Weeknotes #271

Photo of the week:

This week I did:

Complicated solutions

It’s been a busy week at work preparing solution design documents ahead of development work starting soon. We have six documents in total, and three were approved by stakeholders this week. The solutions are pretty complicated so getting them to make sense and splitting them out into different documents for people that aren’t very familiar with the work was a bit of a challenge.

Outside of work I didn’t do very much this week as I’ve been ill.

And thought about:

Bring us problems, not solutions

My request to stakeholders; bring your teams problems and let them solve them, tell them what you want to achieve and let them achieve it. Bringing solutions, and even worse directions, results in incoherent products that lack focus on solving problems for a well-defined audience.

Ethics in systems design

My biggest lesson from system design is that you can’t blame people for doing the ‘wrong’ thing in a badly designed system that pushes them to that action. Which made me think about the ethics behind systems and ruled-based work processes. I think these have a deontological route which says ‘do the right actions even if it leads to the wrong results’. And, historically, that comes from western religious perspectives. Teleological ethics in the workplace would say ‘get the right result regardless of how’, which can be empowering with clear goals but can lead to toxic behaviours where goals conflict or are too individual (like sales people making unachievable promises to increase their bonus). Virtue-based ethics might say that if the workplace culture encourages the right character traits, then the right actions and right results will come from that. But it’s an uncertain and uncontrollable so is more often implicit than the other two types of ethics. Obviously, this isn’t about choosing one ethical system over another, but is about understanding that all of our ethics influence the systems we work in, and that when different people/teams use different ethical approaches conflict will arise. The ‘system’ is always bigger, wider and deeper that it ever seems, but you have to get into it if you want to design systems that work. And that includes the ethics that are implicit in the organisational culture and system design.

And read:

Is the great digital-nomad workforce actually coming?

The decoupling of opportunity from location continues. More people are finding more ways to live a ‘location-independent technology-enabled lifestyle‘. Of course, only a very small percentage of jobs can be done remotely, so the increase in digital nomads isn’t going to affect all industries and means that the question isn’t really about digital nomads but the change in the power relationship between firms and employers. It will be the greatest shift in the power relationship since the collective bargaining powers of Trade Unions and the labour law reforms of the eighties. Employers who realise that giving their workers more power over how, when and where the work gets done, that giving up control for engagement, will result in healthier people and better work.

Measure the Muttering…

I’m a big believer in paying attention to the quiet things and spotting patterns. The post about listening on social media for hints of ‘things being not quite right or early indicators of things going wrong’ is really interesting.