Weeknotes #241

What I did this week

We lost our way

One of the products I’m working on, that was meant to be an MVP, has grown in size and complexity that it’s now impossible to deliver it by the deadline. I’ve mentioned a few times about keeping things simple, that we should be building a minimal viable product but I didn’t do it well enough to keep the team focused. I dropped the ball. And now we have thirteen days to get it back on track and delivered.

A couple of other projects, on the other hand, are progressing nicely and will provide some really useful learning.

Agile education

This week’s Service Design course assignment was to conduct some research to help design a service for remote learning. My research led my thoughts to Agile Education. I want there to be more to Agile in education than just Scrum in a classroom. I don’t know how the course assignment might develop and whether the idea of Agile education might affect the service design, but its something I definitely want to learn more about what it could be.

What’s the difference between a roadmap and a delivery plan?

I wrote up my thoughts on the difference between a roadmap and a delivery plan, including the difference of logic each applies. It made me think about creating a product for creating goal-based roadmaps and options for achieving the goals.


What I thought about

Divergent and convergent thinking

It’s easy enough to say we’ve finished the Discovery phase and now we’re moving into the Definition or Design phase, but changing mindsets and approaches to thinking is much harder. Moving from using divergent things when doing discovery work to convergent thinking required for design and definition work is much harder. How do you know if you’ve done it? Or if you’re still thinking creatively, coming up with ideas, exploring in a non-linear way? It isn’t easy to check your own thinking. So changing project phases is fine, but we need better communication about what that change means for our ways of thinking too.

What shouldn’t be in a digital strategy?

Ross asked the question, “What shouldn’t be in a digital strategy?” which sparked lots of discussion about what strategy is or isn’t.

I wonder if one of the hardest thing about strategy is that it means lots of different things to lots of different people. Thinking strategically is seen as a positive management trait but without any clear definition of what that means within a particular organisation. And there’s a difference between a strategy and the strategy. Maybe when people talk about the strategy they often mean the document that explains a strategy the .

What’s the purpose of a strategy, what problem does it solve for the organisation? If it is used to set direction, describe where to play and where not to play, achieve organisational alignment, etc., then it should contain what achieves that purpose. So perhaps the answer to Ross’ question is that there isn’t anything that shouldn’t be in a strategy. If having that piece of information or this level of detail helps to solve the problem that having a strategy is trying to solve, then it should be included.

How to course correct

Plan continuation bias is the problem of carrying on with a plan even as it becomes riskier and less certain to succeed. Those experiencing it find it hard to recognise and do anything about it. How might we avoid this? Talk about the plan – get other’s thoughts and feedback long before you get too far into the plan, preferably people who aren’t involved in the plan. Step back – look at other options even before you need to, be critical of your own reasoning and reasons. Don’t ignore new information – take anything new on board, try not to ignore it. Be ok with change – tell yourself it’s ok to change your mind, do something differently, and that changing a plan isn’t a failure of the first plan.


What I read this week:

Digital service to strategy

I read Bobi’s article ‘How to move digital teams from service to strategy‘ (not just because I’m mentioned in it, because it’s really interesting). One of the things I like about, and where some of my thinking is also going, is that it suggests that the usual approach to digital transformation of running an 18 month project with an end date should be replaced with digital evolution where an organisation take steps that work for them to figure out what being a digital organisation means to them. Digital transformation should look different and be unique to each organisation. That’s kind of the point with digital, it can handle variability in ways that our old mechanistic thinking and systems couldn’t.

Thinking systems: how the systems we depend on can be helped to think and to serve us better

This paper describes “methods for understanding how vital everyday systems work, and how they could work better, through improved shared cognition – observation, memory, creativity and judgement – organised as commons.” I’m reading one of Mulgan’s books on Social Innovation for my dissertation so this paper by him caught my eye. His ideas on how the collective shared intelligence of the system should be organised as a commons so that the data is more open and usable to make systems visible and graspable look really exciting.

Trauma-informed approaches

I reread “Trauma-informed approaches: What they are and how to introduce them” from NPC and did a bit more reading around the subject of trauma. Most of the literature talks about the services charities and health services provide to people dealing with things like drug addiction and domestic violence, and I couldn’t find anything about how to use trauma-informed approaches in organisational design and management.

68% of the charity sector workforce is female. 80% of all women have been publicly harassed, and 97% of 18-24 year old women sexually harassed. That’s a lot of people dealing with traumatic experiences everyday at work. So, how do we make our organisations trauma-informed? Some of the key principles for trauma-informed approaches include: recognition, resisting retraumatisation, cultural, historical and gender contexts, trustworthiness and transparency, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment, choice and control, safety, survivor partnerships and pathways to trauma specific care. I wonder how we might use those principles in how organisations manage their staff, how teams work together, and how people treat each other. Maybe the answer is that we shouldn’t have to, that society should be fairer and not misogynistic. But until that happens there must be more organisations can do.

What happens to MVPs when no one loves them anymore?

Minimum Viable Products are, by their nature, only meant to last for a limited amount of time. All of those products that didn’t get funded for continuous improvement, didn’t get iterated on, didn’t become full-fledged products, they all ended up like this skateboard. That’s better than full products being developed and abandoned, but I wonder what percentage of MVP’s get dropped, get developed, and more interestingly, just continue to operate without further improvements.

Society changes slowly

As I went for a walk this evening, on my own, in the dark and with no fear for my safety I thought about Sarah Everard and all the tweets I’ve read since she disappeared from women expressing their experiences of not feeling safe when out on their own.

I thought back to the time Sara Payne was abducted in broad daylight and murdered. Back then, in the year 2000, the dominant narrative was of a lone male perpetrator who had done something so unthinkable that whilst every parent in country must have been scared for the safety of their child, there is no suggestion of a systemic social issue going on.

Twenty years later, the message from the police is for women to not go out alone at night, not for men to not attack women. All across Twitter, the response from women is an expression of fears and experiences of being out alone at night. This shows us what an endemic and systemic issue this is in a way that what happened to Sarah Payne never did.

Violence towards women and girls was just as much of a social issue twenty years ago as it is today, but today it is recognised as such, and talked about as such.

It’s terrible that society only changes through trauma and tragedy. And that change is so slow. Maybe the change isn’t even enough to be considered progress, but I hope more change towards a fairer society comes soon.

What’s the difference between a roadmap and a delivery plan?

So many discussions must take place in digital teams about the difference between a roadmap and a delivery plan. They are very different tools that serve different purposes, and you probably need them both, but it’s easy to say one and mean the other. So, here’s what makes a roadmap different from a delivery plan.

Roadmaps

Roadmaps are usually (or at least should be) goal-based, whether implicitly or explicitly (which is better). They state what you’re trying to achieve, hopefully because those goals will help the organisation implement its strategy for being successful.

Gov UK Roadmap
Gov UK Roadmap

A roadmap is used to prioritise the work, which means choosing what you will and won’t do. It’s logic is ‘this, not that’. As it the example above from gov.uk, some of the things that can be done to achieve the goal are being worked on now (they’re in the ‘Now’ column) and some might be worked on later, which expresses the either/or choice that roadmaps require.

Good roadmaps also express options and uncertainty. The items in the ‘Later/Future/Exploring’ column might never make it into the ‘Now’ column because as they are investigated and shaped it could be that it’s found that the option wouldn’t help to achieve the goal.

Once we have a roadmap, then we produce a Delivery Plan to describe when the work in the ‘Now’ column can be delivered.

Delivery plans

A delivery plan is used to sequence the work. It describes when the work will take place and when it is expected to be finished. It’s logic is ‘this, then that’. It helps to understand what work can happen in parallel and what is dependent on a piece of work being finished (the dependency might be technical or because people are busy).

Example of a delivery plan
An example Delivery Plan

A reliable delivery plan needs work outside of the plan to consider people’s availability and capacity and some idea of whether the work can be achieved in that length of time, otherwise it’s a bit of a guess rather than being based on facts.

Questions about roadmaps and delivery plans

Can a roadmap have dates?

Yes, it definitely can, but those dates should be for information against each of the goals, for example, ‘Goal 2 must be met by date x for this reason’.

Does a roadmap list features?

No, a roadmap isn’t just an ordered backlog. A backlog is a whole other tool that does a different job. Roadmaps help to understand what the goal is and options for how we’re going to achieve it

How far into the future or past should a roadmap show?

For as long as it takes to achieve the goal. That’s why roadmaps are often organised in columns of ‘Now’, ‘Next’, ‘Later’, ‘Done’ as they convey a past and future without being constrained to a date on a timeline.

Who should see the roadmap?

Everyone who’s work has impact or is impacted by the work that will happen to achieve the goal.

How detailed should a delivery plan be?

It shouldn’t go to the level of tasks, but it depends what other planning tools you use. If, for example, week 14 shows that an identity management solution is being developed, and the developers have user stories to take into a sprint planning session, then the delivery plan doesn’t need to be detailed.

Weeknotes #240

This week I did:

Digital safeguarding

I’ve been working on safeguarding solutions for Teams quite a bit this week. It’s interesting to uncover the assumptions that Teams is built on; things about how people within an organisation should know each other and so be able to communicate and collaborate together. If you then want to use Teams to work in ways that don’t fit those assumptions, what changes can you make to get a high degree of safeguarding controls in place.

What is social design

I started the Service Design short course at UCA. Week 1 was an introduction but had some interesting ideas including the tension between user-centred design and social design, which says that user-centred design, taken in isolation means we don’t see the effect it has on communities, society, and the planet. I hope we get more into the social design approach to Service Design as it looks really interesting.

#BeMoreDigital Virtual Conference 2021

I caught some of the sessions from the #BeMoreDigital conference, but not enough. I would have liked to have been able to be more engaged in it to get a better sense of where the charity sector is in its digital transformation.

Daynotes

I started writing daily posts answering three questions: What went well, what didn’t go well, what could I do different in the future? I want to see if it is a helpful habit to get into and whether it’s useful research for daily standup app I’ve been thinking about.

Working on my website (again)

Did a bit of reorganisation of my website and turned my Now page into a roadmap.


And I read:

Teaming

I started reading Teaming by Amy Edmondson, mostly to look more into the idea of how people can work together effectively when they aren’t a close-knit team with well established routines and relationships.

IoT in the Charity Sector

How the charities could use Internet of Things is something I’ve never thought about, but James’ example of using such devices to help people live more independent lives is fantastic. It opens up all kinds of opportunities for IoT to support and improve service delivery.

BeMoreJanet

I watched the Mr. Strategy & Mrs. Wellbeing video with Janet Leighton. She talks about the culture of happiness and kindness at the Timpson Group and how they use upside down management, random acts of kindness and supporting colleagues with whatever is going on in their lives. The point that Wayne makes is that they’ve shown that it works, it isn’t just a philosophy, is such an important one for taking action to improve working cultures.


And thought about:

Place-based systems and nomads

Abby Covert says, we “turn a space into a place by arranging it so people know what to do there”. And some of the stuff I’ve read in the past talks about place-based thinking as less about the location of the place and more about the systems that interact on someone who is in that place. Which means a nomad might interact with fewer systems or those interactions might be more transitory. I think that changes what a nomad ‘knows’ what to do in a particular place. Even though they are in the same location as a non-nomad, they interact with systems differently and so see the place differently.

Solving problems simply

I’ve been thinking about ways of asking the question, “What is the simplest way we can solve this problem?”. Can we still meet a user need with a simple solution? How simple can a solution be in order to learn from it? Are simple solutions less likely to have unintended consequences than more complicated solutions?

Asynchronicity and learning

I’ve been thinking about the benefits of async working being greater than just less non-productive time spent in meetings. Async working utilises writing and drawing more than speaking and listening, which changes the nature of how information flows and enables those people with different learning styles to contribute in more considered ways.


Some people tweeted:

How to make sense of any mess

Doug Belshaw tweeted a link to howtomakesenseofanymess.com, Abby Covert’s website/online book about information architecture. It’s brilliantly thoughtful and thought-provoking. If I ever get around to writing a book I want it to be like this.

Validate the vision

Rosie Sherry tweeted, “Don’t validate a product, validate your vision“, which is much bigger but I think much easier thing to do. You’re not asking people if a product solves their problem, you’re asking people what kind of world they want to live in.

Levels of listening

Joshua Kerievsky tweeted, “Added “Levels of Listening” to the #PsychologicalSafety cheat sheet.” I still find Modern Agile the most inspiring way to think about modern digital ways of working. Joshua describes it as “a community for people interested in uncovering better ways of getting awesome results. It leverages wisdom from many industries, is principle driven and framework free.”

The changeable nature of risk

I used to climb this tree when I was a kid. It’s huge. At least thirty feet up. That was probably the attraction. The adventure and the risk of climbing trees that could have resulted in serious injury (and did, I broke my heel falling out of a tree, although not this one).

The perception of risk and its consequences are interesting, changeable things. Different things seem risky to different degrees, by different people at different times. But are they, or is it just that our perception changes? We’ll leave that one to Heraclitus and Parmenides to figure out.

Tree I used to climb when I was young

Weeknotes #239

This week I did:

Where to invest in capabilities

I started working on a big new project that is due to go live in a couple of months. I was brought in to product manage the automation work and it’s been really interesting to get into the problems that exist with the manual processes and figure out how we can use automation technology to improve them. I’m keen that we use tools that can help us learn about automation is ways we can use in the future.

The usual, ‘a roadmap isn’t a delivery plan’ conversation came up again this week. I think the best type of roadmap for us at the moment would be one that suggests where to invest in capabilities, be that building up existing capabilities such as digital delivery or developing new capabilities in self-serve learning.

This is how high-speed project initiation goes: Mon – Opportunity to trial a new product comes up, Tue – Proposal approved & budget allocated, Wed – Put team together & wrote implementation specification, Thu – We wrote design & user research plan, and Fri – Agreed the delivery plan. One of my colleagues remarked that it was a good example of what we want to achieve by having cross-functional teams that can come together quickly to achieve something and disband when they’ve done it.


Thought about:

Organisations of Theseus

The metaphysics of identity have been questioned back to 400 bc by Plato and Heraclitus, and by many more thinkers since. The question is expressed by the story of the ship of Theseus which throughout it’s journey has every plank and rope replaced. So the question is, is it the same ship at the end of the journey as it was at the start?

The same question can be put to an organisation going through change. If all of the processes, people, branding, even the name, change over time, is it still the same organisation? There is lots of talk about strategy and culture for organisational change but not so much about identity. Perhaps organisational identity is tied to more intangible things, things like purpose, values, place in society. But these can change too.

Everyone agrees organisational change is hard. It’s hard to make happen, hard to deal with when it is happening, and hard to accept when the results aren’t what we want or expect. Maybe Heraclitus would have said that organisations are always changing, and and such never had a fixed identity anyway. I wonder if organisational change would be different if rather than talking about changing the old, we talked about building anew.

Out of business

It is not a charity’s job to put itself out of business. I’ve heard a few people say that it is recently. I completely disagree. A charity is way more that just a means of tackling a social issue, with the expectation that it should be disbanded once it has achieved . Over the life of a charity it builds up a wealth of expertise and capabilities, hard won in many cases as charities deal with all kind of difficulties, and to throw of that away when the social issue has been resolved is extremely wasteful. If a charity solves the issue it has been working on, or the need goes away or changes, charities should be able to pivot towards a different issue. They should also be able to point themselves at different problems than what they we’re originally set up to do and contribute to a different cause. I know this is a difficult because of the mindset and legal structuring of charities, but I can dream.

Daynotes

I had an idea for a product to encourage daily self-reflective microblogging. You’d sign-up and set-up your URL, select a template for your posts, and the time of day you’d like to write, and then you get a an email everyday to remind you to login, answer the questions on the template and post it. Each template might have three questions like ‘What went well today?, What didn’t go so well?, What could you do differently in the future?’. Now I just need someone to build it. (Of course the first thing I do is go looking for a domain name to buy…)

Individual, team, organisation

Andy Tabberer’s questions about teams always get me thinking. “I believe in a type of citizenship at work, on teams, that carries both rights and duties. Getting the balance between those two is the hardest bit. What do you think?”, he says. Well, I think it’s pretty complicated. Citizenship in the public sphere is between the individual and the state, one-to-one relationship, easy. But within an organisation there are three elements at play; the individual, the team and the organisation. So there’s relationships between individuals and other individuals, both in and outside of the team. Then there’s a relationship between the individuals and the team, and other teams, and the organisation. And teams have a relationship to other teams, and to the organisation. There’s a lot going on there. And all of those entities have rights, which differ depending on which other entity they are interacting with, and duties towards all the other entities too. Citizenship requires rights and duties, but it also needs a public space, “a shared space for discussion of values and ideas, and development of public opinion” (Habermas, 1964). I wonder if that kind of space can exist within organisations, which makes me wonder if citizenship can exist at work.

What is value?

I’m gradually reaching the conclusion that ‘value’ is purely a construct and doesn’t exist outside of that contextual agreement. Anything that someone says is ‘value’ (revenue, cost saving, time, knowledge) is just a representation of something else that they consider valuable, but that thing thing is just another representation, until the value disappears into nothing. So, what then, do we mean when we talk about organisational value? Maybe we mean it to mean outcomes but we talk about it in terms of outputs. I’m not sure. More thinking to be done.


This week I read:

Standups

The idea of standups as short regular meetings that help teams stay coordinated is a ritual that has grown out of Scrum and adopted by all kinds of teams. Jason Yip’s Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings is the ultimate reference material for everything you could want to know.

Rise of the humans

I think lots of the bigger charities are thinking about how automation how help them be more efficient (some of my work involves automation solutions for things like updating our CRM, setting up meetings, communicating with people). Ben Holt’s post on whether the British Red Cross make people happier and deliver better services by working with machines provides some interesting insight into

Responsible Use of Technology: The Microsoft Case Study

This whitepaper from the World Economic Forum on the responsible use of technology goes into how Microsoft uses tools and processes that facilitate responsible technology product design and development.

Building a copy collaboration workflow

Content is always where websites (and website build projects) fall down. This post from Ditto has some useful advice on creating a workflow for website copy.


And some people tweeted:

Digital skills change

Think Social Tech tweeted, “A thread 1/10: A brief review of research/literature on digital skills and support needs in social sector“. This is now the go-to thread for all the resources on digital change in the charity sector, including this report on Charity Digital Journeys. It’s so important that information like this is collected together and shared because those charities would would probably benefit from it the most are the least likely to even know it exists.

Digital isn’t (just) a channel

Daniel Fluskey tweeted, “Fundraising will need a mix of events – virtual, real, digital, traditional.

  1. Start with what your supporters want
  2. Choose the right event for the right audience – square pegs in round holes don’t fit
  3. Don’t get overwhelmed, you don’t have to do everything!”

Could there be a more digital-thinking tweet that isn’t about digital? I read that as, ‘start with user, meet their needs, work in small batches. That is as fantastic example of digital thinking applied to fundraising.

The 3 A’s of professional learning

John Miller tweeted, “Professional learning should hit all 3 A’s :

  1. Actual – relate to the real world. Practicality.
  2. Academic – theory and research behind the learning.
  3. Aspirational – what could be better by applying the learning. Inspire positive change.”

This seems like a better approach than the 70/20/10 thing, which I think assumes too much about knowledge existing and being shared. John’s approach . The Actual part says to me, ‘learn by doing’, which is essential when in new and changeable situations. Including an academic aspect is important. This doesn’t have to mean ‘scholarly’, it just means ‘read books and take notice of all the existing knowledge from people who have done it before’. Aspirational closes the loop (and I’m a big fan of loops). It says that we should learn about learning in order to improve how we learn and what we apply to the practical learning opportunities.

Reading list

I tweeted, “30 things I’ve read recently about AI, business value, design, remote work, resilience, leadership, innovation, maps, product teams, personas, digital media, cyber security, purposeful careers, organisational change, literacy & complexity.” It followed on from a few discussions about learning digital skills so I thought I’d try to get into the habit of sharing my reading list for the week. As I don’t have any knowledge of my own, maybe people can benefit from me sharing other people’s knowledge.

Weeknotes #238

This week I did

Problem-focused

It’s easy to leap to solutions without understanding what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. This week was busy with trying to get an understanding of what problems we’re actually trying to solve with the products we’re being asked to build quickly for projects with tight timelines. I heard someone say (on a podcast, I think) ‘make the right things to make things right’, and it stuck with me. I also talked quite a bit about us trialing products purely with the intention of learning. I feel like we have lots to learn, so the sooner we start the quicker we’ll figure out the things we need to in order to help young people get effective training online.

Does digital creativity differ from non-digital creativity?

I finished my assignment ‘Does digital creativity differ from non-digital creativity?’ Spoiler: It does. I’ve learned about lots of interesting things in this module, and for this essay, about digital media. I’d really like to have time to go back over some of the ideas and write blog posts about them but that’s going to have to wait until after my dissertation is finished.


I read:

Digital Scotland Service Standard

The service standard aims to make sure that services in Scotland are continually improving and that users are always the focus. I like the idea of service standards. Although they seem quite aspirational and a little immature at the moment with few real-life examples of how standards have been implemented effectively, they are a great way to help others understand what it means to be ‘digital’. I know it’s a very different thing, but the standard that explains how to manufacture a bolt is very specific about measurements, tolerances, etc., but maybe it that’s just my understanding of the word ‘standard’, which isn’t the point here. The point is that even though some of the standards in the Digital Scotland Service Standard feel a bit context specific, overall it’s brilliant.

Climate impact of digital

Don’t watch this video 😉

Our digital world

I feel Like, Swipe, Click, Repeat & Change by Peter Trainor and New Public – For Better Digital Public Spaces complement each other and should be read together. One is about the effects social media sites have on us and the other is a about creating better digital spaces.

Reading list

My notes contains lots other things I’ve read this week.


And thought about:

Measures of influence

I had a thought that maybe a measure of influence is how many times someone has to say something for people to take notice of it. I could repeat the same message time and time again and no one would take any notice, because I have low influence. Seth Godin says something once and thousands of people listen to it, because he has high influence. On a smaller scale, it might be an interesting way to measure your influence at work.

Play jazz

After some conversations with Jonathan Holden on Twitter, I’ve been thinking a bit about how our use of militaristic (and so masculine) language relates to our mental models about work and groups of people organised to achieve common goals. Do creative/artistic endeavors offer a better way to think about it? Musicians can play alone, in perfectly in-sync large orchestras, and improvising in jazz bands.

Affordances and proto-affordances

I’m intrigued by the idea of affordances. An affordance is an object’s sensory characteristics which imply its functionality and use. The idea allows designers to “design for usefulness by creating affordances (the possibilities for action in the design) that match the goals of the user“. It seems like the missing gap between what a product is intended to achieve for a user and the design of the user interface.


Some people tweeted:

Positioning product management

Scott Colfer tweeted, “What do product managers like? No, not Venn diagrams. Quadrants! This one shows the range of what product management can look like (in my experience). Helps me when someone asks ‘how do I become a PM?” It’s a really useful way to think about how product managers move around in there role on the axis between tactical and strategic, and between generalist and specialist. So at the daily stand-up a PM might be a tactical generalist talking about UX decisions for a web page and later that day might be acting as a strategic specialist on the digital safeguarding.

Tweet-Syllabus: Prioritization 101 ⏱

Nick deWilde tweeted, “The most successful people I’ve met aren’t the ones who work the hardest. They are the ones who prioritize the right things to work on. These 7 concepts & resources will help you decide what to prioritize in your work and life” I found this interesting because I’ve been thinking about what we really mean when we casually talk about prioritisation for a few weeks. I’m not convinced by some of the tweets, for example that value is only measured by money, but the one about how every system has constraints and that when projects put pressure on a constraint it causes chaos is interesting. Considering bottlenecks in that way helps us think about the knock-on effects rather than just that one constraint in isolation.

Remote work research

Eat Sleep Work Repeat tweeted, “A lot of people saw that viral thread about remote work last week, chock full of unattributed opinion claiming that the office ‘was over’. Let’s try and use some evidence… what does published research tell us about what’s going to happen to our workplaces?” It’s interesting how the pendulum of remote working has swung between ‘the end of the office’ and ‘get back to normal’ and is finding the middle position between home and office. It’s also interesting how much of the discussion about the future of work centres around the location of people. Is that really the most important aspect about effective working, or is it just because its the most obvious and easiest thing to talk about it?

Weeknotes #237

This week I did:

Three teams together

I’m working with three different development teams to build the product we’re working on. The web application dev team using Kanban to mange their work as they have a lot of uncertainty to deal with, the CRM dev team use Scrum as it gives predictability, and the infrastructure dev team are more waterfall as they need to fit our work in with other work, and yet we’re all working well together. It shows for me how little the framework actually matters, and that what’s important is the principles that all the frameworks try to achieve; coordination and communication. Whether that is achieved through talking to each other or writing documents, the end result is the same.

Charity reserves

Our first Finance & Risk board meeting of the year with Bucks Mind focused on investment and updating our reserves policy so that it’s fit-for-purpose as the organisation grows. We also discussed trustee responsibility for charity assets, the biggest and most important of which is the reserves. Debra Allcock Taylor tweeted about how important but difficult it is for charities to build up reserves and make investments. Investment is an area I know very little about so need to figure out what I need to learn and how to learn it.

Media convergence and sharing economy

This week’s lecture was on how media convergence led to the sharing economy, the ideological foundation of collaborative consumption, the drivers for the growth of large sharing economy firms, and the impact of the sharing economy on society, cities and work. It’s interesting to see just how different the sharing economy is from the traditional economic approaches and to think about how it could be better leveraged by charities.

Result

I received the results of the two modules I studied last term. I scored 73 and 70, which puts me on target for getting a distinction with the least amount of effort. Two more modules and dissertation to go.

People-centred design process

Signed up for this Service Design course. A lot of the solution work I do is figuring out how to make product and service work together so hopefully this will help me understand service design better and bring better practice to our work.


I read:

Leadership in a time of crisis

This article lays out what the charity sector needs from its leaders during this time of crisis. There is nothing to disagree with in that Leesa has written, there is some good advice for leaders, but I wonder if we still tie up leadership too closely with seniority and authority. I wonder if the senior authoritative figures of the sector are the ones to solve this crisis. And I wonder if distributed power networks might offer a better chance. Slightly connected, I read Three Problems of Power which talks about how relying on leaders to solve problems often stops others from doing so.

How to be a good stakeholder

Andy Tabberer wrote this fantastic piece for anyone who is a stakeholder (which is everyone, we’re all somebodies stakeholder). It offers helpful tips for anyone who has some responsibility and accountability for a thing being successful but doesn’t actually directly contribute to its success, but it does a lot more than that. It flips the idea of stakeholders as those who should be served and have their expectations managed, into being more a collaborative and cooperative part of team. It says that in order for whatever is being built, and those building it, to be successful, the power relationship between the owner (for want of a better term) and the maker should be one trust, empathy, interest and challenge, among many other things. And stakeholders should develop this as a holistic mindset rather than as atomistic behaviours.

Edgar Schein’s Anxiety & Assumptions: Powerful Ideas On Culture

This is a really interesting essay on organisational culture, how it’s often talked about but not often thought about critically. It talks about how Schein said that the culture of a company emerges and solidifies in two ways: Positive problem-solving processes and anxiety avoidance, Understanding organisational culture seems like a prerequisite for understanding an organisation’s culture. Which, in an ‘optimise globally rather than locally’ vein is important for how a team fits and works within an organisation. I’m inclined to think that organisational culture that holds capabilities is a good thing in stable times but that in times a change an organisation needs to be able to shift the focus of its capabilities to its people in order to transform. So, one of my focuses is building up the team I’m part of so we are really high-functioning so that the organisation is able to change.


And I thought about:

Measures incentivises behaviour

Bullying is being highlighted as an issue in the charity sector that indicates further the crisis the sector is in. It’s a complex problem. People make their own choices about how they behave and how they treat others, but their choices are a result of the systems they exist in and the measures that incentivise their behaviour within those systems. This applies as much to the cultural systems that affect how we perceive masculinity, leadership, authority, seniority, etc., as much as it does to work systems and organisational cultures If we want to fix problems like this we need to improve the system, and we do that by changing the measures.

Prioritisation vs sequencing

Prioritisation is ‘this not that’. Sequencing is ‘this then that’. We often say we need to prioritise work when really we mean we need to sequence the work.


And some people tweeted:

You and me both

Joe Jenkins tweeted, “Love this idea of ubuntu – how can one he happy when others are sad It is here we find the core of humanity – let us never be fooled that people are inevitably selfish or individualistic; we are social animals, built for connection, collaboration and compassion“. The neoliberal idea of the individual as always prioritising their own needs first is very limited and limiting. Other ways of considering people as part of a community

Discovery Alpha Beta Live

Richard Pope tweeted, “Who’s been working on what eventually replaces discovery-alpha-beta-live process in digital gov? Much that it is good for, and much good that has been done, but feels increasingly dated. Inability to identify shared capabilities, data, standards and system change needs examining.” The point he makes, and many of the replies discuss, are that processes that rely on understanding the problem up front aren’t always appropriate for solving complex and emerging problems.

What is a user story?

Karri Saarinen tweeted, “We don’t write user stories. They’re unnecessary and slow down the team.” Whenever anything gets ‘named’ it gets confused. Using the term ‘User Story’ can mean many things to many people. For some it’s only a user story if it adheres to the ‘As a..’ structure. We’ve had discussions at work about what level user stories should be written at. Should they be at the task level as Karri does or at the level of distinct value for the user? Ultimately, whatever the format, the purpose is to communicate asynchronously, which means they need to be interpretable.

Weeknotes #236

What I did this week:

New development team

We were joined this week by a new team to support some product development work. It’s been great seeing them quickly learn about what we’re trying to achieve and what progress we’ve made so far, and I’m really looking forward to working with them as they accelerate over the next few months. It’s an interesting skill set for a team to have.

Crossing boundaries

Products built to be used within the boundaries of an organisation don’t work well when they are used to cross those boundaries and allow people from within to communicate with those outside. I wrote abut it a while ago, and the same challenge rose again this week. Products like Microsoft Teams have lots of assumptions built into them about how users are related, and most of those assumption include that everyone knows who everyone else is, that they are bound by the same rules, and that collaborative working relies of openness and transparency. This kind of still holds true for Teams Education where it’s used in schools as the teachers and the students still all belong to one organisation, but the assumptions break down from there and really doesn’t work when some of the people are part of the organisation and some aren’t. It’s an interesting problem.

Innovation management

I’ve been working on my dissertation proposal around how charities approach innovation management. The proposal is only two thousand words but it has required many days worth of reading to get to a point of being able to write a few paragraphs. It’s interesting how helpful it has been in structuring my thinking and I see parallels with things internet writers say about note-taking and how writing is just an expression of the thinking. And it’s interesting how the purpose of the proposal isn’t communicated like that but rather as task to be completed with the suggestion that those that don’t will most likely fail their dissertation.

A capabilities approach to digital transformation

I often think that digital transformation efforts in organisations often fail because they are treated as projects and so utilise the usual processes, whereas what is really needed is to break away from existing process and develop new capabilities in people.


Some things I read this week:

Retrospective and reflection

This is a fantastic write-up on a charity digital team and work.

How digital in the charity sector has changed over the last 20 years

A brilliant look back over what’s changed in digital at charities over the last twenty years.

Building an Idea Factory

Economic theory and its capacity to comprehensively explain the presence of non-profit organisations in society

Although the non-profit sector may seem like an area which defies analysis by the field of economics, there are in reality a wide range of insights which economic theory can offer to explain why a multi-billion dollar third sector has sprung-up and flourished in today‟s global economy.


Some things I thought about:

Neo-liberalism and individualism in a post-COVID world

How society became as individualistic as it is through the influence of a neo-liberal ideology, which depending on what you choose to believe may have been because it’s easier to control individuals than it is a coordinated collective, and how the pandemic may or may not have caused some upset in the notion that individualism is the desirable state for everyone and that perhaps more collective ways of acting in society seems like a fascinating topic to me. I wish I had time to study into it.

How YouTube changed video as a cultural expression

It used to be that watching videos or movies had narrative, they told a story, and held certain cultural significance because of it. Now we regard videos as separate but related objects in a database of videos. These items lack the same narrative. You can go from watching someone playing a video game to watching a music video to watching a compilation of clips from a TV show, all without any cohesiveness to your experience. This is big change in how moving pictures express our culture. There is less cohesion but more diversity. Less of a dominant archetype to story telling and more interjections and immediacy.

What it means to be a product manager

I have a few different ways I try to explain what I do as a product manager depending on who I’m speaking to. Sometimes it’s about problems and solutions, sometimes its about interface, integrate, iterate, sometimes it’s rambling about technologically mediated relationships between people in need and people with something to give. Anyway, I started trying to map all the things that make up the role of a Product Manager, the skills, characteristics, qualities, tools, techniques and methods. I have no idea why, other than to try to improve my own understanding, and I have no idea what sense it might make or not, but sometimes just the act of trying to map something reveals what you couldn’t see before.


Some tweets I saw:

How did you get started working in the charity sector?

Richard Berks tweeted, “Charity folks – how did you get started working in the sector? What was your first job? Did you fall into it or was it always part of the plan?” The stories of people now working in the charity sector, the different jobs they’ve done, the paths they took to end where they are, are just amazing. We did a quick team-working exercise earlier in the week that had people revealing stuff about themselves that they normally never would have. How we be more human in remote digital work is something important to figure out.

Getting into public speaking

Lesley Pinder tweeted “Planning at the very last minute an impromptu session on Monday for colleagues who might be interested in speaking at a sector event or conference but don’t know where to start or if they’ll have anything interesting to say. What would your tips be for people to new to speaking?“. Lots of useful advice about doing talks. It’s also interesting to me because I’ve been thinking about bringing lessons in public speaking, how successful YouTubers edit videos, and emerging practices from online education together to see how we might be able to change the way we deliver training sessions. I’m pretty certain that sitting down and staring at a camera isn’t very engaging. There must be more to online learning than this.

Dealing With Complexity

I found this via a tweet from someone but I can’t remember who. The six ways to make sense of complexity: be curious, deal with ambiguity, see with several lens, experiment, broaden your knowledge circles and share your work, and see these essential thinking skills for the 21st century. The post has links to more really interesting posts about leadership, learning and sense-making.