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.

There is such thing as information overload

Information overload

I admit it. I get a little bit cranky when people say things like forms processing or document management. Not because I don’t think there’s a reason to have tools to help facilitate those types of activities but because I think by focusing on the processing of forms, you take away the focus on the outcomes that the organization is trying to drive. It’s one of the reasons why I talk so much about assessments because it is oftentimes a more apt phrase for what the organization is trying to do. When you gather information in a form, you generally gather that information so that you can evaluate something, perform a business process, or execute on the next step on some particular work flow.

The point of it is not simply processing the form or managing the document; it’s using the information that you collect to drive value for the organization as whole. That is why I think it’s so important to think about those types of things more from the standpoint of what are you trying to drive rather than the standpoint of simply managing information through a workflow. That mindset of management information through a workflow inevitably ends up with more information under management than is required. You end up collecting information because you can rather than because you need it to make a decision or to execute a business process and it’s a huge problem.

One of the amazing things about our modern technology environment is the ability to manage and store information. However human beings haven’t similarly upgraded their ability to process information in a way that enables better decision making. So the fact that you can store petabytes of data doesn’t mean that you should do it just because you can.  There are plenty of reasons to store information, to do big data type analysis, to make determinations of a whole host of different types of things, or to do ongoing investigations of things that might help your business. However if you’re trying to support a specific business process, I believe that you ought to keep the information that you gather to a minimum because there’s a real cost in gathering that information that goes far beyond what it takes to store it on hardware.  That’s the smallest component of that cost.  So that’s my piece and I’m sticking to it.

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.

Context: Looking beyond the obvious

One of the things that is pretty interesting as you spend some time talking to people about how they look at information to make decisions and what are the things that are really important is you hear about the power of context.  So to give a great example we’re working with an organization to create comprehensive security assessments. We want a way for them to understand, across all of their facilities, what are the critical factors in ensuring they were as secure as thy could be. This means what are all things that were directly related to the security of the facilities themselves like:

  • Are the fences in good condition?
  • What kind of fences do you have?
  • Do you have closed circuit televisions and where do you have it?
  • What type of policies do you have for people entering the building, background checks, and security planning

All of these different factors and an immense number of other things go into securing a facility. While those things are all important and this particular organization had specific standards, policies, and all these different things it had to adhere that went into how the organization was supposed to secure these facilities, it wasn’t taking into account some critical factors in how secure those facilities really were. So it was the contextual data that as they looked to plan what they were going to do in terms of shoring up their security, it couldn’t just be did they meet all of the standards alone.

While the standards are good and they help you get an understanding of how prepared you might be in a bad situation or if your existence is in a perennial troublesome state, it didn’t really give you a complete picture. To get a complete picture you had to understand the contextual data. You had to understand crime statistics. So if a facility that is in an area where, compared to the national average, there are an extraordinarily high number of homicides, violent crimes, assaults, thefts, and things like that, well all the sudden those physical security assessment characteristics take on a whole new meaning. It becomes a much more critical thing to have fences when those fences are the only thing separating you from an outside world that is very scary. So as the organization looked to prioritize where it was going to spend its physical security resources, the most critical factor wasn’t just the status of the assessment itself but it was the context at which that status existed.

Similarly it’s not just about the facilities themselves but also about what the value of the things in those facilities is. It’s hard to say that a facility with four people requires less security infrastructure than one with a hundred because everybody is important. On the other hand I think that for most people if you look at a facility that’s got 300 people, a daycare facility, a bunch of other high value assets, or just a mass of people, those are places where you might want look to secure them earlier. Other factors might be things like the age of the facilities themselves, the age and time of the last security assessment, or the last building upgrade. These area all factors that go into helping you understand just what the real status is as opposed to simply looking at do they meet the criteria or not. It just doesn’t give you enough information to make decisions.

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.

Voice Memos: Capturing thoughts faster than you can think them

Voice memo

Over the years I have gone around and searched for different ways to get things out of my head, on paper, and in front of the right people quickly.  The solution I’ve found to be most effective and efficient is the voice memo in terms of getting the ideas out and to other people to collaborate on the quickest. I use Apple’s voice memo on the iphone on an almost a daily basis.  In fact, this blog is being dictated into my voice memo and will be transcribed and edited by one of our team members tomorrow to get posted. I really have come to depend on the voice memo as a way to remind myself of things, to capture ad hoc thoughts, because what I’ve found is that its not always convenient to write something down like when I spend time in transit to meetings and on the way to and from work. So when I’m in the car driving by myself and I have a great thought, or at least what I think is a great thought, I pull out my phone and dictate into it a little bit. In that way I can instantly capture something that would otherwise get lost. I think for a great many people, the pace of modern work life is such that if you don’t capture something right as it happens you may never get second chance at it. I mean how many great ideas do you miss by virtue of the fact that you forgot that you had a great idea? Most of us will never know. So I’ve become very aware of just how important it is to make sure that you capture these thoughts as they happen and by using this simple tool I can make sure I don’t fall victim to that.

A lot of times in the evening when I may be too tired or just not feel like taking out a notepad and writing down what I have to do the next day, I can take three minutes and just run through five or six things that I know have to happen and listen to them on the way into work the next morning. During a lunch break, if I’ve been thinking about a topic that I want to write a blog about or that I want to hash out later, I’ll dictate it into a voice memo. Then I’ll either send it on to be transcribed and then edit it after the fact or just send it on to the next person to get their input. Lately I’ve actually, as opposed to composing a email, talked through something into a voice memo which gives me the opportunity to talk myself through a problem and really see my idea stream. If that results in something too all over the place, I’ll usually go back through, listen to it, transcribe it myself, put down the salient points, and pass it on to the next person. Or if I do a halfway decent job and its something that I think the other person can get I just send it along, share it,  or pass it forward. I think it’s been a pretty simple and valuable for me. In the cases where I’ve sent on the actual voice memos themselves to team members I try to take care to make it short enough that it will get played through and I try not to send anything that is so all over the map that it would take extensive note taking skills, followed by extensive deconstruction in order to make sense of it.

It’s interesting as I’ve done more blogs via voice memo dictation how different you talk to an idea as opposed to how you write to an idea.  I don’t know if it’s making me better at speaking or better at writing but it’s certainly making me more a lot more aware of the differences.  But in the end, it’s just an incredibly powerful tool.  Part of what makes it so powerful is its availability. The one thing that almost everyone always has with them in the modern age is a mobile phone.  It never leaves your side, its always on, you’ve got a record of all the voice memos that you have previously, and if you take a little time you can categorize them fairly well.  I know that I’ve gone back and played back certain memos and it’s been a good way to hang on to ideas and again it makes it very very easy to share with other people.  So in the era of voice to text and so many advances with regard to how we collaborate, I’m curious how many other people are out there still using voice memo? Whether its on an iphone like I use, a dictatophone, or even dictating to some type of a scribe, how many people are regularly using that to communicate ideas, to condense their thoughts,  or just get things out of their head and out to other people?

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.

To work governance needs to be embedded


Avoid bottlenecks with efficient governance

 To work, governance needs to be embedded. Sure there are a lot of other factors that come in to play and doing a good job of defining scope, communicating, and socializing your governance is important too. However, embedding your governance makes it easy for the folks who are stakeholders in your governance program to participate and it lets you know if they aren’t. So what does embedding mean? Basically, I’m talking about workflow and workflow management. I won’t get too deep into the technical aspects of things because there are a lot of ways to accomplish this objective. The intent here is to put forward a few ideas about what I think it takes to make governance work.  This is foundational to managing the information within your organization that is valuable enough for you to place it under specific governance.

 

First, embedded governance needs to be part of an explicit workflow process enabled by technology. By this I mean you need to have thought about the process and information set you are trying to govern enough to clearly define it and you need to have a technology capable of supporting “embedding” it. I’m going to be less focused on the technology part in this article and more on what the process and technology should provide.

To start, you need a clear definition of the information required within the process. This is probably THE most important part of the process. People, positions, roles, processes and technology often change at a much more rapid pace in comparison to the data that is critical to the organization. Thinking about the data first gives you a solid foundation to work forward from to develop everything else. Working forward from the data makes it much easier to define the people, roles, and positions that need to be involved in the process in order to provide, evaluate, or process the data along the route.

Once you have defined the what (data) and the who (people/roles/positions), it is important to think about the how. Sequencing and path are critical elements of making the governance work efficiently. Having a mechanism that ensures that people come into the process at the right time ensures efficiency.  It also reduces the frustration that is often felt by those involved in governance processes that allow participation in a loose fashion. Loose or uncontrolled processes practically ensure that most participants will have to review the information set on multiple occasions to get their work done. Wasting people’s time is not a good incentive to participate in the governance process you are developing and building in as many mechanisms as possible to ensure this doesn’t occur is good practice in establishing effective governance. In addition to the efficiency it brings, it will also raise data quality. People are simply more willing to participate and put forward effort in processes where there has been a clear effort made towards ensuring the best use of their time.

Also beneficial is thinking about the types of metrics that may be important to the process. Is the time it takes to move from step to step in the process important? If so, you should define those metrics appropriately for each step in the process. Data quality and completeness are two other areas that are critical to monitor during the course of the process. You can’t make good decisions without a level of completeness and quality of data commensurate with your purposes. Of course there are certainly other areas that should be measured along the way and I’d be very interested in getting your thoughts on what I’ve missed. I think the basic metrics to consider for governance should be centered on time, data quality and data completeness.

This information should be available to the person managing the process in order to understand where bottlenecks are occurring in the process, where questions or information requirements may be defined poorly, or where the process is bogging down because of improper order, etc. Essentially, you need to monitor your governance process over time to determine where there may be process design issues. This information should also be used in a real time fashion to manage the governance process and ensure that you are meeting important metrics put forward by the organization. For example, if you are governing a waiver process that shouldn’t exceed 30 days, it may be critical for you to have the ability to identify at what points you may need to intercede in order to meet that requirement. Having the ability to set alerts in the process to identify items that are not moving through the queue efficiently makes this a great deal easier by pushing these to you, rather than forcing engagement in the process to identify problems before they become issues. Avoiding the need to actively manage the process reduces the real cost of governance and allows governance participants to focus on their mission rather than the process.

Finally, don’t skimp on socializing and tweaking early in the process and throughout the duration. Whatever you use to embed your governance needs to be flexible enough to change over time to accommodate this type of update anyway. This brings up another point which is that whatever technology you use to embed this workflow must be flexible enough to permit ongoing tweaking of the process. Do not expect that if you just do a really good job on the requirements side you won’t have to change things. That is not how the world works and if whatever you are managing is important enough to have explicit governance, it is important enough to do right and keep right. Don’t let a lack of flexibility kill your effort to embed your governance.

What have been your experiences with using workflows to embed governance? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the approach in particular.

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.