Posts Tagged ‘government’

Government Governance

March 19, 2014 5 comments

The figure below highlights one problem with government “governance” of big software systems development. Sure, it’s dated, but it drives home the point that there’s a standards quagmire out there, no?

Stds Quagmire

Imagine that you’re a government contractor and, for every system development project you “win“, you’re required to secure “approval” from a different subset of authorities in a quagmire standards “system” like the one above. Just think of the overhead cost needed to keep abreast of, to figure out which, and to comply with, the applicable standards your product must conform to. Also think of the cost to periodically get your company and/or its products assessed and/or certified. If you ever wondered why the government pays $1000 for a toilet seat, look no further.

I look at this random, fragmented standards diagram as a paranoid, cover-your-ass strategy that government agencies can (and do) whip out when big systems programs go awry: “The reason this program is in trouble is because standards XXX and YYY were not followed“. As if meeting a set of standards guarantees robust, reliable, high-performing systems. What a waste. But hey, it’s other people’s money (yours and mine), so no problemo.

Loops Of Distrust

Mistrust reigns everywhere. Governments distrust big businesses and vice versa. Big business heads (and I mean it both literally and figuratively), even though they often superficially espouse otherwise, distrust their low level, non-executive people.

The two cause-effect loop diagrams below crystallize the situation, no? On the left, more regulation begets more lobbying and lawyering – which begets more regulation. Bummer. On the right, more red tape begets more subversion – which begets more red tape. Double freakin’ bummer.

In the government-DYSCO cat-and-mouse duel, government, even though it’s a massively dysfunctional CCH itself, wants its version fairness and equity to prevail. In the DYSCO-DICforce scenario, the DICforce wants its version of fairness and equity to prevail. In both scenarios, the DYSCO DJs want an unfair advantage.

Note: Not all companies are DYSCOs. Only DYSCOs are DYSCOs. Every once in a blue moon I state a disclaimer like this because some people may think I’m a black-and-white binary thinker.Those that do may be binary thinkers themselves?

Trustworthiness Metrics

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Check out this hilarious blarticle from “Federal Computer Week“: Measuring federal employees’ moods to determine trustworthiness. If you don’t want to go there, I’ll cherry pick the parts that reinforce my UCB:

In the memo, national security officials ask agencies what metrics they use to measure trustworthiness without alienating employees. They also ask agencies if they use psychiatrists or sociologists to measure relative happiness or “despondence and grumpiness” as means to gauge an employee’s trustworthiness.

My question is: Do these rule-making, memo-writing “national security officials” eat their own dog food; practice what they preach? Do they “objectively” measure their own trustworthiness and “leakability“? I’d love to see an enumerated list of these officially sanctioned metrics.

Moving on, let’s see what the article says about the latest fading management buzzword, “engaged“:

…because now there’s more understanding about the importance of an engaged workforce.

WTF? Just now, and not waaay before now?

I’m sure that our government is going down the right path with the strategies they’re proposing for stopping future Wikileaks type fiascos. Our government SCOLs need to declare “a war on leaks” and appoint a “Leak Czar“. Wars and czars are sure-fire solutions that have worked before on terrorism, drugs, crime, and obesity, right? Maybe businesses should employ the “war” and “czar” metaphors too. Oops, they already do, but without publicly espousing it.

Does writing this post decrease my trustworthiness score? By how much? What’s your trustworthiness score?

Infinitely Late

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

In deference to Fred Brooks‘s “adding more people to a late project makes it later“, I present you with the enhanced version: “adding more people to a late project makes it later, and at some critical size K, adding more people makes it infinitely late“.

As more smart and competent people are added to an org or project, the capability of the group to accomplish great things increases. The really sad thing about poor management is that this increased capability is countered by increased fragmentation and growth in fatty middle corpo layers that slowly snuff out productivity. The lag time between the addition of people and degraded org productivity can be can be so great that the correlation is totally missed and the probability of recovery goes to zero.

At a really dysfunctional institution, productivity plummets to zero and the immobilized institution withers away – unless some sugar daddy starts subsidizing the beast without regard to performance.

In the cases where the hapless institution is a government, it can become is its own sugar daddy. Since it has the bullying power to subsidize itself via taxation of its constituency, it can maintain its comatose state for essentially infinity. DYSCOs are not so lucky. They can, and often do, run out of money before they even know what hit them.

Inability To Assimilate

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

In this Federal Computer Week magazine blog post, the author laments about the inability to hire talented people into the government borg:

  • “The supervisors here are sycophants who are only interested in their careers.”
  • “My experience is (more or less) a third of folks (management and labor) are amazing and functional well beyond pay and expectations. Another third are limited, work-reward clock-punchers. The last third are untrainable and unfireable.”
  • “I’ve seen one too many occasions of “hiring teams” not hiring the best qualified but hiring friends that don’t meet the job requirements. “
  • “The federal human resources processes do not necessarily match skills and education with job positions. “
  • “We have more layers of management and more keep getting added without adding any workers.”
  • “There are contracting personnel put in jobs who have not a clue about true contracting processes. These individual are put in position because of favoritism.”
  • “Most middle-level managers want to demonstrate they are in control.”

Of course, the statements above only apply to government bloat-ocracies, no?

In Defense Of Incompetence.

When a government contractor is exposed as incompetent by an external observer (e.g. the press or a civilian group), the government agency that hired them almost always comes to its defense. That shouldn’t be surprising to you because those bureaucratic, and thus, mindless agencies:

  • Will do anything to avoid looking incompetent in front of congress for hiring the nin-cum-poops
  • Spend other people’s money (yours and mine) instead of their own – and we’re not talkin pocket change here

In addition, the “esteemed” government watchdog agencies (e.g. SEC and FDA and EPA) responsible for ensuring that contractors don’t perpetuate gargantuan disasters make up all kinds of excuses for not detecting the incompetence before massive stakeholder damage has been manifest (lost money, lost lives, lost livelihoods). They do this, of course, because these dudes don’t want to look incompetently asleep at the wheel either.

The system sux and the exhibited behavior is encrusted in its hierarchical, silo+caste system structure that crushes individual conscience. Expect this behavior to go on and on since complexity and the intertwining of interests and agendas will no doubt keep increasing as the world’s population increases. After all, if we can’t fix it, it ain’t broke.

Sloppy and Undisciplined

August 12, 2009 Leave a comment

If a company is sloppy and undisciplined in execution, then almost all of its value-creation resources (people, time, money) are constantly putting out legacy product fires instead of developing new products/services – creating wealth. Revenues and, especially, profits may suffer.  “May” and not “will” you ask? Yes, I say. You see, if a company can get customers to continuously pay for the messes that the company has innocently but surely created, then financial performance may actually be perpetually “good”, or even “excellent”. Say what? Hoodwinking customers to pay for cleaning up your messes? What customers in their right mind would do this?  Government customers who love to spend other people’s money, of course. Nice work if you can get it.


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