following through on commitments. Additionally, integrity means celebrating a culture of inclusion and collaboration, always taking responsibility for ourselves and our work, and sharing credit where credit is due.  

In our work with clients, we practice integrity by focusing on results, first and foremost, and being truly worthy of trust as opposed to gaining it as a means to an end. When speaking about our clients and peers’ challenges and business problems, we do so with empathy and respect. We look for opportunities to exceed expectations and favor building an organization’s capacity over increasing their dependence on us. 

“Have the courage to say no.”

~W. Clement Stone

Finally, The Gunter Group embodies integrity by being willing to say “no.” On many occasions, I’ve seen The Gunter Group turn down work that didn’t align with our values. When the best solution for a client is one that doesn’t involve us, we recommend it anyway, even if it means less business for us in the short-term. 

When every decision is made through the lens of integrity, what many organizations think of as “nice to have” becomes fundamental. 

THE ADVENTURES OF A GENERALIST

Birds of a feather flock together. 
Like seeks like.
You are known by the company you keep.

How do sayings like these burn themselves into our brains? It helps that they’re short and pithy, but I don’t think that’s the only reason. Perhaps a statement like “birds of a feather” has power because it’s true. And what truth lies beneath the cliches above? It matters who your friends are.

There’s plenty of science to back this up. A number of studies expand on the concept of homophily (coming from the Greek for “love of what’s similar”). Study after study shows that we seek out, consciously or subconsciously, people who are like us. And even when we differ from those around us, we start to mold our actions to be more like them. The people we spend our time with will influence our opinions, speech, music preferences, and even our health

All these studies point in one direction: the people around you literally help shape you into the person you are, and the person you will be tomorrow. 

It really does matter who your friends are. 

Looking at how a person spends their time will tell you a lot about that person. If I spend my evenings on hiking trails and in softball leagues, you would call me an athlete. If I get home from work most days and sit down at the piano for several hours of practice, you would call me a musician. If I head to the mountains every weekend with skis strapped to the top of my car, you would describe me as an avid skier. 

But what if I do all of these things? What if I spend my evenings and weekends doing all sorts of activities that don’t have very much in common? What would you call me in that case? 

You can call me a generalist

A Generalist Fits Everything Into a Day’s Work

At TGG, we’re generalists. Our consultants come from different backgrounds: some come from healthcare or finance, others come straight from the military or academia. My own background includes a 6 year chunk of time in the seminary. Every consultant at TGG has a unique background, and we bring these backgrounds to our work, no matter the client or industry. 

TGG also houses a diverse set of perspectives and approaches to business environments. We aren’t just project managers or data analysts; we do these things with a holistic perspective, one that spans industries, business cycles, and clients. 

Here’s an example. A client in healthcare might hire us to perform the work of a business analyst, collecting requirements and mapping processes for a new service offering. The person we place, however, is never just a business analyst. We provide someone who also has experience in change management or project delivery. The client benefits from having a generalist instead of a specialist, because the result (such as requirements gathering, in our example) is better tailored toward successful delivery. We perform work within context, bringing together lessons we have learned in a variety of environments to maximize the value of our present work. 

Generalists excel in all environments without having to master them. At TGG, we cultivate individuals who can thrive in ambiguity, rather than in any one particular familiar system. And the way we spend our time after the work day has a big effect on how we do that well. 

A Generalist Networks Broadly

You can tell a generalist by the shape of their calendar. As a case study, let’s take a quick look at mine. 

Over the past few weeks, my calendar shows a rather adventurous exploration of topics. This is the story of a generalist. Outside of working hours, I’ve had a number of networking events crammed into the margins. Here are a few examples: 

A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture on artificial intelligence in medicine. My colleagues and I have recently been working on articulating the impact of AI on the future of business, and were excited for the chance to reflect on advances in AI and machine learning in the healthcare industry. 

A week later, you could find me drinking coffee with change managers and discussing ways to use change management as a tool to better serve strategic planning by business leaders. Consultants in our People Practice have recently been synthesizing varying perspectives on change management to identify the key phases and activities that all good change management engagements must include (look out for a thought leadership piece on our blog soon!). This was a great chance for us to carry this conversation into a community of change management practitioners. 

A few days after that, I spent my evening at a talk by Kevin Ciccotti on the topic of how good leadership inspires good work. After Kevin finished speaking, I sat at a table with professional mentors, small business leaders, product owners, and project managers and discussed how we could put Kevin’s words into practice in our various industries and positions. Conversations like this spill into all the work that I do as a TGG consultant. 

Two days later, I swung by an early morning roundtable discussion on project management in manufacturing environments. Everyone in the room had experience leading projects, and we went around the room for an hour asking questions and sharing advice about how to make projects better. At TGG we recently created an internal bank of resources to help our consultants who are managing projects; roundtable discussions like these are a good way for us to test drive our resources with a group of experienced practitioners. 

Artificial intelligence. Change management. Strategic planning. Reflecting on Leadership. Project management. Why all these different things in one month? Because that’s just what we do at TGG. We specialize in quickly immersing ourselves into new contexts, bringing in a new perspective that adds value to the system. 

Our time inside and outside of the work day is an adventure. We get to learn about a hundred different topics and thrill at the chance to make connections between them. This enables us to bring a broad, integrated perspective to our work. 

At TGG our success comes from schedules like mine. It matters who you talk to. As generalists we talk to everyone. Spending our time like this helps to form us–speaking with such a wide array of professionals and therefore, helps shape who we are.

Interested in learning more about the life of a generalist? Check out this book on the subject. Want to hear more about how our generalist approach benefits our clients? Check out a couple case studies of how we successfully bring a broad perspective to our clients’ challenges.

TGG COMPANY RETREAT: A CHANCE TO CONCENTRATE ON WHAT COUNTS

Employee satisfaction is a tough nut to crack. 

Keeping employees satisfied is worth it: Forbes found that satisfied employees are more productive and profitable, and more likely to stick around. Everyone can agree that increased output and limited turnover are consequences that are worth investment.

To help companies understand their employees, there are a number of organizations that try to quantify what makes employees happy. If you were assuming that the sole factor in employee satisfaction is good pay, then you would be incorrect. Pay usually doesn’t even make the top of the list. 

Don’t believe me? Look at the data. The Conference Board polled 1,500 workers and found that the single most influential component in job satisfaction was “People at Work.” Wages factored all the way down the list at 11th. Your coworkers contribute more to your job satisfaction than your paycheck.

Other studies corroborate. Boston Consulting Group surveyed 200,000 people around the world on a number of topics, and found that the 4 categories that contributed the most to “happiness on the job” were: Appreciation for Work, Good Relationship with Colleagues, Work-Life Balance, and Good Relationship with Superiors. Gallup found almost identical results in their survey.

The point is this: to keep your employees satisfied and engaged, you have to treat them well. If they like being around one another, like being around their boss, and feel valued for their contributions, then they will be happier and more engaged. 

This is where The Gunter Group shines. 

Focusing on What Matters

Last week, The Gunter Group hosted its annual Company Offsite Retreat. Consultants gathered in Sunriver, OR with their partners, children, and pets, and enjoyed a weekend away from work reconnecting with their colleagues and their families.  

In addition to a number of social activities, TGG also used the Offsite Retreat as an opportunity to reflect on what matters. Mike and Ashleigh Gunter, the Founding and Managing Partners of the firm, created a new award internal to the firm. They decided to periodically highlight individuals who exemplify the TGG’s Non-Negotiables. This time around, Mike and Ashleigh highlighted 3 consultants: Ande Olsen, Beth Woods, and Kara O’Connor. 

Earlier this year, this team came together outside of the workplace. Ande ruptured his Achilles Tendon in an accident. After surgery, Beth offered to let Ande stay with her family for the first few days of his recovery. Once he was back on his feet, Kara offered to switch cars with Ande so he didn’t have to drive a stick shift with his left leg in a boot. On top of this, Mike and Ashleigh helped Ande with some delivered meals and allowed him to be flexible with his work hours during recovery. 

To the client, things remained business as usual; behind the scenes was a team of individuals that supported and cared for one another in ways that extended beyond the office. 

Mike and Ashleigh set out to create a company that puts its people first, and the Company Offsite was yet another example of their success in doing so. And as the polls suggest, an environment like this contributes to success. TGG not only continues to grow year after year, but they consistently rank among the best places to work. TGG has been recognized by the Oregon Business Journal as one of the Best Places to Work in Oregon for five years in a row. Just last week, Consulting Magazine placed TGG 4th on the list of “Top Small Firms to Work For” in the country. 

Interested in learning more about The Gunter Group? Check out our recent features in Consulting Magazine and the Oregon Business Journal

TGG LEVELS-UP TECH PRACTICE

Gunter Group consultants converged on the Portland area last weekend to attend a 16-hour 2-day training on agile. The course, provided by industry leader Rod Claar, included a deep dive into agile best practices and featured hands-on learning experiences. 

Participants learned the fundamentals of agile project management, especially with regard to the rules and roles of Scrum. This course positions TGG to continue providing the best possible service to our clients, by helping us to integrate proven best-practices with the experience many of us already have in agile environments. 

What did you do with your weekend?

Part of a Larger Growth:

Half of TGG consultants in the field are trained or experienced in agile, as of last weekend’s course. This class was one of many steps made by TGG to grow its expertise in technology. 

Over the past several years, we have seen technology become an important part of every aspect of business. More than 90% of employees in the US use the internet to do their job in some way, which means that IT isn’t just a single department in your business. Technology permeates every aspect of your business, from your customer-facing sales tech to your enterprise resource planning solution. 

Tech Practice Lead Matt Jamison spoke about this just last month in a thought article about the transformation that agile is undergoing in the business world. Modern agile methodologies, now more than 3 decades old in American business practice, are starting to see widespread adoption by organizations of every size. 

Jamison believes that agile will begin to change as more and more non-software teams embrace iterative project systems. TGG consultants are committed to integrating their consulting experience with industry-tested methods for proper tech strategy and methods. 

Included in this commitment is our new service: Agile Methods in Business. We blend our experience in agile environments with quality training and development (like last weekend), all with the goal of helping our clients select the aspects of small-team structure and iterative planning that best fit their situation. 

TGG offers these services in the Portland, Bend, Reno, and Sacramento areas. If you could benefit from consulting services in your agile practice, or need help implementing agile best-practices in your team, reach out today to start a conversation! 

STOP GETTING TECH STRATEGY WRONG

If your IT department is doing a phenomenal job then you probably never see, hear, or even think about them. They’re out of sight and out of mind. 

Then something goes wrong and everything changes.

When systems fall short, IT comes under the microscope. This usually results in knee jerk change: organizations quickly ditch failing solutions in favor of new ones. In doing so, they often unwittingly cause themselves more headaches. 

Matt Jamison, Tech Services Lead at the Gunter Group, has been grappling with this problem for a long time. After 20 years working in enterprise architecture, he knows that most problems are business problems with an IT facade. Technology is often where issues are first discovered, so the first instinct is to treat technology as the problem. This often misses a deeper cause.

Jamison has seen it many times: “Most people skip to Step 3, jumping 30% of the way into the process and running from there in a detailed fashion. This forgets the common sense questions: ‘How does this align to our greater portfolio? What are my business requirements? Who are my stakeholders?‘ When people skip these questions, it has consequences a year or two later when the new solution fails. They assume they know what they need, and they’re almost always missing something.”

That’s why Jamison always starts with an assessment. This is meant to familiarize himself with the organization, but it also gets the organization thinking about the basics. Jamison takes the time to (1) map processes, (2) gather requirements, and (3) put together a big picture that integrates the organization’s strategy and goals. He can then use two decades of experience to match that picture with a right-sized solution. 

The goal is alignment: “If a tech solution doesn’t clearly support greater business goals and strategic objectives, then it’s not worth the investment. Ideally, if I ask the right questions, the business can start to see the solution for themselves. I just help them align with their own goals.”

Jamison’s approach is grounded in an agile mindset: frequent reassessment is key. “The first step is identifying the end goal. From there you can figure out how to solve the immediate problems in a way that moves you in that general direction. Which specific roads we drive on after the first couple months is less material because there are lots of roads. You move forward, then check the map to see what has changed.” 

While many organizations forget the assessment, an even greater number forget the reassessment. After selecting a solution, organizations rarely revisit their roadmap to reassess. “That’s not responsible management of your investment.” Jamison not only favors building a tech roadmap, but he then revisits the roadmap on a regular basis. “Every 3 or 6 months, you have to come back to the table to see what’s working and what’s not, in order to make sure you’re getting the most from the investment. This is regularly skipped, and that’s not appropriate lifecycle management.”

The result is success. Jamison’s common-sense approach has helped many Portland-area companies find right-sized solutions that benefit more than just one particular business unit. Taking these basic steps can save from investing years and millions of dollars into narrow solutions. He now spends his time serving clients in Portland, Vancouver, Bend, Reno, and Sacramento. 

Thanks in part to Jamison, the team at TGG is well-equipped for today’s challenges in Tech Strategy. He is helping us integrate enterprise architecture best practices with business needs. Our analysts map processes and steward discovery. Our strategists help clients align their knowledge of themselves with actionable strategy. Our change managers help plan next steps, and our project managers drive execution and adoption.

Could you benefit from our expertise in helping organizations to adopt right-sized solutions that advance their strategic goals? Perhaps we can help you better understand the business value of the solutions that either you or your clients are weighing. Reach out today to learn more! 

Matt is an experienced solutions architect with a results-oriented understanding of the intersection between reality and architectural theory. He has the ability to plan, develop, and implement large-scale projects while maintaining impeccable attention to detail. With 18 years of functional information technology experience, Matt has end-to-end IT knowledge from layer 1 networking to application API interaction. An expert in mapping technology solutions to business needs, Matt is also able to conform to required regulations while maintaining IT best practices. Matt’s experience spans multiple industries, including healthcare, telecommunications, and security and software. He is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect. Outside of work, Matt enjoys the outdoors and all things bike-related.

MAKE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WORK FOR YOU: AN EXPERT OPINION

Artificial intelligence has been in the news a lot lately. Most recently, an AI named Pluribus outplayed the world’s best Texas Hold’Em players. Perhaps this causes you a bit of concern, given that an essential element of poker is the ability to pull off a convincing bluff. Should we be worried that a computer can lie well enough to clean out the best card players in the world? 

For most of us, AI hasn’t been at the forefront of our minds. Yes, we hear about recent technology advances in the news or somehow find ourselves at the one happy-hour table talking about how robots will replace us. Beyond that we probably haven’t thought too much about AI, resigning it as a topic for the distant future. 

In reality, the world has changed under our feet. The future is here: AI is everywhere. It’s no longer a far off concept; AI is a commodity here and now. Companies like Amazon have started to offer AI tools that sort through unbelievable amounts of data and provide valuable insights that were previously unthinkable. AI is being used to identify sales leads, streamline supply chains, optimize logistics, instantly recognize fraud, and even create original content. 

This is an opportunity. Companies of all sizes are leveraging commoditized AI tools to stay a step ahead. If you don’t take advantage of this new commodity, your competitors will. 

Matt Jamison will be in Reno presenting on this topic at panel discussion on AI this month at the Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. As a seasoned solutions architect and the Tech Services Lead at The Gunter Group, Matt’s perspective is grounded in both his tech expertise and his experience in business consulting. Click here for more information and to register for this event. If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively integrate AI into your business and can’t make it to the NCET panel, reach out today to learn more! 

Interested in what we have to say about tech? Check out our blog on the future of agile in business. 

Matt is an experienced solutions architect with a results-oriented understanding of the intersection between reality and architectural theory. He has the ability to plan, develop, and implement large-scale projects while maintaining impeccable attention to detail. With 18 years of functional information technology experience, Matt has end-to-end IT knowledge from layer 1 networking to application API interaction. An expert in mapping technology solutions to business needs, Matt is also able to conform to required regulations while maintaining IT best practices. Matt’s experience spans multiple industries, including healthcare, telecommunications, and security and software. He is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect. Outside of work, Matt enjoys the outdoors and all things bike-related.

THE FUTURE OF AGILE: LOSE YOUR MANIFESTO

Matt Jamison is no stranger to agile. As the Service Lead for technology at The Gunter Group, Jamison is putting his twenty years of tech experience to good use. He has kept his finger on the pulse of all-things-IT for quite some time.

Jamison’s latest reflections on tech would surprise you. Lately he has been talking agile, but not in the way you might expect. He believes that business is on the threshold of change. 

First, Jamison likes to point out that the idea behind agile is not new. “The Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Guide aren’t revolutionary. Extreme Programming was a thing back in the 90’s. It’s essentially agile. Sit with another person who knows what you’re doing and then iterate. Iterative problem-solving is not new, even if organizations are getting more intentional lately about building agile methods into their structure.”

That being said, Jamison does understand why people go for the rigid approach of particular agile methods. “Someone wrote out a manifesto and it was picked up by Silicon Valley IPO’s that made a ton of money. Now people assume it’s what they have to do to make money.”

There’s nothing wrong with the rigor of a guide or manifesto; it can often be a good entry point into an iterative way of thinking. But Jamison thinks that this can also be an excuse to stop thinking critically.” 15 years ago another developer told me something that still sticks with me. He said, ‘Every problem can be solved with one additional layer of abstraction.’ In an agile environment, you often come to a pain point between a problem and the guide’s method for solving it. That’s when I blur the boundaries outlined by a manifesto and see if I can bring in something new that adds value.”

Jamison has a question that he loves to ask: Does this work for us? “The key is to understand the reason you’re doing something. If you challenge a rule from a manifesto, you need to understand both the reason for the rule and the reason for breaking it. Are you iteratively getting better at something? Then you’re doing agile.” 

“Agile has become a thing,” says Jamison. “The experiment worked! The terminology won’t stick around, but the philosophy is a good way to solve problems. In that way, I think agile will continue to move businesses after the marketing engine stalls.” 

Jamison believes that agile is on the threshold of a new era. Agile was once a firm framework that provided structure to tech developers. As the hype fades, agile is transforming into a set of best practices that will enjoy wide-spread adoption in a variety of organizations. 

Organizations are already putting agile’s successful components to practice. Tech heavyweights like Spotify have experimented with non-traditional loose agile structures. Non-IT companies like banks (Barclays) and manufacturers (GE) have jumped on the wagon as well, experimenting with enterprise-scale structures that promote iterative growth and continuous feedback with less of the rigor. In the end, businesses want what works–and they are finding that in agile. 

This is a slow transformation. It is not hard to see the benefit of iteration, feedback, and innovation found in agile methods; it is much harder to make an enterprise-scale transition. Each organization is unique, and the incorporation of agile requires thoughtful planning and customized implementation. Jamison is helping the consultants at The Gunter Group to combine agile best practices with their business experience in order to meet the unique needs of our clients. 

Matt is an experienced solutions architect with a results-oriented understanding of the intersection between reality and architectural theory. He has the ability to plan, develop, and implement large-scale projects while maintaining impeccable attention to detail. With 18 years of functional information technology experience, Matt has end-to-end IT knowledge from layer 1 networking to application API interaction. An expert in mapping technology solutions to business needs, Matt is also able to conform to required regulations while maintaining IT best practices. Matt’s experience spans multiple industries, including healthcare, telecommunications, and security and software. He is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect. Outside of work, Matt enjoys the outdoors and all things bike-related.