Get the reps in

The only way to get good at something is to build a repetitive practice that uses the skills you want to improve and forces feedback to make changes to the practice.

Organisational stigmergy is far more interesting than organisational strategy

Organisational strategy is top-down, specific, defined and visible.

Organisational stigmergy is bottom-up, loosely-coupled, always emerging and mostly invisible unless you know what to look for.

Stigmergy arises when people figure out useful things to do within an organisation and implement them without permission. Their actions often leave subtle signals for others to follow and create their own stigmergies.

Stigmergy can sometimes run counter to strategy but generally it’s a good thing and should be encouraged.

All my domain names

  1. actionsportsalliance.co.uk
  2. Ambivalent.mba
  3. amigoality.com
  4. buildbetter.systems
  5. collision.courses
  6. dividual.me
  7. ethicalproduct.co
  8. ethicalproduct.info
  9. ethicalproduct.xyz
  10. fastfeedback.club
  11. fractaltask.management
  12. future.charity
  13. futureskills.info
  14. helloflush.co
  15. helloflush.co.uk
  16. helloflush.life
  17. hastheworldbeentakenoverby.ai
  18. hypermodern.world
  19. indiestickers.com
  20. innovat100n.com
  21. interniser.com
  22. irregularideas.xyz
  23. magix.team
  24. matrixteam.co
  25. matrixteam.org
  26. matrixteam.works
  27. mountainboarding.info
  28. mountainboarding.uk.com
  29. mountainboard.tv
  30. noframe.works
  31. productmanageranswer.me
  32. productos.guide
  33. productos.one
  34. productos.tech
  35. roadmaps.fyi
  36. rogerswannell.com
  37. sideprojects.review
  38. stiles.style
  39. superpowe.red
  40. systemshiftingproduct.management
  41. systemsshiftingproduct.management
  42. theappificationof.work
  43. whydidthechickencrosstheroad.uk
  44. thewhyofproduct.com
  45. thewhyofproduct.management
  46. thewhyofproduct.xyz
  47. thamesvalley.mountainboard.club
  48. timelineofmodern.work
  49. ultimatedigital.tools
  50. unproductivity.guru
  51. vanlife-lockdown-survey.com
  52. whyproduct.management
  53. whyproduct.works

Idea branding

Riffing off ‘catchphrase comms’ from Greenaway et al in Digital Transformation at Scale, treating an idea as a brand, giving it identity, a known and accessible touchpoint.

Ideas can have domain names. No longer does ‘a thing’ have to be big enough or significant enough to warrant an online location.

Quick guide to QR codes

What to use QR codes for

QR codes are used to do lots of things that connect offline to online:

  • Email – Email address, subject and message that
  • Geolocation – Location that can be opened in Google Maps.
  • Image – Display an image.
  • PDF – Display a PDF file.
  • Phone – Display a phone number
  • SMS – Phone number and message to be sent as an SMS.
  • Text – Display written text.
  • URL – Open a webpage.
  • vCard – Contact information to add to the phone’s contact list.
  • WiFi – Information to connect to WiFi.

Choosing a QR code service

There are lots of free QR code generators available on the web but it’s impossible to know how reliable these are and whether they might stop working one day soon. The Wix website has a QR code generator and states that the code will not expire and does not have any limits to how many times it can be scanned, making this a reliable free option for generating the code.

Tracking

If you want to know how many people have scanned the QR code you can add a tracking append to the URL before you generate the QR code. Then you’ll be able to track scans of the code in Google Analytics.

Generating the QR code

With the Wix’s service you can change the colour hex code to your brand colour, but be sure to check there is still enough contrast for the scan to work.

Printing the QR code

The code can be downloaded from Wix as a 1000px png, svg and jpg. It’s a good idea to check with the printers that this is of sufficient quality before having the leaflets printed, and if you can, check a proof version of the leaflet to test that the code can be scanned.

Retrospective March 2022

This month’s lesson is the same as last months. I didn’t get an effective structure in place for working projects so didn’t make any progress.

Contributing to the digital transformation of the charity sector

Pretty good month at work with my focus continuing to be split across building the team, getting foundations in place for greater robustness and resiliency in the future, and planning for new product development.

Still haven’t spent any time trying to figure out this goal outside of work.

Learning about innovation, technology, product and design

I didn’t do any formal learning this month. I’m still really behind on my British Sign Language course.

Didn’t work on any of my projects.

Read a pretty wide range of stuff from philosophy to digital transformation, mostly as research for Irregular Ideas and

Irregular Ideas is going well and has 30 subscribers. I enjoy writing it each week.

I wrote weeknotes on schedule every week.

Leading an intentional life

My nomadic life along the coastline was on pause. Back soon.

My financial measures are doing well.

I’m still not doing enough to improve my physical health.

The difference in reasoning between agile and waterfall product development

There are lots of differences between agile and waterfall approaches to product development, but a fundamental difference that helps us understand both better is the approach to reasoning that each applies.

Reasoning is the conscious application of logic by drawing conclusions from information with the aim of seeking the truth. In the case of product development, the truth we’re seeking is when the product will be delivered.

There are three types of reasoning:

  • Inductive reasoning – Starts with specific assumptions and progresses to generalised conclusions.
  • Deductive reasoning – Starts with general assumptions and progresses to specific conclusions.
  • Abductive reasoning – Starts with observations which lead to a best guess along with accepting uncertainty.

Waterfall applies deductive reasoning and agile uses abductive reasoning.

Waterfall starts with a premise that piece of work A will take 8 weeks, and then adds another premise that piece of work B will take 6 weeks, and so on until all of the premises lead to a conclusion of all the time required added up and so a predictable delivery date. The problem with this reasoning is that if a premise is wrong then the conclusion can be logically true but actually wrong. If B actually takes 10 weeks then the predicted date changes. So, whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with the reasoning method, it’s important to know the limitations and how it can be misunderstood by being logically true but actually inaccurate.

Agile starts with observations of a piece of work, from which a best guess about when the work will be complete can be made, but knowing it is only a best guess comes with also accepting uncertainty about the guess. The problem here can be if the guess is assumed to be more certain than it is.

Being familiar with the reasoning behind each approach to planning product development won’t make any difference to the delivery date, but it helps with clarity and robustness of thinking.

Guide to using Microsoft Planner

Background 

What is planner? 

Planner is free task management tool for teams. It allows us to manage the work associated with a project by breaking it down into small pieces of work, assigning people, setting due dates. It is a powerful, flexible tool that is usually included in an organisations Microsoft suite, making it secure and uses your Microsoft account so no need to remember another password. 

Accessing Planner 

Planner can be accessed in your browser by going to https://tasks.office.com/, or by clicking on the nine dots in the top left corner of any Microsoft application (e.g., Word) and clicking on the Planner button. 

The Planner Android app is available in the Google Play store and the iPhone app in the Apple app store. 

Creating a board 

Boards are associated with Groups in Teams. If a project has a Teams site, then it can have a Planner board. All those who are members of the Teams will be members of the Planner. 

Naming the board 

The board should be named in such a way that it will make sense when viewed away from the project it is associated with. For example, ‘Project plan’ would be a poor name but ‘Data migration project’ would be better. This is because boards and the names of boards can be viewed out of context of the Teams that they are part of. 

Adding the board to Teams 

Planner boards can be added as a Tab in a Channel on Teams to make it easier for everyone involved in the project to see what work is happening.  

All work for the project should be on the Planner board. If some work is managed off the board, then the board cannot represent the full picture of the current state of the project. 

Adding to a board 

Buckets 

Buckets group cards together that are associated. A card can only be in one bucket at a time, which means buckets can be used to depict workflows, e.g., where a card moves from one to the next, or as sub-projects within the project of the planner board. Buckets shouldn’t be used for Status, e.g., To do, Doing, Done as the Progress view shows this.  

Buckets can be created at the start of a project and during a project as the need arises. If project reporting is standardised based on the buckets, then this should be taken into account to avoid disrupting reporting. 

Cards 

A card should represent a distinct and separate piece of value. For example, ‘CRM Training’ might be a good name for a card because although the training requires lots of tasks to be completed it is an independently valuable thing to deliver. The card could make use of a checklist to record progress for tasks such as ‘Write training material’ but that alone wouldn’t deliver any value, which is why it isn’t a card of its own. 

  1. Title – Every card must have a title. Title should be descriptive enough to understand what work the card represents but not too specific as to not be an independent item of value. 
  1. Assigned – All cards should be assigned to a member of the Planner group. Cards can be assigned to multiple members. Cards that are not assigned to anyone will show in reporting as Unassigned. 
  1. Progress – All cards have to have a progress status; either Not started, In progress or Complete.  
  1. Priority – All cards have to have a priority; either Low, Medium (which is the default priority), Important or Urgent. It can be helpful for teams to agree what they mean when using priorities, especially Important and Urgent. 
  1. Start date – Cards can have a start date, but it is not mandatory. It can be misleading to have cards with a start date in the past, but no active work done on the card recently as it can make the reporting charts look fuller than they are, so it’s important for teams to agree their practices around using dates on cards. 
  1. Due date – Cards can have a due date. The due date is displayed on the card when viewing the planner board and is coloured red when the due date have passed, so it can be useful for teams to use Due date as a way to manage workload and priorities. 
  1. Labels – Labels can be added to Cards to connect types of activities across the different buckets or sub-projects. An example of this might be to add the label ‘Training’ to cards that are about training even though they are in different sub-project Buckets. The Group By Label view shows all cards with each label. As a card can have multiple Labels, this view will show a card in multiple Label columns. 
  1. Notes – Each cards have a notes section. This is editable and can be used flexibly for things like providing the most recent update or summary of the work. 
  1. Checklist – Checklists can be used to breakdown tasks for the work that the card represents. Checklist items can’t be assigned to members of the planner. Items in a checklist can be promoted to cards by clicking on the up arrow that shows when you hover over the checklist item. The card is created in the same bucket as the card with the checklist but has no associated attributes such as due date, status, or assignee.   
  1. Attachments – Attachments and links can be added to cards. Although it can be useful for finding files quickly it shouldn’t be thought of as a replacement to organising files in Teams and SharePoint. 
  1. Comments – Comments can be used to record progress and information about a piece of work. They are not editable and tagging of members is not available in comments. 

Using a Planner board 

Assigned to me 

In the left menu if a planner board is a button called ‘Assigned to me’. Clicking on this shows only the cards that are assigned to you, from all the projects that you are involved in. 

Search / Filter 

There is no search. But you can filter by keywords to get what are effectively search results. Filtering is a better approach than searching as it also enables you to filter by when a card is due, who it’s assigned to, and which bucket it is in, etc. 

As planners get more and more cards, all with different status and assigned to different members, etc., it’s usually better to always apply a filter to see only the cards that matter to you. 

Group by 

The ‘Group by’ menu allows you to sort the board in different ways. 

  1. Bucket – This is the default grouping. 
  1. Assigned to – Groups cards by who the cards are assigned to, including a list of cards that are unassigned. This view can be used to see who is working on what, and check for cards that aren’t assigned to anyone. 
  1. Progress – Groups cards by not started, in progress and completed. This view means that buckets can be used to group cards by things like sub-projects rather than a status such as to-do, doing, done. 
  1. Due date – Groups cards by date into lists such as Late, Today, Tomorrow, and Next week. 
  1. Labels – Labels differ from buckets as a card can have multiple labels but only one bucket. This means that when cards are grouped by labels the same card can appear on multiple lists. 
  1. Priority – Groups all the cards with Low priority into one list, all those with medium priority into another list, all important cards into another list and urgent cards into another. 

Using ‘Group by’ allows different views of the cards and 

Using ‘Filter’ and ‘Group by’ together allows a specific view of things like what important priority cards each person working on, or what cards have a particular label and have passed their due date. 

Notifications 

Planner notifications can be set by clicking on the settings icon in the top right (it looks like a cog) to open the Settings menu, and then click on Notifications. This will open a popup window that allows you to select whether you receive an email when a task 

Reporting 

Charts 

  1. Status 

The Status chart shows a breakdown of all the cards in a plan by their status. In an ideal scenario, we could expect that a project that is fifty percent  

  1. Priority 

The priority chart shows the number of cards by their assigned priority and status. 

  1. Bucket 

The bucket chart shows the number of tasks in each Bucket along with their status. This could be used to quickly check if the status of cards moving through a workflow looks approximately correct at any given point in time. 

  1. Members 

The members chart shows the number of cards assigned to each member and the number of cards not assigned to anyone. 

Schedule 

The schedule chart shows a Week and Month view of which cards have either a Start date, a Due date or a Start and Due date. This chart can be particularly useful when looked at from the ‘Assigned to me’ view as it shows the tasks scheduled for the week that are assigned to you only. 

Export 

A Planner can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet for further analysis and reporting. To export a board, click on the three dots next to Schedule and then click ‘Export plan to Excel’. 

Display in Outlook 

A planner can be connected to Outlook to display tasks with dates in your Outlook calendar. 

  1. Copy link to board 
  1. Go to Outlook calendar 
  1. Click Add calendar 
  1. Click Subscribe from web 
  1. Paster the board link 
  1. Name the calendar 
  1. Click import 

Outlook will now display cards from that calendar as all day events. 

Some thoughts on Opportunities at the Intersection of Web3 and Social Change

Banks Benitez’s white paper on the intersection of Web3 and social change aims to “explore a few of the ways that the social sector (nonprofits, philanthropists, activists, social enterprises, impact investors, etc.) might be able to leverage Web3 technologies.”

The most important things about this paper are that it exists, and that it is contributing to the discussion around nonprofits and emerging technologies, specifically web3. Without robust public discussion we can never advance the charity sector’s use of technology.

The paper starts with a personal critique of the American nonprofit sector and how it lags behind other sectors in exploring emerging technologies and trends. This claim isn’t backed up with any evidence or compared with any other sector, but given its purpose as a white paper is to present his philosophy on the issue we can take the premise at face value. It might be hard to find very many people in the British charity sector who would be able to argue against this point. But saying that the sector doesn’t explore emerging technologies isn’t the same as saying that it should. Again, this is an assumption included in the underlying philosophy of the white paper and so perhaps doesn’t need much justification.

There are bigger and more important questions; How technologically advanced should the nonprofit sector be? How many organisations exploring emerging trends would it take to be able to say that the sector is doing so? But, these questions aren’t the point of this paper, its point is that nonprofits should explore merging technologies and so onto the ways in which nonprofits could use web3.

Most of the focus is on how nonprofits might be able to use web3 technologies such as cryptocurrencies, NFTs and DAOs as part of their fundraising strategy, with the implication being that the organisation continues to tackle whatever social issues they are set up to in their usual ways. I think web3 offers a far greater ambition and more interesting scope in tackling issues in new and different ways rather than simply being a means of income generation. The paper touches on this but there is much more to be explored in this area.

Accepting Crypto Donations

Should nonprofits accept crypto-donations? There are implications to consider, including tax which the paper mentions, but providing the organisation has the knowledge and means to mange cryptocurrencies, then why wouldn’t they accept crypto-donations. From the technology point-of-view it seems an obvious thing to do. But I guess the point the paper makes is that not enough nonprofit organisations know enough about cryptocurrencies to even consider it an option.

Perhaps the first step is for charities and nonprofits to explore the implications of crypto donations, create test cases, learn and share their learnings with other charities to develop some experience and expertise. Of course, the argument is always that many charities struggle to fund their day-to-day work and have no capacity for exploring technological innovation, which reflects the underlying point above.

Capturing Value via NFTs

Creating NFT artworks to sell to supporters is suggested as a means for nonprofits to generate income. Over the past few months as NFTs have become more popular (in crypto world anyway), the issues around how immutable the ownership of NFTs actually is, but there have also been cases of NFT art selling for millions of dollars to famous people, which should quite rightly make nonprofits take notice. The problem is that the value of NFTs is directly related to hype generated about them. So, creating them might be low cost but making them desirable is not. Charities struggle to generate hype. It’s not in their skill set or their mindset. The hype model for driving up the value of NFTs is to create exclusivity, and that might not sit well with the ethics of nonprofit organisations. Essentially, its the same question of whether its ok to take money from dodgy companies and use it to do good, and the prevailing stance at the moment is that it isn’t ok.

But NFTs have more potential than just as a means of recording ownership of art. The programmatic uniqueness of NFTs is also used to demonstrate membership for online communities, but still, they are fundamentally based on a philosophy of exclusivity. I think charities and nonprofit organisations should explore NFTs, but there is lots to consider aside from just the technology.

Participatory Fundraising Models

The paper talks of DAOs as a way for charities to fundraise but doesn’t go into whether a DAO could act as a charitable organisation. Legally, it couldn’t, yet anyway, but I think it’s one of the more interesting possibilities that could bridge the gap between charities and social movements. Charities are great at organising people around a cause, but require centralised control, and social movements don’t require any centralised management but often fail to produce long-lasting change beyond awareness. Perhaps a Distributed Autonomous Charitable Organisation could offer a model of wide membership like social movements with a formalised decision-making process like charities.

One interesting idea that is hinted at is a DAO as a means of managing grants, perhaps whereby charities join the DAO that has delivery and funding conditions written into the code so that as a charity achieves and reports on certain milestones the funds are issued to them. This also creates interesting opportunities for intersecting DAO’s, one run by a charity with a membership of supporters and the other run by grant makers with charities as members. The intersecting of the code could mean that as the supporters in one DAO achieve a goal, this triggers a payment from within the other DAO.

In my opinion, DAO’s are by far the most interesting area of web3 for the charity sector.

New Ownership, Organizing, and Activism Models

The paper talks about using web3 technologies to achieve power and wealth distribution in ways that are currently difficult to achieve. There are numerous examples of web3 being used to provide payment mechanisms for unbanked populations, enabling them to trade and establish greater financial security, so it’s more than just an idea within a white paper.

Democratizing Wealth Building

‘Democratizing’ can be a problematic term when talking about web3 or wealth in general as sometimes people think it means that everyone has an equal opportunity, and that isn’t the case. Economies work the same way whichever technology they use. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Wealth always follows a power law distribution.

The problem with digital-first economies using web3 technologies is always that at some point the have to transfer into real money economies, which immediately loses any benefits of them being digital, and makes it difficult to imagine potential uses for charities. The paper seems to struggle for ideas about this too, using musicians and royalties as the example.

Conclusion

The ‘boring plumbing’ argument, which says that charities shouldn’t be exploring emerging technologies like web3 until they have better everyday organisational technologies in place such as CRMs and impact reporting, is a strong one.

The counter argument, sometimes called ‘leapfrog’, might say that just as mobile phones brought telecommunications to African countries without the need for landlines, new technologies can be adopted without having the ‘boring plumbing’ in place, especially given that they tackle very different use cases.

As Rogers described with his Diffusion of Innovation model, there are early adopters who explore emerging technologies with the majority coming onboard later as the technology becomes mainstream. Many charities still don’t have a CRM. But I’m confident we’ll see more and more exploring web3 over the next few years. Just as technology innovation is developing at increasingly faster paces, we can expect charities to be increasingly exploring emerging technology. This exploration should be two-sided, how charities might be able to use new tech to achieve their mission, and how new tech might impact them achieving their mission.