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

The Constructal Law in Organizational Design

feature-constructal-law-physicsA key component to my new theory on public administration and my new organizational design is the Constructual Law. First proposed back in 1996 by Adrian Bejan, the Constructal Law states:

"For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it"

The Constructual Law is a physics law and refers to natural systems. However, if one defines the imposed currents as data, information, and knowledge, then you can see the application to organizations. Especially in the communication channels for data, information, and knowledge.  The tricky part is that the organization's environment changes over time and thus, the organization's internal configuration of flows needs to evolve to optimize access for data, information, and knowledge.

The organization's internal configuration will evolve according to the dictates of the Constructual Law. Making this directed evolution rather than unguided evolution is the great insight offered by the Constructual Law to organizational theory.

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.

Jan 16

Why Collaboration is the Heart of the New Organizational Model

Some great feedback on my recent blog posting about merging HR and IT. As I mentioned in my posting, this is part of my overall organization model where I advocate a smaller number of chief officers acting together as a lean management team.

That thinking was inspired by this Harvard Business Review article - When Senior Managers will not Collaborate. According to the research in the article, when professionals collaborate, there is more revenue for the firm and more satisfied customers with better products and services. This is a finding that has been demonstrated in other studies. So, why don’t organizations encourage collaboration?

It is the current prevailing organizational structure that rewards individual achievement over contributing to a team. Stars are valued over a high-performing team (despite the recent quest to create more high-performing teams). The great leader mental model is deeply ingrained in the Western culture and management theory. This is why there is such a proliferation of chief whatever officers whenever organizations face a new challenge such as increasing diversity, effectively using big data, or building an employer brand.

Collaboration is essential, but it is not a natural skill for everyone. Collaboration takes training, willingness to fail, and perseverance. The organizational design has to have trust built into its processes, and there needs to be plenty of feedback to keep collaboration going. This will be a hard process at the beginning but, as the evidence shows, the payoffs are well worth the effort.

Dec 15

Government Management in the Zone!

Even though I have not completely read Geoffrey Moore's latest book, Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption, I had to put it down and write a blog post about his brilliant insights. If you are not familiar with Moore's books, he is most famous for taking Roger's Diffusion of Innovations theory and turning it into business strategy. I read Moore's first book, Crossing the Chasm, when I was a Presidential Management Fellow at the Social Security Administration. Although, he was writing about private sector companies, I could see immediate parallels to government management back in the late 90s when the early Internet was revolutionizing how the Federal government operated.

Almost twenty years later, his latest book has also spurred my thinking on improving government management. Moore's Zone Management is simple: companies should divide up their organization's operations into four zones to best deal with disruptive change. The four zones are based on three investment horizons:
Horizon One – Return on investment (ROI) is realized in the first year.
Horizon Two – ROI is realized in two to three years.
Horizon Three – ROI is realized in three to five years.

The reason behind the horizons is to ensure that company is producing revenue today and in the future while containing the potentially damaging effects of disruptive change. A company does this by having four zones:
The Performance Zone – What the company currently does to generate revenue and sustain the company now.
The Productivity Zone – The enabling functions such as IT, HR, and finances that help keep the performance zone running at full efficiency.
The Incubation Zone – Placing small bets on potential disruptive ideas that could propel the company into the next phase of growth.
The Transformation Zone – Scaling up one of the disruptive ideas from the Incubation Zone to be ready to enter the Performance Zone.

As Moore advises, each zone needs to be managed differently with a different set of operational expectations and measures. Overlaid on the zones is a lightweight governance structure that helps guide each zone management system. The key is not to have a uniform method for governing all four zones because that will benefit only one-fourth of the company (for the short term) while mismanaging the other three zones. For example, expecting HR and IT (Productivity Zone) to generate profits like you would expect from the Performance Zone, can greatly diminish the Productivity Zone's ability to support the revenue generation of the Performance Zone. You may have a profitable HR function but if this leads to constant turnover, replacing employees will eat into the Performance Zone's profits.

How does this relate to government? Well, replace the Performance Zone with the Mission Zone. Then, redefine the Horizons as:
Horizon One – The agency's Mission Fulfillment Success (MFS) is realized in the first year and is at or near 100%.
Horizon Two – MFS is realized in two to three years at or near 100%.
Horizon Three – MFS is realized in three to five years at or near 100%.

Stated this way, the agency is constantly focused on achieving its mission now and in the future. The Productivity Zone is constantly refining supporting functions to support better the Mission Zone. Meanwhile, the agencies are using the Incubation Zone to forecast possible disruptions to the agencies' missions and develop solutions to meet the future challenges. Once an Incubation Zone idea has matured and proves promising, the agencies move the idea to the Transformation Zone to scale up the idea and prepare it to enter the Mission Zone when current Mission Zone activities have outlived their usefulness (the Dead Zone?).

What I especially like about Zone Management is that it may help with the current "Twilight Zone" that many agencies seem to find themselves. Twilight Zones occur when there is a mismatch between the zones because of not fitting the right management style, metrics, and outcomes to the right zone. Twilight Zones can also occur when zones are not cooperating with each other, or one zone tries to dominate the other zones. I've seen this happen when certain functions in the Productivity Zone (IT, HR, or Finance to name a few examples) attempt to dominate the other three zones. Zone Management is not a justification for building silos or protecting turf. Rather, the true value of Zone Management is appreciating how different parts of the organization can support each other while recognizing the unique needs of each zone. Good Zone Management is like managing a sports team; every player has their role but, it is the combined efforts that make the organization succeed.

Mar 15

Innovating Policy Making with Project Management and Data Science

Last Friday, I wrote about 6 Six Sig’s posting on what policy making can learn from project management. I had similar thoughts when I created Lean Scope Project Management. I even used a proposed Veterans Administration program to demonstrate how project management can be used to implement a policy.

Along the same lines, I am preparing a paper and presentation for the 2015 University of Maryland Project Management Symposium (June 8-9, 2015). I will discuss how to use data science techniques and process mining to create better project management measures. The idea is to establish more advanced and robust project intelligence techniques. I recently spoke about my ideas in an interview with John Hansen in his blog, All About Requirements (English version | Dutch version).

What I am seeing is that the same ideas for creating project intelligence measures could also inform the new field of policy informatics. I have begun some work in this are with my creation of Agile Predictive Policy Analysis (APPA).

I am looking forward to how much synergy arises from combining policy making, data science, and project management.

Mar 15

What Can Policy Making Learn From Project Management?

Intriguing posting by the "6 Six Sig" blog where the author argues that "[p]olicy making . . . shares a lot of characteristics with Project Management." The author presents this chart as his main argument:


This is an intriguing idea and I look forward to future postings on this subject.

Mar 15

Are Government Agencies About To Undergo Rapid Evolution?

I recently read an intriguing article in the March 2015 issue of Scientific American. According to Dr. Dennett and Dr. Roy, the increasing amount of transparency will force organizations to undergo a rapid evolution much like the Cambrian Explosion did for Earth’s biological life. Like the Cambrian lifeforms, organizations will develop ways to protect against increasing information transparency. The authors also predict the increasing speciation of organizations.

“Most sheltered from immediate evolutionary pressures are systems of government. . . . State machinery faces little competitive pressure and is thus slowest to evolve. Even here we should anticipate a significant change because the power of individuals and outsiders to watch organizations will only increase.”

This reminds me of the arguments that John Keane makes in establishing his theory of monitory democracy. The difference seems to be that Dr. Keane believes that the evolution of democratic governments will more rapid due to the increasing transparency. Whether Dr. Dennet and Dr. Roy or Dr. Keane are correct in the evolutionary speed, it does seem apparent that government agencies will evolve new forms as other organizations in society begin rapid evolution.

I am also currently making my way through Creating a Learning Society by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. It reminds me of Beinhocker’s Origin of Wealth and his arguments that knowledge is the core of the economy. In Stiglitz and Greenwald’s book, they make the case that increasing learning is the best way to increase economic growth. According to Stiglitz and Greenwald, the role of government is to increase the effects of learning for economic organizations. This is complementary to Mariana Mazzucato’s arguments in her book, The Entrepreneurial State.

Some fascinating intersections of ideas on the role of the state.

Feb 15

Exploring How to Use Personal Projects Analysis and Coordinated Management of Meaning to Engage Government Employees

I just recently finished Dr. Little’s Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-being which describes his work in personal project analysis. I find Dr. Little’s theory that personality is shaped by the personal projects we pursue. Personal projects can be anything from “lose 20 pounds” to “providing for my parents in their final years of life.” It is a more dynamic view of personality where people take an active part in developing personality traits. This is in contrast to being locked into personality traits such as their Myers-Briggs Type.

As Dr. Little found in his research, people are chiefly motivated by their personal projects. Personal projects are not just limited to a person’s home life but influence all aspects of his or her life. It would seem that the more a person’s work is aligned with a person’s personal project, the more engaged a person would be in their work.

When I was a Presidential Management Fellow, I went through a Myers-Briggs analysis and was categorized as an ENTJ. Recently, I went through another Myers-Briggs and found that I was now an INTJ. Apparently, I seem to switch between being introverted and extroverted. Personally, I never consider being introverted or extroverted to be a fixed trait; I was whatever I thought would help in achieving a goal.

This is why I am currently studying how to apply Personal Project Analysis in determining what engages workers and how to align their work with personal projects. I am also interested in how to combine Personal Project Analysis with the Coordinated Management of Meaning communication theory. It is true that employee engagement rests with the employee, but government managers can use the tools of Personal Project Analysis and the Coordinated Management of Meaning to understand the motivations of government employees better.

Feb 15

Conway's Law and Government Services

Just finished reading Building Microservices by Sam Newman which describes how to build small, single-purpose online applications that can be combined into larger, more-complex software. The idea behind microservices is to break apart monolithic applications in favor of building more agile and robust applications through small, loosely-coupled components.

Mr. Newman describes the philosophical rationale for microservices by discussing Conway's Law.

"Any organization that designs a system will inevitably produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure."

This chapter led me to think about how the government agency's communication structure affects the design of government services. Especially in how the government service is communicated to clients and among the street-level bureaucrats who implement the services. I did a quick search and I didn't find any research on applying Conway's Law to government organizations. This appears to be a fruitful area for research.