Roger Swannell

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 120)

Variability and uniformity in designing systems for resilience

“Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, the ability to spring back into shape”

If this is the accepted definition of resilience then it’s not surprising that most resilience thinking is around getting things back to the steady state it was in before whatever shake-up occurred. It’s easy to see how traditional management techniques from a mechanistic worldview would assume that resilience in systems is best achieved by uniformity throughout the system, just as manufacturing ball bearings is improved by removing variation and the tolerance for variability.

I wonder if maybe we don’t want to ‘spring back into shape’ but instead form a different shape, evolve based on our response to the difficulties. From this idea I visualise five layers to a system that are organised by how much variability and uniformity is required to ensure the system is able to adapt to difficulties.

The top layer is for Individuals, it has the most variability and least uniformity, and allows the people in the system to be flexible, creative and solve complex problems in innovative ways.

The second layer is the Team. This is where we start to see some uniformity applied to things like roles and responsibilities but still have more variability to empower the team to change the ways they work with ease.

The third and middle layer is Process. Here there are equal amounts of variability and uniformity. There are standardised approaches to completing step-by-step processes but those processes are open to inspection and adaption. Given that there is an equal intersection of variability and uniformity, Process is where changes that affect the whole system can be made most easily.

The fourth layer is the Applications layer. This has greater uniformity with some variability expressed as fixed functionality in the application that can be used in a variety of ways.

The fifth and final layer is Data. This should be as uniform as possible with minimum variability, using a fixed architecture to . Variability down here prevents reliability and so should be avoided.

Thinking of system design from this intersecting scales of variability and uniformity helps to inform how we can build systems that are resilient to difficulties through being able to adapt to change rather than always seeking to return to a previous steady state, which doesn’t prepare the system for facing future difficulties.

Velocity as a measure for products not teams

I’ve been thinking about velocity as a measure for teams and products. The definition of the word is ‘the speed of something in a given direction‘, not just speed as we often think.

Scrum measures velocity, defined as “the amount of work a Team can tackle during a single Sprint … is calculated at the end of the Sprint by totaling the Points for all fully completed User Stories”, as speed alone. USpS is the MpH of the team, it is ‘output velocity’.

So, in this way of thinking, velocity is a team performance metric. It’s narrow, used to understand only the speed of the team, and doesn’t include the direction element from our dictionary definition. The issues that we see with using USpS to measure team speed alone is that the team could easily be moving quickly in the wrong direction (I guess the assumption in Scrum is that direction is provided in other ways), and that measuring human beings in such a mechanistic way is fraught with all kinds of inequalities, assumptions, and biases to the point where it becomes more damaging to the team than it is helpful.

But that doesn’t mean we have to abandon velocity all together. There are other ways of thinking about it as a useful measure. We could define velocity more broadly as ‘speed in the right direction’. Then, this ‘impact velocity’ could be used more to understanding the performance of the Product as it advances towards its goal state, rather than the team as in Scrum. The same team can measure impact velocity across multiple Products, and compare them, and learn from each other.
So, why measure impact velocity at all? If ‘velocity = speed in the right direction’, then the reasons to measure it are to check direction and course correct, and the sooner this is done because there is pace in achieving goals the more likely the team are to achieve mission.

Quality has to be part of our definition of impact velocity, and something that Scrum seems to be criticised for lacking and the resultant shipping of bugs just to get as many user stories completed in that sprint. Velocity is speed in the right direction, not just speed, so quality along the way; quality thinking, quality customer insight, quality deciding, quality building, quality shipping, quality feedback, provide the team with the ability to correct the course of the products and head in the right direction with more speed.

At least now I have a bit of a working definition that I can use to think about and test was of measuring impact velocity on real products.

Weekly update #136

What happened this week…

  • Reviewed defibrillator order management processes to look for improvements.
  • Answered lots of defibrillator enquiries.
  • Processed £9,193 of defibrillator orders (our best week yet).
  • Moved the Central Ordering site to the live sub domain.
  • Finished adding defibrillators to our Facebook Shop.
  • Improved Blood Pressure Monitor pages.
  • Approved samples of our new Bride and Groom pin badges.
  • Discussed invoice processing with the Finance Team.
  • Showing Ex VAT pricing on defibrillators went live.
  • Comparison-shopped other charity wedding favours.
  • Tested using Freshdesk to help manage defibrillator orders.
  • Set up the Tower of London Run hoody.
  • Discussed approaches for selling furniture online and in-store for home delivery.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Setting up defibrillator bundles on the Online Shop.
  • Meeting with ZOLL to discuss progress.
  • Product Management training.
  • Accepting delivery of more Blood Pressure Monitors.
  • Adding Beat The Beacon merchandise to the Online Shop.
  • Planning ahead for some conversion rate optimisation.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • Small businesses account for 38% of enquiries about defibrillators and 42% of orders, Sports clubs are 11% of enquiries and 5% of orders, individuals are 9% of enquiries and 16% of orders, and Churches are 6% of enquiries and 11% of orders.

In the not too distant future…

  • Launching DefibBot on the Online Shop.

Weekly update #135

What happened this week…

  • Answered defibrillator enquiries.
  • Launched the first two models in our Blood Pressure Monitor range.
  • Did a user story mapping workshop for selling furniture online.
  • Set up defibrillator bundle products on the Online Shop.
  • Updated the Online Shop Home Page.
  • Began adding defibrillators to our Facebook Shop.
  • Discussed contracts and costs with a second Defibrillator suppler.
  • Completed advertising briefs.
  • Learned about processing invoices with the Finance team for defibrillator orders.
  • Confirmed samples for our new Bride and Groom Pin Badges.
  • Testing and dev work on the Central Ordering site.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Answering defibrillator sales enquiries.
  • Reviewing our processes for selling defibrillators and looking for improvements.
  • Launching the Central Ordering site.
  • Improving the defibrillators chatbot.
  • Receiving stock of more Blood Pressure Monitors.
  • Discussing possible directions for selling furniture online and marketing support.
  • Improving Blood Pressure Monitor product pages.
  • Reviewing clothing rebuys with the Accessories Team.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • Our best performing customer segments for selling defibrillators are Construction companies at 50% conversion rate, Youth Groups at 40% conversion rate, and Estate Agents at 33%. We think the speed at which an organisation can make a decision, place an order and pay for their defibrillator is the driving factor in the high conversion rate rather than them being large customer segments for us or those segments wanting defibrillators more than others.

In the not too distant future…

  • Presenting options for directions for selling furniture online.

Pitt River Museum

I used to visit the Pitt Rivers Museum when I was at school to draw the interesting artifacts. Today I saw an old teacher from my school. We both recognised each other at the same instant but carried on, pretending that we didn’t know each other. I guess you get used to that as a retired teacher.

Seeing him, and thinking about school, made me think about who I was twenty five years ago and what he thought of me then, and what he’d think of me now.

Weekly update #134

What happened this week…

  • Answered lots of defibrillator enquiries.
  • Wrote Ecommerce test scenarios for AX.
  • Built a chatbot to recommend defibrillators.
  • Created defibrillator recommendation package downloads.
  • Wrote a training course for Freshdesk users
  • Started dev work on improving how Bundled and Grouped products work on Magento.
  • Refined the defibrillator supplier ordering process.
  • Ordered new Bride and Groom and Pride Pin Badges for our Wedding Favours range.
  • Built a bot service to load tickets into Freshdesk from a spreadsheet.
  • Set up a customer survey to find out about what jewelry customers might want.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • User story mapping for selling furniture online.
  • Launching Blood Pressure Monitors on the Online Shop.
  • Creating defibrillator product bundles.
  • Delivering basic training for Freshdesk users.
  • Photo shoot for our new Trolley Tokens.
  • Adding Defibrillators to our Facebook Shop.
  • Arranging delivery of more Blood Pressure Monitors.
  • Answering more defibrillator enquiries.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • After three weeks of selling defibrillators we’ve benchmarked a 5% conversion rate.

In the not too distant future…

  • Finally launching the Central Ordering site.

The best and worst of job interviewers

I’ve had a few job interviews recently. Here are some of the best and worst things I’ve seen.

The best interviewers know what the role should achieve but not how the successful applicant will achieve it.

The worst interviewers have a fixed idea of what the role involves and how the successful applicant should achieve it.

The best interviewers ask questions to get to an understanding of what the applicant knows and thinks, and if they don’t get it with the first question they keep asking.

The worst interviewers ask questions to test the applicant, trip them up by asking three questions in one, or to ask just because that question is on the paperwork.

The best interviewers are genuinely interested in the applicant’s questions, using them as an opportunity to talk more about the company and the role.

The worst interviewers treat the applicant’s questions as a formality to get through with no value to them.

The best interviewers speak openly about the company, what it’s trying to achieve and how different teams work together.

The worst interviewers present the role in isolation and say very little about the company or working environment, or how the role fits in.

The best interviewers understand that the applicant is answering from their current context and that it is the interviewers job to figure out how the answers might fit in the new context.

The worst interviewers expect the applicant to provide answers that fit the context they would be moving into without even knowing what that context is.

Weekly Update #133

What happened this week…

  • Answered lots of defibrillator enquiries.
  • Sold three more defibrillators.
  • Discussed Pride wedding favours.
  • Tested finance processes for generating customer invoices.
  • Attended a training course on sprint/scrum.
  • Began writing FAQ’s for defibrillators.
  • Discussed marketing for May Measurement Month.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Answering more defibrillator enquiries.
  • Making changes to the defibrillator range plan to streamlining purchase orders.
  • Writing more defibrillator FAQ’s.
  • Reviewing product listings for the defibrillator range.
  • Reviewing the Furniture page survey results.
  • Writing the advertising brief for Blood Pressure Monitors.
  • Writing a training course for Freshdesk users.
  • Reviewing the Ecommerce roadmap.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • Comparing February this year to last, donations income increased by 17.3%, and the average value increased by 37.1%.

In the not too distant future…

  • Promoting the Online Shop in shops for the first time.

Copyright © 2019 Roger Swannell

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