Minimal Viable Bureaucracy

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I recently attended a conference where one speaker had a great phrase – “minimal viable bureaucracy” (MVB). Being in government for nearly twenty years, I love the idea of no more bureaucratic process than is necessary to achieve an objective. MVB reminds me of adaptive case management (ACM), which I have used in several agencies to build processes.

The idea behind ACM is to create a simple process and then evolve the process when encountering new cases. Instead of building a process designed to handle all eventualities (which never works), the process grows to handle exceptions and incorporates what is learned into building out the process. Learning is built into the system.

MVB is the approach I take to project management. I have seen too many project managers spend more time managing the project process, rather delivering on the project product. I remember working with one person who continually fiddled around with his Microsoft Project spreadsheets as if that would solve the project issue. I had him abandon his spreadsheets and focus on the project team and customers in front of him.

We redesigned his project management process to be simpler and focused. Thankfully, we were on time and successfully delivered the project product without too much schedule delay and disruption to the customer. This incident and others taught me the wisdom of keeping it simple and focusing on outcomes.

The trick is that once you start with a simple process and grow it in complexity, how do you keep the process from becoming burdened with no-longer-needed routines? How does the process grow and shrink as needed? Something that I plan to explore in future postings.

Scenario Planning – An Essential Career Planning Skill

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I am continuing to work on the career book which will be released on December 1st. Along with the book, I will be releasing an online course that teaches the job-seeking skills for the new job seeker.

A vital skill for future job seekers will include scenario planning. Scenario planning was developed by the Shell Corporation in the 1970s to help deal with economic uncertainties. One scenario, oil embargo by the OPEC nations, was considered too fanciful – until it happened. Thanks to scenario planning, Shell weathered the oil embargo successfully.

The job hunter will use scenario planning to help them plot the future of their career path. To create the scenarios, follow these steps:

Identify the driving forces – what are the significant shifts in technology, society, the customer base, and other factors in the industry.

Identify two of the most critical uncertainties – From the list of the driving forces, pick two that are most critical to your future career.

Create four scenarios – Using the two critical uncertainties as axis, develop four plausible scenarios. The best way to present the scenarios is as stories.

Person wearing VR goggles

For example, I created these scenarios when I first entered the federal government in 2009. This was when newly elected President Obama wanted to reinvent government technology. The critical factors were the new digital technologies and how effective the federal government would be in implementing the latest digital technologies.

First Scenario – SteamGov

This scenario borrows from the steampunk genre[iv] in describing a future where the government attempts to implement Gov 2.0, but the rest of the world has moved on to Web 3.0 or even Web 4.0.

Government IT is still a generation behind the current technology available to citizens, thus limiting the engagement offered by the agencies. Large, centralized IT architectures dominate the agencies and employees are continually frustrated by the underpowered workstations they have to deal with, especially when their own personal technology is much more powerful. There are small pockets of innovation and pilot projects, but organizational cultures prevent scaling up these innovations to the agency.

Second Scenario – Google.Gov

Following a Supreme Court ruling that narrows the definition of inherently governmental, most government functions are outsourced to the private and nonprofit sectors. A Google-like company consolidates most of the outsourcing contractors into one contracting firm that applies the latest technology and business practices to deliver a diverse range of government services. The Executive Branch now consists of the White House staff and a larger GAO. The new GAO administers the mega-contract that governs the quality and accountability of government services provided by the huge contracting firm.

Third Scenario – LabGov

Still suffering under crushing budget constraints and frustrated by the continuing number of programs forced onto the states by the Federal government, state governments see Gov 2.0 as the way out of their fiscal mess. Living up to Justice Brandeis’ metaphor as “laboratories of democracy,” the state governments experiment with the latest open-source technologies, agile project management, and any other IT or management innovations that promise greater efficiency at lower costs and higher citizen satisfaction.

Citizens respond with enthusiasm and petition to have more federal programs (and funds) transferred to the states because they can manage services better, faster, and cheaper than the federal government. States form into regional and programmatic associations that shift the federal-state balance-of-power from the national government to regional governmental organizations.

Fourth Scenario – InnoGov

In 2011 the civilian equivalent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration was established. Its mandate is to be the project management office for Gov 2.0, and the office seeks innovative Gov 2.0 projects, funds the development of these projects, and helps other agencies to copy the innovations. New radical management techniques are introduced, and organizational cultures become more collaborative and innovative.

By 2014 the federal government is the leading innovator in IT and management practices and helps to revitalize the private and non-profit sectors with its technology/best practices transfer programs. Citizen engagement and trust in government rises while the cost-savings and greater efficiencies bring about an era of budget surpluses.

In the past ten years, I have used the scenarios to help me plan my federal career. In fact, the LabGov scenario drives my long-term plans to be a consultant to state and local governments.

My career book will help job seekers create guiding scenarios to map out their career futures.

Launching Three Online Courses in the Fall

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One free introductory course to project management, a paid course in advanced agile project management, and a paid course in marketing training courses in your organization.

After a successful training at the 2019 Drupal GovCon, I had several emails asking if I could send the training slides and materials to the people who missed the session. It was then that it hit me. And I am surprised why I didn’t think of this before.

Especially after teaching online for four different universities and training other instructors in online teaching for over 15 years. I suppose what led to my hesitation was not finding the appropriate teaching platform.

However, I have recently found a good online teaching platform and am ready to release three courses based on my books, articles, and presentations. Look for the course launches in late August/early September.

Hand pushing pin into a board that has cards connected by strings.

Small Project Management – My gentle introduction to project management. This free course is great for those who want to get into project management but don’t know where to start. This course is based on a free guide that I authored in 2012. Since then, I have given this course to government offices and nonprofits.

Lean Scope Project Management – I created this project management method by combining design thinking with agile project management. This is an extreme project management to create novel products or services quickly and with heavy customer input.

I first designed this method in 2014 and continually update it as I continue to learn from managing projects. Participants will this course useful in helping execute on their world-changing ideas.

New Ways to Market Training – This training is based on my experiences in marketing training courses in organizations. It was surprising to me that there is very little guidance on how to market training courses to internal audiences. What is unique about my training course it deals with using the latest social media and workplace digital collaboration tools for marketing.

More details as we come closer to the course launch dates.

DemX – Democratic experience

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Recently, I have seen a lot of traffic on government email lists about customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX). There is a big push by the Office of Management and Budget concerning the citizen’s experience when dealing with government agencies. The Amazon shopping experience is the model for building government websites and providing citizen services.

When I started working in the federal government it was during the Reinventing Government movement lead by Vice-President Gore. The idea was create government services where “the plumbing was invisible” and services flowed automatically to citizens like they were shopping at a convenience store. Donald Kettl, a noted public administration, called this model, vending machine government.

The reinventing government was during the early days of the commercial Internet. Government websites were heavily influenced by how commercial websites were being built. Between 1993 and 2000, organizations were running millions of experiments to determine what made a site clickable and sticky (“keeping eyeballs on the site”). UX and CX grew up in this time.

Sign saying "Error 155: Democracy Not Found."

For the last 19 years, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter learned how to make users click, buy, and interact on their respective platforms. Governments have taken note and, at the same time governments are trying to regulate abusive CX and UX, government webmasters are using CX and UX to encourage citizen participation.

My concern is that government websites and interactions with the public is much more different and profound. Amazon and the rest of the commercial Internet exist only to sell me things. I am only a customer to the commercial Internet companies.

Democratic governments and their citizens have a deeper relationship. Citizens rely on governments to establish and promote democracy. In turn, governments rely on citizens to maintain democracy. This is why I am calling for DemX – Democratic Experience.

DemX is an evolving field and its basic tenets have yet to be established. In future postings, I will outline a theory of DemX that incorporates the best elements of CX and UX with ways of promoting the democratic relationship between governments and their citizens.

The OODA Loop and Developing Your Career

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I am making good progress on my latest book. In an earlier blog post, I described my book as a career development guide for the new age of artificial intelligence and cognitive automation. As old jobs fall away, new jobs that can’t be imagined today will be well-established in the later years of the 2020s.

The major challenge for the job hunter is finding these new jobs. My career book is the first to use the OODA Loop in career development. The OODA (Observe – Orient – Decide – Act) Loop was developed by a brilliant, maverick U.S. fighter pilot. Colonel John Boyd’s work has been adopted by the U.S. Army and was used successfully in the first Iraqi War.

OODA Loop Diagram

The OODA Loop concept has been adopted in strategic business management and even political campaigning. The OODA Loop looks simple, but it has an underlying sophistication that makes it powerful.

In the first part, Observe, a person (or entity) takes stock of the immediate environment and stimulus. After observing the environment and stimulus, the person then orients their self so they can decide (third step) and take action (fourth step). An OODA Loop can be completed in seconds or take months, depending on the situation.

In my forthcoming book, I use the OODA Loop to help the job seeker understand the rapidly-evolving career environment and determine how to orient their self to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Effectively performing the first two steps will help the job seeker make good decisions and take powerful actions to thrive in the new world of work.

Project Management, Strategic Communication, and Training Author and Consultant

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