The Open Meetings Act: Molasses in Winter

So I’ve been involved in municipal government for a few months now, and my biggest takeaway is, “Damn, things move slow.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with (and at) some execution-challenged organizations in the private sector, but they look positively agile compared to my experience with municipal government.

Now, I don’t mean this to be some kind of anti-government rant—I really don’t. But in retooling this blog to chronicle my foray into state and local government, I wanted to remain true to my outsider status and call it like I see it, for what it’s worth.

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My Civic Duty – Forays into Government 2.0

I live in the village of Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago that borders the city directly to the west. I was appointed recently to the Civic Information Systems Committee (CISC), a body charged with advising the village board on village’s use of technology and information systems, both internally and with the outside community of residents, vendors, partners, and the wider world in general.

Although I’ve been following developments in Gov2.0 closely over the last two years or so, this is my first direct involvement with it. And in the interest of jumping in with both feet, I figured it would be a good idea to use this blog to document my experiences on the CISC and with Gov2.0 more generally.

In the coming weeks and months, then, I plan to cover a full range of Gov2.0 topics, from the airy heights of theory to the nitty-gritty, down-in-the-weeds view of trying to actually get stuff done on the committee. And I look forward to making this a place for you all to share your thoughts and experiences with Gov2.0, not only to keep me honest with good old-fashioned heckling, but also to widen the conversation beyond my point of view to include yours.

My first post will be after the winter recess, but in the meantime, jump in and make suggestions for topics I should address, and I’ll get them on the docket for 2012.

I hope you all have safe and enjoyable holidays with family and friends and look forward to seeing you back here in January!

No Shirt, No Shoes, Great Service: Review of Getting Naked, by Patrick Lencioni

I’m a total book snob. The list of great books out there that I want to read is so long that, even if I spent twelve hours a day doing nothing but reading and lived another hundred years, it would be difficult to get through all of them. So I’m pretty protective of the few hours a week I actually have to devote to reading.

Given this, I was fairly skeptical when I dove into Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked last Saturday, because it was written as a fictional account of the takeover of a boutique consulting firm by a “big five” type firm.

I was ready for the worst that business books have to offer: hackneyed story line, wooden dialogue, obvious, Dr. Phil-esque “learnings” (just typing the word makes me cringe…when did “lesson” stop being good enough?)—and I was imagining all the books on my bucket list that I would never get to read because I chose to read Lencioni’s. Continue reading

Review of The Information, by James Gleick

At long last, I’ve finished James Gleick’s The Information: A History. A Theory. A Flood. As those of you who are regulars here know, I’ve been on a bit of a Gleick kick over the last six months, so I had high expectations for his latest work.

I’m happy to say that The Information doesn’t disappoint. This book is a tour de force, even for Gleick, who specializes in tours de force. His scope is sweeping, from Plato to quantum computing, and, as we’ve come to expect from Gleick, he gets deep into the details of long-forgotten science and technology innovations.

The subject (not surprisingly) is information: Gleick is interested in how information became both a distinct concept as well as something that could be measured.

He begins the book with an overview of the fascinating story of Claude Shannon, a researcher at Bell Labs who pioneered the concept of the byte. With the stage set, he steps back to give readers the long view of the emergence of information in the West.

From the decoding of West African drumming by colonial powers, the invention of formal logic, Charles Babbage’s difference engine, and the history of the dictionary in English (all of which are interesting enough to be books in their own right but seemingly tangential to Shannon’s work) Gleick starts to more obviously hone in on his main subject.

Chapter by chapter, Gleick traces the ascendance of information in a range of scientific disciplines, from biology to electrical engineering and physics. And as these pursuits became less and less about processes or things and more and more about the information that structured things and processes, new disciplines almost wholly build on information began to arise, such as genetics.

The result is a challenging but eminently rewarding work of intellectual history that manages to both give readers almost overwhelming detail in conjunction with a solid grounding in the big picture—largely due to Gleick’s adept prose and narrative skills.

This book is essential reading, not only for information professionals across a range of fields but simply for anyone who wants a better appreciation for the historical roots of our current information-based society—neither will be disappointed.

Review of iPad in the Enterprise, by Nathan Clevenger

Disclosure: I received a  free review copy of this book to use in preparing for this post.

At every client these days, mobility is a big deal, whether because increasing numbers of employees are demanding that the enterprise support their personal smart phones and tablets or because the organization is looking to gain competitive advantage through the strategic use of mobility in its core business processes.

And although most of my clients have been enabling mobility since the advent of laptops, just about every one of those clients is in more or less uncharted territory when it comes to the new wave of mobility ushered in by smartphones and tablets. increasing numbers of employees are demanding that the enterprise support their personal smart phones and tablets or because the organization is looking to gain competitive advantage through the strategic use of mobility in its core business processes.

This makes a certain amount of sense: after all, laptops are essentially portable desktop computers, while smartphones and tablets are radically new form factors that demand a reimagination of the entire end user experience. On top of which, these devices are often consumer devices, owned by employees, that therefore exist outside the reach of IT control.

Given all the urgency and uncertainty around the enterprise use of mobile devices, iPad for the Enterprise is a welcome addition to the literature available on the topic.

Nathan Clevenger has been involved in the development of mobile strategies and applications for over a decade, and the book reflects it. He begins with a consideration of iPad strategy that’s a wonderful primer for anyone involved in mobility at their organization, from developers in the trenches to executive leadership.

It sets the stage through a consideration of how we reached the current state of mobility and introduces the concept of the consumerization of IT, i.e., IT changes being driven in a decentralized way by the “consumers” in the enterprise (the employees) rather than in a centralized way by IT.

From there, it moves to more practical considerations and presents an overview of how to build an enterprise mobile strategy and application roadmap. Both are somewhat general—it’s difficult to generalize meaningfully about either of these activities—but nonetheless useful, especially for folks who’ve never participated in creating enterprise strategy before.

With the groundwork in place, Clevenger moves through all the phases of iPad app development: architecture, design, development, and deployment. And while none of this is not intended as a detailed ho- to guide or instructional manual for app development, he manages to get in enough technical detail and code samples to make this a valuable first-stop for technical folks looking to better understand what’s happening under the hood of the iPad.

All in all, the book is a strong offering. Non-technical readers will benefit greatly not only from the first section on strategy, but also from the more technical sections, which they can read selectively to gain a better preliminary understanding of concepts like sandbox security or iOS Human Interface Guidelines. Technical readers will not be disappointed in Clevenger’s treatment of app development and will also benefit from a better understanding of the context and strategy of iPad app development.

Bundle of joy

My wife and I just welcomed our second child into the world last week, so I’m taking a few weeks off from the blog to spend some quality time with my family.

While I’m doing that, here’s some oldie but goodie posts you may not have seen before:

I hope you all enjoy these while I’m gone…see you in June when I get back on the blog train!

The customer at the window, the wolf at the door

I recently kicked off a series of posts on insulation that’s meant to talk about the critical ways leaders can become disconnected—and hopefully provide some ideas on how they can fight against it.

I listed four kinds of insulation in the introductory post:

  • From the larger organizational context
  • From the work being done on the ground
  • From wider communities of practice
  • From the marketplace

In this post I want to dig into the last one, insulation from the marketplace.

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