Trip Barber Talks With MORS Member

September 2, 2020 | Alexandria, VA

SPA’s Chief Analyst, Trip Barber, recently spoke about analytic organizational leadership, comparing the government versus the private sector.

Trip was the presenter for a weekly MORS (Military Operations Research Society) online talk.  He started the event speaking about SPA, its culture and its mission-focused work.  He also spoke about his position at SPA and how he is using his previous government experiences to help the company improve its analytic capabilities and develop corporate processes.

“Whether it’s a government or a private sector job, it’s not just about compensation (seen as a “pro” for private sector) or job security (seen as a “pro” for government). It’s also about the kind of people you work with, the organizational culture, and whether the work is meaningful and professionally challenging.” 

When comparing differences between government leadership experiences and those of the private sector, Trip said, “In government, an analytic leader can shape the work an organization does to meet a specific mission requirement, so there is a lot of flexibility.  But there is also regular turnover of the uniformed members of the team.” 

Trip addressed time management and how organizations get started working on a project.  He stated, for those in government, controlling how your time is spent can be hard, because your efforts are not tracked by the hour and no one gets a bill for your time.  But, if there is an analytic requirement, employees can start work right away. Conversely, in the private sector, time is managed very closely and work actions are very purposeful.  However, the challenge is that a corporate employee can’t start work until the company is on contract, regardless whether there is an immediate need and this contracting process can take a long time.

“In the private sector there is more management continuity, but you are only able to do the work that is part of the contract.  You can’t self-initiate work,” he said.

Regardless of the organization, there are some aspects of doing business that each have to engage in, specifically recruiting, developing their employees and retention.  “There is a battle for U.S. citizens who are technically-proficient because unfortunately our education system is not producing the numbers we need in both the government and private sectors,” he said.

At SPA, we use the intern program as a very effective recruiting tool, Trip said. Good companies, like SPA, also focus on developing their employees through mentoring and professional development programs, including initiatives like education assistance. And, whether government or private sector, Trip said, an organization with meaningful work and good leadership will always do better retaining their employees.

During the question and answer period, one listener requested Trip’s thoughts on what pre-college education changes need to be made to get more kids interested in scientific careers.  He discussed his involvement in rocketry and the competition he organizes so secondary school students can compete and learn practical engineering skills.  Then he said, “We need to show kids that although it’s hard, science and engineering are rewarding, and it’s worth it to do the work.”

There were 107 people from the ops analysis profession across government and private sector nationwide (and from Australia!) online during the talk. The video is available to MORS members on the MORS website:

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