U.S. Congress Finds One solution to It’s Information Problem

The U.S. Congress’ Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress has created the United States Legislative Markup (USLM) to standardize the format for drafting, viewing, and publishing legislation.

Open book with a page of text

Importantly, this standardization means that rule of law nations can help each other far more effectively. It means that –at long last– democratic values might be able to beat the trolls, out compete data mercenaries and diminish the information weaponization that is paralyzing democracy worldwide. This global democratic resilience will be especially important when we arrive at machine learning, artificial intelligence and algorithms. Will we build an auditable public good system? One that can visualize and help forecast implications of policy? One that is able to identify misinformation and financial conflicts of interest in the data supply chain? Or, will this new openness become yet another opportunity to commodify, privatize and capture democratic functions?


The USLM is a great step toward tackling the increasing data overload of Congress and the federal government as a whole.

Crystal Agencies – Watching Data Flow Through Federal Agencies

In my recent column for the PA Times, I wrote about how federal agencies can use the latest data visualization tools to fulfill the data, accountability, and transparency initiatives of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA).

From the PMA: “Data, accountability, and transparency initiatives must provide the tools to deliver visibly better results to the public while improving accountability to taxpayers for sound fiscal stewardship and mission results.”

To aid in implementing the PMA, the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched a challenge to stand up the Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center. “Today’s digital economy has transformed how citizens interact with government. By leveraging technology and innovation, the GEAR Center will ensure our government connects to cutting-edge thinking and real-world solutions,” stated OMB’s Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert.

a collection of clear crystals

Back when I worked at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), I had the idea of using the internal data assets of federal agencies to create digital twins of the agencies. The advantage of a digital twin is that we could test out policies on the twin before implementing the policy on the actual agency.

To get to digital twin stage, agencies first need to build their capacity to visualize data flows in their organization. According to Phil Simon, author of The Visual Organization: Data Visualization, Big Data, and the Quest for Better Decisions, organizations go through four-levels of data visualizations. The first level is creating static visualizations of the organization’s small data sets. The organization then moves to the second level of creating interactive visualizations of small data sets. The third level is creating static visualizations of big data sets. The final and fourth level is creating interactions for the big data set visualizations.

Phil Simon recommends that organizations begin with small data sets to sharpen their skills with data visualization planning and tools. I’ve seen examples of this when several federal agencies used Tableau (a proprietary data visualization tool) to work with their small data sets from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). The FEVS is a survey of federal employees to gauge their perceptions on their leadership, engagement in their work, and their work climate. The ability to program interactivity into the FEVS data produced insights into the data that would not have been apparent in the static visualizations.

The FEVS is a relatively small data set compared to the big data sets that federal agencies possess. However, the tools for collecting, analyzing, and visualizing big data have advanced significantly in the last decade. Most of the modern tools require little training to produce sophisticated visualizations. As the federal agencies move to the cloud, it becomes easier to connect different data sets to build more comprehensive big data sets with novel visualizations. The more data sets connected and visualized, the more transparent the agency’s data assets and flows.

Reinventing Your Career in the Smart Machines Age

My third new book will be about something I have been thinking about since the mid-80s but is especially relevant today. When I entered college, my focus was on finding a good job when I graduated. Many of my friends were going into computer programming, law, and business. However, I started as a physics major, then switched to speech communication while taking as many philosophy classes as I could.

Around my fourth semester, panic set in, and I was convinced by well-meaning relatives I should go to law school. So, I double-majored in speech communication and paralegal science. I was graduated in the winter of 1990 and, after two gap years, I entered night law school in the fall of 1993. After a year of law school, I realized I made a big mistake. A mistake I could have avoided if I had paid closer attention to a book I read in 1991.

Beverly A. Potter published The Way of the Ronin: A Guide to Career Strategy in 1984. I came across it just after college. I had some instruction in college about how to job hunt, including how to handle a lunch interview. My job hunt after college graduation landed me a part-time job at the local convenience store. My bachelor’s degree did gain me an extra five cents on the hourly wage. See, education does pay.

college graduate silhouetted by the sun.

During the summer of 1991, I checked out every job hunting, resume writing, and interviewing skills book that the Lexington (Kentucky) Public Library had. My efforts paid off with an entry-level paralegal job in the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency. I still had to keep the convenience store job because my paralegal job barely paid my rent and expenses. The traditional job hunt of resumes and cover letters was not working that well for me.

Dr. Potter’s advice for job hunters was to drop the linear model of career development. Instead of finding the perfect well-trod path of specialization, Dr. Potter recommends developing a wide range of skills to navigate the dynamically changing world of work better. She wrote about career ronins who “[g]uided by a personally defined code of adaptability, autonomy, and excellence” (p. xi).

“Ronins are employing career strategies grounded in a premise of rapid change. By making lateral moves that follow their interests, they become generalists with specialties.” (p. xi)

Dr. Potter was writing about the rapid changes in the workplace during the late 70s and early 80s. But her strategies worked just as well in the early 90s as the rise of the commercial Internet revolutionized careers. Reinvigorated by her advice, I dropped out of law school, turned my hobby of computer programming into a deep skill, and took a big career leap by going to Washington D.C. and becoming a political consultant.

From 1995 to now, I followed the career ronin strategy. I’ve had many jobs and have taken a nonlinear path to where I am today. And, I feel more content and fulfilled in my career journey.

In the age of smart machines, the gig economy, and digital disruption, how do you find a job and build a career? My forthcoming book will give you the skills to reinvent yourself and navigate the new world of work. To prepare for the future job market, you need skills like:

  • Scenario Thinking
  • Mapping the Career Landscape
  • Searching for the Fulfilling Job – Or Creating the Fulfilling Job
  • Beyond the Resume: The Career Portfolio
  • Creating the Business Model that is You
  • Building Your Own Personal Career University
  • Understanding What Motivates You and Establishing Your Unique Value
  • Developing Resilience and Empowering Yourself

Unique to other career planning books, I will show you how to use the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop to refine your career planning skills continually. The OODA Loop was created by a brilliant Air Force colonel who revolutionized military strategy. The OODA Loop is perfect for building your career strategy – especially in the new volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous job marketplace.

Thus, my reason for writing my third book. Of the hundreds of career books I checked out in the summer of 1991, only one helped inspire me. I hope my book will have the same impact on today’s job hunters.

ROI in Agile Project Management

The last two weeks were filled with excellent training. I spent two days in a good Association of Training Development course on coaching. Then, it was four-and-a-half days in Return on Investment (ROI) training. If you are not familiar with ROI, it started as a way of evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of training programs. ROI has then been used to measure coaching, leadership development programs, project management, and even innovation.

When I first signed up for the course, I questioned how we could spend 36 hours talking about ROI. ROI seemed straightforward and easy to grasp. It is but, there are a lot of nuances to making ROI work in an organization. As I sat in the course, I begin thinking of how ROI could be used in agile project management. Especially the form of agile project management I am creating to manage training programs.

person holding several hundred dollar bills

Recently, Dr. Kerzner and Mr. Ward from the ILL released a white paper on the future of project management. Kerzner and Ward see project management as “the delivery system for sustainable business value.” In their whitepaper, describe a five-level project management maturity model (PMMM) based on project management metrics. There are several significant parallels between ROI and the Kerzner and Ward PMMM. First, there is an alignment between the project metrics and strategic business needs. Second, the consideration of intangibles in delivering project benefits. And, third, the value from innovations in the project management process.

I have sketched how to apply ROI to agile project management. In a future posting, I will describe how to apply ROI to agile project management and my version of agile learning program management.