Lois Bruss

Navigating Continual Change, Guided by Enduring Values  

By Molly Manchenton

In 18 years with MITRE as an organizational effectiveness consultant, Lois Bruss witnessed a lot of change. Now, she’s managing a transition of her own: from full-time, trusted adviser to retiree, active wife, mother, grandmother, and volunteer.

When Lois Bruss joined MITRE, she brought a master’s degree in psychology and rich experience as an organizational effectiveness consultant. In the 18 years since, she witnessed MITRE’s expansion to include healthcare, cybersecurity, and research in space and the world’s oceans. The change has been continual, but the enduring values anchor her experience and attachment to MITRE. She reflects on her experience here.

I had always worked in for-profit companies and saw what happens when you make decisions based on quarterly results. It can lead to decisions focused on the short term. MITRE matched my values to make decisions for the long term. So, working in this environment was really meaningful.

Also, change never stops. We talked about it all the time. For instance, we used to be more siloed than necessary. When I started at MITRE, our Air Force Center was a separate business unit from our Intelligence business unit. The group we now call Joint & Services was another distinct business unit. Now, all are part of the MITRE National Security sector. I've been involved in helping create some of these changes.

What we don't talk as much about is what remains stable and consistent. It’s important to reflect on that, too, because in my time here, what hasn't changed are our core values. They were on my badge when I first started: People in partnership. Excellence that counts. Integrity.

That’s the core of what makes us MITRE—stable and enduring.

Organizational Change Begins with Individuals

One of the central tenets in organizational effectiveness consulting is to include people in change processes, and that's not always possible due to time and funding constraints. So, you do the best you can and make inroads where you can.

It’s a lesson I’ve tried to share with the leaders I supported here. Sometimes they wanted to know, “how can I change my department?” or “how can I change my division?” or “how do I change the company?” The best way to start is to listen and connect with the people in your department, in your division.

Obviously, in a larger organization you can't talk to everybody, but that's the starting point. You need to understand what's on people's minds and how they see change. It’s about understanding what makes different people tick so you can connect at that level.

I knew some of this when I came to MITRE. I had a lot of experience from operating an independent consulting practice and working for companies across different industries.

But I learned and developed from my experience at MITRE, too. I completed an intense 11-month coaching certification program. That experience gave me new approaches and tools for working with people in one-on-one coaching, and new ways of thinking about organizations.

I believe that, essentially, an organization is simply a social construct made up of individuals, hopefully moving in the same direction. In the end, we can really only change ourselves, work toward being the best versions of ourselves, and, as our best selves, move the organization forward. I hope I was able to help some people be their best selves so their organizations could also grow and develop.

Following Her Heart’s Desire, Whatever That Turns Out to Be

Post-retirement, I won’t be setting the alarm clock very often. Things I tried to squeeze in on nights and weekends or early mornings I can do during the day. I don’t have big plans. I've been in the workforce for 53 years, so that's a lot of focus on being productive. I am facilitating a leadership development program for women; I'll be a reading buddy at an elementary school and will take advantage of the many cultural opportunities in Boston. And, especially, spend more time with our grandchildren. But overall, I think my focus now will be more on being than on doing.

And I'm going to follow the advice of my coaching teacher and follow my heart's desire.

I will miss elements of the job—there are people at MITRE that I talked to almost daily. I have been part of such a wonderful team. How will I not talk to them all the time? Maybe I'll talk to them all the time anyway, but it will be different.

Who knows? I've never retired before!