Weeknotes #267

Photo of the week:

What I did this week:

A gateway or a ladder

Neuroscience tells us that what makes human minds special is our sense of narrative and being able to sequence events. It’s what allowed us grasp complex cause and effect relationships which are the foundation for science and rational logic. Telling stories and using metaphors to explain concepts is a useful and well-accepted method of communication, but perhaps less so within organisations. My writing is usually quite technical and concrete, but this is changing as I explore other ways to help people understand my work, and make better decisions from it.

I’ve been working on ways of making identity verification better. It has quite a bit of complexity to it, with the user experience of having to provide documents with personal information, the technicalities of managing the systems that store the document files and record progress as they are check and verified, and the processes that collect, validate and verify a person’s identity. So, to communicate the different ways we could approach identity verification I used the metaphors of a gateway and a ladder. The gateway is the same for everyone, once their identity is verified they can pass through. The ladder has different steps that someone can be on if their identity is verified to different degrees. Hopefully the metaphor can be used as shortcuts to discuss both options.

Designing for privacy and protection

I’ve been working on how we might implement the Age Appropriate Design Code. It requires some quite critical questioning of the code and our systems and processes. As we progress with this work I’m keen that rather than designing for the most likely and usual, and then designing other processes that deal with the deviations, we take the approach of designing ways that work for everyone. Those product managers who spend their time trying to push the needle on user retention don’t know they’re born. Charity product management is where it’s at. It’s the extreme sport of product management.

Breaking down hierarchies

I went to a really good virtual meetup about hierarchies and networks by the Barnardo’s Innovation Team. Apart from being a really good idea to get people together to share ideas it also opened my eyes to different ways of thinking about hierarchies and networks.

Work together better by knowing more about how others work

I have a hypothesis that multi-disciplinary and cross-functional teams aren’t as effective as they could be because thy create mini silos of specialisms within the team. I think if every role had some understanding of each of the adjacent roles, the team would have better shared language, more effective conversations and make more considered decisions. In an attempt to do something about this I’m trying out the idea of users guides for digital roles for those who aren’t specialists in those roles, which I’m calling Adjacencies.

Thought about this week:

Transitional states

A colleague set me a link to a video about ‘transitional safeguarding‘, a phrase used to describe the problem of thinking in binary ways about childhood and adulthood and the gap it creates in the way young people receive support as they transition from childhood to adulthood. This made me think about two things; 1) how I’m really interesting in digital safeguarding as a foundation for all online interactions but that it’s really broad and complicated area to understand, and 2) that thinking about how people interact with digital services as in-flux transitions rather than beginning or ending fixed states opens more possibilities to meet people where they are but is also really complicated. Our language doesn’t lend itself to describing things that are changing, so then how do we even talk about it, let alone develop the mental models to understand transitions deeply. Every user interface shows the fixed states between the transitions (however temporary they may be). I don’t even know how to start thinking about this.

Creating a writing habit

I write quite a lot. I write documents at work, weeknotes every week, and occasional blog posts. These are quite formalised, so I wanted to try to create more of a habit of writing more freely and spontaneously. So I decided I’m going to try to write a blog post every day throughout October. Of course, in my usual way I started planning what I would write about each day, collecting research, making notes, and completely missing the point of building a habit of writing spontaneously. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.

And read about:

Liberating structures

I’ve reading through the Liberating Structures menu to think more about how virtual meetings might be better, if they can’t be done asynchronously, of course.

Digital nomads

As I’ve been considering starting up my Digital Nomad Newsletter again I’ve been reading other digital nomad newsletters, including Playing with ideas, Wayward Wayfarer, Nomad Hacker, The History of Digital Nomading and Diary of a Digital Nomad.

My growth area:

Giving feedback

I was asked to give feedback for a colleague. I thought about it for a couple of days, I looked at this, and thought more about number ten: understanding what they value, and then wrote my feedback. I couldn’t provide feedback that helps them improve in their discipline. I could only help them apply their discipline towards making a better product. But this is my objective. It might not be theirs, but they didn’t tell me what there’s is. I’m left thinking that my feedback is less than useful because I don’t have any context in which to provide it. So, my growth area this week is to try to understand what the point of providing feedback is, what is it suppose to achieve.

Breaking down hierarchies

I went to the Barnardo’s Social Innovation Lab breakfast meetup on the topic of breaking down hierarchies.

It was interesting to hear other people talking about the hierarchies of authority and how we can build networks that provide different ways for different people to hold power. My way of thinking immediately conceives of hierarchies and networks from a systems interaction point of view, so it’s good for me to get a more people orientated perspective.

One of the ideas we talked about was how hierarchies create spaces, and how access to those spaces is controlled. There are spaces that certain people aren’t invited too, or are given limited and temporary access but then excluded from. And there are people who gain access to those kinds of space through informal means such as being focused on a mission, rather than through formal means such as their role. Perhaps it is only by accessing those guarded spaces that those outside the hierarchy can influence it. Different environments create different conversations and so it’s important for those higher up in the hierarchy to stay connected to others in other positions to be able to make empathetic decisions.

Why we should measure charity impact more widely

When it comes to doing good in the world charities aren’t the only show in town. Social movements such as gender equality and black lives matter, and ethical & socially responsible businesses such as Patagonia and Warby Parker demonstrate that positive impact can be achieved without being a nonprofit organisation. So, where does this leaves charities? If social impact can be achieved by organisations that are financially self-sustaining and without the need for an organisation at all, then it leaves charities stuck in the ‘squeezed middle’ between the two, justifying their place in the for-good landscape.

In pushing out of that middle, charities need to be able to demonstrate their impact, to be accountable to funders for how they spend money, to the public (and perhaps the press although not justifiably so) to ward off questions about the need for their existence, and also for themselves to know that they are doing a good job and making a difference. It’s this accountability that makes charities different to social movements and for-profit businesses. Not just accountability for spending money, but accountable for achieving impact. But impact is a difficult thing to define and even more difficult to measure, especially across the wide range of different charities that make up the charity sector.

There is an argument for charities to measure impact against their mission. This approach suggests each charity be clear about it’s mission and measure it’s impact accordingly without the need for defining measures that work consistently for all charities or adhering to externally applied regulations. If a charity’s mission is, for example, to prevent a particular species from extinction then it’s impact in achieving that mission can be considered simply by asking if that species is nearer or farther away from extinction following the charities work. A simple, single measure that applies whatever the charity. But simple, single measures only ever provide a small part of the picture. To go down the route of measuring impact narrowly against each charity’s mission is to fall into the trap of businesses measuring their performance by their bottom line. It provides a limited understanding, which risks being used to make the wrong decisions.

But there is another approach to consider. Rather than focus on the measurement of mission, charities could seek to demonstrate the wider benefit they bring to society. They could demonstrate the positive sentiment they create, the good vibes people get from supporting charities. And the benefits volunteering brings to people, not to mention the state in reducing social care needs and the commercial sector in giving people work experience. And sense of pride and achievement felt but those who work in and for charities to make a difference. And the security that people in need get from knowing that charities are there to help, even if they don’t need them right now. Charities do so much more good in the world than just in achieving their missions. This is their impact, and we should celebrate the widest possible definition of the impact charities have on the world we live in.

Adjacencies: work together better by knowing more about how others work

I have a hypothesis: the more you understand other disciplines the better you can collaborate with people from those disciplines. Working in multidisciplinary teams assumes the team has all the skills it needs to get the job, but by creating silos of skills within the team. If everyone on the team had some skills from all the disciplines they work with there would bean overlap effect that help everyone understand each other better. Shared knowledge creates shared understanding and a more effective team.

So I want to test this hypothesis in a vary unscientific way by doing courses in adjacent skill sets to mine, writing a guide about that jobs skill set, and try to get people to read them and learn a how bunch of adjacent skills to see if it does help work better with their colleagues.

Since it’s an area I know, I’ll start with digital jobs:

  • Product manager
  • Service designer
  • Delivery manager
  • Content editor
  • Project manager
  • Business analyst
  • User Interface/Interaction Designer
  • Developer
  • Data scientist

First, because I’ve already done the course, is Service Design. I need to write some kind of guide to service design for non service designers, including the history of the discipline, tools and techniques, methods, applications and limitations.

I don’t know how long this is going to take me, but maybe once I’ve done all of these I can think about even more adjacent jobs and expand outwards.

Weeknotes #266

Photo of the week:

I took this photo just after going for swim in the sea. It’s always such a real experience but even more so as the sea of getting colder.

This week I did:

The undesigned path

We’ve been doing quite a bit of work on a service blueprint and it’s made us consider the things that shouldn’t happen but probably will. These are the undesigned paths, the things users might do that takes them away from our designed paths. It would be impossible for us the think of all the different things users could do as they try to accomplish a task, and we can’t always prevent them from taking these paths, but we can try to make it as easy as possible to get back on to the designed path.

If your name’s not down

Identity verification is complicated thing. I’ve been working on a framework for reaching levels of confidence that a person is who they say they are. It’s a really interesting problem to solve because there are so many different real life scenarios that we need to cater for, but we also need have a means of codifying and recording that a person’s identity has been verified. Personally, I love this kind of complex problem solving that connects messy real life to digital systems, and professionally I hope it helps contribute to a workable solution. It’s part of what I love about being a product manager in a charity.

From good ideas to social good

I finished my dissertation about innovation processes in charities, which means I’ve finished my masters. It felt good to move it from the Now column on my roadmap, where it’s been for two years, to the Done column. But what next? What am I going to do with all the time I’ll have?

Retro

Another new month, another retro to look back at what I’ve been doing to achieve my goals. My two big lessons were that focusing on fewer things makes it easier to achieve them on schedule (like dissertations) and that adding things to my delivery plan that don’t actually require any effort to achieve is kind of pointless.

Build upon or replace

I wrote about the difference between building upon things to improve them over time against building new things to replace them. I think making more conscious choices about building things in ways that they can built upon might help us create a more sustainable future.

I thought about:

Visual communications

I’ve been thinking, and want to write about, using visual communication more effectively for asynchronous working. It’s much harder to get right than written communication because it doesn’t have such a well established language. Most of us don’t implicitly understand things like the difference between a diagram and map (a map has spatial relationships whereas a diagram doesn’t), and being limited to two-dimensions can limit and constrain complex thing. I’m not even sure how to approach figuring this out other than starting by uncovering the problems with visual communication and see where it takes me.

Digital gardens and networked thoughts

I’ve been thinking about digital gardens and their use in creating a network of thoughts to evolve ideas over time. The usual approach to this seems to be to use a digital note-taking system where if an idea that has previously been added in mentioned again that it has a hyperlink to the original. I think it’s meant to help show how the same idea gets reused in different posts but all the examples I’ve seen look too neat and clean to be in any real use. My notes are all over the place, including sketched onto a window, in a notebook, added to Notion, shared onto my website, dropped onto Miro, added to my weeknotes, and all without being able to connect them other than through memory, which is against the point of using a digital garden.

The other issue I struggle to understand with networking thoughts and ideas in this way is that as a conceptual model, networks don’t show time. So, if the point of a digital garden is to be able to help thought evolving over time, how does having connecting relationships between thoughts help achieve this? I wonder if it’s try to show ideas on a kind of evolution diagrams that shows the point-in-time state of an idea at multiple intervals, like how primates came from fish, and that’s just got the visual wrong, or whether the fundamental concept is flawed.

Either way, I’ll continue to explore note-taking as a thinking tool even if it’s just to help me understand the problem better, which I don’t really have a good grasp on yet.

Adjacency

I was chatting to someone about job skills and it made me think about how expanding our professional skill sets into adjacent fields would have lots of benefits. For me, my adjacencies might be service design, user experience, business analysis, maybe even a bit programming, and I think it should create better understanding across the team as there would be a more common language, mean that different team members can fill gaps and work together more effectively.

A charity’s purpose

I’m still reading Sarah Mitchell’s Charity Management, and this passage caught my attention, “the aim of a charity is to fulfill their mission”. Sarah is writing abut how charities might benefit from having more focus on doing only the things that contribute to achieving their mission and stopping doing things that don’t. In general, I agree that focus is a good thing, but I also wonder if too much focus negates the possibility of the positive second and third order effects that charities have. Charities provide so much more value to society that just that which comes from serving their beneficiaries to achieve their mission. Having volunteers doesn’t just benefit the charity, the volunteers also get lots of good from it too. If it’s a charity that supports children with learning difficulties, for example, then the families of those children also get benefits. If the charity forms relationships and partnerships with other organisations then the network that results can share knowledge and create improvements. The good charities have in the world extends much further than just in achieving their mission.

Maybe it’s a similar question to the idea that if a charity achieves its purpose it should shut down. I say no, because that is such a waste of all the expertise, infrastructure, systems and relationships that have been built over time and could be directed at other social issues. The problem isn’t that the charity that has achieved mission isn’t needed anymore, the problem is that a charity can only work on a narrowly defined mission.

And my growth area this week:

Confident communication

I’m not a natural communicator. As an introvert who gets easily obsessed with analysing things I usually forget to take people with me when I’m thinking through a problem. I try really hard to communicate clearly, but it doesn’t come easily. This week I received some nice feedback from a colleague who said that I did really well in getting their thoughts onto paper (or Miro) and helping them understand things. But I feel like there is still lots to improve in how I communicate, so this week I’ve been more conscious in considering what the audience might want or need to know, what existing knowledge they do or don’t have, how the visuals, written words and spoken words are all telling the same story. The test will be next week when I’m presenting on a complicated topic. Hopefully I’ll get some sense of whether the slides are pitched at the right level and whether I can explain the topic clearly enough to get to the answers we want.

Retrospective August 2021

This month’s lessons: focusing on fewer things makes it much easier to to stay on schedule (who knew) and having things on a delivery plan that just happen without any focus is kind of missing the point.

Contributing to the digital transformation of the charity sector

I got where I needed to with product requirements for two of the three projects. The third project has a more extended timeline and a slower pace, so will come in time. Also did a little bit of strategy work using Wardley mapping, which has got me thinking.

Learning about innovation, technology, product and design

Finished my dissertation. Which means I’ve finished my masters. It feels weird. Partly because it’s been a big part of my life for two years and now all that pressure is suddenly gone. It’s going to leave a big gap. And partly because I can’t do anything more about the final grade I get. It’s out of my hands now. A lesson I need to take into whatever I choose to spend my time doing next is that in order to get me to focus, that thing needs to have some external commitment (for my masters that was the money I’d paid) and some future benefit to achieve (which is getting the masters). Other projects I’ve started before haven’t had either of those and I quickly lose interest when I have a new idea.

Wrote weeknotes on schedule every week. I’ve been mixing them up a bit by adding a photo of the week, things I’m grateful for, and what my growth area for the week has been. They continue to be a really good prompt to looking back over the week.

Leading an intentional life

I reached a new level of appreciation for my digital nomad life this month. I started a map to keep track of the places I’ve visited. I saw dolphins, seals and a lizard.

I completely smashed my purposely low target for stiles. I have 348 on stiles.style whereas my target for this month was 315.

I achieved the increase in runway I was aiming for.

All three of these targets are starting to feel out of place on my delivery plan. They just happen without me needing to give them any focus so I think I might drop them and think about whether I should add something else. I still think of them as being part of the goal of leading an intentional life so they should be on my roadmap, but not on the delivery plan.

The ‘old A30’ and building on top of what went before

If we want a sustainable future we have to build things that can be built on top of

‘The old A30’ is now a nature reverse where kids ride bikes, old couples go for walks on Sundays, and the occasional adder suns itself. Before this old road was replaced by the new A30 it was one of the busiest roads in Cornwall, notorious for traffic jams and accidents. But before it was a metaled road for the modern motorcar it was a coaching route for horse-drawn coaches traveling between Bodmin and Indian Queens. And long before that it may have been used by the Roman army marching between the east and west sides of Cornwall. And even longer before that it might have a prehistoric trackway. It’s had quite a history.

What makes that history fascinating, when looking back from our point in history, is how the road was built upon over time. The same road, taking more or less the same route, serving the same purpose, for thousands of years. Until now. Now it’s no longer a road. It was replaced, not build upon as it had been generation after generation, but replaced with something completely new.

Replacing things rather than repairing and upgrading them can’t be a purely 20th/21st century idea, but it isn’t hard to see how the technological innovation, capitalism, free market and competition, consumerism, advertising, and a thousand other things of the last few hundred years have formed the psyche of the modern world that leads us to think that building new things to replace old things is better than building upon old things.

Maybe what we can build upon and what we must replace depends on the nature of the thing. Are physical things different to immaterial things? Perhaps the first communication network people ever build was signal fires on beacon hills to warn settlements in the valleys below of invading clans. Millennia later, legend has it that once there was a time where there was nowhere a person could stand in England and not hear church bells ringing out to call worshipers from the fields and villages. The churches formed a different communications network, with a different purpose and using different technology, than the signal fires. They did not build upon or replace the physical infrastructure of the signal fires, but perhaps they took similar ideas about mass communication and built upon them.

New technologies brought new communication networks. Radio and television didn’t replace or build upon the churches and bell ringing, anymore than they did so with the signal fires, but the idea of broadcasting the same message to the masses from a central location was built upon and taken to further with refined messages available all day everyday. And then came the internet and the world wide web. Building upon those mass communication ideas and upon the telecommunications infrastructure, replacing old wires with new, and enabling more people to send a receive even more refined messages, the internet can trace it’s origins back to those signal fires that stood ready to warn our ancestors of danger.

How much of what we build today is built with a future in mind that includes being built upon? Our modern business thinking conditions us to believe that being disrupted and replaced as a bad thing, unless we’re the ones doing the replacing, beating the competition by achieving the competitive advantage that comes from customer lock-in and network effects. Where collaboration is mentioned in business plans and strategic text books it is as a means of partnering with other organisations to achieve even greater competitive advantage. Never is any thought given to collaborating with future organisations, in as yet un-imagined ways by building things that can be built upon.

If we want to create a sustainable future we must consider whether to replace or to build upon, what to take from before or to create new, and when to be competitive or truly collaborative. When we build things we should have an eye on the possible future of what could be built upon our thing and make that it a reality. We can give the builders of the future more choices if we make the right decisions now.

Weeknotes #265

Photo of the week

Great Wheal Charlotte

All that’s left of a now abandoned tin and copper mine on the Cornish coast.

This week I did:

Turning dreams into reality

I think a product managers job is to turn dreams into reality, ideas into things, abstract concepts into real understanding. Usually that means bringing those dreams crashing down. In reality, things take longer and are more complicated than people’s ideas and expectations. I’ve spent quite a lot of time this week trying to let people down gently as I smash their dreams of a perfect product that automates all the boring work, achieves operational efficiencies, and provides mind-blowing user experience. Such is the process of gathering and refining requirements, distilling and filtering them down into a manageable scope of work.

The end is nigh

I’ve been working on the introduction and conclusion for my dissertation, and hope to put all the sections together and finish it this weekend. I’ve learned a lot from it and reached conclusions I didn’t think I would. I will be glad when it’s done but I’m also going to miss studying and the pressure it puts on me so I’ll definitely need to think carefully about what I focus on in the coming months.

I thought about:

The future of influence at work

Gaining influence at work used to be about people getting to know people, and it’s still very much that way in meeting-orientated organisations, but as remote work shifts towards more asynchronous communications methods the way we build our influence at work will change. Influence will come from written and pictorial communication rather than spoken. People will demonstrate the quality of their thinking in how they create diagrams or write convincingly, rather than ow they talk in meetings. It starts to make influence somehow more evidence-based than using relying on social cues. Written language, although still completely open to interpretation and misunderstanding, has more of an agreed understanding, but visual communication requires learning a new language. All the concepts of design; information architecture, use of space, size, proportion, etc., it all becomes necessary to understand into to understand the diagrams. So, influence through visual work isn’t as easy as just using images, diagrams and maps.

Selection mechanisms

I could call this a ‘prioritisation method’, but the word prioritisation is so overused that it’s lost meaning, so I prefer to call the stuff I’ve been thinking about ‘selection mechanisms’. It’s basically about choosing the right criteria to judge something by and how you get information for each criteria to make the judgement. The three criteria for the selection mechanism I’ve been using this week were: How essential is it? How complex is it? How certain is it? So, for example, if a requirement is essential, doesn’t have lots of variation to make it complex, and is well understood to make it certain, then we’ll put it in scope. Why three? Because we usually have two criteria, e.g., the Impact Effort matrix, because it makes it easier to represent in a diagram, and I want to explore how having three dimensions leads to better more nuanced decisions.

Game theory for project planning

What if, rather than project planning being able coming up with ‘the one and only plan for how things are supposed to work out’, we used game theory scenario planning to explore multiple ways projects could work out. What if, all the people who are on the project and a few others to play external actors, played out hypothetical scenarios for different ways the project could happen. And what if our understanding of project plans was based on possibilities and potential outcomes rather than things being fixed and changes being considered deviations?

And read:

Charity management

I started reading Charity Management: Leadership, Evolution, and Change by Sarah Mitchell. It is full of challenging questions, like ‘are charities making a significant difference?’ and ‘can they do better?’,and interesting ideas like charities as innovators for the state (I may have mentioned that idea before), how the diversity of the sector is a strength and a weakness, and how market mechanisms do or don’t work for charities. So far, it’s a really good book.

Developing Mastery in a Digital Age

Kenneth Mikkelsen writes about how leaders need to use learning to lead successfully. I like the idea of ‘Seek, sense, share’, and have previously read about leadership as sense-making, which seems to fit into what Mikkelsen talks about. It’s an ‘input-process-output’ approach and perhaps doesn’t seem to consider connecting and compounding as parts of the process, but it’s very interesting nonetheless. I think I’ve decided, for the moment at least, that I’m interested in leadership from the perspective of someone who is lead. Almost everything I read on leadership is from the perspective of helping people become better leaders, perhaps with the assumption that good leaders automatically create followers. I wonder why there isn’t much written about being a good ‘leadee’?

This week I’m grateful for:

Seeing dolphins

I went to beach one evening. I took my laptop and notebook but forgot my short and diving mask. As I sat there writing random ideas and staring out to sea I saw dolphins arcing out of the water a few hundred metres away. I’m so appreciative of the life I lead and I hope I never lose that.

Weeknotes #264

This week I did:

Solutions principles

I’ve been working with lots of stakeholders to get a deeper understanding of all of their problems and looking for commonalities to create principles and models for solutions. One example is four different teams who all need to use the data our product collects but for different things. The solution model provides a way to think about the data sets together and how making a change in one place affects other processes elsewhere. I really enjoy getting into these kinds of complex modelling problems and abstracting them to simple principles.

Charity innovation model

I’m onto the theory building stage of my dissertation and fours weeks away from the submission deadline. I’m developing a theoretical model that describes how charities approach innovation by placing them in a matrix of incremental to radical and organisational to social innovation.

Top-down or bottom-up?

I wrote some of my thoughts about top-down and bottom-up planning and the use of the right reasoning behind both of them.

Hitting bottom

I made it to Land’s End, so now I’m heading up the other side of the country. And I started adding the places I visit to a map, not in any way to track progress because it’s not meant to be a mission but just so I can look back on it later.

333

I’ve collected 333 stiles on stiles.style. But what makes it the greatest collection of styles on the internet? Is it quantity, the sheer number of stiles? Or is it the gleeful grin I have on my face as I run up to a newly found stile with my phone out to take the photo? I’ll let you decide.

And this week thought about:

How far upstream should charities operate?

It seems to me that most charities act on problems at a down-stream point closest to the impact, and not many take solutions up-steam to prevent the problem form happening. The reasons why are multiple and complex, but maybe social innovation offers some thoughts about whether charities should be involved in creating bigger solutions to wicked problems.

Value Chain Mapping

John Cutler tweeted about ‘the product’ being the value chain that takes the value an organisation produces out into the world for the customer. There is a truism that clear deep thinking seems obvious when you look back at it, and this idea is one of those, but it slightly blew my mind. It seems like an important part of the definition of a product that isn’t talked about much. I also watched Introduction to Value Chain Mapping by Simon Wardley to help me think through a bit about how value chain mapping applies to product strategy.

So far I’ve been thinking about how it helps to identify the uniqueness of the product which helps to understand the UPS, competitive advantage and how to make decisions. For example, the unique thing about our courses is how much support we offer for those doing the courses, so that’s quite far to the left in the Genesis section (which I also interpret as unique/specialist). Because each of our courses is different we need to develop a website that can handle the variation rather than use an off-the-shelf elearning product, so that goes somewhere in the middle-to-left. We don’t need unique website hosting so that goes over to the right.

I’ve also been thinking about where to add intangible parts of the value chain such as the skills and knowledge of the people who manage the training to help us answer questions like, ‘if we improve the skills and knowledge of the trainers, how much will that improve the quality of the product?’.

Big things beat little things

FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) is used to “describe a particular pattern of decision making that supports rapid, low-cost innovation“, but it is often counter to enterprise IT strategies that see the benefits in only having a few large systems to maintain. Maybe Agile is an attempt to move the FIST characteristics out of the technology and into the processes, and so realise the benefits of working quickly with small things within enterprise technology stacks and large organisation strategies. Will it work? Probably not. Big things beat little things.

On the theme of big and small, Paul Taylor wrote a post about how we usually think (especially in organisations) that change has to be a big thing but maybe we underestimate the small changes.

Responsibility, given and taken

When you put litter in the bin you are making it someone else’s responsibility, but someone who has chosen to take on that responsibility. If you throw litter on the ground you are abdicating responsibility for it, and it still becomes someone else’s responsibility but there’s less of a socially acceptable agreement there, but it’s not that different. Responsibility is the currency that defines how people operate in groups. It isn’t the distribution of labour, or power and authority. Giving, taking, accepting, refusing responsibility, these are the interesting dynamics of groups.

My growth area this week:

Not causing chaos

This week I’ve been trying to be more conscious in how I frame information and communicate about uncertain things in ways that don’t cause chaos and confusion. It’s difficult to know how well I’m doing, but just not communicating isn’t an option so at least trying to do so intentionally is hopefully a little better.

Productivity and the need to finish things

Done is better than perfect- Sheryl Sandberg

“If you want to be productive, stop starting things and start finishing things.”

Hmmm, I’m not so sure. I’m not sure that productivity really comes from finishing things. Ok, perhaps by the technical definition of producing things something is only valuable if its finished. And who wants a half finished cup or a pen they didn’t bother to fill with ink? So, whatever you’re creating, it needs to do the job its designed for, but it rarely needs to be perfectly finished. Finished can mean good enough.

The other problem I find with the idea that things have to be finished and the ‘sit still and be a good little school boy, don’t fidget, don’t get distracted’ mentality on productivity is that it isn’t natural for me. It actually creates procrastination because if you’re thoughts about the thing you’re working on get blocked you are supposed to continue to focus on that piece of work until you become unblocked.

When I’m writing or doing any kind of linear flow work, if my thoghts stop mid sentence I stop writing. I don’t try to force the thoughts and finish the sentence, I just just move onto the next thought. I acn come back later and edit but right now I want to get as many thoughts out as quickly as possible.

And when I go back to edit, am I aiming for perfection? No, of course not. I’m aiming for what I wrote to communicate an idea in some vaguely sensicle way. I’m not aiming for a perfect piece of writing. If I can convey the idea well enough in a short amount of time then that’s good enough for me. Time to move on.

The majority of the work I do is probably like this. I aim for the 80% of value from 20% of the effort, and when it’s good enough to its job I move on. I don’t have time to go back and polish it to get that last 20% of value out of the work. I could. I could validate my thinking more, double the words are familiar with the target audience, make sure the diagrams all line up, et., etc. I could spend ages making it perfect, but really, who has the time.

Done is good enough.