Looking for Clues to Failures in Large-Scale Public Sector Projects

Sandeep Purao and I have a paper accepted at the 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences in the Electronic Government Track (Development Methods for Electronic Government, Minitrack). The paper analyzes the IRS’s Business Systems Modernization Project using sentiment analysis.

Abstract
We describe results from historical analysis of a large-scale, public sector effort: the IRS Modernization Project that has already spanned a decade and consumed more than 3 billion dollars. The results focus on analysis of Sentiments and Confidence expressed by different stakeholders, as found in various documents. We explore how such analyses may provide a window on project progress and potential early clues that may contribute to preventing undesirable outcomes in the future.

Reference: Purao, S., and Desouza, K.C. “Looking for Clues to Failures in Large-Scale Public Sector Projects: A Case Study,” In Proceedings of the Forty-Forth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-44), Los Alamos, CA: IEEE Press, Kauai, HI, (January 4-7, 2011).

Designing Sustainable Knowledge Management Programs

I will be giving an invited presentation at the 2010 Talent Management Conference in Portland, Oregon (September 8-10). My presentation will highlight strategic, tactical, and operational mechanisms for building sustainable knowledge management programs.

About the Presentation

As an organization prepares for the departure of valuable staff, a key challenge is how to capture, store, and transfer knowledge. Managing knowledge and ensuring its transfer will increase productivity. This session will provide useful tools and processes for selecting the best strategy to fit your organization’s culture. Participants will explore the use of technology as well as best practice approaches and tools to preserve and transmit institutional memory.

Topics include:

  • Understanding the value proposition of investing in knowledge transfer mechanisms
  • Creating appropriate knowledge creation and transfer strategies for various organizational contexts
  • Measuring the impact of knowledge transfer on organizational outcomes (e.g. innovation, cost reduction, etc.)
  • Deploying technological solutions to enable knowledge transfer
  • Deploying social solutions to enable knowledge transfer
  • Understanding the changing dynamics of knowledge transfer with social networking sites
  • Leveraging knowledge transfer processes for sustainable competitive advantages

Keynote Address at the 2010 Computational Social Science Society Conference: From Hunches to Evidence Driven Policy Design

I will be giving a keynote address at the 2010 Computational Social Science Society Conference (CSSS). CSSS 2010 is hosted by the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity and the Consortium for Biosocial Complex Systems at. For more information on the conference, please click here [LINK].

From Hunches to Evidence Driven Policy Design: Leveraging Information through Simulation

Constructing public policy, whether at the national or local level, is a complex undertaking. Complexity arises from the number of stakeholders involved, varying agendas and incentives, resource constraints, a multitude of interacting variables, multiple time horizons, and even political climates. Due to these complexities, we too often categorize political and social problems as ‘wicked’ and unanalyzable. The default option is to take a haphazard approach to policy design, most often the outcome of the ego-based debates and negotiations of the decision-makers. In this keynote address, I will argue for a move from hunches (or intuition) to evidence driven policy construction. Today, due to the advancement of computational power and modeling techniques, we can simulate complex scenarios. Simulation gives us an ability to move policy construction from an activity primarily driven by historic case analysis and intuitions, to more of an applied science, where we can actually predict and control phenomenon. Through simulation we can, with reasonable certainty, ascertain the cost, benefit, risk, impact, and value proposition of a given policy. Using examples from simulation projects, such as a project that examined strategic options for dismantling terrorist networks, I will demonstrate how we can move policy design from being an ‘art’ to more of a ‘science.’

A Reason to Believe and Dream: No one Can Kill Your Dreams

I am writing this blog entry on route to London from Chicago. I am onboard United 958. I fly to Europe quite often (averaging about 9 trips per year). Most of the time, given my loyalties to United Airlines, I have to fly from Seattle to Chicago or Washington, D.C. (IAD), and then board my European-bound aircraft. Consequently, chances are high that I will run into people that were on previous flights with me. Most of the time it is the crew on the flight, but frequently I also meet fellow travelers. Today, I ran into a fellow traveler who I have not seen in about 4 years. After enjoying our nice surroundings in business class, dinner and wine, we started to chat. He reminded me of the conversation we had the last time we met. At that time, I was a (brash) executive running the Engaged Enterprise. I had just accepted my position at the University of Washington and was still residing in Chicago. My friend (let us call him Joe, as he prefers not be named) has been a C-level executive of several Fortune 100 companies. He had asked me – “What gives you the ability to dream and challenge what others think is normal (or acceptable)?”

I began to answer the question (like an academic!) in a long-winded way, giving details of how I had come to the US, my struggles through my undergraduate program, the minor successes I had achieved, etc. He interrupted me and reminded me that I had not answered his question. I paused, and then said, “if I do not dream then I better jump off this aircraft and end it!” He obviously did not expect this response! We continued talking and I expressed to him my views on what it takes to lead, motivate, and inspire not only others but also oneself. I did not realize this, but he took a few notes. He reminded me of the following points I made to him:

1. You are only limited by your dreams…but dreams, not matter how wonderful, are still dreams…once you realize them, you will need to dream again or you will rot
2. Work as hard as possible, and always compare yourself not to your past, but what you think is your future potential
3. If someone tells you things are not possible or you are not going to succeed…smile, acknowledge them, and then prove them wrong…
4. For a person like myself, who does not have a country or a land to call his home, the world is your home and it is up to you to make it so...
5. For everything you have, there are 100s if not 1000s or 100,000s that are less fortunate. You are who you are in part due to the sacrifices of your mum and dad, brother and sister, uncles and aunts, cousins, coaches, teachers, mentors, and friends. Once you make it, you have a responsibility, and a duty, to give back to better their lives!

Apparently, these are the things that he jotted down based on our conversation. He confided in me that he gave these to his then 14-year old kid, and even called it the “Desouza’s Words of Inspiration.” For what it is worth, his kid was moved by these five points, and is now a freshman at Harvard University.

I do not claim that the above points are revolutionary. I do however believe in these words and, if at all possible, I try to inspire others to understand the meaning and significance behind these five points. These lessons have been learnt through my own errors and omissions, and through studying what makes great leaders. They have shaped who I am, and will shape my future. Thanks to all that have helped me get to where I am: you have supported, nurtured, counseled, and inspired me.

I promised Joe that I would blog about this. I normally do not blog about these matters, but who knows, I might just make this a habit.

The bottom-line: You are only limited by your own ambitions and dedication to pursuits! If these words resonate with you, please let me know. If you disagree, please (please) let me know!

Now, off to drink my glass of Port and go to sleep…4:58 before touchdown in Heathrow!

Conference on Intelligence and Nuclear Proliferation: Threat Identification, Policy Formulation and Decision Making, June 3-5, 2010

I will be speaking at the Conference on Intelligence and Nuclear Proliferation hosted by the Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS) at King’s College London in June. Kristen Lau and I have authored a paper that examines how information management failures led to an inability to adequately assess and detect nuclear threats in recent times. Lack of adequate information management capabilities have led to numerous international crises surrounding nuclear non-proliferation. For example, the inability to predict nuclear tests by India in 1998, the colossal failures surrounding assessments of Iraq’s WMD capabilities in early 2000, and today, the challenge of addressing Iran and North Korea.

Intelligence and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Programs: The Achilles Heel?
Intelligence is a critical component of all counter-proliferation activities. It allows us to assess and determine what makes up the current threat environment in terms of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. When informed with an accurate assessment of the situation, policy makers are better suited to counter the proliferation threat. However, success and failure hinge upon how well information is managed during the intelligence process. The intelligence process as it relates to estimating nuclear capabilities or intentions is wrought with many challenges and complications. The denial and deception techniques employed by states running covert weapons programs and the dual-use nature of many weapons components create many difficulties for intelligence organizations. Additionally, illicit transnational networks obscure the situation further by serving as a source, for both nation states and non-state actors, for acquiring dual-use commodities and technologies. These challenges can lead to the miscalculation of a state’s capabilities or intentions. As was seen with the case of Iraq in 2003, western intelligence services grossly overestimated the capabilities of Saddam’s regime. This paper presents a comparative analysis of three cases of nuclear proliferation: India, Pakistan and Iran. Drawing from the analysis, the authors examine the lessons learned and propose recommendations for future counter proliferation policy and strategy.

To read prior papers published on this topic, please see:
• Desouza, K.C., and Lau, K.A.* “Managing the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Information Management Perspective,” International Journal of Public Administration, 31 (13), 2008, 1457–1512. [LINK]
• Desouza, K.C. “Information and Knowledge Management in Public Sector Networks: The Case of the US Intelligence Community,” International Journal of Public Administration, 32 (14), 2009, 1219–1267. [LINK]

Building Sustainable Collaborative and Open Innovation Programs – University of Ljubljana

I will be giving an invited lecture at the Raziskovalni center Ekonomske fakultete (Faculty of Economics) of the University of Ljubljana on February 15, 2010. My talk will focus on how organizations can design collaborative innovation programs.

Organizations cannot innovate in isolation. Ideas, knowledge, expertise, and processes needed for innovation are often distributed in the marketplace across a wide-assortment of actors from business partners, to customers, government agencies, and even competitors. Organizations have to find ways to collaborate and develop open, rather than closed, innovation programs. Collaboration calls for the ability to share required artifacts from ideas to knowledge and expertise, and even processes, with external entities. Being open requires an organization to unlock, and make available, its innovation process to external entities. Developing Collaborative and Open Innovation (COI) programs can be a daunting challenge. Issues such as ensuring trust, governance structures, rewards and incentives, and mechanisms for rent sharing from innovations can seem insurmountable. In this presentation, I will share actionable knowledge on how we can build sustainable COI programs. I will draw on research and consulting on designing organizational innovation programs in over 50 global organizations. I will share a framework for organizations that want to collaborate on innovation. This framework will outline methods for collaborative idea generation and mobilization, idea advocacy and screening, idea experimentation, idea commercialization, and idea diffusion and implementation. Examples will be used to illustrate how leading organizations collaborate with external entities for innovation and build open innovation programs that external entities can plug-into.

Global Text Project: A Panel Discussion

I will be serving on a panel with the co-project leaders of the Global Text Project, Rick Watson (University of Georgia) and Don McCubbrey (University of Denver) at the 2nd Annual SIG GlobDev Workshop. The goal of the panel is twofold – 1) to continue to raise awareness about the project and recruit professors to participate in the effort, and 2) to update the IS community on the work to-date, the opportunities on the horizon, and the challenges we face. My prepared remarks focus on 1) highlighting the work being done by graduate students in the Masters of Science of Information Management program at the Information School, University of Washington, and 2) outlining ideas on how we might build learning communities around each textbook. I am looking forward to a stimulating discussion.

Blogging and Writing: Keeping me Honest

It has been a while since I actively blogged. I have engaged in “passive blogging” over the past few months. This has involved posting snippets of upcoming speaking engagements and papers that have been published. This has been helpful in getting the word out and networking. For the next few months (or years, if I stay disciplined!), I am hoping to engage in active blogging. I will share my thoughts on two major topics: 1) innovation – leveraging ideas for innovation, and 2) managing intellectual assets – how organizations are building and deploying intellectual assets. I will also share thoughts on other random issues from entrepreneurship to terrorism and government information policy. I will do this for two reasons: 1) to engage you, my reader and /or website visitor, into a dialogue, and 2) to keep me honest on my writing projects. Over the last few months, I have built a huge backlog of writing projects. Blogging will help me share notes, musings, and ideas, as I draft concepts, papers, or even get close to completing two book projects. Stay tuned for more details...

Patterns and Structures of Intra-Organizational Learning Networks: Forthcoming in Journal of Information Technology

jitI have co-authored a paper with Miha Škerlavaj (University of Ljubljana) and Vlado Dimovski (University of Ljubljana) that examines network-based learning. The paper will appear in a special issue of the Journal of Information Technology. I hold a five-year honorary visiting professor appointment at the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana.

This paper employs the network perspective to study patterns and structures of intra-organizational learning networks. The theoretical background draws from cognitive theories, theories of homophily and proximity, theories of social exchange, the theory of generalized exchange, small-worlds theory, and social process theory. The levels of analysis applied are actor, dyadic, triadic, and global. Confirmatory social network analysis (exponential random graph modeling) was employed for data analysis. Findings suggest: (1) central actors in the learning network are experienced and hold senior positions in the organizational hierarchy, (2) evidence of homophily (in terms of gender, tenure, and hierarchical level relations) and proximity (in terms of geographical and departmental distances) in learning relationships, (3) learning relationships are non-reciprocal, and (4) transitivity and high local clustering with sparse inter-cluster ties are significant for intra-organizational learning networks.

Speaking at Talent Management – 2009

PLSI will be speaking at the 2009, Talent Management: A Systematic Approach to Acquiring, Developing, and Retaining Talent and Organizational Knowledge Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona (November 4-6, 2009). My talk will discuss key strategies global organizations employ to build effective knowledge transfer and retention strategies.

Knowledge Transfer: A System for Capturing and Transferring Institutional Memory
As an organization prepares for the departure of valuable staff, a key challenge is how to capture, store, and transfer knowledge. Managing knowledge and ensuring its transfer will increase productivity.

This session will provide useful tools and processes for selecting the best strategy to fit your organization’s culture. Participants will explore the use of technology as well as best practice approaches and tools to preserve and transmit institutional memory. Topics include:

  • The role of technology in collecting, storing, and retrieving vital knowledge
  • Methods for knowledge transfer
  • The role of document management processes
  • A process map for knowledge management and transfer
  • Best practices and alternatives

To register for the event, please click here.