Week notes #167

This week I’ve been studying:

Managing people in organisations

The week 2 lecture in the Principles of Organisational Management module was about managing people and the role of Human Resource Management.

I learned about how the employment relationship is both a legal contract and a social relationship. As a legal contract it establishes certain rights and obligations between the employer and the employee. As a social relationship, it is dependent on the existence of labour as a commodity, and gives rise to various social phenomena within and beyond the workplace. Conflict is inherent in the employment relationship but what is established is what Goodrich called ‘The frontier of control’.

I also learned about how HR is fundamentally individualistic, which means that the nature of the relationship between the organisation and the employer is one-to-one rather than one-to-many or many-to-many. It’s through the nature of this relationship that the employer

Business models for a smarter economy

In the intellectual capital and competitiveness module lecture I learned that innovation requires a number of things, and that these seven criteria of a good innovator form a useful model

Big Innovation Centre - Seven Criteria Of A Good Innovator

I found the idea of ‘agility and absorptive capability’ really interesting.

“For an innovative company in our fast-changing modern day business landscape, it is not enough just to be resourced by innovative employees and driven by a culture that encourages innovation. Dynamism is increasingly becoming a required attribute of innovative companies. In other words, an innovative company is one that is agile and flexible enough to adjust to changing conditions, and quick enough to capture emerging opportunities. Useful internal indicators of these usually include how fluid and flexible, or bureaucratic and encumbered, the company‚Äôs decision-making processes are, and whether the company feels comfortable exploring business ideas and opportunities beyond its comfort zone. Externally, these manifest in whether a company is able to capture first-mover, or at least early-mover, advantages, and the extent to which a company has been successful in projects or initiatives in a different market, or sector, that require different skills and competencies.”

The Big Innovation Centre has developed an online tool at to allow organisations to understand how innovative they are against the seven criteria.

This week I’ve been thinking about:

Feedback loops

How feedback loops and course-correction might be a better way to achieve a target than measurement alone.

The usual measurement approach seems like we start by setting where we want to get to, what measures we are going to use to monitor progress, and often leave out defining the actions to get there. This is understandable as we don’t usually know ahead of time what we’ll need to do. We try something but only know if its helping us reach the target at a measurement point. And as the measurement is the visible thing in this scenario it’s easy to game the actions to make the measurements look good but not really achieve the target.

Instead, we could approach it by setting where we want to get to, what the first action we can do to take us in that direction, and how we’re going to get feedback to tell us if we’re heading in the right direction, and if not course-correct by choosing a different action. I think this approach would give us a far greater chance of achieving the target because we can get an idea of whether we’re heading the right direction sooner and do something about it if we’re not. I guess this is a bit of a micro version of the fire control problem, which one day I’m going to write a book about.


ProductOps as a team/function/concept is increasingly becoming a thing. I’m starting to see it as a response to Product Management’s focus on building new things and consequently not being able to give sufficient investment to maintaining and sustaining product ecosystems (not just technical but supplier contract renewals, etc.)

Digital future

I’ve thinking a lot more about what a digital future looks like for organisations (and especially charities, partly prompted by Joe’s article below). I’ve been thinking about whether my idea of digital strata will help to communicate how profoundly digital is going to change our lives, our society and the entire world. It has philosophy at the deepest level (metamodernism replacing post-modernism), principles (such as platforms replacing pipelines for value delivery) one layer up, processes (such as centralised command & control decision-making replaced by decentralised and distributed decision-making) above, and then practices (like how we communicate in smaller chunks, faster, and more frequently) at the upper most level. I intend to write about my ideas in more detail some time soon.

This week on my Twitter people were talking about:

Digital leadership

Joe Freeman wrote a post on Charity Comms about Digital Leadership. I like how Joe writes. He’s very practical and offers some useful advice, which is in complete contrast to my random spouting of completely conceptual ideas. Joe’s stance on digital (if I can put words in his mouth) is that it is merely another tool for marketing and communications, something that charities need to invest in understanding and using better, but fundamentally just an enabler or channel for what the charity is already doing.

I see digital as requiring and even forcing an entire paradigm shift for charity. In order to stay relevant over the rest of this century and beyond charities need to begin to figure out how they will completely redesign themselves using digital concepts to replace the industrial concepts that most charities were built on. The future will require that they have completely new models for governance, decision-making, leadership, financing, managing staff and volunteers, etc., etc. I worry that if charities are convinced that digital is just a channel and so don’t do this necessary thinking they’ll get left behind as the pace of change increases more rapidly over the coming years.

World Mental Health Day

10th October was World Mental Health Day. Lots of people and organisations were tweeting about experiences they had had or calling for more funding for the NHS to spend of mental health. One of the mental health bloggers I follow on Twitter tweeted that this year’s WMHD felt different to previous years with more focus on calling for action rather than just raising awareness.

Innovation at charities

RNLI shared their approach towards innovation along with 98 slides of trends that see affecting their future. Apart being an awesome piece of work to guide their innovations what I found just as interesting was that they made it public. That feels like a big shift when most charities keep any kind of work-in-progress or direction-setting private. I think it’s really good to see charities like RNLI and Red Cross doing such good work around sharing how they are innovating ideas publicly.