Making DC schools safer: My testimony to the Council of the District of Columbia on Education

Good morning, My name is Joshua Millsapps and I am a Senior Partner at Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates. Over the past several years I have been involved in the safety and security assessment of more than 200 schools in 23 states. Over the course of this time I have become convinced that as a country we are generally missing the opportunity to make data driven decisions about safety and security despite the rise in the use of information to support all most every other aspect of our nation’s education and measure academic performance.

This lack of information persists despite the widely held belief that safer schools are higher performing schools. In the course of my experience over the last several years I have developed a bank of more than 500 questions covering safety and security as it pertains to schools and other facilities. These have been vetted by a diverse set of security experts and informed by best practice, research and concepts like Crime Prevention through Environmental Design or (CPTED).

Our questions cover everything from the general to the very school specific Administrative, Access Control, Lighting, Construction and Renovation, Site Stakeholders, Life and Safety, Power, Emergency Plans, Mail Handling, Parking, Fencing, Standoff, Roadway Control, Visitor Control, Inspection Policies and Procedures, Security Background Checks, Law Enforcement, Facility Security, Locks, Gymnasiums, and Cafeterias

For schools this doesn’t just have to be about security and once in place the assessment capability can be used to support facilities inspections on mobile devices, accident reporting, attendance, or other areas where schools need to regularly handle data in a consistent manner in order to drive repeatable processes and decision making.

We have also developed a technology based on the Salesforce.com platform in order to provide a service that can securely, deliver and manage this assessment that would be capable of scaling to handle every school in the nation. Doing it on this scale has enabled us to offer the base 229 question assessment recently used by Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, for somewhere around 36 cents per student per year for Washington, D.C.

The approach we took in Loudoun County illustrates the value of asking standardized questions that reflect security and safety best practices across the entire portfolio of schools. The information we collected enabled us to identify opportunities for improvement, but the technology can do much more including enabling the security and safety organization address issues in real time, collaborate to understand emerging issues, execute workflows and share best practices.

I have brought a sample copy of what an analysis of a fictional school district might look like and I invite anyone interested in understanding the operational aspects of the technology and how it supports safer schools everyday to join me on a webinar this Friday the 25th of October at 2PM, details of which are in the printed copy of the sample analysis provided to this committee, details can also be found at www.exam4schools.com, or by contacting me at 703-OUTCOME or at josh.millsapps@mbaoutcome.com.

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/440150886

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.

Critical leadership skills in uncertain times

6805754462_1a60ab513aThe current environment including the government shutdown, sequestration, and a slow recovery from a long recession have all made the need for real leadership an even more critical resource for organizations than ever.  It’s not just the technical capabilities or their ability to execute that becomes so important, although that is of course critically important because mistakes in this environment are even more punishing; it’s the other factors that become even more important. It’s the ability of leadership to inspire hope and productivity in the work force.  It’s their ability to assure the workforce that the organization will weather the storm, that it’s headed the right direction, and to be able to say that both confidently and honestly.

I believe it’s also important to have transformational leadership in times like these.  People that aren’t afraid to see things form another perspective, that have the courage to think outside the box, and have a willingness to pivot the business in order to ensure continued success.  It is in these times that it’s critically important to have somebody at the helm of your organization or team who is able to inspire confidence, lead change, and manage execution flawlessly; not just at the top but at every level.

As we continue to move thru these uncertain times, I think it’s important for each of those leaders to reach down into their organizations and work to instill real leadership qualities. They need to talk about those things in terms of helping people understand why those qualities are important and how they help the organization build as a whole towards success.

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.

Remember to think about what may happen if your governance works

 

Governance things to keep in mindGovernance has always been sort of a hot button issue. Now more than ever organizations are really trying to figure out how to get the right mix of governance that enables them to have repeatable processes to understand what’s working, what’s not, and drive repeatable performance.  I’ve always believed that good governance starts with an alignment of interests; it’s really important to have not just the stick but a carrot as well.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the appropriate incentives in place to encourage people to do what they’re supposed to do but when you do, it’s really powerful. If you can show people the benefit that’s in it for them, you’ll get much better results than simply telling people, “Thou shalt do x.”  Sometimes even just putting the governance process in the context of the big picture of what you’re trying to achieve can be enough.

Oftentimes you’ll find that governance applied at the lower levels of the organization may make exquisite sense to management but not so much to the folks that are charged with the executing of the environment. There may seemingly be no rhyme or reason why they’re performing these actions in the sequence that they are. So just providing that context, that touchstone to organizational value can be something that drives better data quality, greater willingness to participate in the process, and ultimately lead to a more successful government system as a whole.

As a side note to that, if after explaining the big picture to the folks who are going to be operating in the governance environment there is still pushback, you should immediately explore that pushback. It may be that the executive view of what the governance process is supposed to achieve, and the actual value that is being achieved, or the effort required to achieve the value has been mischaracterized or misunderstood by management.

I think that that final piece is ensuring that there’s an appropriate feedback loop on the governance process. It is something that occasionally gets left off but it’s incredibly important. One of the things that I’ve seen time and time again is as organizations bring in outside executives, consultants and other third parties that are not directly engaged in the value stream, you end up with layers upon layers of governance process and information gathering that is either duplicative or wasteful. So if just a little bit more attention was paid to the people that were required to execute a governance environment and deliver the business value, there would be a more lightweight process in place.

The other thing to be aware of is that governance often works. So you need to be careful not to stifle innovation or agility by virtue of implementing something that does not provide the organization with enough flexibility to respond to evolving requirements.  We all know that the world is changing at a greater rate than it ever has in the past and you can certainly govern yourself to the point of poor performance.  So I think those are some things to be on the alert for with regard to how you set up governance around your processes and around your organization. I’m very curious to know what other folks have thought of or have been using.

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 to keep in mind during negotiations

Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_States

One thing the government shutdown has made me think about is the need for some better core negotiating skills. I know there’s lots of different opinions and many different ways to make things work but I just speak for myself and say that anytime I’m trying to get something accomplished with somebody else and we’re working through how this is going to play out; there needs to be a little give and take. I have three big things that I try to be conscious of. They are as follows:

  1. Big picture.  You need to be able to take a step back from the minutiae of all that you’re working through and understand how those details affect the big picture. That way you can understand if those details are worth scuttling the big picture progress.
  2. You have to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. First of all, this helps you to understand how they can make such wildly outrageous demands. If you take a step into their shoes, you can oftentimes understand why they’re asking for such outrageous things and they begin to see just a little less outrageous. It can also help you do some creative deal making. If you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you can sometimes come up with something that is maybe not quite so wild and outrageous from your standpoint and something that you can live with that maybe they hadn’t considered before.  It oftentimes opens the door for a creative solution.
  3. The third thing is that you have to be focused on the outcomes.  One of the things that you see all the time when you’re trying to get through a deal or negotiate something out is that as the tenure of the deal making gets to be a little bit more competitive or there gets to be more posturing on the other side, the focus strays from what you’re trying to accomplish into becoming focused on the individual actions that have occurred during the negotiations. That really should have no bearing on the actual negotiating of an outcome. The deal making process itself shouldn’t become a hindrance to the outcome of the negotiation. Unfortunately, a lot of times people let the competitive nature of it carry them away. They become less concerned with am I getting what I need to out of this and more with am I going to win.

So that’s the last piece and the real killer of so many negotiations that could be successfully concluded; the fact that people get carried away in the wind and less focused on the outcome.  I’m curious what other folks think.  I’m sure there are many more things that could be added to this list but those are just my big three.

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.

The shutdown: Here, Australia, & your organization

Deserts_in_Australia_en

There’s been a lot posted on social media and different news outlets regarding this government shutdown. One of the really interesting articles I came across was one that talked about Australia and what happened in the event of their own government shutdown. When their legislative body wasn’t able to pass a budget they put all of them out of their jobs and reelected new people to start over from scratch. I thought it was pretty interesting and it definitely creates a spirit of compromise around budget time but it also made me think beyond the fact that I’d love to see something like that in this case.

If people don’t have to suffer any consequences from their decisions, they are often empowered to make decisions that don’t necessarily take into account the impact that those decisions have on the people they do effect.  This is sort of similar to the idea of software companies eating their own dog food so to speak. If your process or technology isn’t good enough to use within your own organization, then how good could it possibly be? Will it ever be that great? You’ll never have experienced the same hurdles that your customers are experiencing.

I think there’s definitely a misalignment of the interests in this case and certainly a misalignment of the impacts that has contributed to the path that we’re headed down. It’s something you should think about in your own organization. While the current government shutdown is a very high profile example of this, I know that I’ve been guilty of making decisions that impact others more than myself maybe without thinking enough about what the consequences are for folks and getting them engaged in the process. So I think that there is a real benefit in your organization to setting up a system that encourages people to participate in the processes that they create. I think you end up with something that’s stronger in the end and while that’s best practice it’s not something that is always followed.  As you can see in the current example, the results can be pretty bad for the people that have to live with the implications of decisions made for them by people who won’t be affected.

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.

What the government shutdown means to me

government shutdown

It’s here.  We made it all the way to government shutdown. It’s only day 2 and I’ve already heard from a few folks including a realtor who lost a deal because the person on the other side of the transaction was worried about accepting a VA loan.  One of our good gentleman overseas will not be getting a place because our elected officials could not figure out how to work together.  That’s on top of all the other folks that are going to be underemployed, unemployed, or looking for work in a terrible job market because of the combination of sequestration, our economy, and now a government shutdown.

It’s incredibly frustrating for those of us that are directly involved because the rhetoric isn’t just rhetoric for us, it’s real.  It’s impacting our lives every day. So while I’ve gotten some comments back from people saying, “Eh this is just an exercise we have to go through in order to pick your political side and you know there’s always going to be some pain associated with the greater good,” and that’s fine. I can certainly understand that on an intellectual level. I do however believe, at least for me, it’s going to be very hard to find myself ever voting for somebody who played a role in this.

I’d love to play an active role in helping support people who would come to office with the idea that what they do here is more about helping this country than helping themselves to the next office or helping their party figure how to capitalize on this country’s misery.  It’s amazing to me that one of the most covered aspects of this story, at least from what I could tell in surfing the news channels last night, was who is going to win, who was going to get the blame politically, and who wasn’t, rather than all the people who this political blame game was hurting. The story to me is a little bit different. To me, it’s about all the millions of people that are affected by this.

As someone who lives in this area, almost every single person that you know is involved in some way in supporting government at least tangentially like the people who own restaurants or own any type of store; all those businesses are hurting because the community as whole is hurting. You can say that has something to do with the over involvement of government, the size of government, or whatever it is, but that doesn’t make the pain that those people feel any less real.

I want to go back to my previous post and say again that today’s post isn’t about whether I believe in Obamacare or not, or my political leaning. It’s about being able to plan.  It’s about being able to know what has risk, what doesn’t, and where we’re going to stand as a country from day to day. Let’s say that a year from now that we magically and mysteriously get our act together, everyone decides that they’re going to put aside their differences, and figure out how to work together; even if that miracle were to occur things like this take years to recover from. We have to recover domestically as well as on the international stage.

People look at us as a country and see that we can’t get our act together enough or do things that are clearly in the best interest of our country and it’s the people that we’ve elected to get it done. It makes an impression on every aspect of what they do with us from what they do from a trade standpoint, from how they back any international action, and that we take all of those things that are affected by this and none of them for the better. So I think we’ve taken this action that has helped no one except for those at the very top in the political process i.e. the political class themselves. They are only the group that stands to gain. Every other group in this country is going to suffer on the back of that gain whether it be business people, regular citizens, etc. Every single stakeholder in this country with the exception of whoever wins this blame game is going to be worse off today than they were yesterday.

I hope as a country we’re able to figure out a way out of this and rebuild the trust that we have lost as a country, with each other, with the political process, and then with the other countries. I think we have a long road ahead to recovery and as a country that is just trying to fight its way out of a recession, the last thing we needed was to handicap ourselves on that effort. So I’m curious what everyone else thinks.

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.

The dos and don’ts of delegating distasteful tasks

distasteful tasks

I like people to get things done. One of the most frustrating things that I’ve run across in the course of doing work with lots of different people on lots of different teams is the idea that a particular job or a particular part of a project is beneath somebody, even if that person could get it done with just a little bit of elbow grease and some proactive leanings. So whenever I see something like that I think about my mom. She has a college degree and spent a lot of time as a teacher but also spent a lot of time when we were growing up working at a health club cleaning toilets and folding towels. This job allowed us to have access to a health club that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to go to where we got to go swimming all the time, play basketball, and do a lot of other things. It was important to her that we had access to those things and so she did something that a lot of folks would have felt was beneath them.

I’m sure that as she was working her way through college her thought wasn’t, “Can’t wait to get done with this so I can be able to spend 15 years cleaning toilets.”  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t high on the list of things that she thought she was going to spend her career doing but it was stuff that had to get done in order to get something else that was important to her accomplished. I think about that every time that I sit down to something that I’m like, “Ugh, I wish I didn’t have to do that” or I get the urge to delegate something just because it’s unpleasant.

Things like making calls to folks that don’t necessarily want to hear what you have to say are easy to delegate but you have to think about why you are doing those things and the example it sets.  If you are constantly looking to delegate things down, that’s going to be something that catches on with other folks. Eventually you run out of people you can delegate to and the things that have to get done don’t get done.  Now I’m not saying there’s a line here where there are certain things that you probably shouldn’t spend your time doing because they’re a poor use of your time. I think it’s very appropriate to delegate in those circumstances but as a team leader or even just a member of a team you have to be careful about what you ask other people to do. Be honest with yourself about the reason that you’re asking them to do this task.  Are you asking them because:

  1. This is something you don’t want or do?
  2. Are they better suited to do this particular job?
  3. Is this something that you really shouldn’t be spending your time on?

If you have the right answers to those question great, delegate it. If you don’t or even if you have some extra time and it’s something that is distasteful but it sets a good example that you’re doing it, you should consider going ahead and doing it.  A lot of times if there’s something I’m about to ask somebody to do something that I know is going to be pretty terrible, I’ll try to sit down and at least do the beginning part of it with them. Hopefully this will:

  1. Share the misery
  2. Show that it can be done, it should be done and nobody’s above doing it

So with that said, enjoy your weekend and do something distasteful on Monday.

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.