When In Doubt

When In Doubt

I like this sign that I saw in a local place of business that buys and sells goods. 


“When in doubt–PASS!”


How many times are we faced with a challenging situation, and we are not quite sure what to do.


We hem and haw and go back and forth in our minds whether we should really do it?


But like my wife and I came to with decision-making in general a while ago, “If it isn’t yes, then it’s no.”


When that little something inside is giving you pause, doubt, and holding you back…there is usually a very good reason. 


STOP yourself right there–listen to your gut and instinct.


If you don’t, you’ll pay the price afterwards for making a bad call that you knew deep down was a big no-no to begin with. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy and Dossy Blumenthal)

Governance, Pay Attention

Monkeys
So I chose this photo to represent bad governance. 



The governing board covers their ears, eyes, and mouth.



Because they hear and see no evil and speak no truth. 



They are deaf, blind, and dumb–they provide no real oversight. 



Simply choosing to collect their pay checks and stock options for residing on the governance board.



This is their payoff–not to govern–but rather to shut up and stay out of it!



I read a good overview of what governance is supposed to be and comparing it to management functions (Reference: Exam Preparation Course in a Book for Passing the CISM):

  • “Oversight versus Implementation
  • Assigning Authority versus Authorizing action
  • Enacting policy versus Enforcing policy
  • Accountability versus Responsibility
  • Strategic planning versus Project planning
  • Resource allocation versus Resource utilization”



When the board does their job, then the organization has a business strategy, manages risks, allocates resources, delivers value, and measures and monitors performance. 



In other words, no more acting like a bunch of out of control monkeys. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Decide To Win

Stop Fighting
This was an interesting sign + sticker in Washington, D.C.



It asks to Stop Fighting Congress or perhaps stop the fighting in Congress.



The point is to come together and collaborate for a better decision, rather than have bad decisions made by just one side or have indecision altogether.



The New York Times had an Op-Ed over the weekend called The Great Unraveling about how we are living amidst hatred, fighting, disintegration, disease, and disorientation. 



And we are watching it as if dazed and confused–paralyzed as a nation taking maybe a baby step here or there, but with seemingly no solid committment to do anything to really change, improve, better, or win. 



Scared by lost lives and treasure since 9/11…we cannot bear to lose or waiver in our resolve because of weariness or despair.



Their is a lot to get done…for ourselves and future generations.



We’ve got to stop fighting our demons and each other and instead face up, man up, to the myriad of global problems that confront us. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Like That Technology

I Like That Technology

Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal makes the case for letting employees go rogue with IT purchases.

It’s cheaper, it’s faster, “every employee is a technologist,” and those organizations “concerned about the security issues of shadow IT are missing the point; the bigger risk is not embracing it in the first place.”

How very bold or stupid?

Let everyone buy whatever they want when they want–behavior akin to little children running wild in a candy store.

So I guess that means…

Enterprise architecture planning…not important.
Sound IT governance…hogwash.
A good business case…na, money’s no object.
Enterprise solutions…what for?
Technical standards…a joke.
Interoperability…who cares?
Security…ah, it just happens!

Well, Mims just got rids of decades of IT best practices, because he puts all his faith in the cloud.

It’s not that there isn’t a special place for cloud computing, BYOD, and end-user innovation, it’s just that creating enterprise IT chaos and security cockiness will most-assuredly backfire.

From my experience, a hybrid governance model works best–where the CIO provides for the IT infrastructure, enterprise solutions, and architecture and governance, while the business units identify their specific requirements on the front line and ensure these are met timely and flexibly.

The CIO can ensure a balance between disciplined IT decision-making with agility on day-to-day needs.

Yes, the heavens will not fall down when the business units and IT work together collaboratively.

While it may be chic to do what you want when you want with IT, there will come a time, when people like Mims will be crying for the CIO to come save them from their freewheeling, silly little indiscretions.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Different Definition For IV&V

A Different Definition For IV&V

In IT circles, IV&V generally refers to Independent Verification and Validation, but for CIOs another important definition for leading is Independent Views and Voices.

Please read my new article on this: here at Government Technology — hope you enjoy it.

Andy

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Joi)

Take Your Advice And Shove It

Take Your Advice And Shove It

Great piece in the Wall Street Journal today on getting and giving advice.

This was a funny article about how most advice comes not from the wise, but from the idiots trying to push their own agendas, make a buck off you, or bud into your business.

When people try to tell you what to do, “the subtext is ‘You’re an idiot for not already doing it.”

But who wants to do what someone else tells them to do–unless you a robotic, brainless, loser!

Every manager should already know that everyone hates a control freak micromanager–and that they suck the creative lifeblood out of the organization.

The flip side is when you give people the freedom to express their talents and take charge of their work activities, you motivate them to “own it!”

Real meaning from work comes from actually having some responsibility for something where the results matter and not just marching to the tune of a different drummer.

The best leaders guide the organization and their people towards a great vision, but don’t choke off innovation and creativity and sticking their fat fingers in people’s eyes.

The flip side of advice not getting hammered on you, is when you have the opportunity to request it.

People who aren’t narcissistic, control freaks seek out other people’s opinions on how to approach a problem and to evaluate the best solutions.

This doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart and capable people in and of themselves, but rather that they are actually smarter and more capable because they augment their experience and thinking with that of others–vetting a solution until they find one that really rocks!

While decision making by committee can lead to analysis paralysis or a cover your a*s (CYA) culture, the real point to good governance is to look at problems and solutions from diverse perspectives and all angles before jumping head first into what is really a pile of rocks under the surface.

Does vetting always get you the right or best decision?

Of course not, because people hijack the process with the biggest mouth blowing the hottest stream.

But if you can offset the power jocks and jerky personalities out there, then you really have an opportunity to benefit from how others look at things.

While the collective wisdom can be helpful, in the end, all real grown ups show personal independence, self-sufficiency, and a mind of their own, and take responsibility for their decisions and actions.

We can learn from others, but we learn best from our own mistakes…no pain, no gain. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Would MLK say?

What Would MLK say?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes about how Congress orders NASA to complete a testing tower for rocket engines at Stennis Space Center that is no longer needed, since the rockets themselves were cancelled.

The price tag of this tower is $350M!

But not to worry because NASA caught in this muddle says they will maintain the tower in case it’s needed in the future at a cost of just $840,000 more a year.

Why does this happen?

Pork barrel politics, where the the Congressmen and -women (in this case of Mississippi) don’t want to lose out on the federal spending, so they make deals whereby they get what they want and others what they want for their home states–even if the taxpayers end up getting little to nothing.

Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal that while public servants are “expected to be less selfish than the average Joe…they are [actually] the locus of selfishness.”

She writes, “there isn’t a staffer on the Hill who won’t tell you 90% of members are driven by their own needs, wants, and interests, not America’s.”

Essentially what Noonan describes is a broken political system, where we elect individuals as politicians to represent us, but they take our vote of confidence and their elected office platform and instead use it to vote either for what they think should be done–not what their constituents think or want–or they work the system in order to make themselves look good and line up votes for their next run at office.

Either way, we don’t get representation of the people, for the people, with big picture strategic decisions for the future of the nation, but rather we get narrow thinking and voting driven by self-centered thinking of what’s in it for me (WIIFM).

Freedom is not free, especially when we make bad decisions to fund testing towers that are no longer needed or bridges to nowhere.

How we fix this is by having politicians with a genuine vision of where we need to go, anchored in the thinking of the people they represent and a foundation of integrity.

The leader can create a shared vision by explaining why, what, and how and building a genuine consensus around it.

Selfishness is not an inherent trait of politics–it can be replaced by selflessness when the greater good of the nation is placed above any one “I”–whether that be a person, party, state, or special interest.

(Source Photo: here)

To Archive Or Not

To Archive Or Not

Farhad Manjoo had a good piece in the Wall Street Journal on the Forever Internet vs. the Erasable Internet.

The question he raises is whether items on the Internet should be archived indefinitely or whether we should be able to delete postings.

Manjoo uses the example of Snapshot where messages and photos disappear a few seconds after the recipient opens them–a self-destruct feature.

It reminded me of Mission Impossible, where each episode started with the tape recording of the next mission’s instructions that would then self-destruct in five seconds…whoosh, gone.

I remember seeing a demo years ago of an enterprise product that did this for email messages–where you could lock down or limit the capability to print, share, screenshot, or otherwise retain messages that you sent to others.

It seemed like a pretty cool feature in that you could communicate what you really thought about something–instead of an antiseptic version–without being in constant fear that it would be used against you by some unknown individual at some future date.

I thought, wow, if we had this in our organizations, perhaps we could get more honest ideas, discussion, vetting, and better decision making if we just let people genuinely speak their minds.

Isn’t that what the First Amendment is really all about–“speaking truth to power”(of course, with appropriate limits–you can’t just provoke violence, incite illegal actions, damage or defame others, etc.)?

Perhaps, not everything we say or do needs to be kept for eternity–even though both public and private sector organizations benefit from using these for “big data” analytics for everything from marketing to national security.

Like Manjoo points out, when we keep each and every utterance, photo, video, and audio, you create a situation where you have to “constantly police yourself, to create a single, stultifying profile that restricts spontaneous self-expression.”

While one one hand, it is good to think twice before you speak or post–so that you act with decency and civility–on the other hand, it is also good to be free to be yourself and not a virtual fake online and in the office.

Some things are worth keeping–official records of people, places, things, and events–especially those of operational, legal or historical significance and even those of sentimental value–and these should be archived and preserved in a time appropriate way so that we can reference, study, and learn from them for their useful lives.

But not everything is records-worthy, and we should be able to decide–within common sense guidelines for records management, privacy, and security–what we save and what we keep online and off.

Some people are hoarders and others are neat freaks, but the point is that we have a choice–we have freedom to decide whether to put that old pair of sneakers in a cardboard box in the garage, trash it, or donate it.

Overall, I would summarize using the photo in this post of the vault boxes, there is no need to store your umbrella there–it isn’t raining indoors. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Spinster Cardigan)

Shortsighted Government Is Selfish Politics

So I am at the pool today in Maryland.

This old man–looks about 100, yes really!–comes up to me and starts a conversation.

He says, you know what–my friend in California is 99-years old and he just got his driver’s license renewed–for 5 years!

Imagine that–can the State of California with confidence really issue a 5-year driver’s license to someone at that age and believe that both the drivers’ safety and public safety is provided for?

Yes, the problems at the Federal government level are ginormous–the national debt, the level of social entitlements, the “true” unemployment rate, the poverty level, our failing healthcare system, and more.

Still we cannot forget that some of the most important services that citizens get are at the State and Local levels of government–police, fire & rescue, transportation, community development, family planning, and more.

For government to function effectively–we need all levels to act rationally, responsibly, and with care for the people in mind–both short-term and long-term.

Issuing 5-year driver’s license to 99-year old individuals can have a devastating impact on someone family if that person loses control of their vehicle due to their physical or mental condition.

Similarly, issuing social entitlements (and they may indeed be needed) without a realistic plan for funding the system is irresponsible and can have a catastrophic impact to families around the nation when the system comes up short.

Government has to run with common sense–and stop setting up rules that are shortsighted and blind to the bigger picture.

Yes, people deserve to drive and to have medical care and so forth, but politicians should set up these systems, so that the people are really served, and not just their political agendas. 😉

(Source Video: Michelle Blumenthal)

Parole By Analytics

Parole By Analytics

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about parole boards using software to predict repeat offenders before letting someone go free.

What used to be a decision based on good behavior during time served, showing remorse to the parole board, and intuition is being augmented with “automated assessments” that include inmate interviews, age of first arrest, type of crime, and so forth.

At least 15 states have adopted “modern risk assessment methods” to determine the potential for recidivism.

Individuals are marked as higher risk if they are:

– Young–age 18-23 (and impulsive)
– Offense was drug-related
– Suspended or expelled from school
– Quit a job prior to having another one
– Single or separated
– Diagnosed with a mental disorder
– Believes that it’s not possible to overcome their past.

Surprisingly, violent criminals (rapists and murders) are actually considered lower risk those guilty of nonviolent property crimes–the thinking being the someone convicted of robbery is more likely to repeat the criminal behavior because the crime is one that “reflects planning and intent.”

Honestly, I think it is more than ridiculous that we should rank violent criminals less risky than thieves and release them because they had what is considered an “emotional outburst.”

Would you rather have some thieves back on the street or murders and rapists–rhetorical question!

But it just shows that even the best of systems that are supposed to help make better decisions–can instead be misused or abused.

This happens when there is either bad data (such as from data-entry mistakes, deceptive responses, and missing relevant information) or from poorly designed decision rules/algorithms are applied.

The Compas system is one of the main correctional software suites being used, and the company Northpointe (a unit of Volaris) themselves advise that officials should “override the system’s decisions at rates of 8% to 15%.”

While even a 1/7 error rate may be an improvement over intuition, we need to still do better, especially if that 1 person commits a violent hideous crime that hurts someone else in society, and this could’ve been prevented.

It’s certainly not easy to expect a parole board to make a decision of whether to let someone out/free in 20 minutes, but think about the impact to someone hurt or killed or to their family, if the wrong decision is made.

This is a critical governance process that needs:

– Sufficient time to make important decisions
– More investment in tools to aid the decision process
– Refinement of the rules that support release or imprisonment
– Collection of a broad base of interviews, history, and relevant data points tied to repeat behavior
– Validation of information to limit deception or error.

Aside from predicting whether someone is likely to be repeat offenders, parole boards also need to consider whether the person has been both punished in accordance with the severity of the crime and rehabilitated to lead a productive life going forward.

We need to decide people’s fates fairly for them, justly for the victims, and safely for society–systems can help, but it’s not enough to just “have faith in the computer.” 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)