The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 17, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 10.
Next is Chief Operating Officer, Public & Private Company finalist James Morgan, COO for ICF. Here, he shares stories of successes, proud career moments and professional turning points.
What key achievements did you have in 2022/2023?
2022 was a great year for ICF. We discovered new strengths, delivered incredible work, and grew as a company. In particular, we delivered on our transformative M&A strategy that filled strategic portfolio needs and enhanced the company’s foundation for future growth by increasing our portfolio of capabilities needed to deliver critical services to clients.
We acquired three technology-based companies as federal agency leaders grapple with significant and unprecedented obstacles and look for technology to help them approach these challenges with greater speed, efficiency, and aptitude.
ESAC brought us advanced health technology solutions and analytics. Creative Systems & Consulting further established our position as a leading provider of IT modernization solutions to the federal government. And SemanticBits’ cloud/open-source capabilities expanded our ability to support larger and more complex data management projects.
We also acquired Blanton & Associates, which grew our environmental capabilities to support larger infrastructure projects and strengthens our ability to help states leverage federal investment dollars coming from the Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
These were not only great accomplishments this year but will also set us up for success years to come.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Having a broad base of experience coupled with being highly adaptive to change, but steadfast in our values. Change is a critical part to ICF’s story and our identity. Because we’ve been around for 50 years and have helped clients navigate through countless industry disruptions, we have constantly had to reinvent ourselves.
But the one thing that has remained the same since the beginning are our values. Serving as our perpetual guide, our values have always been what inspire us to deliver our best. Across our client work and internal operations, we celebrate diverse perspectives and voices in everything we do, emphasize integrity, collaboration, and constructive dialogue, and encourage passion in our actions.
I use our values to drive all operating decisions for the company.
What are you most proud of having been a part of your current organization?
The work we do together and the strong culture I experience at ICF every day bring me an immense amount of pride. ICF was founded not long after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ensuing social unrest in American cities. It is partly what motivated our founders to start this company in an effort to create opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
And over the years, we have worked to ensure ICF maintains that spirit and be a different kind of company – one that prioritizes social responsibility, compassion, diverse perspectives, and teamwork.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
COVID tested ICF – and the world – in ways previously unimagined. In fact, I remember that difficult day on March 11, 2020 when we determined that closing down our offices was the best, and safest, thing we could do for our employees.
Since then, my team and I have navigated all kinds of unforeseen operational challenges from remote work to vaccine mandates. And now we are guiding our people into the new world of hybrid working. All while maintaining excellent delivery, strong engagement, and strong operating and financial results.
While it has not been easy, it has been incredibly rewarding. The picture that emerges of ICF today is one of courage, hard work, gratitude, and resilience. Throughout the pandemic, we discovered new strengths and formed new practices. Many of which we will continue for years to come.