Welcome! I've been very lucky to do a lot of different work throughout my career, from field geologist and project manager to the national Team Leader for the US EPA Superfund One EPA web program. On this site, I've pulled together articles I've written and some presentations from talks. Pick a topic. Pull up a chair. And enjoy as the spirit moves you.
Continuous Improvement/Emergent Systems
Most Valuable Lessons
Continuous improvement requires an objective feedback loop. The organization must be taught how to see itself as its customers see it.
For truly disruptive technologies, the 85/15 (85% org/ 15% technical) generally ends up being 95/5. Organizational change management is a low visibility, high resource, but finite task. Increased long term quality and efficiency is priceless.
A benchmark of successful implementation is that the technology becomes "forgettable". The more successfully integrated, the quicker the memory fades.
Technology integration follows the 85/15 rule. Eighty-five percent of the effort (or much more) is based around organizational change. While programming skills are required, until the customer has defined the specifications, programming will not lead to a final product. The organizational management and communications skills required to push the organization to do the hard work of data cleansing and mapping business rules are essential. The output products during this phase are low visibiity, i.e., databases and input forms. Time requirements from subject matter experts that have much more pressing and interesting work are significant and management support can be lukewarm. But once completed, the organization can utilize its truly most important asset - it's unique knowledge.
Develop a common grammar. Is it a Purchase Order or a Procurement Request? The technology folks don't know
Develop a common set of business rules. Does the PR go through Accounting first... or second?
Determine which Business Rules are binary. If the PR goes to someone who does magic and will retire in three months, the Business Rule is not sufficiently defined for technology roll up.
Government contracting is the art of turning four trillion dollars into one million dollars.
Being entrusted with the task of spending taxpayers dollars is a signifcant responsibility. I have served as a Technical Oversight Project Officer (TOPO/WAM) since 2005. Over that time, I have managed a variety of task orders and have particiapted in the preparation of several large contracts, including Requests for Proposals (RFP), Statement of Work (SOW), Statement of Objectives (SOO), and Technical Assessment Groups to review bidder qualifications. In addition to my own extensive government contracting experience, I have trained with the US DoD, DOJ and other federal agencies. These contracts focused on information technology and content tasks including development of the EPA Superfund Site Profile Page and Content Entry Form.
Most Valuable Lessons
Always respect the community member pointing the shotgun at you...!
Anger masks fear. Fear is reduced with information. Pleasant information is great, but unpleasant information is also effective at reducing fear and therefore reducing anger.
Be very careful of symbolic violence, presenting beautiful maps or large tables of data as if that will convince the customer. Meet the customer where they are, not where you want them to be.
By law, the Superfund program has significant community involvement requirements. As an EPA Project Manager, I conducted many public meetings with local citizens. These meetings were often very challenging as the citizens property and health were often at risk due to contamination. At the first site where I served as the field project manager and geologist, I had a shotgun pointed at me. As a field geologist, I learned several valuable real world lessons when dealing with local citizens. Over time, I became very sympathetic to often very disruptive changes forced on communities due to hazardous waste and its subsequent remediation.
Published Articles and Presentation Slides
One of my favorite Community Involvement tasks is speaking at conferences. Although I lost count, I have presented at over one hundred conferences during my EPA career. In this case, the community ecosystem is the technical and management audience involved in environmental cleanup. Here are a few examples of my presentations:
Even if your title is technical PM, never forget - they don't care about what you know... unless they know your care about what they care about.
Project management and wedding planning are close relatives (and after the wedding/project launch, PMs do a lot of marriage counseling as well!). The PM's job is to make the event look effortless, regardless of how much panic ensues. As are all emergent processes, knowledge products are difficult to fully describe. They can create organizational and staff uncertainty, which can be masked as anger or withdrawal. Managing these uncertainties is a foundational step in technology implementation. Techology PMs need to make sure the the people understand why the technology is important - the soft skills.
The work to produce business rules to the level of detail and precision required is challenging. Staff can feel under the microscope as their job functions are mapped in excrutiating detail by answering a lot of questions they already know the answers to. The PM will often be the intermediary between management's need to produce results and the staff and often management's reluctance to provide the necessary information to make the technology ultimately successful.
Digitizing location stirs up a lot of interesting emotions.
Pretty maps are dangerous weapons. They can easily lead to "symbolic violence" - using technology to bully an audience.
Lots of things can be mapped, related to each other, including language and ideas.
"People live in location like fish live in water." One indication of being alive is knowing where one is located. Because of location's unique relationship to humans, digitizing location has some very powerful and unique qualities. Even seeds need to know how to grow "up".
Beginning in 1992, I started to learn ARC INFO. Around 1997, I started to incorporate markup languages and hierarchical databases. As browsers developed, I incorporated a markup standard titled Scalable Vector Grahphics (SVG) and started to map not only physical assets but also content assets. "Physically" locating ideas and knowledge is a powerful new technology, combining GIS systems with knowledge management.
Creating XML dictionaires and business processes is strongly akin to marriage counseling. Stirring up long ignored processes can create significant tension.
Markup languages, or any other computer programs, will not add value without serious and significant impetus from the top management level - prior to or parallel with any programming efforts.
The concept and philosophy (perhaps also the taxonomy, ontology and epistimology) of the Extensible Markup Languages (XML) and its many derivities is a foundational approach to working with "particles" be they physical assets, content or even ephemiral ideas. XML by itself doesn't do very much. And that's great! The work required to cleanse old data; develop a common organzational language; review, map and improve business processes down to the binary level, is substantial. To succeed, the effort requires serious and significant participation from all levels of the organization.
Of particular use is the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) standard. It provides powerful presentation tools that can be dynamically combined with underlying content in an open standard format. I regularly use SVG to visiualize all types of output, including knowledge mapping that uses the propoerty of opacity to concurrently display both "hard" and "soft" data.
Change is the only constant. Learn to surf the change.
Per Yogi Berra - the future is really hard to predict. And to add some spice, it is clear our planet is standing on a tipping point, otherwise known as a razor's edge. I am personally a fatal optimist for humanity. My reasoning is simple. If we don't survive, Star Trek will never happen. And that is obviously impossible. Count me in if there's ever space on a starship.
In the immediate future, technologies such as robotics and artificial intellegence, self driving everything, 3D printing, space travel, immunotherapy and perhaps scariest of all, gene manipulation, are all here presently. In order to surf these changes, it is important to find foundational concepts that remain steady. Organizations will always have to decide on racing after the next technology versus refining what's already in place. Without the hard work of content and business rule refinement, new technologies will prove less than effective. And with that hard work, it is often surprising how cheap the technology implementations can be.