See the Impossible - Play from the Soul - Move the Crowd

Symphonic Strategies

What We Do

About Us

We like to say we're in the business of solving collective action problems.

Oval-127x144We’re strategists, so naturally we believe that behind every great achievement, there is a great strategy. This belief drives everything we do, and it’s what attracts people to us. Our customers come to us when they’re seeking to do something meaningful, or when they want to accomplish something extraordinary. They come to us seeking help when they get stuck, when the path forward becomes complicated, or the destination itself seems elusive. We’re creative, analytical, and strategic, and our business capabilities are designed to help audacious leaders achieve the impossible.

 

Solving Collective Action Problems

A collective action problem is best represented by the dilemma we face when the short-term interests of the individual appear to be at odds with the long-term interests of the group.

A chieving an ambitious goal that requires the participation of others can be a major challenge. We call these types of challenges collective action problems. These challenges are all around us. From business to politics, collective action challenges can stand in the way of results, impact, and progress. We offer strategies and practical tactics you can use to solve these collective action challenges.

Our clients come from the public and private sectors and they represent all walks of life: presidents and CEOs, managers and directors, elected officials, community volunteers, educators, and even parents. We love to rescue abandoned dreams and we hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about us.

 

 

Our Services

Research. Analytics. Data Visualization. Strategic Planning. Facilitation. Communication. Social Marketing. Instructional Design. Executive Education.

The tools we bring to every engagement are simply better suited for today’s complex, fast-paced, interconnected world than what others offer.

Playbooks

Symphonic Playbooks™ contain tactics and strategies that we’ve assembled to help you overcome some of the most common collective action challenges. More

Assessments

Symphonic Assessments™ are scalable survey instruments designed to measure some of the most important precursors to action, such as cognitive outlook, social engagement, and personal commitment. More

Analytics

Symphonic Analytics™ goes beyond traditional measurement and evaluation and uses quantitative analytics to explore meaningful patterns in large data sets. More

Seminars

Symphonic Seminars™ teach you how to become a more strategic, more persuasive, more effective leader. More

Our Work

We believe our work speaks for itself. Check out some of our most recent engagements below.

Service Touch Points

Service Touch Points

How can we better communicate our mission and our value to our partners in business, government, and in the community?

T his is the question that was posed to us by the executive director of ServeDC, a department within the District of Columbia Mayor’s Office. We responded by engaging the leadership of the department in a series of strategy sessions designed to identify its ecosystem, the touch points within that environment, and the most important stakeholders across government, business, and community. We then took that information and worked with a graphic designer to create a visual diagram of the ServeDC ecosystem. Using various scenes of interactions occurring at different places throughout the city, the diagram presented a picture of how ServeDC adds value to the Mayor’s policy priorities. The diagram became a strategic tool the executive director used to explain how her department advanced the Mayor’s agenda.

Understanding the Health Care Ecosystem

Understanding the Health Care Ecosystem

What does the environment look like for low-income consumers of health care and how can we prepare our members to better serve them?

T he executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Community Health Centers (MACHC) hired us in the spring of 2010 to help them examine these questions on behalf of their members, Federally Qualified Community Health Centers (FQCHCs or FQHCs).

We decided to use one of our signature strategic planning tools, ecosystem mapping, to drive the engagement. Over several months, we completed 17 one-hour telephone interviews with a variety of stakeholders in the health care field throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Most of the interviewees were leaders of FQHCs, but not all. Some were representatives from state health departments, and others were representatives from various trade associations and interest groups representing doctors, hospitals, and FQHCs themselves. When combined, the interviews painted a dynamic portrait of a rapidly changing ecosystem for FQHCs and consumers. At the conclusion of the engagement, we worked with a graphic designer to transfer the insights from our research into a visual diagram of the ecosystem for low-income consumers of health care. We presented that diagram during a retreat of MACHC board members that we facilitated. We left MACHC with a comprehensive written report of the key findings from our research, as well as with a list of the recommended action steps they and their members could take to provide better services for low-income consumers.

A Framework for Cultural Transformation

A Framework for Cultural Transformation

What can we do to change our internal culture?

L ike so many organizations in transition, the Kauffman Scholars Program faced the difficult challenge of transforming itself from the inside out. They asked us to help them design a framework for cultural transformation and we enthusiastically accepted the assignment. The first thing we did was to help them form a culture transformation working group comprised of a cross-section of the organization. Once the group was formed, we coached them on various tactics and strategies they could use to manage the change process. We even flew out to Kansas City so we could present our Symphonic Framework for Cultural Transformation to the leadership team and their staff. They were able to use our framework to guide the organization through a difficult period, resulting in a new direction for the organization.

We believe that the keys to successfully transforming the culture inside of an organization rest in the following:

  • A vision that is clear, shared, and that offers a compelling destination.
  • A common currency that can be readily and consistently exchanged between team members (e.g., rituals and/or symbols that demonstrate “spirit of generosity”).
  • A collection of agreed-upon, rules—formal and informal—that inform how team members engage, interact, and work with each other (e.g., “When we are in a meeting, we attend jointly to the task at hand. This means it is culturally inappropriate to consistently check your PDA or iPAD while others are talking.”).
  • A common language that begins to establish a common identity.
  • An operating process that reinforces new cultural values, beliefs, and behaviors (e.g., a new format for team meetings or a new seating chart in the building).
  • A performance management process that commands and rewards collective commitment to the vision, strategy, or mission/purpose of the team (e.g., new criteria for recruiting, hiring, and promotion).
  • A professional development program that trains, coaches, and equips individual team members with the knowledge and skills necessary to implement the vision in ways that elevate and enhance the new culture (e.g., regular seminars and webinars that teach behaviors and shape attitudes that reinforce the cultural values).
Advancing the Center for Social Justice

Advancing the Center for Social Justice

How can we better align all of the things we do throughout the year to strengthen our collective impact?

T his was the challenge presented to us by the executive director of the Center for Social Justice at Georgetown University. They did not want to revise their vision or their mission. They simply wanted to be more strategic with how they went about advancing that mission and vision.

So, we worked with the staff at CSJ throughout the summer of 2009 to update the organization’s strategic plan. While the current strategic plan had guided the organization exceptionally well, the leadership team at CSJ thought it was time to revise the plan to reflect many of the changes that had transpired since. Using a series of conversations, meetings, and brainstorming sessions we helped them identify an action plan that aligned all of the Center’s disparate activities across its many program areas—research, teaching, scholarship, and service—to strengthen the organization’s collective impact.

Retaining Volunteers

Retaining Volunteers

Some volunteers are particularly good at recruiting and retaining mentors. How can we understand what these individuals do and replicate it across all of our chapters? How can we transfer these leadership skills from one person to another?

T his is what the national headquarters of the U.S. Dream Academy presented us with in 2011. We worked with the Executive Director and her senior leadership team to create a research design that they could then use to properly capture the active ingredients necessary to build a mentor-driven recruitment and retention process.  We developed a process and a set of tools they then used to answer the questions for themselves and to build a training program to transfer knowledge throughout the network. That included protocols for how to conduct their own focus groups, a facilitator’s guide, as well as templates and tools to be used to collect and to interpret the data. Once they collected the data, we helped them interpret the findings, draw conclusions, and translate those into a workshop focused on how their chapter leaders could more effectively recruit and engage mentors. We reviewed their training materials and made suggestions and recommendations on how the materials could be strengthened. The US Dream Academy emerged with a polished, one-day training program that their staff could deliver throughout the country.

Leadership at Gettyburg

Leadership at Gettyburg

If you could design a week-long leadership development program that used the Civil War battle at Gettysburg as your backdrop, what would it look like?

T hat was the challenge presented by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. They wanted to place leadership in historical perspective, allowing senior leaders to view leadership in a strategic context.

Working with our partner, the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, and a number of leading historians, we developed a learning experience the included an offsite residency at Gettysburg, tours of the battlefield, and interactive leadership simulations. The program was called “Studying the Past to Illuminate the Future: Three Days at the Epicenter of Leadership.” The program was so successful that it was later extended to include other AOS staff and it was held at Lincoln’s Cottage in the District.

Creating a Leadership Culture

Creating a Leadership Culture

What do you do when the culture inside of your organization blurs the line between management and leadership?

W hat tools can you give senior executives that will help them instill a spirit of leadership within the organization, at all levels? This was the challenge brought to us by the Training Institute at the United States Department of Agriculture. Working with senior trainers at the USDA, we designed a half-day course to help Deputy Administrators within USDA shift the culture toward one that embraced and cultivated a leadership mindset.

Character Education Curriculum

Character Education Curriculum

Can you help us integrate our core values into an innovative learning experience for 9th grade students?

T hat was the question posed to us by the leadership team at the Muhammad Ali Museum and Education Center in Louisville, Kentucky. They wanted to build a character education curriculum that could be used by teachers across the Jefferson County Public School District. We flew out to Kentucky and spent some time at the museum and with friends and family of Muhammad Ali to make sure we could properly create a curriculum that reflected his core values and life lessons. We worked with a cross-sector and cross-city team of educators, evaluators, and youth development professionals to build a robust curriculum called “Creating Our Futures.” The curriculum had a number of noteworthy features. The modularized content allowed instructors to “build” lesson plans that were flexible and customized to the audience, time constraints, and social/political context within the classroom. The curriculum unfolded in a cumulative fashion and gradually challenged participants as they moved from level one to level six activities. The content used words, phrases, and a variety of material from popular culture to engage youth in a critical examination of current affairs.  The material was also developed to be easily adapted for online learning platforms. The curriculum deputed in schools throughout Louisville as part of a pilot launch in 2012. Since then it has reviewed positive reviews.

Our Clients

What our clients have to say about us

  • Symphonic Strategies is top notch in their commitment to results, subject matter expertise, and ability to work with a wide variety of partners.

    Dr. Munro Richardson, Former VP of Education, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
  • Symphonic Strategies was effective in analyzing highly complex situations with divergent perspectives, then developing actionable strategies to move the community forward into its next century of success.

    Gaines Smith, Ph.D., Director Emeritus, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
  • A.J. is at the top of the class in his ability to lead individuals and organizations through controversial, honest debates to incredible results.

    Marshall Stewart, Associate Director, Department Head and State Program Leader, NC State University
  • I am excited that Symphonic is expanding to the private sector. AJ’s insights and vision will provide tremendous value for shareholders and leaders.

    Lawrence Snapp, Principal Business Strategist at Microsoft
  • A.J. has an ability to simplify the complex. Beyond his strategic advice, his insight and actions are creating amazing waves of change to improve our organizations, communities and world.

    Elaine Maslamani, Manager at KPMG LLP
  • AJ has a seemingly innate understanding of the macro-environment in which organizations exist. His brilliance is matched by his generosity with his spirit, time and talent. I regularly look for opportunities when I can engage with Symphonic Strategies.

    Renee Stikes, Vice President, Philanthropy at KaBOOM!
Magic Johnson Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
US Department of Veteran Affairs
Korber

Our Team

Our senior leadership team brings diversity, experience, and expertise.

A.J. Robinson Jr., Ph.D.

A.J. Robinson Jr., Ph.D.

Founder & CEO View Details
Rodolfo Olenchuk

Rodolfo Olenchuk

Finance and Analytics View Details
Andrea Romina Perez

Andrea Romina Perez

Marketing and Business Development View Details
A.J. Robinson Jr., Ph.D.

A.J. Robinson Jr., Ph.D.

Founder & CEO

Dr. Robinson is our Founder and CEO. Throughout his career, he has advised and worked with leaders in public and private sectors all around the world. His clients have included such names as ABN Amro Bank, Adobe Systems, AIG, Avon, Bank of America, BMW, Caterpillar, Children’s Defense Fund, Clinique, Corporation for National and Community Service, CVS, Delta Airlines, Deutsche Bank, Ernst & Young, Fujitsu, Goldman Sachs, Heineken, Heinz Endowments, IBM, Kauffman Foundation, Management Board Secretariat, Marriott Hotels, MasterCard, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Muhammad Ali Museum and Education Center, National 4-H Council, Pepsi, SAIC, Scandinavian Airlines, the State of Connecticut, Tyson Foods, the United States Government, Volvo, Walt Disney Resorts & Parks, Warner Brothers Studios, Yahoo!, and more.

While at the Corporate Executive Board, a leading international business strategy firm, Dr. Robinson delivered keynote remarks and led organizational strategy seminars with C-level audiences (CEO, CMO, CTO, etc.) in more than 150 organizations in over a dozen countries throughout Europe and North America. His area of expertise was corporate strategy, marketing, and human resource management.

Dr. Robinson has also been a consultant to the PBS show Frontline, served as a staff writer on the Encarta Africana Encyclopedia of the Black Diaspora, and is an adjunct professor at the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership (CEPL) at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. At CEPL, his courses and seminars include topics that range from strategic management, organizational transformation, executive decision-making, and leading change initiatives. He delivers regular seminars and courses to public sector leaders in federal, municipal, and local government agencies.

He also provides strategic coaching for senior executives and emerging leaders across his client portfolio.

Dr. Robinson holds a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University and dual bachelor’s degrees in social psychology and political science from Stanford University.

Rodolfo Olenchuk

Rodolfo Olenchuk

Finance and Analytics

Rodolfo Olenchuk is our Director of Business Development in Latin America. He holds an MBA from George Washington University and an Industrial Engineering degree from the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology. Mr. Olenchuk has also studied and received professional certifications in business from Georgetown University and New York University.

Throughout his career, Mr. Olenchuk has worked with leaders in the public and private sectors, with a particular focus on organizations in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. His clients have included such names as Endesa, Telefonica, Cemex, PDVSA, Petrobras, Perez Companc, Techint Group, Aeromexico, Televisa, Grupo Vitro, BBVA, IDB, La Caixa, amongst others.
Mr. Olenchuk began his career at Techint Group in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he served as a project manager for a complex, industrial joint venture with General Electric (GE). He has also worked for Ibereolica in Madrid, Spain. In 2004, Mr. Olenchuk was one of the founders of The WorldGate Group, a corporate intelligence and organizational leadership firm driven by the desire to support the decision making processes of business and organizational leaders by providing proven world-class ideas, insights and tools adapted to capitalize on an organization’s unique entrepreneurial culture.

Mr. Olenchuk often serves as a project manager and research consultant, bringing his expertise in project management, financial analysis, business and strategic planning, dashboard creation, and research. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian.

Andrea Romina Perez

Andrea Romina Perez

Marketing and Business Development

Mrs. Andrea Romina Perez serves as our Director of Business Development in Latin America. She brings more than 15 years of experience in Account Management, Marketing, Business Development, Strategy and Talent Management.

Mrs. Perez is also a partner at Worldgate, an Argentine-based company focused on the development of corporate intelligence and organizational leadership.

IN 2010, she led the development of a Spirulina production facility plan in Uruguay, Sponsored by United Nations and IIMSAM (www.iimsam.org) with the aim to consolidate spirulina as a sustainable long-term solution for programs designed to enable profitable enterprises to be capable of combating malnutrition as a business.

Between 1998 and 2006 she worked for Serial de la Torre Consulting firm, leading talent training for the Promogroup division and serving clients such as Toyota, Adams, Quilmes, Direct TV, Cablevision, Pepsico, Unilever, YPF, and Clarin Group, among others. From 1996 to 1998 she worked for the marketing department at Telecom Argentina.

Mrs. Andrea Romina Perez holds an Advertising Master’s Degree, and a Degree of Expertise in Graphology. She is married and has two kids.

Some Fun Facts

Every day is an opportunity to serve.

10

Years in Business

85

 Clients Served

1080

 Professionals Trained

0

 Reasons to Quit

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