Training With Paper Airplanes

So I was in an Agile and Scrum Management class yesterday. 


Always looking for new best practices and efficiencies for what we are doing in software development. 


We did one exercise to compare the old Waterfall methodology with Agile. 


And the instructor had us as a team build paper airplanes one way and then the other so see the difference in output and outcome. 


Lo and behold, we had almost 40 planes in agile and only 6 in waterfall. 


What you see in the photo is the testing phase: we actually had to see if they could fly at least 10 feet without taking a nosedive.  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Sleepy Education USA

Education.jpeg

Education is fundamental to learning, development and preparation for career and life. 

We’ve always believed that if you invest in anything, invest in education!

However, despite initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Every Child Succeeds Act, scores in the fundamentals like reading, math, and science all lag behind other advanced industrialized nations.

As of 2015, the U.S. ranked a stinking 38 out of 71 nations in K-12 education

Yet, it is seemingly the complete opposite, with college education, the U.S. has about 75% of the top 25 schools. 

However, the comparison is flawed because university rankings are based not on student academic performance, but rather on research performance, including things like journal articles published and Noble Prize winners. 

When academic proficiency is tested for American adults, the rankings again lag and are at best mediocre. 

While there are many dedicated and good teachers, still too many teachers and unions continue to fight testing and reform so that progress of our education system continues to fail our children and our nation.

We need to end education by memorization, and focus instead on hands-on learning (by doing), critical thinking and problem-solving.

Sleeping through a lecture may not mean a student is missing squat in the current failed education system. 

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)

The Wrong Way To Test

Test
As educators are pushed to improve students’ test scores, sometimes they run afoul.



In Atlanta, 8 former public school educators were sentenced to prison–three were sentenced to as long as seven years–for a conspiracy inflating student scores by “changing answers” to the tests. 



Interestingly, in another article today, we see that not only are students put to the test, but so are job applicants



In fact, “Eight of the top 10 U.S. private employers now administrator pre-hire tests in their job applications.”



While testing can certainly show some things, they can also miss the point completely. 



I know some people that test wonderfully–straight A students, 100+ on all exams, 4.0 GPAs–and for the most part, they are wonderful at memorizing and prepping for the test…but sometimes, not much else. 



Some of them have no practical knowledge, little critical thinking or creativity, and are even sort of jerky. 



And others who test poorly may be well thought, articulate, hands-on, and good with people–I’d take a million of them. 



“Failing the test” is not necessarily getting it wrong…it may just be errant to the current prevailing educational and professional testing system that values memorization and spitting back over insight, innovation, and practical skills. 



The challenge is how do we compare and contrast students and professionals competing for schools and career advancement, if we don’t easily have something standardized like a test to rally around. 



Maybe there is no getting away from more holistic assessments–where we look at bona fide life and career experience, a wide range of recommendations from teachers, coaches, and supervisors, hard and soft skills (including communications and interpersonal), professional and personal ethics, genuine interest in the pursuit, and the motivation to work hard and contribute.  



Tests–students cheat, educators game the system, memorization and robotic answers are the name of the game to get the A, and boring homogeneity–but it’s often the easy way out to evaluating candidates for a phony success. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Technology Easy Sell

Benefits and Risks
Technology is not like buying a time share, thank G-d. 



We examine the costs and the benefits, and it either works and provides us a tangible competitive benefit or it doesn’t.



“You can’t be competitive without modern technology, you’ll simply be out of business.”



At the end of the day, you don’t want to be sold a worthless bag of goods from a no good (not genuine) salesperson. 



Read about it here in my new article in Public CIO. 



(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)

Cloud Kool-Aid

Cloud Cool Aid

We’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid and believe in using the cloud.

And with almost 1 million active apps alone in the Apple Store it is no wonder why.

The cloud can create amazing opportunities for shared services and cost efficiencies.

The problem is that many are using the cloud at the edge.

They are taking the cloud to mean that they in government are simply service brokers, rather than accountable service providers.

In the service broker model, CIOs and leaders look for the best, cost effective service to use.

However, in NOT recognizing that they are the ultimate service providers for their customers, they are trying to outsource accountability and effectiveness.

Take for example, the recent failures of Healthcare.gov, there were at least 55 major contractors involved, but no major end-to-end testing done by HHS.

We can’t outsource accountability–even though the cloud and outsourcing is tempting many to do just that.

Secretary Sebelius has said that the buck stops with her, but in the 3 1/2 years leading up to the rollout relied on the big technology cloud in the sky to provide the solution.

Moreover, while Sebelius as the business owner is talking responsibility for the mission failures of the site, isn’t it the CIO who should be addressing the technology issues as well?

IT contractors and cloud providers play a vital role in helping the government develop and maintain our technology, but at the end of the day, we in the government are responsible to our mission users.

The relationship is one of partners in problem solving and IT product and service provision, rather than service brokers moving data from one cloud provider to the next, where a buck can simply be saved regardless of whether mission results, stability and security are at risk.

In fact, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, outlines the 3 successful principles used in the creation of consumerfinance.gov by the new CFPB, and it includes: “Have in-house strategy, design, and tech”!

Some in government say we cannot attract good IT people.

Maybe true, if we continue to freeze salaries, cut benefits, furlough employees, and take away the zest and responsibility for technology solutions from our own very talented technologists.

Government must be a place where we can attract technology talent, so we can identify requirements with our customers, work with partners on solutions, and tailors COTS, GOTS, open source solutions and cloud services to our mission needs.

When Sebelius was asked on The Hill about whether Healthcare.gov crashed, she said it never crashed, which was technically incorrect as the site was down.

The cloud is great source for IT provision, but the pendulum is swinging too far and fast, and it will by necessity come back towards the center, where it belongs as an opportunity, not a compliance mandate.

Hopefully, this will happen before too many CIOs gut the technology know-how they do have and the accountability they should provide.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Rethinking How Blood Work Is Done

Rethinking How Blood Work Is Done

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interview today with Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of a new company that has rethought how we do blood work for medical diagnosis.

Her company, Theranos, has certified phlebotomists for taking patient’s blood, but instead of taking vials and vials of blood, they just take a pinprick worth–1/1,000 of a typical draw–from the tip of your finger.

Moreover, unlike with conventional blood work testing, “only about 62% of tests that doctors order are ultimately carried out,”partially because there is still not enough blood drawn, but with Theranos the tests are able to be done with only small drop sample sizes.

With advanced, patented technology, Theranos does the tests (blood, urine, other) faster–in 4 hours or less, rather than in days, so you, the patient, can get the results quicker, and treatment for your condition sooner.

Moreover the results are said to be more precise to within a 10% variation–in contrast to typical labs tests that are within plus-or-minus 30% allowable error–a 60% error range!

With faster and better technology, Theranos helps your doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis and provide targeted treatment.

The testing results are provided securely and electronically to the doctors in this very cool dashboard (pictured above) in which blood measurements can be quickly and easily seen on a scale of low-to-high, as well as whether something is deficient, insufficient, or at toxic levels.

Also, Theranos provides trending of results over time, so the physician can quickly see whether the patient’s condition is worsening or improving, and can make treatment decisions accordingly.

And when the doctor releases the results, you’ll be able to logon and see them for yourself as well.

Further, Theranos is committing to conduct the blood work at a 50%-off discount on Medicare fees–they are saying, “we want to bill you at less than you’re willing to reimburse.”

I really like when someone bold and bright like Elizabeth Holmes comes around and breaks the old broken paradigms–really rethinking how something could/should be done better.

In general, it often seems that the medical field is change/risk adverse (like with adoption of electronic health records), but Ms. Holmes has brought a better, faster, and cheaper testing and diagnostic process to all of us.

I noticed that Theranos has a very impressive roster on it’s board, including former Secretary of States Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry to name just a few.

Theranos seems to be the company to watch in this medical diagnostic laboratory field.

No more scary big needles–just a pin-prick and a few drops of blood…that’s blood worth taking and testing. 😉

(Source Photo: Theranos Website)