The Surprising Reasons Why America Lost Its Ability To Compete

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Our Architecture Services Lead found this interesting Forbes article on “The Surprising Reasons Why America Lost Its Ability To Compete” written by several Harvard Business School MBA alumni. The article ultimately calls out management, not external factors as the reason for failure. 

 if there are disastrous shortfalls in the ability to compete, then surely the quality of management itself—the art and science of getting things done—must have a lot to do with it

Specifically, the focus on short-term and blaming external factors. At Xentity, we agree that though we understand management pressures in private and public sector have very impending issues to keep the organization within budget (public sector) and maintaining shareholder margins (private sector), but without and investment in outyear and next generation transformation, workforce, and research, the bailing water approach to management will not allow the organization to survive without adaptation. The article outlines:

  • Management trending to blame external factors instead of innovating, adapting, overcoming.
  • Management shifted to short-term focus and today’s numbers, versus investing in shared resources and pooling for longer haul
  • Managers have focused innovations and transformations more on cost-efficiency and cost-reductions and less on value-adding and increasing relevancy
    • Management education partly to blame focusing on short-term financial outcomes
    • Management shifted to focusing on maximizing shareholders outcomes while ignoring stakeholders needs
  • Instead of focusing on workforce/talent strategy, research, management instead continued focusing on short-term needs
  • Management can complain about government, external factors, but unless management finds way to not just focus on short-term needs, there is limited factors that government execution of new policies can do to stimulate growth
  • Management didn’t mention customer once in the report. C-level types have lost sight of understanding the communities of use, supply, and understanding their market
    • Management has lost ability to look back at the purpose of the program – to create the customer and balance with shareholder value

These observations from the study are very in-line with the Xentity’s published list of anti-patterns core architecture concepts towards view on transformation. As we published back in 2008, Our concepts are biased towards the next “generations” concept. The solutions recommended by the article generally align with our focuses on change as well:

Achieving continuous innovation and customer delight lies outside the performance envelope of firms that are built on hierarchical bureaucracy and focused on short-term gains and the stock price. It requires a fundamentally different way of leading and managing—in effect, a paradigm shift in management. It means:

Harvard Study: Management shiftsXentity Core concepts on addressing change

a shift from controlling individuals to self-organizing teams;

We are growing partners.

a shift from coordinating work by hierarchical bureaucracy to dynamic linking;

We think big on change, while changing small bits at a time

a shift from a preoccupation with economic value to an embrace of values that will grow the firm; and

We support executives transform their visions into action.

a shift from top-down communications to horizontal conversations.We share our concepts and supporting assets openly.

The article solutions wrap with balancing shareholder/budget-interests focus with stakeholder/relevancy focus:

 The article had some follow-on reads relating to this problem and emboldens many of the articles points:

And read also: 

In private and public sector, the management challenge is the same – external factors are continually battling against the mission, but management is doing the same thing to respond: Short-term cost-efficiency or cost-reduction approaches only with focus on the shareholder (private) or year-to-year budgeting (public). Management is not finding ways to balance the short-term and the long-term relevancy, and only education and leadership can help address, not waiting for external factors to make it easier.

Flattening the classroom by flipping the teaching engagement model

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Matt Tricomi

Continuing on from: The world is getting flatter – Why isnt our educational system?

With this approach, teaching resources will not be spent on redundant or duplicative efforts such as preparing and delivering the lesson. 

The video lesson and supporting services will do that.  A simple rough order magnitude business case estimates we can shift an enormous set of resources from preparation and delivery to creativity, facilitation and assessment.  Here is how significant a shift it is:

$63,033,390,000 = (180 days/year X 3.5 hours / days X $30/hr.) X 3,335,100 teachers

 

These tools will work for the vast majority of subjects and lessons. This cursory analysis assumes 2/3 of the lessons can be affected and that teachers deliver 5 classes /day with an average teacher salary of $30 dollars an hour sans benefits.  This obviously does not include the cost of developing the alternative content which should be offset by the cost avoidance benefit of not buying text books, improvement in teacher productivity, remedial education etc… 

This approach is certainly not arguing for a reduction in teaching resources or in their level of subject matter expertise.  This approach is arguing for:

  • A reallocation of the resources away from redundant lesson preparation and delivery towards ensuring the lesson is understood.
  • A role change that would place greater responsibility on the student and introduce the opportunity to customize educational delivery.
  • teachers to become facilitators of learning and apply their creativity, knowledge and inter-personal skills but at a different phase of the learning cycle.
  • students to be able to work with parents and other students to comprehend the lesson. 
  • for student centric education.

The combination of the Khan Academy and flipped classrooms allow us to do that.  The target state value chain now adopts the “create and facilitate” functions in lieu of prepare and deliver. (See Figure 2)  Ideally, if this is implemented and it provides the opportunity to save human resources by increasing the number of student to teacher ratio, the resulting resources savings should be reallocated to Early Childhood Education (ECE). Either way, as any rationale individual would conclude, ECE should be a high priority target investment opportunity due to its Return on Investment (ROI) and social benefits (3)

With this synthesized approach, we can achieve a form of scalability that allows us to focus on the application and assessment of the student’s progress.  It allows for creativity and the development of best of breed approaches for lesson preparation and delivery.  Students can progress at personalized rates using tools that conform to their learning styles.

Now, how do now get the best “quality” lesson preparation and delivery?

We take our “best” or most impactful teachers and they become the lesson producers who create and deliver the content for this new model.  We allow the best of breed lessons to develop at a grass roots level and let the market demand for quality establish what is effective.  If we empower the educators, we will find hidden stars and performers and discover teachers who are even more creative in enhancing this new model of education.  We will have tapped into a rare commodity that will enhance other teacher’s approaches and engage the students with a personalized approach. Motivating and positioning teachers to out create one another will only ensure the students are getting the quality they deserve.

Another fundamental deficiency within the current educational system is the limited role parents have.  

They are effectively shielded from the most critical part of the process – delivery. The communication model is woefully inadequate and in essence is single point of failure network with the child as the weakest link. (See Figure 3)

 

This new model allows us to “flatten” communication increase shared access to information between parents, teachers and students. It offers a number of additional possibilities.  A student will be more empowered and vested in their educational journey and will now be more responsible and motivated to set and reach greater educational goals.  The student’s goals and progress will be easily tracked and monitored by parent and teacher.  The approach aligns well with the rapidly developing technology trends on how our whole society is researching, discovering and learning new information – self-paced, personalized and content rich.  Each lesson can be the launch point for self-exploration and research on related subjects or a deeper dive into the content.  A student’s time and motivation, home support or peer group will now be the constraining factors.  The student is no longer the weak link between parent and teacher.  Parents will have the option take a more proactive role. If they do, wonderful, if not, the student has options to pursue with peers or go solo.  Inevitably, as the amount of information and content flow increases between the parents, students and teachers, the awareness of educational system performance and accountability will organically improve. (See Figure 4)

 

We will accelerate the transformation from the teacher-centered pedantic model to a student-centered responsibility model.  

Teachers will fulfill the challenging role of content creation, facilitation and assessment. If it takes the student 10 viewings to understand the lesson, they can now do that without system or peer pressure.  The student may do the lesson by themselves, with their family or with their peers. They can and should discuss it on social networks or in their friend’s basement.  Encourage educational topics to be discussed – anywhere and everywhere. Encourage the growth of educational communities.  Let’s destroy this anti-intellectual notion that we only learn in school and that it is best to learn by oneself.

Extending lesson delivery beyond the classroom, frees the student to collaborate and explore the best means to meet the lessons ends with a less restrictive timeframe.  Students could even share a computer and learn lessons together.  Why not?  Learning with peers has proven to one of the more effective means for intellectual, social and emotional growth.  Students should be encouraged and trained to learn collaboratively.  Why would we want to constrain lessons and learning to a teacher-centric classroom?  This is certainly not what will be expected of them in the workplace or in their personnel lives.  The world is flattening, why not the educational system and the classrooms?

Parents will no longer be “blind” to how good or bad a lesson has been delivered.  

They can be active participants in educating their children using a medium that is much more natural and intuitive than a text book.  They will be able to learn for the first time or relearn, as we often have to, along with their child. They will be able to take an earlier and more pivotal role in the learning process. This is potentially the most valuable and challenging departure from the traditional model. Why is it so important?  Parents will now have the option to model education and learning in addition to all other forms of social norms. Today, we have positioned parents in the background and we wonder why we do not get more school to home communication.  The achievement gap will also improve as we can shift the roles of parent and student to be integral to personalizing the educational experience.

We all know this has to change but we have never given the parents the tools to participate nor have we positioned them effectively in the learning process. 

We ask parents to help with homework but only after the child has had the lesson.  They have no insight into how effectively it has been delivered. We ask the parent to help the frustrated child when the parent has no idea how the lesson is structured or if they are contradicting what has been stated.  Let’s face it. We have outsourced education from the family. If we believe our own rhetoric and the underlying research, we all know that bridging the learning process between educators and family is transformational and the best means to ensure lifelong learners and an educated society.

Teachers should be empowered to create a “marketplace” for lessons and to be permitted to promote and sell them to schools.  

Teachers should be financially compensated for these creative outputs but more importantly honored for creating a better way to educate a student. Education is one of the few work pursuits, other than entrepreneurship, where one can readily create or influence the value of the core product or service.  We can improve educational performance with consistent content that is bundled with a customized delivery that addresses our inherent learning differences. Students should be able to choose from these alternative designs and personalize their educational approach based on what works for them.  We can develop a core lessons taxonomy and semantic model that will provide a means to catalog or organize the marketplace.  Teachers, administrators, students and parents will be able to search and discover based on content and delivery style what is needed for the individual.  Imagine a parent and child researching or shopping for a lesson to understand the Pythagorean Theorem and having choices.  No more running out to shop for just pens, notebooks, rulers and backpacks.  The family can now research and construct personalized curriculum for the school year!

This marketplace would allow teachers to develop a stronger and more creative voice, to be the principal producers of lessons and content that speaks directly to the primary stakeholders – the students. 

Teachers are the ones who get to see and assess what is working every day.  Allow them to build it, evolve it and ensure its impact.  Restore educators to a position of honor and respect.  Give a voice to students who undoubtedly will let the system know when it is not working.  Build a smart system that feeds and learns from itself and in the process let the model flatten.

If we do this with a national commitment, we will quickly rediscover the fact that children are not “robots”. 

They are much more capable of learning and taking initiative than we have come to expect from them.  What is needed is for them to know they are the principal stakeholders in their educational pursuit.  Given the chance they will take an active role in the structuring their educational destiny from the outset in collaboration with parents, teachers, friends and peers. Our future is at stake.

(1)      National Center on Educational Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84

(2)      ASCD September 2009, Volume 15, Number 3, Highly Effective Teachers: Defining Rewarding, Supporting and Expanding their Roles. Laura Varlas

(3)      The Economics of Inequality – The Value of Early Childhood Education  James Heckman, American Educator Spring 2011http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2011/Heckman.pdf 

Apple in the 80s and a local kid view on the Jobs-Sculley re-organization

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In the wake of Jobs resigning (again – first in ’85), I decided to look back on Apples formative years to becoming a powerhouse.

So as I tweeted today: “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” http://bit.ly/r7dmMs #apple

I had a weird relationship with Apple in the 80s as somehow, a little podunk town in Maine was a bit involved in this Silicon Valley now behemoth.

Obviously, my Gen X was the target and I grew up on both DOS and Apple II (I know I will not win the IT nerd war with baby boomers on ENIACs and punch cards), but oddly enough, John Sculley summered in my tiny hometown in Maine which at the time was going through its empty factory phase. And when he became CEO at Apple, he became a legend of course.

I got into digital imagery in 1991 as he helped lure Kodak to build an imagery research center a stones throw from my high school. He, Kodak, and some of the Moms would hold school events near end of the year to promote or we got to visit and spend time with the researchers at this AMAZING facility. These plotters would be equivalent to what is still better in most offices or even Fedex today 20 years later. It was amazing, they had 500 MB on every computer and had HD monitors. And big designers would speak. I had not realized at the time, as I was an average unappreciative of opportunities teenager, but that is where I saw Edward Tufte first. I didn’t make the connection til recently that he was the same guy I went to see in Denver recently. I realized the root of why I hated hated powerpoint or slideware this long! At our school, of course we got Apple IIe’s upgraed to the black and white Macs very early, and I ate it all up. Flying Toasters were soon all the rage even before it went mainstream.

Sufficed to say, when you have local legends in a small town – which by the way, to re-engage the baby boomers, is where Peyton Place was based off, you know what I mean when we say we know the scuttlebutt about local celebrities. 

Heck, the town had always been that way. Watson, the founder of IBM, summered there ; Much later, Bob Metcalfe co-inventor of Ethernet, founder 3Com, Palm, etc. lived there for a long while. Artists, etc. Then there were us local folk who lived through the cold winters, in the double-wides, tromping through frigid cold and snow. So, it wasn’t uncommon for the Apple inner workings to be hallway fodder as some of the townfolk got summer winds of his inner battles (friends tended to his yachts or landscaped, that old chestnut). I had observed, as much as a distracted teenager could, his career, ergo, executive mgmt, off and on since a young buck and as well as later followed Gates similarly. Yeah, I had normal posters of Jordan, Magic, Spud Webb, Manute Bol, and the Sox on my wall too just like any other kid. Point being, it was neat to be over 200 miles from a large city, over 60 miles from a highway, and still feel connected to the bigthink.

 

There were some great things Sculley did when he took over Apple and some really dumb things as I recalled how I thought of it back then. A Decade later, I read “Insanely Great” myopy of Apple, and of course reading it was a mix of inside track connecting and realizing how much I missed between the lines. For instance, I recall certain undertones about Jobs, but I didn’t get them until I realized how he treated people. At the time, I knew more about the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates side of the Microsoft and Apple battles. I find for my work career now, I actually find the Sculley and Jobs (or now Cook and Jobs) difference more enlightening. And yes, as I connected the dots, I grew to dislike “Jobs character”, while admire his forward thinking. 

Anyhow – All that nostalgia aside – WHY IS THIS relevant, and why would Federal Government or any Management Executive care?

  1. You can read about how the lack of vision once Jobs left on this focus really killed Apple. Apple was NEVER about out-engineering Microsoft, or now Google, but instead of outpacing embedding their products with less features and fit into their ecosystem.
  2. It was obvious even then Apple followed aspects of the Gillette model for getting in the door with a slight twist. Instead of giving the handle away and selling razor blades, they gave major discounts or even free to schools, and later kids would buy their own for home. Brilliant. That has been their bread and butter ever since. Get them on their ecosystem and you won’t mind the extortionist level mark-up as you have been trained on their quality, hip, and other brand qualities. Just like any product allegiance concepts.
  3. It was clear if you stayed ahead on form factors to make ecosystem adoption easy, then people would forgive the higher price, and thus you could play with a much higher profit margin, which means you could get away with lack of discipline on product development
  4. But, the issue was, once Jobs was out of the picture, and someone else had to make up with that lack of discipline, margins crumble,s they had to reel internally on recouping on bad product management lifecycle, decisions, and especially coordinating with engineering struggled. 
  5. What you see is by the 90s, Sculley “ran the company into the ground” is how its written from an epic story of emerging business management greatness and some of the biggest flops. Mis-released of the Newton as they didnt understand timing of ecosystem adoption (way premature). 
  6. It was different than marketing a standing commodity like soda. That is where Jobs knew it. It was adapting to new forms and always designing to form over function. 

In all reality, maybe I am a sympathizer, I think he inherited a genius capitalist’s mess on the upswing, and as soon as marketshare dwindled, the emperor had no clothes, and Sculley was stuck dealing with the mess and was not setup with executive team to fight two situations – financials and innovation – at once. Cook began to hit that as well, but seems to have recovered (i.e. 12/2013 update: Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won

So give the article a read, and consider how your organization tries to balance form over function and discipline design and management.

If you think worthy of fellow management executives, forward this on, and you can read about some of the management inner workings from Sculley’s angle (the side not being reported on, except that “he” fired Jobs). 

I read it again, and I was amazed at some of the parallels we’re going through right now in so many of our projects, perspective clients. It really is some fascinating soap opera lessons learned and insight for any executive. 

 

What does geodata.gov mean to data.gov

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During the First International Open Government Data Conference in November 2010, Xentity Geospatial Services and Architect Lead, Jim Barrett had the opportunity to present alongside colleagues such as the OMB Federal CIO, CTO, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and several other name-dropping figures in this space.

Jim, at the time part of the XPN as independent consultant, presented on our recent conceptual architecture work for data.gov that looked to integrate the previous administrations geodata.gov. Geodata.gov open data registration accounts for over 80% of all data in data.gov, so its by all means a major impact to where data.gov would need to focus.

The conference appears to continue as a bi-annual event with the last one being held in July 2012

The following captures the extended version of his presentation:

Xentity supporting scanning maps

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Xentity won multi-year work to support creating high-quality scanned maps. See the handout on this program.

The USGS Historical Quadrangle Scanning Project (HQSP) is scanning all scales and all editions of approximately 200,000 topographic maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) since the inception of the topographic mapping program in 1884. This scanning will provide a comprehensive digital repository of USGS topographic maps, available to the public at no cost. This project serves the dual purpose of creating a master catalog and digital archive copies of the irreplaceable collection of topographic maps in the USGS Reston Map Library as well as making the maps available for viewing and downloading from the USGS Store and The National Map Viewer.

Staff from Xentity supported the arduous process for scanning and cataloging. The Madison, WI based staff over a couple calendar years were able to complete these very high-resolution scans. The process required an eye for detail and to not be complacent with simply getting the job done. The tasks included:

  • converting printed scientific reports and maps to an electronic format
  • create geo-databases for containing the scientific reports, maps, and satellite imagery
  • scan multiple scales and editions of the more than 75,000 reports published by the USGS since 1879.
  • accurately referencing the Geographic Names Information System and Topographic map metadata and data dictionaries for project completeness
  • Creating, managing, and running the metadata QA/QC process and metadata verification processing.
  • Maintaining end user documentation
  • Creating batch scripts for post-processing of image files.
  • manipulating the resulting scans in multiple GIS formats
  • Maintaining databases and front-end catalog systems