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Information Technology Operating Philosophy and Guidelines

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
Information Technology Group (IT)
Business Philosophy and Operating Guidelines
1 August 2011

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Information Technology Group has adopted new approaches to doing its business of serving the USCG Auxiliary.  While the Auxiliary is a large organization of over 32,000 people, our IT resources are small in number, voluntary, and not well served by operating like a large, legacy IT organization.

Modern organizations are increasing adopting a startup-company mentality, operating “lean” – with precision, flexibility, agility, and rapid results.  After a long history of not meeting the expectations of the organization and members it serves – for whatever reasons – the IT Group here by declares itself a new ‘start-up’ organization.  Its characteristics are as follows:

  • We will think lean in our approach to everything we do. 
  • Our activities will be transparent. We will use business best practices to communicate our successes, failures, problems and opportunities to relevant stakeholders within and without our organization, at timely intervals.
  • Our organization chart defines our responsibility, not how we work – as an organization or individually. Inside IT, we will act as peers for the purpose of communicating, sharing ideas and experience, delivering systems or support, or solving problems. There is no “chain”.
  • We will foster a spirit of openness and teamwork among the staff.  Any member can select from the entire IT organization to form a small, ad hoc team to solve a problem or set a direction, regardless of title, office, or internal unit. Ad hoc teams have only the responsibility to operate transparently, and to dissolve when their task is done.
  • While such teams are encouraged, we will not operate, problem solve, or design product “by committee”. Our project, product, or problem-solving teams will be lean, normally limited to three people; two are preferred. It is incumbent on such teams, however, to seek out “best information” from elsewhere in the organization by interview, so that relevant points of view are represented.
  • In addition to a lead engineer from IT Engineering (C-Dept), product design teams will include, from the outset, a member of the IT User Services Department (U-Dept), as an advisor on documentation, the perspective of the end user, rollout, and help desk. Over a product life cycle, responsibility will gradually transfer from Engineering to User Support.
  • Our lean organization will operate without deputies. Department heads and their division chiefs will form a permanent leadership team to resolve issues, recommend changes to policy and implement policy. Travel allowances for meetings where other groups send deputies will be assigned as required so that our interests are best represented.
  • There will be no advisory groups for the departments.  The Chief Information Officer will form up a small Advisory Council and will task it with providing input to issues identified by the organizational and technical leadership of the Information Technology Group (ANACO-IT, Department Directors, Division Chiefs, Senior IT Fellows, IT Fellows)
  • We will use agile development techniques for our software projects. Our emphasis will be on quick prototyping for proof of concept, and then rapid, iterative refinement with the input of our customer or users via controlled alpha and beta tests. Our projects will be partitioned such that project inception to first beta test can reliably be accomplished, considering our volunteer workforce, in 100 days.
  • All product development projects will consider and utilize, wherever possible, open source software.

/s/ Bruce L. Miller, DNACO-ITP, Chief Information Officer

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