Mar 16

Introducing the New Organizational Model

New Organizational Model DiagramThe above diagram is my new organizational model which I have referred to in several previous postings. I developed this after several years of reflection and study starting with my MBA work in 2001. I was especially inspired by my Ph.D. work in developing a new model of public leadership and, later, on my study of the lean startup movement.

The new organization is designed to be agile in every aspect from the work products, leadership, and workforce. The organization is also transparent and designed for maximum information flow. Finally, the mission, vision, and strategy is baked into all that the organization does and drives the organization forward.

I will expand upon various components in future postings, but, for now, I want to give an overview of the complete model.

Starting with the upper box with the five chief officers: A common theme in organizational studies is the danger of silos and fiefdoms. There are also the problems with forming a senior leadership team that works together for the good of the entire organization. Therefore, in the new organization, there are only five chief officers that form the senior leadership team.

  • The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – chairs the senior leadership team and is responsible for keeping the organization aligned with the mission and vision by keeping the strategy engine working effectively.
  • The Chief Alliance Officer (CAO) – combines the traditional functions of the chief human resources officer and chief information officer. Responsible for managing the organizational talent and the organizational APIs platform.
  • The Chief Knowledge Officer (CKO) – responsible for managing the knowledge and learning workflow of the organization. Also oversees the training and development of the organization’s talent.
  • The Chief Brand Officer (CBO) – responsible for overseeing the organization’s brand: internally and externally. Helps the CEO manage the public-facing side of the organization’s mission and vision.
  • The Chief P4 Officer (CPO) – Oversees the portfolios, programs, projects, and processes of the organization’s Business Engine.

In the middle of the model is the “Business Engine.” The Business Engine is where the work is done by the organization. Instead of a factory floor with fixed production lines, the Business Engine is a makerspace with both a physical presence and virtual presence. Work is performed by a network of project teams that are loosely organized into portfolios and programs. There are few fixed processes, and these processes will be heavily-automated using artificial technology systems using blockchain technologies and deep learning algorithms. The teams will use agile project management, human-centered design, and adaptive case management to manage the work.

Surrounding the Business Engine are four critical components. The most important component, of course, is the “Talent” box with the four types of employees. These types are based on the Alliance model of employer-employee agreements. At the bottom is the Organizational APIs Platform in which the core APIs that run the business infrastructure are available for the talent and teams to build their personalized tools and apps upon. Surrounding the Business Engine on both sides are open data streams that provide the performance metrics of the organization and allows for easy knowledge-sharing and collaboration in the organization. Embedded in the Business Engine are strategy information radiators (Ambient Strategy) that provide constantly-updated information on how well the organization is fulfilling the mission, vision, and strategic goals.

Pulling the organization forward is the “Strategy Engine.” On top of the Strategy Engine is the “Mission and Vision” alignment compass which helps the align all of the organization’s activities toward the mission, vision, and strategic goals. What powers the planning process for the Strategy Engine are the twin concepts of organizational agility and organizational health.

There is a lot of this model that is borrowed and a lot that is new. I don’t believe there is an organization that follows this model but, I believe many organizations could benefit from adopting parts of the model. I look forward to expanding upon the various parts of the new organizational model. I welcome your comments, criticisms, and suggestions.

Mar 16

From Hierarchies to Network of Teams

Deloitte just released its 2016 Human Capital Trends report and it is outstanding! What I especially like is the realization that organizational design is the top HR topic among executives and HR practitioners.

I have found similar results in my research on the new public organization model. Hierarchical models just can't meet the demands for organizational ability and organizational health. In my model, there are programs, projects, and processes. The programs and projects are handled by teams that constantly change and reform as the organization's strategies and needs change. This way, team members can rotate through program directors, project leads, and project team members.

As to processes, I envision a fusion of human workers and artificial intelligence agents. For the purely algorithmic portion of processes, I see a combination of AI agents and blockchain technology. For any exceptions to the processes, adaptive case management will be used to signal for human intervention and refinement of the process.

3d-jump-070615-15colThe best analogy is to think of the organization as a network of teams that work off an organizational IT/analytics platform to build new applications. The closest organizational design that I have seen to what I envision is a makerspace

Feb 16

Evolving Human Resources Using Adaptive Case Management

peoplemanagementA key part of my new organization model is a new evolution of human resources management. I prefer Josh Bersin’s term, people management, because “human resources” reminds me too much of the 1950’s organizational man model. Another concept that shaped my thinking along with Bersin’s people management model is the Alliance Model.

The Alliance, co-written by the founder of LinkedIn and two entrepreneurs, describes a new type of employer-employee contract. As the authors argue, the old unspoken compact between employer and employee was built on stability. You work for the company, and you will have lifelong employment as long as you do a good job and obey orders. The company will develop you and move you up the ladder to an eventual good retirement. That does not work anymore.

In the Alliance model, employers and employees negotiate “tours of duty.” Employees are encouraged to think of themselves as free agents who spend time developing their skills and looking for opportunities. Employers hire for specific skills to help fulfill the strategic mission. The contract is explicit and agreed upon by all parties. Tours of duty can be short-time or open-ended depending upon need.

What I like about tours of duty is that they are mutually-satisfying and that the relationship is equal between employer and employee. Tours of duty also make sure that the employee’s interests are aligned with the organization’s interest. When the interests no longer serve each other, the employee and employer make an amicable break. Employees then join the organization’s alumni network and could be rehired when circumstances change.

To implement a tour of duty people management system will require more flexibility and responsiveness than current HR processes. That is why I propose using adaptive case management (ACM) as the platform for the new organizational model’s people management processes. ACM provides just enough structure to ensure that organization’s people management processes are in compliance but is flexible enough handle the uniqueness of each tour of duty. I am currently working on a book chapter that will specifically describe how to replace current commonly-accepted HR processes with ACM.

I had previously argued that organizations should combine HR and IT into one organization-wide function. I believe that when HR has transformed into “People Management” through adopting adaptive case management, HR will be ready to manage IT successfully. Then, organizations will have the talent they will need while the talent will have the tools they need to make the tour of duty successful for both the employee and the organization.

Jan 16

Are Enterprise-Focused Mobile Apps the Key to Improving Citizen Satisfaction with Federal Agencies?

Two interesting reports out recently. The first is from the IBM Center for the Business of Government and reports on the use of mobile apps in the Federal, state, and local governments. The second report is the 2015 American Customer Satisfaction Index report for the Federal government.  Highlights from both reports:

  1. Since the 2012 Digital Government Strategy, the Federal government has built nearly 300 citizen-oriented mobile apps. In contrast, only 20 enterprise-focused mobile apps have been built. Citizen-oriented mobile apps, as the name suggests, are built to provide government information and services to American citizens. Enterprise-focused mobile apps are used by the agency's employees to increase internal knowledge sharing and collaboration.
  2. For the third year in the row, customer satisfaction with the Federal government has declined. In fact, the rating of 63.9 is the lowest rating for the last nine years.
  3. There were one or two point gains in satisfaction with government processes (68 to 69), information (69 to 71), and customer service (75 to 76) from 2014 to 2015. Website satisfaction was static at 72.

I just finished writing an article for the PA Times where I argued that agencies should increase their building of enterprise-focused (EF) mobile apps. There is not the immediate payoff of a citizen-oriented (CO) mobile app. However, building EF mobile apps will compel agencies to improve their internal business processes, increase collaboration among agency employees, and enhance the ability of agencies to create IT applications. These are long-term benefits that may help raise and sustain better customer satisfaction scores in the future.

Aug 13

Drupal Gov Days 2013 - Biggest Open Source Event in DC

I may be a bit biased as I am doing a session on WordPress as a knowledge management system but I think you will find the entire two-day conference to be educational and fun.

Jul 13

Combining Agile Policy Making and Design Thinking

Been a while since I have posted but it has been a productive absence. In the last few months, I have researched the literature on agile policy making, design thinking, and organizational health. Along with those topics, I have been reading up on the latest in innovation practices. The goal is to merge these with my new theory of government. So, I am back to a regular schedule of posting as I need to work through these ideas and build the new theory.

Apr 13

The U.S. Needs a FuturICT Research Program

The FuturICT project was a proposal before the European science community to blend social science, complexity theory, and information/communication technologies (ICT) to better understand society and work on global problems. It is a fascinating project but was beat out by two other large science projects: studying the brain and an intensive research program into graphene applications.

The Obama Administration has also started a major brain study project but I believe that the U.S. could also fund a major study into FuturICT considering that much of the innovation in ICT came from the U.S. I would appreciate if you would consider signing the petition and passing it around if you are interested. Thank you.


1) FuturICT - http://www.futurict.eu/sites/default/files/docs/files/FuturICT_5p_Project%20Summary%20WITH%20LOGOS.pdf

2) Office of Technology Assessment - http://www.princeton.edu/~ota/

The Petition can be found at https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/create-department-science-and-technology-assessment-and-begin-futurict-research-program/R70h3RLT


Nov 12

Increase Your Innovation's Chances for Success

Two books that I read recently have given me a few insights into making innovation work. As you well know, innovation is the hot topic in government today as we face shrinking budgets, demands for better citizen engagement, and the challenge of openness. There is a good deal of emphasis on producing innovative ideas but not as much as on determining what is a good idea to implement and specifically how to implement the innovative idea.

Many have written about the challenges of trying to implement a new innovation in their organization. I used to think that this was the usual resistance to change inherent in organizational cultures but Adner’s book on innovation ecosystems has convinced me that innovators need to take a wider view of how their ideas will affect others. As he explains, many innovations fail because innovators only focus on executing their innovation and not on the ability of potential partners to co-innovate or adopt the innovation.

An example from the book is Michelin’s PAX System. This was a tire designed to “run flat” for up to 125 miles. Market tests showed it was it popular with customers, service garages, and Michelin’s partners. The product launched well but eventually failed because customers couldn’t find enough service stations that handled the PAX System tire. As Adner explained, Michelin did well in considering the execution risk but they didn’t consider what co-innovations were needed and the risk for their adoption chain. Most innovations (even disruptive innovations) rely on other partners in the organizational ecosystem for success and thus considering their needs better prepares your innovation for success.

Adner describes several tools to help you understand your innovation ecosystem and position your innovation for a higher probability of success. These are good for the analysis part of your change effort but I believe you will find McChesney, Covey, and Huling’s Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) system helpful in implementing the change.

Discipline 1: Focus on the Wildly Important: The idea here is to focus on one or two ideas to implement. The more ideas you try to implement at one time dilutes your efforts and increases your risk of failure.

Discipline 2: Act on the Lead Measures: Develop measures that help you predict your ability to reach your goal and that your team can influence. These are lead measures. The other type of measures is a lag measure which tells you how well you did something in the past. Lag measures are like driving by the rear-view mirror. You need to see where you are going and not where you have been.

Discipline 3: Keep a Compelling Scorecard: The best way to motivate a team is to give them continuous feedback on their progress toward the Wildly Important goal(s). It has to be simple and based on the lead measures you established in Discipline 2.

Discipline 4: Cadence of Accountability: Have team members report frequently to each other on their individual progress. Each team member holds the other team member's accountable and can offer assistance when needed.

As in Adner’s book, McChesney, Covey, and Huling also have tools for implementing the 4DX System. I believe the real strength lies in combining the tools so that you can shape your idea for maximum success in your organizational ecosystem. Then, you can use 4DX to help you, your co-innovators, and your adoption chain partners implement your Wildly Important Innovation. An added bonus is that the tools will help you mitigate change resistance because you took your partners’ concerns into consideration and the lead measures scorecard provides constant and understandable feedback to your organization. It’s not that we need more innovations in government; we need more successful innovations in government.

Disclaimer: All opinions are mine and do not reflect the opinions of my employers or any organizations I belong to and should not be construed as such.

Adner, R. (2012). The wide lens: A new strategy for innovation. New York: Penguin Group.

McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 disciplines of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals. New York: Free Press.

Nov 12

Winning at Calvinball: Innovation and Uncertainty

The goal of almost all innovations is to take advantage of a predicted future trend or event. There is an entire industry and research field – futurism – devoted to predicting what’s ahead and how to capitalize on things to come. Much of government policy and services are also concerned with accurately predicting the future. This is why innovation is so much like the famous game played in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip: the rules are always changing and no Calvinball game is like any other Calvinball game.

But, as famous physicist Neils Bhor observed, “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” In this second posting, I will discuss three books that describe how to be innovative even in the face of uncertainty.

The first book is by Nate Silver who created “FiveThirtyEight.com” in which he accurately predicted all 35 2008 Senate races and was 99% accurate in predicting the states that voted for Obama. In The Signal and the Noise, he explains the reason why most predictions fail is that correlation is often confused with causation. In one of his examples, he describes the competing camps of baseball statisticians who depend on esoteric statistical indexes versus baseball scouts who rely solely on their gut instincts. His major piece of advice is to use Bayesian statistics where you use informed opinion along with good data analysis to better separate the statistical noise from the actual signal you are looking for. What this book teaches the innovator is that uncertainty is fundamental to any complex system and that one should continually refine their predictions.

Uncertainty is also the theme of Johansson’s The Click Moment. He argues that success is mostly driven by randomness and unpredictability. Given that, how do innovators account for uncertainty in complex situations? He suggests two major methods: placing purposeful bets and harnessing complex forces. In placing purposeful bets, the innovator needs to place many small bets that are composed of small executable steps which the innovator can accept affordable losses. Many of these bets will not pay off but it only takes a few to realize tremendous benefits. To realize these benefits, your existing systems should have large hooks to accommodate the new innovative forces. You should also be able to spot openings where you can take advantage of the momentum and intensity unleashed by the successful bets.

Like Johansson, Burrus also argues that uncertainty is a big barrier to innovation. What he suggests is to focus on what can be known – hard trends. Hard trends are either cyclic or linear changes that can be firmly established such as demographic trends or phenomena such as aging. In terms of technology, he has identified eleven hard trends:

  1. Dematerialization – less material means increasingly smaller devices
  2. Virtualization
  3. Mobility
  4. Product intelligence – our products are becoming embedded with their own intelligence
  5. Networking
  6. Interactivity
  7. Globalizationa
  8. Convergence
  9. Processing power
  10. Bandwidth
  11. Storage

Once you have identified the hard trends, you can then shape your future by concentrating on shaping soft trends through such tactics as “taking your biggest problem and skipping it” or “going opposite.” This is where real innovation begins according to Burrus.

The main message of all three books is that uncertainty is a major part of innovation and must be dealt with. All three books give great advice on working with uncertainty in being more innovative. Summing up all the advice, I would suggest that innovators have an active “small bets” program, learn to spot hard trends, and use data-driven decision-making to guide your innovation efforts.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are my own and do reflect the opinions of my employers or any organizations I am member of and should not be construed as such.

Burrus, D. (2011). Flash foresight: How to see the invisible and do the impossible: Seven radical principles that will transform your business. New York: HarperCollins.
Johansson, F. (2012). The click moment: Seizing opportunity in an unpredictable world. New York: Penguin Group.
Silver, N. (2012). The signal and the noise: Why most predictions fail but some don’t. New York: Penguin Group.