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.


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.