The Goal is Automagically

Wow, I couldn’t believe that this is a real word.


Automagically.


I thought my colleague was using it as a gag. 


But when I asked Dr. Google, there it was. 


Automagically – Automatically + Magical


It refers to the use of computer automation and how when well-implemented it seems almost like the process is magical, ingenious, and oh, so easy. 


So this is the goal for us that all our processes and efforts should be poof–automagically done and  there it is! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Understanding Genius

So working in a place with scientific geniuses and even a history of Nobel Prize winners is serious business. 


I see things that I don’t know what they are. 


I meet people that I don’t understand what they do. 


But in all cases, I am in awe of the smart and good people and the work they are doing to advance us. 


Here was an example this week in randomly meeting someone and starting up a conversation:

Andy:  Hi. I’m Andy.  What do you do here?
Him:  I’m [so and so].  I do neutron scattering.
Andy: [Gulp followed by big smile] I know absolutely nothing about that.
Him:  Well, what do you do?
Andy:  I’m doing process engineering and enterprise service management.
Him: [Smile] I know absolutely nothing about that. 

Get the picture.


One for the books right.


In another instance, when asked what their group does, someone leans into me and goes:


“We fix sh*t.”


I could tell he meant it. 


And you know what–I absolutely believed him.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You Changing My What

freak-out

So change agents are some of the most sought after…yet most abhorrent individuals on this planet. 


We all recognize that things can be better, and on one hand, we want someone to come and help us make it so…a change agent!


However, change is painful and frequently results in unintended and unwanted consequences, and so on the other hand, we hate change agents. 


Many change agents may not just change things that need to get changed and fixed, but they may change a lot of things that were working just fine before, thank you.  


Can anyone say reorganization? 


Moreover, change agents may not be changing things for the right reasons like the good of the organization.


Instead they may be self promoters, control freaks who have to do things their way, or they may be serial job hunters–next stop change everything and get the heck out of Dodge!


Change agents may work with people to get requirements, input, and vet the issues and the solutions or they may just be paying lip service to others, only to really shove their or someone else’s agenda down your throats. 


You see there is healthy change that is based on genuine learning, growth, and maturity, and then there is change that is destructive, diabolical, and selfish. 


When you decide to change something, what’s your motivation and your goal–is it to right the wrongs in the organization, reengineer business processes, and introduce new technologies or is it to change for change’s sake alone. 


Yes, we did something. Check the box. Tell the management committee. We earned our keep and oh yeah, then some. We changed something, anything. Hip Hip Hooray. Bonus time!


So either you’ll get an award and promotion or you’ll get asked accusingly and threateningly, “Who told you to change that?!”


Change which has no real support or merit is dead on arrival (DOA), and will be gone, gone, gone long after the change agent is gone.


So don’t freak out–the b.s. changes are either going to kill the organization or simply end up in Fresh Kills landfill.


The real changes may actually make you stronger. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Flowchart Your Programming

Flowcharts have been used for quite some time for visualizing and organizing business processes and making them more efficient (e.g. business process reengineering).

Now flowcharts are being used to build and link reusable programming code.

NoFlo or Flow-Based Programming (FBP) simplifies application development by using libraries of pre-written code and then dragging and dropping them into your process flows.

This leverages objected-oriented programming (OOP) and uses modules of open-source code, which are linked together to create a full program that solves a business problem.

The flowchart helps to avoid spaghetti code by providing for a more organized, modular, object-based development environment.

These flowcharts can not only be a collaborative tool where developers can build or map code, but can also be part of the systems documentation that ensures a higher-level of understanding of the total programming solution.

NoFlo raised over $100K on Kickstarter in 45 days in order to advance this project from Javascript to iOS, Android, and Python platforms as well.

To me, this programming paradigm seems to have real legs:
– A process-based model for decomposing solutions
– Simple information visualization through a common flowcharting toolset, and
– Reusable object code from programming libraries in the cloud.

I’d say YesFLo–this makes a lot of programming sense. 😉

I Hate Paper

Paper_pile

Paper has been around for approximately two thousand years, since it’s invention in China, and it has served as the medium of choice for recording and sharing information ever since.

However, enter the age of information technology and we are now able to capture, process, and store far more information, quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently than we ever could with paper.

Combine that with the environmental impact and the need to conserve, and we have numerous federal laws calling for the reduction or elimination of paper, to the extent practical.

1) The Paperwork Reduction Act (1980) calls for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to regulate collection of information and establish information policies to reduce the paper handled by the government.

2) The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (1998) mandates the use of electronic forms, filings, and signatures for official business with the public.

3) E-Government Act (2002) requires use of the Internet to improve citizen access to information and services.

All three are a recognition of the need to move from costly paper-based processes and the management of maintenance of mountains of paper records to instead leverage information technology to re-engineer and improve the way we perform information management.

It’s funny, but for me it’s almost become a personal crusade to make better use of information technology to perform our mission and business of government more effectively, and I personally keep as little paper records, as possible–instead choosing to manage predominantly online–and it’s great.

Aside from having a cleaner office–no paper files, I enjoy all the benefits of electronic filing, search, and the ability to quickly share files with others in the office without having to rummage through a stack of papers 3 feet deep!

Working in some areas that are still paper intensive for case management and so on, I have taken on the mantra, which I frequency cite of “I hate paper!”

No, I don’t really hate it, but in order to change decades old manual and paper intensive processes, we need to exaggerate a little and tell ourselves and other we hate it, so we can help change the inefficient and costly status quo.

You can only imagine how surprised I was to read in The Atlantic (20 April 2012)–that “Paper: [Is] The Material of the Future.”

Essentially, the article touts the new developments with paper using nanotechnology to make it water-proof (although you can still write on it), magnetic, fluorescent, and even anti-bacterial.

Imagine paper that you can stick to your file cabinet, spill coffee on, light up the room with, and even keep you from getting sick–yes, that’s fairly impressive!

However, while these new features are wonderful indeed and will increase the usability of paper as well as improve records management of them, I do not want to see us get complacent with reducing our use of paper and making better use of technology.

Even with these cool nano-tech improvements to paper coming our way, I am still going to say, “I hate paper!”

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Earthworm)

>Wake Up To Advanced Technology

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Yet another air traffic controller asleep on the job today–OMG.
Everyone is upset–as they should be–safety and lives are at stake.

Hello.

Come in…

Is anyone down there?

We need to land.

We have an emergency on board (someone is sick or perhaps the plane is in imminent danger or maybe it’s been hijacked).

I guess we need to call back later.

That’s CRAZY!

Silence is not golden, in these cases.

In the government (as in private sector control rooms), there are a lot of round the clock duty stations–watching our airports, our borders, and critical infrastructure.

We rely on people to be alert for any problems and be prepared to step up to the plate to take necessary action to safeguard our nation.

When people are “asleep at the switch,” they are not only abrogating their basic duty (for which they are getting paid), but they are endangering others and this is obviously unacceptable.

We know this intuitively.

Why has this gotten so out of control lately–Is this a new phenomenon or just one that is coming to light now? Are people taking advantage of the system, genuinely exhausted, or disillusioned with their jobs and giving up–so to say?

There are a lot of questions that need to be explored and answered here and I would expect that these answers will be forthcoming.

Because it is not just a matter of reacting with a doubling of the shift or clamping down on the people involved–although that maybe a good first step to stop the proverbial bleeding; but obviously more needs to be done.

For decades, air traffic control (ATC) has relied on controllers on the ground to guide planes on the ground and in the air, despite new technologies from autopilot to Global Positioning System (GPS) and from on-board transponders to advanced cockpit displays.

Many hardworking government and commercial sector employees have been working to change this through modernization of the processes and systems over the years.

By increasingly leveraging advances in technology, we can do more of what people–like the ATCs and many other of our hardworking watchstanders–are currently being asked to do manually.

This doesn’t mean that there is no human (AWAKE! is the expectation) watching to make sure that everything is working properly, but it does mean that the people may be in some instances an augmentation, rather than the primary doers.

In the end, people have got be in control, but technology should be doing as much of the heavy lifting as it can for us and perhaps, as we are a failsafe for technology, technology can in some instances be a backstop for human error and frailty.

It doesn’t make us weak to admit our limitations and look not only for people and process changes, but also for technology solutions to help augment our personal capabilities.

(Credit Picture: PN.PsychiatryOnline.org)

>Why Take Out The Trash Anymore?

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I am fascinated by unusual uses of technology. And in fact, that’s what I love about technology—is that it literally applies to every aspect of our lives.

In a sense, I think of technology as one of G-d’s precious gifts to mankind to better the world—when it’s used for good—such as for improving communications, curing illness, and inventing new materials.

(Of course, there has been so much focus on technology being used to create “bigger and badder” weapons that can destroy the planet, but hopefully, we are spared from such morale and intellectual insanity and hatred.)

So now technology is striking again… but in an area that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.

Wired Magazine (July 2010) has an article called “Canada Sucks: Montreal’s vacuum system will make taking out the trash a breeze.”

“In 2012, Montreal will unveil an $8.2 million [4 mile] tube network to service a downtown arts district.” The trash system called Envac is already operational in other cities such as Barcelona, London, and Stockholm. It incorporates separate inlets/chutes for waste, recycling, and compost; sensors that relay load information to system operators; large industrial fans that can crank up from 45 mph to gale force to flush obstructions through a subterranean slipstream; and automated software that directs the trash to appropriate dumpsters in central collection facilities for transport to landfills, recycling centers, and composting plants; And the Canadian system will be controlled remotely from Envac headquarters in Stockholm 3600 miles away.

I was surprised and excited to see such an innovative use of technology for such a seemingly mundane task as garbage removal (i.e. I wouldn’t normally associate garbage and technology, but this article gave me a new reason to think more broadly on this topic).

Truly, technology is a game-changer. And we can think about everything we do, question it, reinvent it, and make for a better future.

The only condition is that we look beyond the surface of how we do things do things today and envision them anew for tomorrow.