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Benchmark - Capstone Executive Summary Report and Leadership Portfolio

The following is my Capstone submission, completing my Master's Degree in Organizational Leadership. It is a testimony to my leadership philosophy and how it applies to managing and growing Paradog. I post it here to preserve it. I apologize for the long read, but transparency is key to being trusted as an organization. Thank you in advance. For the Marines out there; sorry, no pictures.


Benchmark - Capstone Executive Summary Report and Leadership Portfolio

The Master of Science in Leadership, program provides a comprehensive look into organizational change management, combining it with the ethical principles of servant leadership. “This master’s in leadership degree empowers candidates to gain self-confidence in their leadership styles. It examines the core principles of communication, team-leading and ethical practices in business” (GCU, 2021, para. 1.). The following discussion highlights my understanding of how the previous applies to me, my leadership style and how I can utilize what I have gained throughout this program to better manage my own organization.

Executive Summary

The Leadership Capstone is utilized as a tool for personal reflection, self-evaluation, and to reinforce the varied approaches a leader and/or manager can take when leading high performance teams and organizations. According to GCU (2021), “Leadership is at the heart of every organization’s success. It is the fundamental driving force that shapes the vision of the company and motivates team members. Effective leaders understand how to provide direction and when to step back and let other team members take charge” (para. 3). My company, Paradog Professional Services, LLC., is new but our vision is clear. I utilized the capstone as a means of aligning my vision, values, and procedures, with our stated financial goals, towards the end-state of hiring our first full-time employee early 2022.

The Approach

As a startup business owner my inspiration and drive consist of equal parts desire, desperation, vision, compromise, big plans, small budget, enthusiasm, doubt, reflection, prayer, and empowerment. I do this on my own terms. My capstone project is a compilation of where I have been, where I am now, and where I want to be. I recognize that meeting my strategic goals and getting to the place where I can hire will not happen without bold, but regulated action, and forward positive movement.

I am a retired U.S. Marine. Marines know to succeed; you must remain in the offense. You must keep moving and “move with purpose”. I know leadership. I know project management. I am working on the financials. If there is any aspect of managing my business that could be described as a weakness in me, it would be human resources and human resource management. The intent of my capstone was to converge goals, with a management by means approach to accomplishing them, with a long-term focus on the effective and efficient leveraging of human capital. The convergence was initiated after a thorough evaluation of a “business needs analysis”.

A business needs analysis is used to evaluate a company and teams. It can be utilized to identify the state of a company, including any barriers and challenges to growth. An organizational needs analysis establishes company goals, requirements, skill assessments, and any barriers that stand in the way of achieving those goals (Smartsheet, 2021). According to Berkley Lab (2017), “A needs analysis defines deficiencies or problems and identifies causes and solutions. It can be thought of as the process of identifying gaps between what should be happening and what is happening, and accounting for the causes of these gaps. In this way, it is a systematic search for identifying deficiencies between actual and desired job performance and the factors that prevent desired job performance as presented…” (p. 1).

Design, Purpose and Goals

With the previous in mind, the “Capstone Project Needs analysis” required us to ensure the needs of our organizations align with both the organizational goals and vision previously developed a “Strategic Planning Strategy Map” which defines a strategic goal to be met by January 2022. A following “Needs Assessment” identified two key positions that must be brought into the organization to pave the way for expansion and growth. We have a secondary goal to hire our first full-time employee by early 2022. Our secondary goal is closely aligned with the primary. If we do not achieve the established financial goals set in our strategic goal, we will not be able to hire. This necessities the “human capital” approach to my capstone.

Pre- and Post-Assessment Evaluations

Our primary pre-assessment tool was a questionnaire based on our “Strategic Strategy Map”. The strategy map allowed me to summarize organizational performance and how it was contributing to achieving the company’s overall strategic goals. The map assists my visualize and understand the role each of us plays in achieving the company’s strategic plan” (Dessler, 2017). The survey asked the following questions:

· Have we set our goals?

· What are we trying to accomplish?

· Do we have an action plan?

· Does the Action Plan cover both individual and departmental responsibilities?

· Is a plan in place for both informal and formal reviews of our progress?

· Have we established the metrics by which to define progress?

· Does our plan align with our company goals, vision, values, mission statement and culture?

· Have we established the appropriate management plan to see us through goal attainment?

Based on an honest evaluation of the questions and answers, I gained clarity to the question of where we are now, where do we want to be, and how do we get there. From here, I was able to form a strategic plan.

Our post-assessment will be based on the correct answers to the following three questions; (1) Have we met our financial goals? (2) Is it sustainable? (3) Is hiring within our budget? Paradog will utilize the “Balanced Scorecard Approach” when conducting our post-assessment survey. According to Daft, (2014), “The balanced scorecard is a comprehensive management control system that balances traditional financial measures with operational measures relating to a company’s critical success factors. A balanced scorecard contains four major perspectives. They consist of financial performance, customer service, internal business processes, and the organization’s capacity for learning and growth” (p. 634). Our assessment is pending and will be based on an evaluation of the answers to the following questions:

· Have we met our financial goal established in the Strategic Plan?

· Is it sustainable into the foreseeable future?

· In meeting our financial goals, have we maintained the highest standards of customer quality and service?

· Are our values reflected in every action we take?

· Would our customers hesitate to hire us again?

· Do our means take priority over our goals?

· Will our people take priority over our means?

· Do we have a Human Resource Plan in place?

· Are we ready to hire?

· Are we able to hire?

· What can we offer as an organization?

I go forward with the understanding that the correlation between leadership/management and innovation is stated clearly by Daft (2014) as follows, “Why does innovative management matter? Innovations in products, services, management systems, production processes, corporate values, and other aspects of the organization are what keep companies growing, changing, and thriving. Without innovation, no company can survive over the long run” (p. 5). For innovation to be successful, it must be linked to your current strategic intent: a unique direction for the company that will generate specific short‐term and long‐term value targets (Desai, 2013).

Leadership Portfolio

As we complete the master’s in leadership program, I reflect on the four courses that did the most to encourage learning, provide engagement, and shape my thought processes going forward. They are LDR-640: Leadership and Innovation, LDR-615: Organizational Development and Change, HRM-635: Acquiring, Developing, and Leveraging Human Capital, and LDR-655: Leadership Capstone. My reasoning follows.

LDR-640: Leadership and Innovation

The leadership and Innovation course was instrumental in establishing a comprehensive understanding of various models of problem solving and the ability to apply them. I found the lessons on the diverse techniques, strategies, and skills appropriate for creative and innovative thinking to be engaging and thought provoking, especially from the perspective of a more “seasoned” leader embracing new learning.

I recall a statement by Desai, (2013) that stood out to me enough that it is the only note a took, through this program, that I copied in italics. It reads as follows, “Competition in the global market in every sector, product, service, and market segments is fierce, and that is the new status quo. In order not only to endure but to prevail, global organizations need to deliver innovative differentiated offerings that create substantial additional value, relative to what customers can already buy. Most organizations will fail unless they have an innovation engine that is looking at the future while delivering near‐term value and profits” (p. 33). I selected the following three catalyst as key to enabling innovation withing Paradog:

· Knowledge sharing and integration to improve the firm’s capability to generate high-impact innovations.

· Knowledge management as a critical attribute in improving organizational competitiveness and innovation.

· Organizational culture reflecting a shared set of beliefs and vision within an organization that influences team members’ behaviors and the organization’s overall atmosphere (Chou, 2013).

Knowledge sharing refers to fruitful stimulation of knowledge owners to externalize information in a form that is appropriate for rebuilding by others, or “internalization” by those seeking specific knowledge (Hendriks, 1999). Knowledge Management involves the acquisition, storage, transfer, and appropriate application of knowledge. (Chou, 2013). The more effective the knowledge management system the more innovative a company tends to become. Information must be shared and managed effectively to be of value.

On how to converge innovation with culture at Paradog, this course made clear to me developing a culture for innovation is not a quick fix. It is a long-term strategic investment in changing how an organization does business regarding innovation. It will take Renaissance thinkers to make it happen. If I cannot produce innovation, I must go find innovators. Once found, I must support and encourage them. I must empower them. I must reward them. Our primary contribution as leaders is in the recognition of good ideas, the support of those ideas, and the willingness to challenge the system to get new products, processes, services, and systems adopted (Desai, 2013).

LDR-615: Organizational Development and Change

Organizational development and change are an exploration of the behavioral forces and relationships that influence organizational effectiveness and change (GCU, 2021). If there is a single point of learning from this course that stands out it is concerning the “importance of sequence” and the utilization of Kotter’s (1996) Eight Stages of Change:

1. Establish a sense of urgency.

2. Create a guiding coalition.

3. Develop a vision and strategy.

4. Communicate the change vision.

5. Empower broad-based action.

6. Generate short-term wins.

7. Consolidate gains and produce more change.

8. Anchor the new approaches in culture.

From the eight steps, two important patterns became clear. “First, useful change tends to be associated with a multi step process that creates power and motivation sufficient to overwhelm all the sources of inertia. Second, this process is never employed effectively unless it is driven by high-quality leadership, not just excellent management” (Kotter, 1996, p. 1). In large scale organizational change, it takes the “power of culture to make transformation stick” (Kotter & Cohen, 2002, p. 164). I come away with a clear understanding of the three of the key factors to ensure change becomes embedded into the cultural norm. They are to not declare victory too soon, utilize effective new employee orientations to show how things are done and what is important to the organization, and to put in place a promotion process that puts leaders in place who accept the new norms as the way things should be (Kotter & Cohen, 2002).

My desire in seeking change systems is to disrupt the norms, increase my visibility, and provide greater perceived value while heavily investing in my company. I need to remain steady state in my forward progress. My greatest take away is “One of the easiest ways to get into trouble when initiating change is trying to do it too quickly. Change takes time. Big change takes a lot of time and trying to force it though a narrow time window is like forcing a square peg through a round hole - you might get it through, but you won't have what you were expecting in the end” (Andre, 2012,p. 1).

HRM-635: Acquiring, Developing, and Leveraging Human Capital

From the beginning of the course “Acquiring, Developing, and Leveraging Human Capital”, it was made clear that “the effective strategic management of human capital is the differentiator of every successful organization” (GCU, 2021). It was this course that enlightened me to the hard reality that if I do not consider effectively leveraging human capital, my strategic goals – financial and otherwise – would not be achievable. This is where the seed was planted to have my capstone focused on the alignment of strategic goals, with the hiring of personnel.

Topics concerning federal and state employment laws, landmark cases on labor issues, equal opportunity, workplace diversity, and affirmative actions were crucial in broadening my understanding of what it is to not only lead and organization, but to manage it in accordance with established law. I am in complete concurrence with the assertion that as the Human Resource Manager for Paradog, , once I become aware of such a complaint, incident, or conduct, whether intentional or otherwise I have an obligation to act. “In the world of human resources and employment law, there is no such thing as a "confidential" or "anonymous" employ complaint. Once the complaint makes its way to a member of management's desk, the company is on notice…” (Duke, 2013. P. 2). Addressing these concerns, whether brought to my attention, observed, or perceived has a three-fold benefit:

1. Addressing employee concerns as a company shows that management cares about its employees and their well-being.

2. It can also tend to improve morale, thereby making the company a better place to work.

3. From management perspective…can act as an iron clad defense.

Be transparent, have policies in place, be responsive, conduct the appropriate investigations, follow the law, and as we have learned throughout this program, communicate.

The other key take-away from HRM-635 was the need for effective and continuous employee evaluation and appraisal. Via Paradog’s soon to be established HRM processes, we shall go beyond the simple act of performance appraisal and provide our team members with a fully developed “Performance Management System” (PMS). “Performance Management is the continuous process of identifying, measuring and developing the performance of individuals and teams and aligning their performance with the organization’s goals” (Dessler, 2017, p. 296). The PMS allows for employees to be coached and mentored through mistakes and growing pains that come with new task, duties, and responsibilities. It dissuades the zero-defect mentality, establishes a relationship between senior and subordinate, and allows for transparent and honest back and forth dialog. Finally, there should be no surprises when it comes to the performance appraisal. Proper performance management allows for both the reviewer and the reviewed to be on the same page at the time of appraisal.

LDR-655: Leadership Capstone

The intent of the leadership capstone is to “serve as the culminating capstone experience for Master of Leadership students. Students lead an organization or community-based project and create a professional portfolio to demonstrate their leadership skills” (GCU, 2021). Through the capstone I learned the importance of conducting thorough “needs analysis” and continuous evaluations of processes as I converge the mission, values, and culture of Paradog, with strategic plans and daily operations. My focus throughout has been to make every effort to take what I learned during this program and apply it to the daily and long-term management of Paradog.

For my capstone project I depended on two interdependent needs analysis templates. The first is the “Business Needs Analysis Template” (BNST). The BNST helped me evaluate my company. By using the template, I was able to identify Paradog’s current state, including any barriers, challenges, or areas for growth. The BNST ensures growth is aligned with strategy and vision. The “Organizational Needs Analysis Template” (ONAT) allowed me to outline what my company needs to succeed. This template provided space for my business information, company goals and requirements, barriers, and essential skill assessments to paint a picture of what is required to accomplish our strategic goals. The date-driven identification of these issues aided me in the forming of a comprehensive plan. In the end, for me, it is about “hiring talented and capable people who are also personally committed to the company’s purpose and their work” (Mackey and Sisodia, 2013, p. 89).

The capstone validated my strict adherence to our strategy map as I applied learning to the operation of Paradog. . Heskett (2013) stated, “At the top of the strategy map, the accomplishment of these lower-level goals helps the organization increase revenues in existing markets, increase productivity and efficiency, and grow through selling new products and services and serving new market segments” (p. 248). With the focus on growth, it is the disciplined, steady state, measured approach – through governance, metrics, and other controls, that will allow us to stay on track and continue along the desired path (Anand & Barsoux (2017).

Call to Action

My vision as a leader has remained unchanged throughout this program. My leadership style has been developed, forged, and shaped by my 25 years of service as a Marine, rising to the command level, my 10-years as a police officer having to be responsible and adaptive in a myriad of situations, both careers giving me a full-frontal view of both the best and worst in humankind, and all with the awareness that everything I did was being watched by those who held me in high expectations. Even in the not knowing, I have always been expected to know, and then to do. I remain unchanged in that aspect. I still hold that all leadership is relational, situational, and needs to be adaptable. As I would tell my Marines, “Sometimes you have to be the feather; sometimes you need to be the fist”. Greenleaf et al., (2002) states when speaking of Dr. Cowling’s legacy, “….but if ever there was a demonstration of the truth in Emerson’s declaration, “An institution is but the lengthened shadow of a man.”

In all the leadership training, seminars, and schools I attended during my 25 years of service, one common theme emerged; “When you leave, ensure both the organization and your Marines are better because you were here”. I fully understand leaders have a responsibility to create an environment where people can discover their gifts, develop their gifts, share their gifts, and be recognized and appreciated for doing so. I try to follow these same quite simple philosophies; ensure the organization benefits from my being there and empower people feel valued and go home feeling better about themselves (Chapman, 2014). This is my continued “call to action.”

My growth – at least as I determine it – from this program has been in management and how it aligns to my particular leadership style.” Management is the attainment of organizational goals in an effective and efficient manner through planning, organizing, leading, and controlling organizational resources” (Daft, 2014, p. 6)., where leadership is the “art” of influencing others. There are many who manage, a few who can lead, fewer who can do both. This program, especially LDR-640, LDR-615, HRM-635, and LDR-655. “The Leadership Capstone” put into focus a better understanding of how I can both lead my organization effectively while managing it efficiently. Our “call to action” will include a “balanced scorecard approach” to management and control. . According to Daft, (2014), “The balanced scorecard is a comprehensive management control system that balances traditional financial measures with operational measures relating to a company’s critical success factors. A balanced scorecard contains four major perspectives. They consist of financial performance, customer service, internal business processes, and the organization’s capacity for learning and growth” (p. 634).

As we move forward, my capstone will continue beyond the confines of this class; growth, alignment, the need to hire and maintain quality employees will be continuous. This project will be ever on-going. The one shift in priority being that just a few short weeks ago my emphasis was primarily hiring and training a Field Crew Supervisor, with a secondary focus on hiring a Project Coordinator/Admin Assistant. I now see those roles in reverse. Without the appropriate back end support no growth is possible. I am grateful for the clarity of course and vision this program has provided me.


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