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Thursday, November 16, 2017



Briefly: We wait for disaster before acting.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she lost one of her friends to domestic violence. At which point many other people commented in sympathy, and at least one person said she had seen the exact same thing occur.

Did those women have to die?

Workplace violence, or violence at school. Very troubled people. Sometimes people say, "I was afraid of that person."

Why do things have to get so bad, when preventive action could save lives?

I think about problems on the job, with projects that are late or over budget or simply don't work out, because nobody thought the requirements through properly, or they didn't make sure that the necessary resources were there beforehand.

Why do people have to waste their time?

It's never good to waste money. But especially in challenging economic times, why does money have to be squandered?

Mental health may seem unrelated to a cold dry subject like project management, but in reality the two are one and the same:
  • If you ignore the emotional needs of a person, on the assumption that "they can take care of themselves," it is only a matter of time before they shrivel up and cease functioning. (That's why it's so important, when you see another individual, to say this, and mean it: "Hello, how's your day?")
  • Similarly, if you ignore the process needs of a project, on the assumption that it will "just happen" the way it's supposed to, you can be sure that the entire thing will become a costly, tangled, messed-up mess with everybody running from the fire--of course, pointing fingers as they run.
The key to avoiding disasters, of any kind, is a prevention mindset.

What needs to happen in order for someone to be happy, healthy and engaged -- at work or at home?

What needs to happen in order for work to be carried out efficiently, sensibly, and with the highest quality result for the customer?


You know the drill--None of this is rocket science.

A little bit of attention, a little bit of care, can prevent so much unnecessary loss down the road.
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All opinions my own. Public domain. Photo by TheDigitalArtist (CC0 Creative Commons).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

I am especially concerned that the mainstream media and the alternative media continue to present us with two totally different narratives that have begun to verge on totally different realities.
 
This presentation (download from Slideshare) is my attempt to organize the contents of a spreadsheet posted to GoogleDocs which presents one such alternative narrative. The source is known as “Q Anon.” See these links: Full Text | Smartsheet.| Link to Links.

Why present unverified information? Because we need to analyze it, criticize it, and bring it into the mainstream conversation about what is happening in our world. 

We are one Nation under God. May we unify for the good. God have mercy on us all.

Disclaimer — Read Me First: Compiled, reorganized, edited and sourced to the spreadsheet by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal, independently and not on behalf of any entity or organization, from a single anonymous source, as a service to the public. Not a government document. Needs verification. Questions without answers have been omitted. Dr. Blumenthal was not asked to develop or post this document by anyone. Dr. Blumenthal does not know who wrote this. More than one person appears to have contribute to the document as some additional sources are credited. These sources are anonymous and their ”usernames” are omitted. Source: ”Q Questions and Answers” collected questions and answers, accessed 11/10/2017, 9:11 a.m. and again on 11/11/2017 at 9:24 a.m. No copyright is asserted by Dr. Blumenthal over this material. CC0 Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Late at night when I think about how I am, I recognize the signs and symptoms.

  • There is a sense of doom and foreboding.
  • A raw, sarcastic humor. It bites.
  • A harsh view of the world, combined with an odd kind of hope.
  • Admiration for heroes. A view of heroes as individual, suffering crusaders.
  • Deep emotion hidden behind a facade of indifference--or humor.
  • Vigilance about "religious" sexual predators.
  • Being "turned off" religiously, and yet somehow determined to talk about it.
  • Pervasive disbelief in institutions and systems, and yet the desire to hold them accountable and make them better--possibly.
  • Total disdain for hypocrites. 
  • Total disregard for authority that rests solely on formal authority.
  • Looking for beacons of light in the crowd. A sign that others are real. 

I believe I am part of a social cohort that thinks a certain way because of the times we lived in, and because of the things we have seen, and in many cases tragically experienced.

There is this term "OTD," which stands for "Off the Derech," meaning people who rejected religion, as if there is something wrong with them.

But I see the label OTD as a badge of suffering, suffering largely inflicted by the religious community itself,  and it is for this reason that the label really disgusts me.

If you were not there, I can't explain it to you adequately.

If you were not there, you did not go to the NCSY kumsitz, where we all sang songs of glory to God, hung out and ate pizza, and talked like kids do.

It was only decades later that I learned a noted NCSY rabbi and educator descended upon innocent kids, talking the spiritual talk in public while taking liberties that no adult should take with a child.

And he was only one of hundreds.

I look back on those times and remember them as somehow better, and more innocent.

And yet the crimes that were perpetrated are so heinous.

So hidden.

Before there was Jewish Community Watch, there was a book called Shonda, and an editor who supported victims named Gary Rosenblatt, and a researcher named Shmarya Rosenberg, whose blog Failed Messiah was sold but still available online, and The Awareness Center, with more than 500 names on a registry of "alleged and convicted offenders."

Every single person who stood up to support victim of religious abusers is a hero. And many of them were bullied mercilessly by the community, stigmatized and blamed for having the gall to speak up.

Amid all the talk about which version of religion is superior--Ashkenazi or Sephardic, Chasidish or Litvak, Charedi or Yeshivish or Modern Orthodox, Orthodox or Reconstructionist or Conservative or Reform--I have to ask this question.

Why don't we just go after the people who spend their lives groping kids? Prosecute them and put them in jail. Preferably for life.

The crime of child sexual abuse is more than just physical or emotional. It is the theft of a human soul.

I am grateful to HaShem every single day that I escaped the sexual and emotional torture that so many of my peers experienced, that they bore in tortured silence for so long.

And I pray, too, that He exacts a full measure of justice on behalf of them. That all of the perpetrators pay.

To make the victims whole again, to restore their innocence and capacity to have faith.

I am gratified to see that the Jewish religious community today is making strides--great strides--to recover from the sins of the past. Sins that rest on the shoulders of its leaders, and for which they should rightfully beg the victims for forgiveness.
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Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo by Free-Photos via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Is it possible to advocate for your ideas without destroying other people and manipulating the public? I think so, definitely!

Here's how I would rewrite Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.

You can grab the slide here.
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Posted on November 6, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. CC0 Creative Commons License.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Background

Yesterday, November 2, 2017 I participated in an event called "The Customer Experience Summit: Building Trust In Government," on a panel about branding and trust, in a personal capacity. The discussion was sponsored by GovExec.com in Washington, D.C. and included Chuck Young, Managing Director of Public Affairs at GAO, and Jeremy Zilar, Director of the GSA’s DigitalGov. It was facilitated by Frank Konkel, Executive Editor at NextGov. This was a public event with media present.

What I Planned To Say

How Do You Measure A Brand? How Should Agencies Measure Brand?

First Understand Basic Things

  • To measure a brand you first have to define what a brand is. I think of it as your image.
  • To measure a brand you also need to know what your unit of measurement is. To me the brand of an agency is complex because we are measured as part of the federal government as a whole.
  • You also need to know who your audience is, and it’s easy to say “everybody.”
  • Most agencies are not this granular.

Measurement

  • Brand is measured in terms of equity. It is a math equation. It is the difference between what a consumer would pay for the branded version and what they would pay for the unbranded version. Think of a Sunkist orange.
  • In accounting terms brand is measured as goodwill.
  • There are several methodologies for brand valuation today that aim to capture what is essentially an intangible factor that leads to tangible outcomes.
  • For a consumer product you can look at things like sales, revenue, awareness, loyalty, recruitment and retention but it is often difficult to know what the source of the value is.
  • For a government brand the simplest thing and possibly the most effective is to look at what people are saying about you on social media.
  • This gets you out of your echo chamber and forces you to confront the gap between who you think you are and what your friends tell you, and how you actually appear to the public which does not care to stroke your ego.
  • If you don’t want to go on social media, ask disgruntled employees.

Customer Service and Brand

  • For many federal employees they are providing service to senior leadership. We manage up. The key is not to kiss ass but to provide rational and reasonable assessments backed by data.
  • The concept of customer service is an excellent rallying cry because it makes intuitive sense in a way that branding does not. Branding sounds like brainwashing.
  • To deliver an excellent customer experience is to be operationally sound and accountable and secondarily to provide audience segments with the information they want, need and are entitled to in a manner that makes sense to them and is easy to access.
  • It goes without saying that if the agency is dysfunctional and/or corrupt it will be impossible to build a sustainable brand absent dealing with those issues.
  • The reason is that people talk, they talk out of sight and out of reach, and their words have more impact than yours.

What I Actually Said

Reactions To My Speaking Here

  • Unlike the other speakers I am a government communicator who is frequently critical of government communication, speaking in a personal capacity. Comment: “Do you want the public affairs version or the truth” – public affairs is a mediated reality
  • When I shared this event title people thought the title of this event was a joke (“trust in government”); read an article online that actually lifted slides from an FBI PowerPoint with the message that the government is using “branding” as a form of brainwashing

Branding

  • The brand of government is the entire government, not a single agency – you’re affected by perceptions of everybody else
  • The public is equally concerned about corruption as receiving benefits

Social Media

  • Look at how the public receives, consumes, and communicates information on social media
  • The Twitter screenshot of one piece of a document, with words highlighted, can eclipse the nuance of your message – that is what you need to speak to, to get the word out
  • Anticipate and communicate proactively and frequently on social media

Unleash Your People

  • Let employees talk in their personal capacity relatively freely – give them consistent clear guidance (optimally this should be governmentwide) – it is the many messages filtered throughout culture from their personal points of view that has more impact than official speech – the Coast Guard public affairs manual is available online and is a model of excellence
  • Internal communication is optimally a Facebook type environment where employees communicate with each other – formal internal communication is important but undervalued and rarely works as versus organic talk that is unfiltered – particularly important during times of change when there is pressure from outside to streamline vs. pressure from inside to maintain the bureaucracy

Innovation and Creativity

  • A senior executive is not going to take chances on innovative programs unless innovation is in the performance plan – nobody is going to go out on a limb only to fail and be punished.
  • Creativity inside the agency is an important source of value but workplace bullying is frequent, inside and outside the government, and it’s the job of management to root out toxic employees who prevent others from contributing to their fullest (e.g. to make the agency work better, to innovate, to demonstrate great work)

The Town Square Model Of Communication

  • From the perspective of the town square (where people talk about government) public affairs speak is massaged conversation and sounds false – all the more reason to let humans speak in an unofficial capacity (with specificity about areas that are off limits)
  • Don’t focus only on your website, focus on where the public actually goes to find things out – websites and social media not managed by you
  • If you focus on your website, focus on the parts of particular interest to the public – e.g. FOIA

Ask Your Communication Experts

  • Internally it is a problem when leaders think they can communicate without any input or with minimal input from the communicators.
  • The federal government has many extremely intelligent and well-trained employees who can tell you when a message is unclear, inaccurate, misleading – use them.
  • Consider working with GSA because GSA is able to apply governmentwide standards to bear on very agency-specific environments

Metrics

  • Customer service is uneven across agencies, but it works where it’s measured continuously and consistently

What The Other Experts Said

Note: Obviously they said a lot more than this...just sharing what I could recall. - DB 

Frank Konkel, NextGov, Facilitator

  • Often very difficult to understand what the government is saying
  • Difficult to get access to government subject matter experts – times have changed
  • Trust in government is obviously low – data on this is plentiful
  • How do you measure your brand – something to think about
  • Government brands don’t rank high when you look at which brands have a positive perception

Chuck Young, GAO Managing Director of Public Affairs, Co-Panelist

  • Important to get the word out about the work you’re doing
  • Important to defend your brand
  • Social media is important – “digital natives” across the agency can convene and advise on social media
  • Meticulousness about content of information versus responding to the Twitter version, which may be wildly inaccurate or may be accurate but bring up difficult points

Jeremy Zilar, GSA, Director of DigitalGov, Co-Panelist

  • Highlight the good work that is often hidden from the public
  • Focus on changing the one thing that is very annoying
  • Brand is built from a series of interactions, optimize the interactions
  • Work with agency counsel, they are your partner
  • User testing doesn’t have to be complicated; key is to incorporate this type of thinking into your communication efforts - how does it work for the user

For More Highlights From The Panel

Watch the video here or search for #cxsummit on Twitter.
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Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo courtesy of GovExec.

If you tell yourself negative things about yourself or the world then that’s what you believe, and vice versa.

The mind works through stories.

You are always telling yourself a story about your life.

The key is to reframe reality in a more positive light.

Accept reality, but plan for a positive future

Like this: “I may be overweight now but I am eating healthy and if I keep this up I will be thinner.”

Like my daughter says: Live in the present. It's a journey. Enjoy it while you're here.

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Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. All rights reserved. Photo by rawpixel via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The government is not built for innovation. It is built for taking orders. To create a culture of innovation we will have to fundamentally reconstruct government such that it is an incubator for new ideas and not an automatic blocker of them.

But first we will need to make the case that government should be innovative. It has to become an urgent need. Either we get better at what we're doing (e.g., innovate for improvement) or we die.

Unfortunately the government does not tend to act when things are calm. Rather, it takes one of two scenarios: a crisis to respond to (not what we want!) or there is an absolute, top-down requirement. And in the latter case, the absolute top-down requirement may generate superficial conformity absent a real commitment to change, unless people are motivated. (When someone's job is on the line, or they stand to be embarrassed, they tend to get motivated.)

Worse yet, the impenetrable tangle of laws, policies, rules and regulations makes it practically impossible for anyone to innovate in an orderly, disciplined manner. To give a very simple example, it is classic government practice to design websites badly due to the challenge of simply getting input from the users; and due to the lack of creativity around what it means to design a website in the first place. 

For my part, I would create one website for most of the government to which all agencies contribute, because customers think of the government as a unit. They should not need to know which agency does what. They should be able to type something into a Google-type search bar and find only government results. DREAM SCENARIO.

Why can't I send that idea forward? The short answer is that I can; I remember sometime this past year there was a call for new ideas and participated. Each one got a rejection of some type. Because there, again, the government is too limited in its thinking: I don't need to know what you did with my idea. It's not about assigning someone to get back to me. It's about putting the ideas out there, in a public space, where others can see them, rate them, and build off of them. For some byzantine reason that I cannot understand, we currently do not have this.

Here's another example of a concept that would better serve the customer, in my view: A single customer service portal that works across the Federal government. If you have any question about anything, it should be as simple as: Tweeting, calling, emailing, sending a text, or sending an IM. To one number: USGOV (87468). There should be 1,000 people on the other end of that communication who can start a ticket, refer it to the appropriate party, and get a response back to the customer along with a link to the appropriate URL. Every individual gets a customer number; every inquiry gets a case number. SO SIMPLE.

Most of the ideas considered innovative for government are already well entrenched in the private sector. Amazon.com pioneered the idea of user reviews nearly 20 years ago. This is a crucial part of customer service because it reduces the burden on the taxpayer of funding FTEs to answer questions that the public can handle.

Imagine this scenario (not currently in use by Amazon): When I send in my question, it automatically goes into the user database where someone else may respond and I can track those responses using my US citizen customer number. (If we want to get very innovative about it, we can use people's fingerprints as their identifiers; attach a little scanner to your laptop or mobile device and log in to the government portal).

I don't know, none of these things seem like rocket science to me, but there is a perception in the government somehow that if you're not in the Senior Executive Service or you're not in charge of that particular function in that particular agency then you have no business even suggesting such things. I know this because very early in my career I suggested that an agency set up a new media "war room" where they could track social media mentions, interactions, questions, comments etc.; and then merge the communication functions seamlessly so that incoming data could receive an integrated response. My supervisor at the time was absolutely furious that I had dared to submit an organization chart for something that was not only above my pay grade, but the supervisor's pay grade as well.

In terms of diversity, the people who generate creative ideas nonstop, who are generally a bit quirky (I count myself in this group) tend to be put into a corner where they will not create too much trouble. Because the norm for government is a team player who goes along to get along, who follows rules well, who is pleasant, who learns the system and functions well within it.

I have been extremely fortunate to have "grown up" professionally in the federal government and to have worked with a variety of anomalous mentors who saw and appreciated my unique qualities and nurtured them. Their support compensated for everything else, and everyone else, that did not understand where I was coming from and/or didn't like it.

Also, I would add that working for the government has exposed me to some brilliant people. There is a serious lack of understanding among the public about how smart government employees are as well as how dedicated they are -- this is true, I have found, of most.

Further, working for the government means that you have some inspiration (public service) as well as some thoughtful time -- your hours are structured and regular. In the private sector, it truly is all about money, money, money and ruthlessly cutting so as to improve the bottom line.

I have great faith that we will move forward and upward and onward and get where we need to be.

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Posted November 2, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is public domain. Photo by Weinstock via Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons):