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.

Lessons learned from the shutdown

lessons learned

I have to say it’s really nice to be back at work in Washington, DC. That’s not to say that we weren’t working while the government was shut down but it is nice to have everybody back and know that things are going to be a little bit closer to normal for at least the next few months.  When I was in DC the other day, it was just good to see the streets full again. While I can’t say that I missed the traffic as much as I missed the people, you can’t exactly have one without the other so I guess I’ll take the traffic back as well.

Something I’ve noticed that seems to be unique to DC as opposed to some of the other big and busy  cities where people seem to be go out of their way to avoid eye contact is that DC is a seemingly more friendly place. I think part of this is because there are so many people that aren’t from here, they have a tendency to give you a smile and a hello which gives this big city a smaller town feel and I really appreciate that. For instance, the other day when I was walking down the street in DC and I saw a lady walking into her office and she gave me a big smile and said, “It sure is nice to be back at work.” It just felt really good and brings me to my point.

I really hope that one of the things that comes out of the shutdown, at least in the lower levels of government, is a renewed sense of partnership and renewed sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ sort of feeling. We need to sort things out both from the standpoint of public and private partnerships. We need to figure out how do we work together to achieve the mission of the agency, department, or even the country as a whole.

One of the things that came out of the shutdown was a very distinct sense that everybody is unhappy, no matter your party affiliation, with the way things have played out. There’s a sense that we can’t continue to go down this road. We’ve got to find a way to make intelligent decisions as a country and work together to carry ourselves through or we’ll just cease to be the great country that we’ve been for so many years, and I don’t think anyone wants that. So as you go to work this week or as you sit at home over the weekend, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think a bit about the big picture, learn from what has transpired on the national stage, carry it into our work lives, and focus in on driving value for the organization that you’re working for.

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.

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.

Looming government shutdown and the fear of uncertainty

Government shutdown

As we stand poised on the precipice of a government shutdown on the heels of sequestration, I think I’ve got a lot of company when I say that the last thing we need is another government shutdown. I don’t claim to fully understand every aspect of the politics behind this latest crisis. What I do know is that on a practical level for small businesses like mine and many others, the government shutdown is more pain than we can afford. Now I’ve been told that there are bigger issues afoot but I think that at a certain point, the little things (and people) are pretty important too.

Everything that’s been done already in the name of trying to get this country on the road back to recovery, a lot of it seems to have added very little with regard to value for regular people. It has mostly seemed to serve to fuel the political rhetoric of one party or the other. Personally I just want to see everybody continue working whether that means we cut here or there, I’d just like to know and have some stability. I think that’s one of the big things that’s caused so much pain and angst.

People really don’t know what the situation is going to be a month, or 3 months, or 6 months down the road. As a business it’s really hard to hire in such uncertain times and when it’s hard to hire, it’s hard to get hired as a person looking for a job and it just becomes a vicious cycle.  When you start talking about shutting down the government on the heels of everything that has gone on this past year, there’s just an enormous amount of pain to be borne by a lot of folks. There’s going to be lives that are changed forever and all for what? To make a political point?

I think at some point the folks that are in charge of this place need to act like grown-ups and figure out how to make it work. I don’t know that there’s going to be a solution out there that is going to make everyone happy and so you got to find a way to compromise. Find a way to make things work for all the people that don’t have high profile stakes in this and aren’t going to be in the news because of it, but they may be out of a job, maybe underemployed, and having to find a way to feed their family on a lot less than they would have if people would get their act together and at least allow people to plan.

Again I’m not advocating any particular political position in this I just want to know what to expect so as a business and as a person I can plan for it. I think I speak for a lot of the country when I say we just want to know where things are going to stand.  The uncertainty is almost worse than the certainty of any particular thing. I don’t think that I’m particularly unique in just wanting to know what is going to be the next reality. So this is me adding my voice to the many who are just out there going, “Hey we’ve had enough politics let’s fix something.” Let’s make some decisions, get to know what the rules are going to be for the next year or more, and let’s get to work and start healing for the long term, now.

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.

Opportunities for change in the new budget reality

opps for change under current budget chaos

One of the things I think this new budget reality has created for public sector organizations is an extraordinary need to make better decisions.  In previous years budget situations have been tight and there’s been a fight for resources but I think that this past year and next year the situation has and will become much worse. I think it has become so dire that it has really begun to affect performance and to significantly impact the capability of some programs to deliver. Every agency has begun to find itself in the position of needing to understand better than it ever has before the things that it:

  • asks itself to accomplish
  • the places where dollars are slipping through the cracks
  • opportunities for savings based on consolidation
  • reducing vendor spend
  • less complicated technology environments

I think this may also be one of the huge drivers for cloud based services. In previous years there’s been hesitancy to be an early adopter or the first one out of the door on these new initiatives but this new budget reality is going to force people to look at some of these opportunities. In order to continue to deliver, they’re going to need to overcome some of the hesitancy to move their application over to an environment that they don’t completely control.  You have two things at work in a lot of agencies.

  1. There should be a serious look at what capabilities the agency needs to deliver on the mission and how to help support those activities.
  2. There needs to be a real focus on how do we, if possible, innovate our way out of this.

I think you’re going to see two camps divided on this.  You’ll have one camp of folks that falls into the “hunker down, cut costs, operate and maintain” only camp. In the other camp you’re going to see people that say we’re going to find a way to plan better and innovate our way out of the mess that we’re in. I think that we may have reached a limit of what the first camp can deliver.  The last few years we’ve seen smaller budgets. From my personal experience I’ve seen public sector in many of these cases try to recompete contracts around cost and do other things to help cut enough cost to keep going. I don’t think that as we look at the kind of year over year trend that we’ve been seeing that that is going to be something that is sustainable for a long period of time.  I think that agencies are going to have learn another way and I think that starts with doing better planning and ends with finding better ways of doing things.  I’m curious what other folks think.

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.