The UK’s: Government Digital Service (GDS), the US’s: Digital Services (USDS) and Australia’s: Digital Transformation Authority (DTA) are all train wrecks in every meaningful measure of success.

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Preface: I did not write a formal posting on the Data for Policy confab this past September, but wanted to at least share the materials that I presented and discussed during the conference.

Abstract: The notion of Data-driven Policy making and its associated Governance, is often challenged by the fact that the vast majority of Politicians, Civil Servants, Champions of Industry & Non-Profit Leaders are basically illiterate in the domains of data, analytics & decision science. Most of these leaders have come up through their careers making decisions based on gut instinct (experience), group think (consensus) or by using a modicum of summary data & visual analysis, but few have either a base in decision science or statistics, much less have bootstrapped themselves along their careers to become Data & Analytics Literate.

Educators today are faced with the daunting task of preparing future generations of Leaders who must have deep competencies & acumen in all aspects of data, analysis & decision science. Many have chosen to focus on the dubious discipline of so-called Data Science. These endeavors are for the most part a cynical attempt by educators to latch onto the latest fad and to create degree programs based upon cobbling together a hodge podge of disciplines which is sold to unsuspecting students as either an Undergraduate or Post Graduate degree opportunity. All fail at their mission and leave graduates, much less future leaders, with a degree that is sorely lacking in the core skills and competencies required to succeed with.

In my presentation at the Conference I endeavored to trace the roots of how we got into such a mess, what needs to be done to prepare individuals to become Data-driven Leaders and how Educators must re-think their approach to creating/adjust curriculum and programs to put all students on a path to Data & Analytics competency and mastery no matter their chosen field of endeavor. I focused specifically on the notion of Top-down Data Leadership that I coined several years ago and use to drive convergence on the key issues and competencies required by all Leaders, Managers & Employees to be use data, analytics & decision science pervasively across their Organizations.

Handouts & Videos:

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U-tube Interview: http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ

 

Preface:

I spoke at Data for Policy 2016 this past September on the issue of “You can’t have Data-driven Policy if your Leaders are Analytics Illiterate” (http://bit.ly/2iK4DPZ ). I wanted to follow-up on those thoughts with this posting.

Body:*

Strategy is the path that Leaders divine for Organizations to take in pursuing their short and long-term Goals (Outcomes). Leadership is the glue that keeps everyone & everything together during the course of pursuing these Strategic Outcomes. Data Literacy is the new intellectual underpinning of every successful Strategy going forward.  All three working in concert is how Organizations’ can exploit the potential of Data & Analytics for Strategic Success at the expense of their competition or to delight their Citizens. It’s what I refer to as “Embracing the Data Leadership Nexus”.

We now live in a time where every Champion of Industry, Politician & Civil Servant, is a self-proclaimed expert on Strategy and Leadership and yet most (if not all), are Data (& Analytics) Illiterate. Having no specific first-hand knowledge or experience in the domains of data, analytics & decision science, they continue to rely on “processed information” (via so-called Data Scientists) and personal gut instinct to formulate plans, make decisions with and to react to emerging situations. Without hesitation, each decides what balance of “head and heart” they will use for each & every decision. In a dangerous twist, many “Leaders” in recent times have decided to ignore Facts & Evidence altogether and base their decisions solely on Ideology. I am certain that most of our readers are aware of these as borne out in the major political calamities of 2016.

There are many who aspire to the mantle of leadership. It is a tough road for most with many pitfalls along the way. Surmounting these challenges is part of the maturation & hardening process that Leaders must go through to earn their stripes. The challenges leaders face today and in the future, will be many and ever-growing in terms of complexity (and nuance), but they now have at their disposal science-based Facts, Evidence and Methodologies for making data-driven decisions at every turn. All that is required is belief in the notion of data-driven decisioning and basic literacy & competencies in the use of data & analysis to underpin decisions, insights & ultimately strategy (and tactics).  While straightforward in respect to need, the efforts required to overcome the lack of Data Literacy by Leaders are substantial. The current (much less next) generation of Leaders and Leadership candidates are not equipped intellectually and experientially to be truly data-driven. They must be mentored, tutored and enlightened by examples of where data-driven decisions have paid off in terms of differentiation, insights, risk mitigation, etc. This approach will allow them to experience first-hand the personal growth that comes from investing time and effort in Data Literacy endeavors and the benefits that manifest from it. It will also heavily influence other Leaders and those on the Leadership track as to what the future holds in respect to competencies and the outcomes that can be achieved by a data-driven approach.

Leaders today face a barrage of hype about Big Data, Digital & Analytics. Few actually understand what any of it truly means, but all want to “have some” for their Organization. This paradox of need vs. understanding must be addressed through Data Literacy endeavors. Only then will be have Leaders (and those in waiting) who are competent in the domains of data, analytics, decision science and yes, even digital. They will then have the acumen (and confidence) to define Core Strategies that will leverage these competencies to achieve specific & sustainable Outcomes for their Organization, regardless of sector. It will also bring to an end to the nonsensical notion that Data & Analytics, Decision Science and Digital are “bolt-on” functional capabilities that require separate strategies (or Transformation Program to make them achievable. Every Organization, regardless of size, sector or mission statement must use its Core Competencies in an integrated form to create Strategic Advantage. Leadership that is literate in these same domains is well positioned to exploit them fully, while reducing inherent risks to a manageable level of tolerance. This is what Strategy has done for decades using stone tablets and chisels and will excel at in the future by exploiting the benefits of Data Literacy from the top down.

Post Script:

For further insights see McKinsey’s two (late 2016) essential studies on data & analytics “Making data analytics work for you—instead of the other way around”, & “The age of analytics: Competing in a data-driven world”.

 * – An edited version of this posting appears in the January 2017 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com) 

 

Definition:

Psychological Projection: A theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

Body: 

The Mayhem Government aka Theresa May’s Post-Brexit cabal has already left a lasting mark on the UK and its role in the Global economy during its short time in power. It is clear to me (and no doubt others) that in spite of the circumstances of her appointment, Theresa May absolutely believes that she has a mandate to change the UK forever and not just exit the European Union.  So far, her vision for the UK is decidedly one where the residents of England, Scotland & Wales will become much more homogenous, monitored 24×7 by the State and live in a world where the economic wealth and well-being of the country will be severely diminished for generations to come, all in the name of the rigid ideology known as “British Nationalism”. This vision for a Little Britain, along with the implications of using Big Data for mass surveillance, behavior control & the dissemination of government propaganda is what I will focus on for this month’s column.

EU Flag and UK Flag Piggybanks Exchange Rate Concept 3D Illustration

The rise of Nationalistic fever around the globe has been fueled by both rigid ideologies and the use of data (Big and Small) to gain insights on the public, as well as to control any opposition. Much of this has been conducted under the auspices of being for “public good” or in the name of “national security”, with all efforts specifically intended to concentrate more power, insights & control into the hands of Governments’ who are a lot less Democratic and a much more Authoritarian (much less paranoid) than they were just a couple of decades ago (Pre-9/11 & 7/7).

Many of us have foreseen these issues and spoken up, but the media and press have been co-opted by these same Governments to act as their Pit Bulls in stifling any opposition as well as reporting the truth. This toxic mix of rigid ideologies, concentration of power, the limitation of human rights and the muting of dissent has reduced the principles of Democracy to more of a notion, if not a source of ridicule by those now in power (or desirous of attaining it).  Examples of these endeavors in recent months in the UK (both pre & post the Brexit “Leave” vote) include;

  • The IP Bill (Snoopers Charter)
  • The Digital Economy Bill
  • The Department for Education – National Pupil Database
  • Home Office “Foreign Employees” Database

All of these “tools of control and surveillance” leverage the same Big Data capabilities that have be touted by so many as “virtuous and beneficial to society”, but in ways that few were openly willing to discuss publicly. However, there have been some recent discussions in the UK and US on managing the vision & scope of Artificial Intelligence for the public good as well as getting ahead of the tide of Discrimination that Big Data driven insights into Citizens behaviors has brought. In all cases these efforts were designed to distract attention away from the Government’s own behavior in respect to these and other emerging applications of Big Data and Advanced Analytics. In essence, the fears about the nefarious use of Big Data to harm or control the public are a form of psychological projection in respect to the Government shifting its own blame onto others, while standing in judgement against the Public and NFP sectors. It all would seem so laughable if it were not so serious.

The movement away from Democratic Government to one based on rigid Ideologies, along with the exploitation of Big Data & Advanced Analytics by these same Government’s has become a “clear and present danger” to all Citizens under their control. The accumulation of knowledge about each Citizens’ behavior & activities by the State is a bell that cannot be un-rung.  Massive databases, predictive analytics, machine learning, etc. are all tools of the Big Data paradigm and can be used as a force for good in the right hands or as an unbounded force for evil in the wrong ones. To imagine the scope of this potential evil one only needs to look back a short time in history to see how such information, albeit at a much more primitive level of sophistication, was used to discriminate, enslave and control entire populations across the world. The efficiencies brought by Big Data to this type of behavior control are limitless and should be feared by all that cherish the beliefs of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’. 

PostScript:  With the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, I expect that all controls (albeit weak) previously in place to protect against the abuse of US Citizens by either Government or Industry in respect to Big Data, Privacy, Discrimination, etc. will all be thrown out the window immediately after the inauguration and that an “Enemies List” will soon be made known in terms of those that Trump and his disciples will go after. This List will range from Political figures to Ordinary Citizens all of whom having slighted Trump somehow in his authoritarian/fascist view of the world around him. These activities will make those of the Mayhem Government look amateurish in comparison.

* An edited version of this posting appears in the November 2016 issue of Information Age (UK) (www.information-age.com)


 

 

Definition: Post-TruthA phenomena found “after the continuous use of facts & experts derived from “for hire” sources to bolster seemingly outrageous arguments where the public (Electorate) switches off its acceptance of any facts, figures or “truths” and now consciously wants to be deceived (its new comfort zone).

Definition: DecisioningThe art of decision making. A combination of Facts, Evidence, Decision Science, Gut & Instinct. How each is weighted greatly affects the accuracy of the decision.

*Body: For several decades now, Business, Government & Non-Profit Leaders have been pursuing the common goal of Fact (Evidence) based Decision Making. What started out as the notion of Decision Support in the early ‘80’s, soon moved to the emerging field of Decision Science in the ‘90’s & beyond. Decision Science (a widely recognized branch of science) is where Data, Analytics, Algorithms and Decision Theory coalesce into a formalized discipline for Decisioning*. It’s use can be found across many geographies, within all sectors in small & large Organizations. The “Data-driven Cultures” created in these Organizations are much more pervasive than those who simply embrace the marketing term “Data Science” which seems to be focused exclusively on “self-aggrandizement & data wrangling”.

In recent times however, as Decision Science has become much more mature and widely adopted, we find that it has run head-long into the buzz saw of Politics where Data, Facts, Evidence and ultimately the Truth are bent, twisted & broken to fit the needs of ideologies, platforms and agendas in respect to achieving outcomes which are “counter-factual”. One only needs to examine the three most recent Elections/Referendums in the UK, as well as the current US Election cycle, much less the current Brexit negotiations (or the EU Phony War if you rather) to appreciate just how much of a Post-Truth World we have now entered.

In today’s Post-Truth World, not only are stated facts meaningless i.e. lacking in veracity, but the pursuit of the Truth has become derided by many.  The arc of this effect has reached the point where the majority of the Electorate are now demanding that it be lied to by its figureheads so as to constantly reinforce its own particular ideology in spite of the reality around it. This is a clear threat to every democracy around the world where an informed, much less literate, Electorate is required to provide checks & balances to government overreach, much less holding them to account in respect to delivering the services & protections that society demands. For someone who has just arrived on Earth and is observing this effect first hand they might ask; “Are there any real differences between so-called Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes?” These effects are no less profound in the Commercial and Non-Profit Sectors where we constantly see “Dubious Data, Questionable Facts & Outright Lies proffered by Executives, spokespeople and PR hacks.

How should we cope with this challenge?

 First and foremost, wherever your role lies in the data, information & analytics supply chain you cannot abandon your mission to deliver the highest-quality information & insights in support of Decisioning at every level. You must insure that strong & independent Data Governance & Data Ethics bodies are in place and their guidance is employed by all practitioners and consumers of these deliverables and that regardless of the outcome, the Facts stand on their own merits (subject to peer review and A/B testing, etc.). Only by creating (if not already established) a bedrock data foundation for Decisioning, built on transparency, veracity, lineage, proven rigors & pristine quality can a platform for the “Truth” be achieved, much less maintained. It is critical that as the Post-Truth paradigm plays itself out that this foundation for the Truth be maintained and protected at all costs. The old adage that the “first victim in war is the truth” applies to everything in the Decisioning Supply Chain and those who support it, much less rely on it, must be ever-vigilant to protect its transparency.

Each of us will be challenged to maintain our individual (much less collective) sanity during the course of time that this Post-Truth era plays itself out. We may sound more barking mad at times than those who embrace the Lies and Deception, but this will pass as well. One day when the Light of Truth returns we will be rewarded for beings its stewards, but until then we must “keep buggering on” (KBO as Winston used to say).

* A version of this posting appears in the October 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)

PostScript:

On November 29, 2016 the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill passed into law by Royal Assent. Many in recent days have tried via an online petition to re-open debate on this bill as a desperate last attempt to stop its progress. I ask those who signed this petition, much less all the celebs in the Tech industry as to where their voices were over the past two+ years as this bill made its way through Parliament and the House of Lords? Once again, a passiveness has been exhibited by the Press, the Electorate and all sorts of Activists as new draconian measures are put into place in the UK Surveillance State. I suggest that this will be the case again as the so-called “Digital Economy Bill” reaches its finalization in the coming weeks. It will soon be time to “reap the whirlwind” that these infringements of Human Rights will bring.

Prelude:

The notion of Personal Privacy aka “The Right to be left alone” dates back centuries in Law and its practice is enshrined in the foundations of all Democracies and Human Rights proclamations. These protections were created well before the invention of digital computing, databases, etc. and yet have been essentially undone in short order since their arrival.

Body:

In the very near future, the UK will most likely have passed into law one of the most far reaching efforts ever by any Democracy to spy (and snoop) on each of its citizens, residents & visitors at home, much less abroad; all in the name of Security. Mundanely referred to as the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) it is widely derided as “The Snooper’s Charter” (and rightfully so). It is a law with literally no purpose other than to legitimize the illegal spying that the UK Government has been engaged in for decades via its Security, Services, while increasing the scope of their activities beyond reason. Promised as necessary (and proportional) to providing Security to the country, it in essence guts everyone’s right to Privacy as far as the State is concerned. Of course, this flies in the face of established Privacy Laws that the Public, Private & Non-Profit sectors are currently held to account for, much less the EU Human Rights Charter, which Brexit will soon undermine, if not eliminate altogether.

Why is the Electorate in the UK being cowed into accepting the false equivalency that; “If you trade away your Privacy to us (the State) we will provide you with Security (and protection)”. It does seem that the average citizen cares little about their personal Privacy today as long as they are safe in their beds away from the clutches of the latest bogy man that the State can conger up. Add to this, the parallel effect observed by users of social media or online shopping where they accept the bargain of; “As long as you offer me some sort of instant gratification, I don’t care about my Privacy one iota (no matter how creepy you act with my data)”. How did the Human Right to Privacy become so easily traded away by almost the entire population? The root cause of this effect can be found in data that is all around us and you don’t’ need to be a so-called Data Scientist to figure it out.

We now live in a world that is awash in data. We create it as individuals during ever moment of our lives and consume even more of it from various sources and services that we seek out. There is so much data about us that is collected, processed, sold and exploited that we have become oblivious to the entire process. It is as if there were an invisible anesthetic in the air that numbs our senses to the fact that something a very wrong with all of this. Privacy is a right, that until recently has been fiercely protected and a line that few Governments’ have been willing to cross in respect to monitoring their citizen’s (at least publicly). Now, it is only an afterthought that arises when some egregious act or data breach is exposed by the press or on social media and everyone sounds off about how violated they feel (all the while creating more new data to be exploited by others). We now have a Perfect Storm of events where Privacy as a right (or in the US as a Civil Liberty) is lost in the conversation, while everyone focuses myopically on National Security or the pursuit of the latest game (Pokemon Go comes to mind) or app (Facebook is a constant in being the worst offender). The Individuals’ right to Privacy has become an insignificant consideration, much less an afterthought.

As the UK plans its exit from the EU, the notion of Privacy will be further eroded as the State will focus all its attention on Sources of Commerce & Trade, Border Security & Immigration. These negotiations will be another opportunity for Privacy Rights to be further traded away in return for hollow promises of gold or enhanced security. In the end it should be clear to all members of the Electorate that not only did the UK sleepwalk its way out of the EU, but it sacrificed the notion of personal privacy along the journey. There will be no way to put this Jeanie back in the bottle once this happens regardless of which party is leading Government.

This article in an edited version first appeared in the September 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com).

Preface: Enlightened self-interest  n. the principle or practice of furthering one’s own interests while simultaneously benefiting others

Body: The recriminations of the recent Brexit Vote continue to reverberate throughout the world with many in both camps lamenting; “How did this happen?”. One could clearly argue that an informed Electorate, by sufficient margin chose to leave the EU of their own free will. Others (including myself) will argue that the use of Dubious Data, Questionable Facts and Hyperbolic Rhetoric duped the majority of the Electorate into believing they had no other choice in the matter because their futures were being threatened by the Bogy Men (and Women) of the EU and other imagined threats to UK sovereignty. How could this come to be?

The UK has for some time been at the forefront of promoting the notion of Data-driven Government as the solution to many societal and governmental challenges. It has invested heavily in Digital, Data & Analytics initiatives, along with promoting educational & research-based endeavors which are designed to “raise all boats” in respect to competencies and acumen in the use of digital, data & analytics for insights & decision making. It has done nothing however to change the tone or tenor of politics in respect to using Data & Facts inappropriately to support their positions and to refute arguments by the Opposition. In the Scottish Separation Referendum of 2014, the General Election of 2015 and most recently in the Brexit Referendum (2016), politicians of all stripes abused & corrupted data & facts to fit their particular agendas; all with little or no oversight nor any real repercussions. This behavior cannot continue if any Government wants to call itself either Data-driven or Fact-based in its Decision making, much less claim the high ground in any debate or formal findings. The erosion of Trust in Government is directly correlated to this behavior and many now question any Data or Facts originating inside (or outside) of Government. Factual reporting or fundamental analysis of key issues & options for consideration.

The notion of enlightened self-interest has been a foundation of politics for many, many years. It is the grand bargain that Political Parties make with their members and those who financially support them. In the recent examples that I have cited there has been none of this. It has become a “winner takes all” battle of ideologies with collateral damage on both sides of the arguments. As one might suspect the first casualty of these battles is always the Truth, but now it has begun to erode basic Trust in Government and not just Politicians. The Electorate is now manipulated by Dubious Data and Questionable Facts at every turn and are voting against their own future well-being in an irrational manner.

How to reverse this course seems clear to me? There must be a rebuilding of the firewall between Government and Politics to such a level that a true “air gap” exists. Arm’s length will no longer suffice if Trust is to be re-established and maintained. In the Brexit run-up both Politician’s (Remain and Leave) and Civil Service Officials were complicit in creating Dubious Data and Questionable Facts (if not outright lies) for consumption by the Electorate without any real Arbiter of the Truth having a voice in the process. The Press, Special Interest Groups, Lobbyists and Self-promoters were all guilty of regurgitating this bogus & misleading information in wholesale fashion. All with no consequences. My recommendation is to put a stop to these behaviors immediately and to create an official body within Government who is the only source of the Truth when it comes to data, facts & reference information. This body must not only be non-partisan, but above reproach and influence. Those bodies that exist today such as ONS have been corrupted beyond redemption and must be not only held to account for their behaviors as “enablers” but stripped of their power by this new “Department of Truth”. Politicians, Detractors and Advocates will all have to use the same “blessed data” and “straight-forward facts” to support their rhetoric. Going forward the Electorate will only hear “the unvarnished truth” regardless of their appetite or appreciation of its implications.

The approach that I advocate is neither naive, nor uninformed by the reality of Government & Politics. It is simply the most straight-forward solution to the challenge. In the end, the Truth must prevail and it should not take an Act of God to get to it.

  • – An edited version of this posting appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Information Age (www.information-age.com)