This week seemed like a large ramp up in the number of things I’m working on. My planner board went from 124 things to 182, approximately half again in just a week. Most of the new work is around the new product we’re working on and people stuff so it seems like the right things for me to be working on but it’s still a considerable increase.

The director of product mentioned that it seemed like I’d been at BSI for longer than I actually have because I’ve done a good job of hitting the ground running. Getting up to speed as quickly as I can has been an aim of mine but perhaps the consequence of that is that more work comes to me than I know how to handle effectively. I’ll continue to prioritise and focus as I usually do, balancing between getting stuff done in the short, setting things up for medium term, and thinking for the longer term.

Why do we have a product function?

I’m still questioning our entire existence. Why does the product function exist at any organisation, and why does BSI have a product function? These questions aren’t meant to suggest that we shouldn’t have a product function but instead to guide it’s future direction.

One conversation I had about this yielded the insight: “We dont monetise the product, we utilise the product to monetise our assests” This makes sense to me and reinforces that we are definitely not a platform business. So, perhaps the question is, “Is it necessary to be a platform business in order to have/need an effective product function?” Or to turn it around, “Is an effective product function a necessary prerequisite in order to create a platform business?”

Resilient interconnected platform

I introduced some of the project team to Microsoft Planner and explained how we are going to use it to coordinate all of the people that get involved with our project work but who don’t usually have any sight of what we’re doing. I know it’s quite a shift from the usual way, and its going to require a lot of discipline from people to keep it up to date but I think making the work visible (at least a bit) will help to encourage the right behaviour.

We’re trialling one project to start with, which is probably a safer bet, but the real value will only come when all of the projects are on there and we get a picture of who has too much to do, who isn’t meeting deadlines, how much there is to do, and how all of the work is interconnected.

I feel like I’ve spent sufficient time understanding the current processes and it’s time to make some improvements. Using a planner board is a change I’m fairly confident about yielding positive results in a short space of time and increase in value the more we use it.

This is just one small step in a theme of making the product function more resilient. The current culture/approach is for one person to be responsible for particular things and have fixed lines that prevent anyone else from taking any responsibility. It creates lots of bottlenecks and dependencies (something I hope the Planner board will help to show) because of its pipeline nature. I want us to aim for a more interconnected approach in the future that will support more of a platform operating model.

Progress measures

OKR’s continue to play on my mind but I’m beginning to develop a plan for how to shift the team’s usual way of using measures (or not) and how OKR’s can be used towards some middle ground. My hope is that we can get to the point where we are reviewing the key results monthly and either continuing with them or resetting them based on feedback loops for the next month so that they can drive the right behaviours. This feels like a truer and more effective use of key results as they become direction-setters and progress-measures.

I also need to set my objectives soon and decide on the best key results to measure my progress. Setting them in isolation is easy as I’ve always been clear about what I want to achieve, but fitting them in with the rest of the team’s is going to take a bit more thinking.

If snails did recruitment and nobody did onboarding

Recruiting a new Product Manager is taking so much longer than it should. I know that’s mostly my fault and I need to find time to progress it, but I’m also feeling uncertain about how the role will work. We’re essentially trying to recruit someone with a detail-oriented approach to focus internally on delivery for a year or so and to switch around and think strategically about the external bigger picture. Its a massive expectation to put on someone (newly recruited or not). I guess that’s the nature of drastic change.

I’ve also been reflecting on my onboarding experience from the past two months, including getting my pay wrong, not being told simple things about the building, not creating accounts in all the systems I need, and not giving me a great deal of info about anything much. I want to make our new PM’s onboarding experience better, so I’ve set up a Planner board which will help to guide them through joining and teach them a bit about how we work.

Mapping unintended consequences

I’ve been thinking about how to map the unintended consequences of a certain state. Kind of a “A” because of “B” because of “C” because of “D thing. It came from trying to understand how OKR’s, PDR’s and delivery measures fit together and I could see how the three things being so separate drove particular dysfunctional behaviour, so creating a simple this-is-caused-by-that list helped me understand why the behaviour was happening. It’s a useful tool and exercise. I’d like to do more of it before I get too settled in and lose sight of this kind of thing but I doubt I’ll have time.

Idea of the week

I submitted this week’s innovative idea. It was essentially ‘black box for small businesses’. It’s a service that helps small business owners to track that their employees are following best practices, e.g. coshh in a cleaning company, and reports to the business’s insurance company to demonstrate how safe they are in return for lower insurance premiums.

Tweet of the week

Tweet of the week goes to Bob Marshal.

Digital transformation tweet by Bob Marshall

Although it’s an obvious thing that I don’t think anyone would disagree with its interesting to think about the implications of using technology to drive changes in behaviour, culture, mindset, etc. In a way its what technology is good at; driving changes in behaviour. Its something we see all around us but it occurs in an unthought-out way. I wonder if it’s possible to drive the digital transformation of an organisation without needing to use technology as a catalyst.