What not to miss in February

slg For a lot of us the New Year means a renewed focus on priorities and in many cases New Years resolutions. If your organization’s new year’s resolutions included running a smarter, leaner organization there are going to be some great learning opportunities coming next month.

The first is a webinar hosted by Bill Cason, Troux’s CTO and Ted Reynolds, VP Federal Sector on February 12th at 11:30 EST. I’ve listened to both of these guys talks in the past and I think that even if you aren’t currently using the software there is a lot you can learn from the approach they advocate to developing a well thought out shared service strategy. I believe getting that strategy together is the first step to achieving success with shared services which I believe is vital to ensuring mission success under the current budgetary constraints. Of course this is something a lot of people have been talking about, but have struggled to achieve. The talk will focus on the following:

  • Understanding how well agency investments are performing and aligned with the mission
  • Prioritizing and optimizing agency investments amidst ever-changing requirements
  • Better understanding general shared service readiness
  • Quickly identify and prioritize agency capabilities (e.g. Payroll) as ideal shared service candidates
  • Accurately estimate future savings by benchmarking current costs

If you think this is something you might be interested in you can learn more on the Troux website by clicking here.

The second webinar and event is being put on by ACT-IAC.  The mission of ACT-IAC is as follows: “The American Council for Technology (ACT) – Industry Advisory Council (IAC) is a non-profit, public-private partnership dedicated to improving government through the application of information technology.  ACT-IAC provides an objective, ethical and trusted forum where government and industry communicate, collaborate and learn.”

I’ve been involved in the one of their initiatives Smart Lean Government (SLG) for a while now and this introductory workshop will offer techniques to sustain mission critical services in a climate of increasingly scarce resources and higher expectations for service delivery through transformational use of collaboratively shared services (notice a theme here?). The workshop, to be kicked off by Tom Davis retired member of the House of Representatives, is intended for government and industry thought leaders and professionals, as well as program managers and will help participants to better understand and use collaborative techniques to stretch and leverage these increasingly scarce resources to more effectively resolve pressing challenges. Takeaways from this 1/2 day session will be:

  • A heightened awareness regarding how to address the present stove-piped nature of government services, and
  • Introduction to SLG methods that can be used to sustain current services, deploy new services, improve service quality, and reduce costs.

Want to attend in person? The event will be held at 1919 N Lynn St, Arlington, VA 22209.  Attendance is limited so e-mail me at info@mbaoutcome.com for more information.

Title: Planning & Architecture SIG January 2014 Smart Lean Government Workshop
Date: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Time: 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM EST
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/892749518

Want more background on Smart Lean Government? I gave an interview with Rick Smith one of the SLG team leads available on GovLoop.com:

How to get a smart, lean gov – Part One

How to get a smart, lean gov – Part Two

 

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 questions to ask your self and get your groove back

Getting back in the groove!

Getting back in the groove!

One of the things I’ve noticed about myself is that I seem to perform better if I’m in what I like to think of as rhythm. A lot of times when I start feeling overwhelmed or overloaded I’ll try to take a step back and look at the way I’m living. I ask myself some simple questions:

1. Am I keeping to regular schedule? Meaning:

  • Am I getting to bed at around the same times?
  • Eating at around the same times?
  • Generally performing activities at the same times.

2. Am I giving myself time to get things done properly? Meaning:

  • Am I managing my time blocks so that I can fully complete one task before moving on to the next?
  • Am I managing my to do list so that I have a realistic chance of completing everything on it?
  • Am I budgeting time to standup, stretch and eat?

3. Am I doing things properly? Meaning:

  • Am I multi-tasking? In my experience nothing kills real productivity like the illusion of productivity that comes with multi-tasking.
  • Am I reading what I write once out loud before I hit send, thinking before I speak and pausing before I leap into action?
  • Am I delegating the things I can and allowing others to help me succeed?

Most of the time when I start feeling crazed I can run down this list and figure out pretty quickly where I went wrong. For me the big ones are over scheduling, under delegating and managing my time blocks. Do any of things on this list make your list of ways to drive yourself crazy?

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 things I’ve been struggling with as I adjust to working remote.

Files, files, and more files!

Files, files, and more files!

I mentioned a few posts back that after much time and consideration we decided to go remote. So far the results have been great. I haven’t noticed any change in productivity and while I don’t get to see people in person as often as we did previously I’ve gotten used to spending a lot of time on Google Hangout, GoToMeeting and Webinars. The one thing I have noticed is that by moving my office home I’ve ended up with a mountain of technology. In fact I had to open a second home office in my basement to hold all of it.

This has not been popular at home as their are other parties in this house (wife) that feel the basement should one day be re-claimed by our family as a place where people can play a little rougher (kids) and watch TV shows that are boring (me). While I have gotten used to my expansive new office I know that this is only going to last for so long and so I’ve begun to identify the services I can use to replace some of the items I’ve brought home and planted in the basement. Here are three problems I’ve had to deal with because of going virtual and one the jury is still out on.

1. Problem: The Fax Machine – Faxes are on the way out but not quite dead. My wife has recently introduced me to eFax which she has used for years and which seems to be an enormous improvement over the huge fax machine I brought home and perched on an end table.

Solution: eFax has a corporate edition that represents a significant upgrade in capability and very little added expenditure.

2. Servers – All of our client oriented servers have long been moved to the cloud or into the Salesforce Dev Environment we maintain, but I still have two racks and about 15 servers and assorted hardware appliances that are eating up electricity at an incredible rate and supporting little internal functions. In fact our electric bill jumped $400 in the first month we went virtual and that only covered two weeks of uptime.

Solution: Everything is going to the cloud in the next three months. We advise some of the largest organizations in the world on the benefits of moving to the cloud there is no reason we should continue to have legacy infrastructure eating away at the bottom line for convenience sake. We simply hadn’t put the resources necessary to the task of migrating these items. Now we will.

3. Files – This is the one I’m still struggling with – going virtual meant bringing home  a mountain of paper. Given the type of work we do – we generate a lot of paper in order to maintain compliance with various federal, state and local requirements. This is before you start talking about all of the other things we track on paper with regard to client engagements and otherwise.

Solution – The jury is out on this one. We could spend a lot of time and effort digitizing but right now I don’t see anyway around the wall full of filing cabinets I am maintaining. Some things simply have to stay on paper and we have a paper legacy that would probably take a staff of five all summer to digitize going full time. I’m open to suggestions.

After almost three months of going remote cold turkey I have to say I’m still glad we did. It represents a tremendous savings which eventually will make us more competitive in a very competitive market space. We still haven’t ruled out having some type of permanent facility with meeting rooms and some permanent offices though. The one thing I really miss is having that big room where a development or client team can gather and brainstorm. We have done some virtual sessions but it really isn’t the same. I’ve talked to some other companies facing this issue that have essentially taken on a small space for this purpose and have heard nothing but good things. It seems like a happy medium between the benefits of being completely virtual and completely on premise.

As always, I welcome your feedback and I know there are some folks on here that feel very strongly about remote work. Let me know what you have found that works and what hasn’t. I’m particularly interested in finding a way to limit the physical intrusion of our paper legacy (maybe its as simple as a storage facility?) and solutions around collaboration for large groups in a remote environment. I’ll share what I find out in a blog post soon.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Want better answers? Three steps to asking better questions.

The Social Enterprise

Ask better questions and harness the social enterprise

One of the things management consultants tend to do is ask a lot of questions. In fact I’ve heard from time to time that its because we don’t know have any answers and asking questions keeps clients from figuring that out. There is actually a little bit of truth to this, now before you start thinking I’ve just let the cat out of the bag or sullied the reputations of management consultants the world over. I will say that asking the right questions is how you get to the right answers. Its a real skill and a capability that can enable you to change your organization, improve performance and help you meet your goals.

Sometimes management consultants come into a set of circumstances with more information than the client but those times are rarer than you think. This is for fairly obvious reasons if you stop to think about it. The management consultant may be an expert in a particular field, set of tools, or market space but they are generally not experts in your organization, your problems and your particular situation. What most good management consultants do have is a combination of domain expertise, experience and problem solving skills that can help them ask questions that will lead them to the answers. They also have a fresh perspective on your organization without all of the preconceived notions and stale thinking that can come from living an organizational problem every day.

Whether or not you decide to bring someone in to help you work through a problem you can learn from these pros and give yourself a leg up in solving organizational problems by taking the following three steps to asking better questions:

  1. Focus on the information you need to make the decision, solve the problem or get to that next level of understanding. To often people spend more time pursuing comprehensive understanding as opposed to focusing in on the keys that will unlock value.
  2. Use a systematic approach to asking questions. There’s a reason you often see a consultant asking questions from a notebook and then furiously jotting down notes as you answer. In many cases consultants will even use structured methods and tools for data intake in order to ensure that they ask all the questions they need and capture all of the data. Unstructured interviews lead to stakeholders wandering across topics, tilting at personnel windmills and veering into off topic discussions.
  3. Ask the right people your questions. If you only talk to people that agree with you chances are you aren’t getting enough information to make good decisions. If you don’t ask a healthy cross section of stakeholders, you run the risk of optimizing a solution for one group to the detriment of others. Make sure you are asking the right people the right questions.

The above three items are just a starting point. We have entered into a world technology has enabled us to ask more, better questions across a broader set of stakeholders than ever before. Questionnaires, surveys and assessments are woefully underutilized by most organizations. Technologies like our Extensible Assessment Manager (ExAM4Enterprise.com) Salesforce app are attempting to change that. This is an area that is exploding as a myriad of companies like ours are looking at how to harness the power of the social enterprise to support their change initiatives.

Want better answers? Ask better questions.

 

 

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.