Fast flow of value: the why of transformation

Organisations succeed when they have a fast flow of value.

Fast, because our users get value early and often and we get feedback sooner. Flow, because smooth efficient processes reduce waste. And value, because quality outcomes make it worth it.

Removing the barriers to a fast flow of value is the transformational work all organisations need.

Agile, lean, dev ops, digital, remote working; all of these are the tools of transformation, they aren’t the transformation. Being agile or digital isn’t the point, the point of transformation is achieving a fast flow of value.

The five goals of a charity

All charities try to achieve five things:

  • Organisational resilience
  • Income generation
  • Operational efficiency
  • Service delivery
  • Influencing others

Retrospective February 2023

The lesson for this month; not having a clear schedule for other things in life impacts on me doing the planned things. As I get back to having more structured days it’ll be easier to do planned work.

Contributing to the digital transformation of the non-profit sector

Working at a national non-profit organisation to embed product thinking and practice

Be a better manager

I’ve been trying to be more available for my team, with varied success.

Create a better environment

Setting up the environment for the team to create successful products and services had been my maintain focus this month, with the technology/feasibility part of that being where I’ve made the most progress.

Deliver projects faster

This is still an area of concern for me. There are a number of things we can experiment with, but making any real progress is going to take a while.

Participating in online communities for social good, innovation, product and digital

Didn’t do anything on this goal. Haven’t even been in Twitter much.

Continually developing my knowledge, skills and practice

Formal education

British Sign Language

Still haven’t done anything on my BSL course.

Gitlab Remote Working course

Nothing on this course either.

Microsoft Learn



I finished The Phoenix Project and read more of Delivery Management.

Informal learning

Product Management Zone

I started a new product management resource directory, mostly to learn a bit more about Airtable and Softr.

Irregular Ideas

I’ve taken a break from writing Irregular Ideas. Part of the point of writing it was to get better at writing, but I’m not really able to focus enough at the moment to write well so I’d rather write nothing.


I’ve got one email to write and add to this, and it’s been on my to do list for ages, but I still didn’t get around to it. I’m not sure it’ll make much difference but I want to get the thinking about how charity product managers achieve value wrapped up.

Magix Team

Didn’t do anything with this. I have ideas, but not the focus.

Reflective practice

I wrote weeknotes on schedule every week. That’s about the only thing I’ve managed to maintain any consistency for. I haven’t really written much each day.

Leading an intentional life


Was indoors most of the month.

Health & well-being

Walked only very occasionally.

Financial independence

Started arranging to by a house.

User-centred vs user-rhizomed

What does ‘user-centred’ mean?

User-centered design is an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process.

Interaction Design Foundation

When we put the user at the centre of what we’re doing, we’re implying that it makes them the most important part, that meeting their needs comes first, and that all other things are less important. But ‘centre-ing’ the user can be problematic. It can result in not considering things that that are important, but aren’t important for meeting the users needs. Training shoes that fit well is a user need, but if that’s all you’re thinking about you probably wouldn’t include the people that have to stitch the shoes, or pollution from the delivery lorries, or , because the focus is on meeting the user need.

There is a different way to think about it.

What is a rhizome?

A rhizome is a structure that has no centre and no predefined path meaning it can grow in different directions from any point, at the same time. It comes from botany. Ginger, mint, lilies and bamboo are all rhizomes.

French post-structuralists, Deleuze and Guattari use the term “rhizome” to describe all kinds of structures that don’t have a centre, can be accessed from lots of different points, and that those points can be connected to any other point, not matter how similar or different. Rhizomes have no beginning or end, they are always in the middle, between things.

The internet is a rhizome. It has no centre, new websites are set-up regardless of other websites, it expands in lots of different and unpredictable directions.

Thinking about rhizomes helps us question hierarchies, such as that one thing, i.e., the user, is more important than another, e.g., the planet, make connections between interrelated things, and accept the opening up of opportunities that are beyond what we can see at this point in time.

What does being user-rhizomed mean?

Placing the user in a rhizome shows their relationship to lots of other, more or less, important things. It doesn’t negate the design process or prevent the whole user experience from being considered, instead it recognises that other things which aren’t directly focused on the user might be equally important and worth incorporating into the design process.

User-rhizome-ness opens opportunities rather than defining paths. When we look at the branch of a tree we can predict which direction it will grow in, but that’s not true of a rhizome. When we look at a rhizome we can’t tell where it started, where it’s going to end, or how it got to what it is now. This is a more accurate description of how users behave and interact with a product or service or organisation. User-centred thinking tries to tell us that people follow predictable linear paths, and that the job of design is to create those paths and ensure they are followed. But user-rhizomed thinking would allow for users to connect with other parts of the structure in unpredictable ways, and for parts of the structure to connect with other parts aside from the user.

What is user-rhizomed design?

Who knows. It hasn’t been created yet. Perhaps it will involve more systems thinking. Perhaps it will build on the techniques of user-centred design, perhaps it will throw them out. The future of user-rhizomed design is rhizomatic.

How Afrofuturism might provide a framework for thinking about technology charities

Technology charities of the future

As charities go through digital transformation and use more and more technology in their work, we should expect that technology to fundamentally change what it means to be a charity and to have a positive effect on the world.

It’s likely we’ll see ‘technology charities’ emerging in the not too distant future in the same way technology companies have come about over the past few decades. For charities using technology to enable their work, and those that use it as core to how they create social value, now is the right time to start to consider how to understand and approach the technology of the future.

“Technology is never neutral and it’s always concerned with the future. So why not look to a frame that’s also about imagining futures and takes questions of power head on”

Taylor Owen

The problem with tech-optimism

The idea that technology makes things better, by default or purely because it exists, has come to be known as tech-optimism. The tech-optimist perspective believes that any social and environmental problem can be solved by developing more technology. But this belief, and it really is just a belief, has history and it has issues.

Much of the tech-optimist perspective with have today grew up with Silicon Valley entrepreneurial culture and the ideal of the young white male founder. This perspective gets epitomised in the tech billionaires like Bezos and Musk but really it’s deeply embedded in all tech culture that prioritises convenience for the user and effects at scale. What it lacks is an understanding what it means for someone to not have access to things, or any consideration for the people who get left behind or who are negatively impacted.

Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite for making mobile phone and electric vehicle batteries is mined in the Republic of the Congo, by hand, often by children (Frankel, 2016). Would mobile phones be different today if Congolese children had been involved in designing the first iPhone?

The problem with tech-optimism is that the people designing the technology have never been affected by it. They don’t have enough experience of the barriers that discrimination and inequality create. They are removed from the consequences. And the problem with almost all technology is that it is rooted in this kind of tech-optimism.

Charities then, as a force for good in the world, have to think critically about how they view their use of technology in achieving their mission. It isn’t good enough to adopt an academically-unsound, environmentally-damaging, socially-unequal tech-optimist perspective just because it’s dominant and because using technology helps ‘their’ people.

There has to be another way.

Finding a shared perspective

In 1994, cultural critic Mark Dery came up with the term “Afrofuturism” in an essay titled “Black to the Future.” Black people, he wrote, have “other stories to tell about culture, technology and things to come.”

Afrofuturism, it’s aesthetics, stories and philosophies existed long before Dery named it.

Jone Johnson Lewis, a women’s history writer who has been involved with the women’s movement since the late 1960s, says, “Afrofuturism can be seen as a reaction to the dominance of white, European expression, and a reaction to the use of science and technology to justify racism and white or Western dominance and normativity.”

Julian C. Chambliss, Professor of English at Michigan State University, says, “Afrofuturist works ask audiences to think about how society can be made safe for everyone.”

Ian Forrester describes Afrofuturism as, “not just an aesthetic — it’s just as much a framework for activism and imagining new technologies”.

Add all of this up and Afrofuturism, with its recognition that the global status quo is one of political, economic, social, and even technical inequality, offers a way of looking at technology, how it is developed and used that challenges tech-optimism. Charities recognise and share that worldview too. When they look at the world they see its problems. So there’s some overlap there. Perhaps afrofuturism offers a lens to help charities look at technology in a different way.

Looking at charity technology

It’s this lens for imagining more inclusive technology that makes afrofuturism a useful framework for the future of technology in charities.

It means not only grappling with technical considerations but also the sociocultural implications of how the technology works and how it might be used. It means including people who are affected in the decisions that affect them. It means going beyond recognising and then accepting algorithmic bias and access issues. It means charity technologist educating themselves about the issues in the global supply chain. Perhaps it means using refurbished laptops to take a stance on cobalt mining, or selecting hosting services that run on renewable energy, or collecting less data. And it definitely means making conscious choices that are for the greater good.

There is no perfect solution that immediately ensures a charity’s use of technology is net positive, but challenging the dominant tech-optimist way of thinking about technology and considering other perspectives like afrofuturism will be vitally important for the technology charities of the future.


Chambliss, J. C. Why Afrofuturism matters: Deep dive into the cultural movement and its tenets.

Danaher, J. 2022. Philosophy & Technology 35: 54. Techno‑optimism: an Analysis, an Evaluation and a Modest Defence.

Frankel, T. C. 2016. The Cobalt Pipeline. Washington Post.

Königs, P. 2022. Philosophy & Technology 35: 63. What is Techno‑Optimism?

Ogbunu, C. B. 2020. How Afrofuturism Can Help the World Mend.

Owen, T. 2021. C. Brandon Ogbunu on Afrofuturism as a Tech Framework.

Johnson Lewis, J. 2018. Afrofuturism: Imagining an Afrocentric Future.

Winchester, III, W. W. 2019. Engaging the Black Ethos: Afrofuturism as a Design Lens for Inclusive Technological Innovation. Journal of Futures Studies, December 2019, 24(2): 55–62.

Horizon scanning for product managers

I’m increasingly convinced that the success of a product is less to do with what goes on inside an organisation and more about how what’s going on outside affects the entire system that the product is part of, including the organisation, the users, suppliers, competitors, etc., etc.

If I’m right, then product managers that focus on internal tactical improvements, things like what format the roadmap should take or how to write the perfect user story, aren’t going to have the impact they should. Product managers that know what’s going on around their product and how to respond to it and the ones that will make their product successful.

So, I’m trying to figure out how product managers might do this kind of horizon scanning and sensing how to respond. One idea for the scanning part is looking at trends.

Macro trends

Macro trends are “major shifts in consumer behaviour that will direct the business landscape in the long term. They have a cross-industry impact and evolve over time.”

A product manager might look at:

  • Technology trends, especially emerging tech.
  • Social trends
  • Government policy changes
  • Economy

A good place to start is looking at macro trend reports:

These trend reports are often sales and marketing for the company providing them, and lack any information about where a trend came from or where it’s going. Instead they tend to just be a snapshot of ideas so should be considered critically but having some idea of what things look interesting and impactful

Micro trends

Micro trends are “business and economic trends that are associated with specific market sectors.”

Every market sector has trends; fashion, food, transport, etc., etc.. Some sectors change more often and more quickly than others but understanding the micro trends for the sectors that affect the users of a product,

A product manager might look at:

  • Employment within a sector
  • Influencers, new entrants and organisations with history
  • Media, especially advertising
  • News coverage

Understanding trends

Trends don’t exist in isolation. Understanding the difference between micro and macro trends and how they affect each other is also an interesting consideration for product managers. Not easy for anyone to ever understand fully, but definitely worth exploring.

What next?

I’m going try to create a systems map with a product in the middle and the micro and macro trends that affect the product through it’s users.

Goals for 2023

Contributing to the digital transformation of the the non-profit sector

Working at a national non-profit organisation to embed product thinking and practice

My focus at work will be on:

  • Being a better manager
  • Building the right environment
  • Delivering projects

Participating in online communities for social good, innovation, product and digital

Since I can’t participate in communities, I’ll contribute through writing and exploring ideas in digital product innovation in charities, including:

Continually developing my knowledge, skills and practice

Completing formal education courses

I’ll try to complete courses in:

  • Microsoft Learn courses for Dynamics.
  • British Sign Language – level 1.
  • GitLab Remote Working.

Informal learning through side-projects

My informal learning will be through:

  • Irregular Ideas – Email newsletter about humanity and technology.
  • Magix Team – Book and/or email course on organising flexible teams around multiple projects in resource-constrained environments.
  • Interface. Integrate. Iterate. Impact – Email course exploring the role good product management can play in charities.

Regular reflection on progress and barriers

I’ll try to maintain a cadence of:

Living an intentional life

Following a nomadic lifestyle

Improving physical and mental well-being

  • Walk every day.
  • Swim in sea.
  • Run.
  • Understand my autism better.

Maintaining financial security

  • Buy a house.

2022 annual review

What I did and didn’t do towards my goals in 2022.

I rethought my goals, from three quite practical goals to one more philosophical goal/way of life. Both approaches align with my principles, but the practical goals offer more structure and a consistent way to reflect on what I did in 2022 to achieve them.

Contributing to the digital transformation of the the non-profit sector

Working at a national non-profit organisation to embed product thinking and practice

I’ve been in my role as Product & Delivery Lead for a year now. I’ve really enjoyed it, but there have been some challenges, including figuring out what it means to manage a team that you don’t work with, and having too much focus on delivering projects and so not having enough time to work on the environment where product managers can create valuable, feasible, viable products.

Some successes:

  • Recruiting really good people to the team. They’re all fantastic.
  • Introducing an approach to continuous improvement for products that uses the theory of constraints and data to make decisions.
  • Establishing more robustness around security, infrastructure and management processes for both that help us have the solid foundations we need for creating great products.
  • Starting work on a strategy for managing technology that brings it closer to organisational objectives – something I think is essential for a digital-first charity.

Some failures:

  • Not being able to support the team in the ways they need.
  • Two projects failed, which I think could have successfully delivered value if they’d been approached in a different way, and I feel responsible for that not happening.

Participating in online communities for social good, innovation, product and digital

This has proved the toughest goal this and previous years. As an autistic introvert I find it really difficult to participate as part of a community. I want to contribute, I just need to find the right way.

Continually developing my knowledge, skills and practice

Completing formal education courses

I haven’t completed any formal courses this year. I had a few courses on my list that I’m interested in, but the only courses I started was British Sign Language and GitLab’s Remote Working course, neither of which I finished. I think not wanting to spend money was part of it but also appreciating spending so much time relaxing on beaches after doing an MSc last year stopped me from signing up for other courses.

Informal learning through side-projects

The first four months of the year had a focus on side-projects. Some quickly dropped out and some carried on in one way or another. I tried to focus on just a few in the last few months but without a great deal of progress.

I had a little bit of clarity when thinking about side-projects, that it’s actually exploring ideas that I really enjoy, not trying to build a product or diversify income streams, so I wonder if maybe this goal needs to be re-written to include writing/blogging (which is how ) or whether I should think of that as a side project.

Regular reflection on progress and barriers

I wrote weeknotes most weeks to help me reflect on what I did, read and thought about. Even after more than three hundred and thirty editions I still find it helpful to think back about the week.

I also did fairly regular retros and delivery plans to try to get into a cycle of learning from how I did in the previous month and deciding which things to work on next month. It didn’t work as well as I’d hope in focusing me on the things I want to work on, but not doing it definitely isn’t going to help so it just needs some refinement.

Living an intentional life

Following a nomadic lifestyle

It was a great year of being a nomad. I spent April to October living in my car and travelling along the west coast of Wales. I made it up to Holyhead, which I see as the turning point from the west Wales coast line to the north wales coast line. I still find it hard to express what an amazing lifestyle it is and how much joy it brings me.

Improving physical and mental well-being

Leading a very simple life and walking on a different beach every day makes it hard to stressed about anything. It helps me deal with the confusion I struggle with at work.

I started to understand my autism better, and to reflect on how it has affected/affects my life. Looking back at problematic times and situations, I can see how the way it turned out was because of how my brain works and how I understand things, and how I’ve failed to see that others see things so differently. I can see how my life would have turned out very differently if I wasn’t autistic, and maybe that way of life would have been right for a different Roger, but this Roger wouldn’t want a life without all the adventures I’ve had.

I walked most days, some times for hours, so my physical health was pretty good. I never managed to make running stick, but that’s because I never really found the motivation to get over dealing with the practicalities.

Maintaining financial security

My runway is up to 43 months, which puts me in a good position for next year.

How do you know if a product launch is successful?

A successful product launch can be measured by a variety of metrics, including customer feedback, sales figures, and customer retention. It can also be measured by the amount of media attention or social media engagement the launch has generated. Ultimately, a successful product launch should be judged by how much it contributes to the company’s bottom line.

How do product managers create a product strategy?

  1. Establish Goals and Objectives: Product managers should start by establishing clear and measurable goals and objectives for the product. This includes defining business objectives and user needs that the product should meet.
  2. Analyze the Market: Product managers need to analyze the current market and competition to determine the viability of the product. This includes researching customer needs and understanding the competitive landscape.
  3. Define the Target Audience: A key part of any product strategy is understanding the target audience. Product managers should gather data on customer demographics, behaviors, and preferences to define the target audience.
  4. Define the Product: Product managers should define the product, including features, pricing, and positioning. This includes creating a product roadmap that outlines the product’s future development.
  5. Develop a Go-To-Market Strategy: Product managers should develop a go-to-market strategy that outlines how the product will be marketed and sold. This includes defining the channels and target audience for each stage of the product lifecycle.
  6. Monitor Performance and Refine Strategy: Product managers need to continuously monitor the product’s performance and adjust the strategy accordingly. This includes collecting customer feedback and making changes to the product and strategy as needed.