E-027 Grant Team Velocity and more with Diane Leonard and Lucy Morgan

Episode Summary:

### Quick Episode Summary Grant Talks Podcast [#027]

*Intro ***.42***

* Fire Away Questions with Diane Leonard and Lucy Morgan CPA***1:34***

* How to Build Grant Team Happiness and Velocity ***3:27***

* The Intersection of Scrum and Grant Consulting***5:19***

* The Benefits of Velocity to Grant Recipients and Grant Makers***7:08***

* Building Capacity with Innovation ***8:35***

* Doing More with Less-Why Velocity Matters ***11:06***

* Changing Expectations: Velocity is More Than Working Faster***13:12***

* Transforming Innovation into a Service Context ***15:29***

* Speedbumps on the Road to Team Happiness and Velocity***17:04***

* Speedbumps on the Road to Team Happiness and Velocity***17:04***

* Eternal Truths for Grant Professionals: Take It One Step at a Time ***19:57***

* The Last Word with Diane Leonard and Lucy Morgan ***22:21***

*Outro Audio GrantTalks Podcast with Lucy M. Morgan CPA ***23:12***

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Intro: 00:04

Welcome to the Grant Talks podcast with Lucy Morgan. Lucy is the CEO and director of MyFedTrainer.com a leading provider of grant management training and templates for federal grant recipients. This show is for grant professionals looking to gain confidence managing their grants. In an age of increasing complexity, you'll hear from leading professionals on the best practices surrounding grants, what's involved in successfully managing the grants lifecycle and how to make sure your grants are managed correctly. Now here's your host Lucy Morgan.

Introducing Diane Leonard from DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services

Lucy Morgan: 00:42

Welcome, everyone, to this conversation with Diane Leonard, GPC, and a GPA Approved Trainer. Diane founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services. Diane and her team have secured more than $61.2 million in competitive grant funds from a variety of sources. In 2018, Diane became a CSPO, Certified Scrum Product Owner, and a CSM, a Certified Scrum Master.

And, in 2019, Diane announced the rollout of the newest addition of her business Agile in Nonprofits. Agile in Nonprofits is a product of DH Leonard Consulting that strives to support nonprofit organizations looking to achieve greater impact in their communities faster than they ever have before.

And I'm Lucy Morgan, your host for this session. Welcome, Diane. I am thrilled to be able to interview you for this podcast.

Diane Leonard: 01:33

Thanks so much for having me.

Fire Away Questions with Diane Leonard and Lucy Morgan CPA

Lucy Morgan: 01:34

And, you know, I started my career in the manufacturing world, so using Agile and lean principles, you know, it's not a new concept to me. But I'm so excited to see how these concepts are transforming in the world of grants, and particularly the lives affected by nonprofits. So, here we are. We're in Washington, DC, at the GPA Conference talking about your conference presentation, "Grant Writing Isn't a Solo Sport: How to increase Grant Team Happiness and Velocity. What's Going on in the World of Grants to Improve Technology for Accounting and Grant-making." So first, I have some fire away questions to introduce you to our audience. Are you ready?

Diane Leonard: 02:10


Lucy Morgan: 02:12

First of all, many people may not know that you are a runner. So, tell me about how you got started in running and what impact that has had on your life?

Diane Leonard: 02:20

Yeah. So my father is a runner, and he's...that's just been part of who he is, right, how he would complete his stress cycle. I didn't realize what a stress cycle was as I kid. And so he would do marathons, and we'd go cheer him on as a family. And then, when I got to middle school, he encouraged me to join our cross-country team. And I loved it. And it stuck with me. And so it became my thing, right? Easy. You're at college, throw on your sneakers, go out the door, have a little bit of time to yourself. You're traveling on business, throw on your sneakers, go out and explore a new city.

So, running has always been the way I like to complete my stress cycle, the way I like to explore cities. And even when my kids were little, it was something we did together, not that they were running with me, but they were always in the jogging stroller. We were out on an adventure. And now, they like to run with me sometimes too, and the puppy. And so it's a great way I think to get outside and run. And now when we're at conferences, I love putting those running groups together in the morning, helping walkers and runners get out before they sit in conferences, and learn all day.

Lucy Morgan: 03:20

So you've already been out for a run this morning?

Diane Leonard: 03:22

Indeed. We had a great group of like ten folks this morning head right down to the monuments. It was great.

How to Build Grant Team Happiness and Velocity

Lucy Morgan: 03:27

Wow. You say that grant-writing is not a solo sport, and I think sometimes, as grant professionals, we may feel like we're all alone in the wilderness. And you've built a grant-writing team in a profession I think most consultants that I encounter often want to keep everything as a solo endeavor. What surprised you the most about building a grant consulting team?

Diane Leonard: 03:48

Sure. Well, I think, you know, if we look at our work, whether in an organization or as a consultant, we're used to being the siloed, maybe solo grant person, and then being asked to "just write the grant." So, we struggle to help people understand what's a grant team and how it takes multiple people. And then, when you start to be in the consulting world, well, I looked around, and I was lonely. And I also realized that one brain, sure, I might have some smarts in there, but two heads are better than one. And I'm going to get better ideas with three.

And so the idea of using such smart professionals in one situation to make the client work better, all of a sudden, it's like, "Wait, this could work," right? Technology is our friend. We bring folks together in a way that would improve the client product. It's not that any one writer isn't great by themselves, right, but it gives you someone to bounce ideas off of. It gives you a guaranteed editor. You're not going to have to look around for friends, or a family member, or something that's going to help your critical eye, all that's built right in. And it brings about some really good camaraderie in what, otherwise, I think can be a lonely profession as a grant consultant.

Lucy Morgan: 04:55

Now, did you always start with that end in mind, or is it something that you just had a realization after you started as a solo entrepreneur, and then you made a shift?

Diane Leonard: 05:04

Yeah. I did not start with that in mind. I had no idea, right? But the shingle out in front was just me, air quotes, right? Yeah. But it's been great to see develop, and, yeah, I just couldn't imagine now doing it any other way.

The Intersection of Scrum and Grant Consulting

Lucy Morgan: 05:19

And that really supports our next question, which is, now that you've branched out into becoming a CSPO, a Certified Scrum Product Owner, and CSM, a Certified Scrum Master, in addition to your grant consulting, one of the first questions some folks may have is "What is Scrum?"

Diane Leonard: 05:35

Right. Like, is that an acronym? Is that software? What does that mean? So, Scrum is, it's a way of doing work. And really, it's about a way of doing work in a team situation, and so it makes a whole lot of sense for grant teams. But Scrum itself is a very simple framework. It's part of the Agile umbrella of an approach to doing work, to being in a team situation. So, it's about some time-boxed events. And there are only three roles in Scrum; there are five events and three artifacts. So it's a very basic rule book that organizations then create their own playbook for, right? Rules of baseball are always the same, but teams take a different strategy, right? This is the same idea, but, well, we're going to talk about Scrum and the way we do work.

Lucy Morgan: 06:23

So I think sometimes all those acronyms and new terminology are a little intimidating to people. Is part of your presentation at the GPA to talk more about those concepts, so people are more comfortable hearing some of these new terms?

Diane Leonard: 06:36

Yeah. We go through the framework rather quickly because you don't need to start and implement the entire framework in order to get started with Scrum in an organization. And so, we go over pretty quickly in the presentation just because you don't have a lot of time at the conference, right, but I've gotta say I've got free webinars that help people kinda understand that more. But anytime you learn a new subject, there's new learning, thankfully not as many acronyms as the grant world. I'll say there is the advantage of learning about Scrum, fewer acronyms than what we're used to.

The Benefits of Velocity to Grant Recipients and Grant Makers

Lucy Morgan: 07:08

I love that. You don't have to have that whole dictionary section at the beginning of even understanding what to do with grants. So what are some of the benefits to grant recipients and even to grantmakers who are implementing these types of approaches?

Diane Leonard: 07:21

Sure. Really, what caught my eye and what I think continues to engage nonprofits, whether the grant seekers or the grantmakers, the title of the book. When Dr. Sutherland created Scrum about 30 years ago, what ended up coming out of that was metrics and data that shows that Scrum helps organizations achieve their work faster. So, the title of the book is, "Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time." So, if you say to a nonprofit, "You could achieve the impact in twice the time, you could achieve the impact in half the cost," right, what nonprofit leadership or board isn't going to sit up and take notice?

So some of the benefits are that it's encouraging team behavior in places where sometimes there have been too many silos, right? Grant teams are a great example. It is encouraging folks to work in a way that...we've seen it. Our grant teams with our clients, they're raising more money faster, right? So boards look at that, and all of a sudden, "Wait, why are we getting millions instead of hundreds of thousands," right? So that's been a direct benefit. We've seen organizations that are getting stronger client feedback in their program design. So, they're rolling out new programs and ideas faster with more client feedback, and, therefore, more satisfaction and results faster.

Building Capacity with Innovation

Lucy Morgan: 08:35

Can you walk us through some of the impacts that these new offerings that are being presented by your company and how they're going to impact and integrate with your current grant consulting?

Diane Leonard: 08:45

Sure. Thanks for asking. So, you know, when we looked at Agile in nonprofits, much of what we're offering, actually everything we've been offering up to this point has been at no charge. Because to me, this ties in with our grant consulting because when I founded the firm in 2006, it was coming from the grantmaking side. And so, it's always been about building capacity for those that are using grants as a way to achieve their mission. So when I look at Agile in nonprofits as one of our projects, the idea is to share the information and the ideas of Agile, in particular, Scrum with nonprofits, so they can think about it and consider implementing it in their own organization. So we've got free webinars, and we've got blog posts. And those are always going to be there.

So, for someone that wants to learn about it themselves, they can do that. They can listen to the audiobook from Scrum Inc. But then, for those that really want to dig in, and this is then the extra step, so we've partnered with Scrum Inc. And I'm so excited about this. We've partnered with them to offer the Licensed Scrum Master course, but we put a twist on the offering and changed the case studies so that nonprofits aren't only hearing about the for-profits. Sure, is it helpful to hear about what happened with Tesla, and John Deere, and some of these big pharmaceuticals? Yes, it shows the impact that Scrum can have. But those nonprofits want to hear examples from nonprofits, right?

So the licensure is exactly the same. The certificate doesn't say anything different. The course framework, nothing is different. It's just that we use case studies that are from nonprofits. And so we're offering that two-day Scrum master course. We just actually had the first one in DC the last two days, so I'm fresh off that and so excited. But we'll be offering that again in 2020 for folks that are, not just a little interested, but so excited they can't wait, and they're ready to dig in at that level that they want two days of support to get started in their organization.

Lucy Morgan: 10:37

So, is this more of a train-the-trainer type of model where people are coming in and being trained and then going back and running these types of events at their own organizations, or do you actually go out and help organizations implement some of these concepts as well?

Diane Leonard: 10:50

So the Licensed Scrum Master course is designed for those who want to go and implement Scrum in their organization. This particular course isn't a train-the-trainer. They'll have the knowledge that they can train their colleagues and help them understand Scrum, but it's not specifically train-the-trainer in that way.

Doing More with Less-Why Velocity Matters

Lucy Morgan: 11:06

Okay, very good. And, you know, I think in the grant's world, whether you're working on the foundation side, or the federal grants, or state grants, whatever it is, everybody is being expected to do more with less. I mean, that's just a common theme. It's also a trend that is increasing, not slowing down anytime soon. So let's switch over a little bit and talk about your presentation with the GPA.

So you talked about how Scrum improves grant team happiness and velocity. So, first of all, most of us, you know, we recognize happiness when we see it. That's the concept; hopefully, you are all familiar with it. But what is velocity, and how does that fit into some of the main problems that grant recipients are looking to solve?

Diane Leonard: 11:44

Sure. So going back to your comment about doing more with less, it is rare that you're going to talk to a grant professional that isn't asked to find more grant money for the next fiscal year or asked to apply for more federal grants next year without even an extra intern to help. And so, how do we do that as grant professionals? What heroic effort might we have to take on? I'd like to say let's not take-on heroic efforts, right?

Let's not work until midnight. Let's not forego our vacation. So when we think about velocity, we're looking at the work that's being accomplished. So how much work can we get done as one person in 52 weeks at 40 hours a week? There are only so many hours, right? So, since we don't want to take those heroic efforts, oh, wait, if we go to the team setting, right, all of a sudden, with the support of a team, a cross-functional team, we can start to increase our velocity. Does it mean that we have more writers on the team? No, not necessarily.

It means that by integrating those cross-functional colleagues from your organization into your process, all of a sudden, you can help each other in ways that will make your end product be, well, one, stronger, but be produced faster. And so the idea is that a team can increase their velocity over a period of time in a way that will make their grant calendar and their grant revenue stronger, right? And that looks different in each nonprofit, but that's the high-level idea.

Changing Expectations: Velocity is More Than Working Faster

Lucy Morgan: 13:12

Okay. So velocity is all about getting those results faster?

Diane Leonard: 13:15

Creating whatever the work product is in a way that's acceptable to the end consumer faster. Yeah.

Lucy Morgan: 13:22

Okay. And I know when we think in our minds faster; sometimes we think of that Friday afternoon when your boss comes down and says, "We need this by today," or, "It has to be submitted by today," or whatever it is. And so you think of that as more of a stressful individual-type concept. Velocity, "Oh, my gosh, I have to do this faster." But it's almost like getting the car with more horsepower when you're building a team. You know that if you have to step on the accelerator, it's going to respond much faster than just, you know, the old, you know, four-cylinder Suzuki or something like that.

Diane Leonard: 13:58


Lucy Morgan: 13:59

So, you reference this book by Jeff Sutherland, and the book is called " Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time." How are nonprofits and other grant recipients integrating some of these strategies into the social good sector?

Diane Leonard: 14:12

Yeah, that's such a great question. So, we see this come out in a number of ways. There's a fantastic case study that's actually from the UN. And it would take pretty much the rest of the podcast for me to give you the whole story, so I'm just sharing everything from small community nonprofits to UN organizations that are solving some pretty serious community issues, right? But then, at the localized level, we've seen individual grant teams that are happier, faster, producing more dollars, right?

So that's what we really care about today here at the GPA conference. We're thinking about the dollars and the impact that creates in a community. So, a few other things we see the impact of Scrum in education. So Edgy Scrum is one company, in particular, that's really focused on that. That's over in Europe, but folks in the US are learning from them. And there's some great work being done in Texas where we see the result.

So what's interesting about it is that it's not just in one sector. We see it in healthcare. We see it in education. We see small community nonprofits. We see the success in creative ways in all sorts of organizations, right, because they're taking a basic framework and creating their own playbook for how that changes their organization, whatever their mission is. So, we just see the mission impact faster.

Transforming Innovation into a Service Context

Lucy Morgan: 15:29

And I was really fascinated. I had done some case studies in the past few years on some governmental applications of lean concepts where one of the big initiatives was in the State of Washington. And they've done...and published a lot of their results. And it was fascinating to me because things that I always viewed from a manufacturing perspective took on a whole new service context.

And even things like reducing accidents in the workplace, and having safer environments, all were being seen through that framework of Scrum, or an Agile, or lean concept. And even things like filling out forms and getting results if you're a taxpayer, and maybe you go down to the DMV or something in the State of Washington were all being driven by these initiatives. And the amount of time saved was just...would blow you away.

Diane Leonard: 16:18

Yeah. The state of Washington is an amazing example, and they're really open to talking about it, right? They serve as site visits, in particular, Scrum [inaudible 00:16:26] and some Scrum@Scale classes there, but they're really open. And I think what's fun about Scrum is that once an organization catches on and it's so excited about it, they love to share with folks, right? And in the for-profit sector, well, it's a competitive edge in terms of generating more revenue, right?

So, sometimes, they keep it close to the chest. But in the government setting and the nonprofit setting, folks love to talk about it. And so when you hear an example, and you're, like, "Oh, that might look like us," or, "That might help," all I have to do is ask, and you'll probably hear more than maybe you wanted to, right? Everybody loves to share, and Washington is a great example of that. People should take field trips if they want to go after the West Coast and ask for a site visit at their offices.

Speedbumps on the Road to Team Happiness and Velocity

Lucy Morgan: 17:04

Yeah. It was really good work being done. One of my colleagues works for a housing authority in the State of Washington. And even things you never think about if you're, you know, running a housing authority, which is largely funded by grants and how you can apply those concepts into that as well, it was pretty cool. All right. Well, you know, I don't want us to run out of time since we started this conversation talking about running.

Do you have some insights for organizations feeling maybe the race they've been running is just not good enough anymore, and there's that constant pressure to do more with less? Are there some mistakes or speed bumps that you commonly see when organizations first commit to really supporting grant team happiness and velocity?

Diane Leonard: 17:45

So, I think one of maybe the biggest things that we've seen that's a concern, folks are maybe considering Scrum because the idea of happiness and velocity excite them, or maybe it's just the happiness or just the velocity. Maybe it's not both right away. But the biggest thing is really about how honest an organization is with themselves.

Actually, when we start the nonprofit course when we're looking at the Scrum Master class, and we sit down, we have everybody bring their mission statement and their vision to the class. And I also have everybody pulled our website up on their phone. And we talk about looking for the words, commit to change, transform, right, those great words that are in pretty much every nonprofit mission or vision statement, and they're there.

But does that mean that all the organizations are really committed in their organizational culture to being transparent towards that change internally? It's one thing to talk about the change in the community, but in terms of how you interact with your people behind the scenes, right? So that willingness to be transparent is really one of the speed bumps to helping folks, not just think about the Scrum framework, but if it's the happiness element driving on their velocity element, that really is the biggest speed bump that we consistently see.

Lucy Morgan: 18:55

And, you know, let's talk honestly about the elephant in the room. Whenever you're talking about doing more in less time, the first thing that comes into people's minds is, "How does this affect my job? Am I going to be laid off? Are we going to lay people off by being more efficient," you know? I hate to say that, but that's sometimes having those honest conversations with senior leadership and staff are so crucial at the top to just not let that rolling boil around underneath the surface, but get it right out and talk about it.

Diane Leonard: 19:23

Yeah. And I think that that concern knowing, you know, you're manufacturing and lean background too, right? It's a very common question in that setting. And I think what ends up happening in a nonprofit setting and the questions we hear is instead of worrying about trying to do all of the things, right, all the things and not taking a vacation and working harder, it's more, "Wait for a second, if we can do all these things, and I can still have a life and have a vacation, we're going to do so much more." And all of a sudden, they realize that it's about just the extra mission impact without changing their people's dollars.

Eternal Truths for Grant Professionals: Take It One Step at a Time

Lucy Morgan: 19:57

That's good advice. Are there any other lessons that you'd offer to grant recipients that are struggling with really on that having those honest conversations level or other levels as they're thinking about implementing something like this?

Diane Leonard: 20:10

Sure. So, if you're looking at implementing a new framework, operationalizing a new idea for your organization, you want to maybe feel, like, you want to take on the whole thing, right? You want to just leap right in, taking the whole framework, implement it because it's going to create this great change. But in particular, the Agile journey, and specifically Scrum too, right, they're all...it is that. It's a journey. It's a learning process, and so, you know, have an honest conversation if you can when you get started.

But you can also start small and do something like start a daily Scrum, maybe don't call it a daily Scrum, maybe the language is going to be what's going to throw people off. But you can take these little elements to start to test a hypothesis for how it's going to impact your organization. And then when your colleagues and your leadership start to see the change of this little daily Scrum, how this might work, how this conversation and this measurement of velocity work, also, and maybe now everyone's more open to the bigger conversation because you just bit off a tiny little bit of their framework to get started.

Lucy Morgan: 21:14

So are there any eternal truths about Scrum that you can offer to someone struggling with a grant team or maybe an organization that they're not happy? I mean, they would like to be happy, but they're not happy at this point, and they're not producing many results. Maybe they've had that siloed culture, maybe they've always, as you said, felt alone and unsupported in that role.

Diane Leonard: 21:35

So, yeah, an internal truth about Scrum. It's not a silver bullet, right? It's not the magic bullet. Implementing the Scrum framework won't magically make everyone happy like we're at Disney World, right, or triple velocity right away. These are things that take time. And so when you're looking at what...we talk about doing a kaizen. So, a single improvement every time, so it's like a hypothesis.

So, you're going to slowly test hypotheses to see would talk happiness, increase happiness for your colleagues, right? So, you'll see incremental improvements as you go, but it's not like implementing the Scrum framework or any of the Agile principles. That's not going to be the magic switch that's going to make everybody, like I said, super happy like we're off at some amusement park or something.

The Last Word with Diane Leonard and Lucy Morgan:

Lucy Morgan: 22:21

Thank you, Diane. And I'd like to give you the last word. Is there something I should have asked, but I didn't?

Diane Leonard: 22:27

Oh, such a big question. I'm like, oh, I love talking about Scrum as much as I do grants, right? But no, I think this has been such a great conversation. Thank you so much.

Lucy Morgan: 22:37

Thank you. And thanks for all your insights. If someone would like to find out more about you and DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, how should they get in touch with you?

Diane Leonard: 22:46

Yeah. They could check out our website at dhleonardconsulting.com. Or specifically, if they're really interested in the Agile work and nonprofits, they can get to this site through our main web site. But agileinnonprofits.com is where they can find those free webinars, the blog posts, and that information about Scrum.

Lucy Morgan: 23:01

Thank you so much for participating in this "Grant Talks Podcast." Listeners, you can find all the episodes at granttalks.com. And thank you for tuning in.

Outro Audio GrantTalks Podcast with Lucy M. Morgan CPA


To learn more about how MyFedTrainer.com makes grant management more manageable, visit MyFedTrainer.com. That's MyFedTrainere.com. You'll find all the Grant Talks episodes at GrantTalks.com. That's GrantTalks.com.

More About Diane Leonard:

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, LSPO, LSM, is a Grant Professional Certified (GPC) and Approved Trainer of the Grant Professionals Association. Diane is also a Licensed Scrum Master and Licensed Scrum Product Owner.

Since 2006, Diane and her team have secured more than $64 million dollars in competitive grant awards for the clients of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services. She is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association.

When not working with her team on grant applications for clients, Diane can be found in the 1000 Islands, out for a run, or drinking a strong cup of coffee.

More About Lucy Morgan:

Lucy M. Morgan is a CPA, MBA, GPA approved trainer, speaker, and author of 3 books including “Decoding Grant Management-The Ultimate Success Guide to the Federal Grant Regulations in 2 CFR Part 200.” As a leading authority on federal grant management for nonprofits, institutions of higher education and state, local and tribal governments she has written over 250 articles on grant management topics featured in LinkedIn, various publications and on the MyFedTrainer.com blog.

She is a sought-after presenter at national conferences sponsored by organizations such as the Grant Professional Association (GPA), National Grant Management Association (NGMA) and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Lucy is also a highly regarded trainer whose techniques and teaching style come from real-world experience. Having faced many of the same challenges her audiences have endured, Lucy understands that what looks good on paper may not always work in the real world. Because she has been there, she provides people of all professional backgrounds with practical tools to advance their careers and make a bigger difference in the world. She can be reached at [email protected].

>>Hear more about Lucy's story in Episode #004

More Resources for Grant Professionals

Thanks for checking out the Grant Talks podcast!

In this episode of Grant Talks, we talked about a subject that you may want to know more about:

  • Collaboration between grant writers and managers

So...as promised I want to share some resources that may help you on YOUR grant journey.

Recently I’ve talked with a number of folks who discovered TOO LATE that their grants had spending restrictions that were a complete surprise!

(And part of your grant policies should address spending restrictions on how grant funds can be used…)

So, I thought this might be a good time to help you avoid those types of BIG “oopsies” that lead to disallowed costs with a Pre-Award checklist!

(Getting everyone on the same page starts before you even receive federal funding!)

I hope this little one-page checklist will be a communication tool that keeps you on the journey to more federal grants and better grant management. 

Download and share with your team. 

Here's what’s included in this handy checklist:

  • Common areas of spending restrictions
  • Additional requirements that can get “tucked in” to your Notice of Funding

These resources are designed for grant writers and managers, just like you, and I hope that you will find them valuable on your grant journey.

Click here to download and share 

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about ways to improve grant management, check out my article at



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