Charity Service/Product Model Canvas – iteration 2

Charity Service Model Canvas – iteration 2

Users at the centre.

Understanding needs and problems on one side and outcomes on the other.

Acquisition and Solutions intersect the Users to show that equal consideration needs to be given to getting people using the product as building it.

Below the line of user interaction is Costs, Partners, Resources and Funding.

Doesn’t have Activities like iteration 1 did. Should it?

Weeknotes #278

Photo of the week:

Season’s greetings, by Banksy, ironically displayed within a shop.

On this week’s Done list:

Connecting concepts in systems

I’ve been working a lot this week on how different systems ‘conceptualise’ things and how those concepts move between systems with very different data structures as the data moves between them. The same ‘concept’ is defined in different ways and needs translation and common language between the systems. What constitutes the identity of a user in one system isn’t the same as in another, but it’s easy to miss the impact of the differences if you don’t dig into them.

Irregular Ideas

Sent out the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth irregular ideas. I feel like my writing is getting a bit better with the constraints of talking about a specific idea, only having a few paragraphs to do so, and putting it in an email so I can’t change it later. It’s different to writing a blog post where I’m more likely to throw in lots of loosely connected things.

Future Skills

I worked on the first email for the Future Skills guided learning to try get the template right which will hopefully make writing the other nineteen emails quicker. I need to give it lots more time and get the emails written and set up so I can start marketing it. Of all my side-projects it feels like the one that has the most potential for actually meeting a need rather than just being of interest to me. I think it might still not be practical enough but until I get some people using it and get some feedback it’s all guesswork.

Systems-shifting product management

I set up a project page on my website and started to try to define systems-shifting product management, including the idea that product managers develop by learning how to increase their leverage rather than gaining influence and authority within the organisational hierarchy.

Stuff I read and listened to this week:

Public service product management

I listened to Tom Loosemore on ‘the product experience’ podcast talking about product management in the UK government. He talks about how part of product management is creating that space in organisations to do product management, that understanding user needs is do much harder then we think, especially in environments with messy and uncertain human behaviours and that joining up teams, channels, and solutions is essential for achieving the real outcomes for people.

Using maps

Simon Wilson, also on ‘the product experience’, talked about using mapping to know where we are and where we’re going. Mapping, and working in visual ways, are useful for bringing the users of a service forward into people’s thoughts. Maps help us understand the shape and scope of a problem, who it affects, how it affects the organisation. They show us a narrative and help us understand movement.

Decentralise decision-making

I read Jason Yip’s post about using doctrine to allow safe decentralised decision-making by establishing consistent decision logic. He writes/quotes, “Strategy doesn’t give employees enough guidance to know how to take action, and plans are too rigid to adapt to changing circumstances. In rapidly changing environments, you need doctrine to get closer to the ground. Doctrine creates the common framework of understanding inside of which individuals can make rapid decisions that are right for their circumstances… If strategy defines objectives, and plans prescribe behavior, then doctrine guides decisions.” Jason proposes an Agile doctrine:

  1. Reduce the distance between problems and problem-solvers
  2. Validate every step
  3. Take smaller steps
  4. Clean up as you go

There’s nothing much to disagree with, either the idea of a doctrine or the things Jason includes within the Agile doctrine. And I completely agree with the problem he’s trying to solve, how to bridge the gap between strategy and plans in a way that fits with modern good practice for cross-functional autonomous teams. The challenge, as always with these things, is the broad context they have to be conceived for and the narrowing of the context for them to be applied.

Three tech trends charities should know about

It’s great to see the emerging tech trends of metaverse and NFTs being talked about more within the charity sector. It’s always hard to start because the typical response is often cynicism and disdain (even from people who you’d expect to want to consider new technologies with an open mind) but given the increasing speed of change it’s even more important that charities do start to understand new tech. Broadly, I think there are three areas of impact new tech might have on a charity that bare some thinking about. The first is how it might affect the people that a charity is trying to help, e.g., gambling charities should definitely be keeping up with how metaverse games will affect gambling behaviour. The second is how new tech might affect the charities existing ways of doing things, e.g. social media fundraising, which to many fundraisers probably looks like just another channel. And then thirdly, how the new tech might disrupt charity business models, e.g., Decentralised Autonomous Organisations forming the basis for a new way of tackling a cause.

Thought about this week:

The discipline

Following on from product managers product managing product management, I’ve been thinking about the discipline of product management. I guess I use the term ‘discipline’ to mean a structure practice, almost like a martial art where the same moves are learned through repetition which means the practitioner can then put those moves together into sequences that work with each other and not against. This discipline and practice, if adopted, accepted, appreciated by an organisation, brings a balance of order and flexibility to how an organisation makes decisions about the products it develops and runs. It brings clarity to what’s important, and uses that to set focus. Perhaps one of the benefits of this discipline is making it easier to see when something breaks from the discipline and disrupts that clarity and focus.

Which way to work

My current side-projects include Systems-shifting Product Management, Irregular Ideas, Future Skills, and Along with also doing online courses and writing blog posts (such as weeknotes), I feel like I’m not really making progress quickly enough on any of them so I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to work. I’ve scheduled time for each project one day a week to try to make progress on all of them at the same time, but I still continue to question whether it’s better to choose one project and set myself a bigger chunk of work to do over a few weeks before moving onto another. Before this scheduled approach I just picked whichever project I felt like working on that day, which gave me more flexibility to do easy work when my mind needed a rest and more complicated work when I was looking for more challenge, but lacked structure to get me to actually work on things I might not really want to.

My growth area for this week

Letting go

Definitely letting go. Still a challenge, probably always a challenge, but an important lesson to learn.

Weeknotes #277

This week I did:

Planning work for next year

I started doing some solution planning work for the next few months. It will hopefully bring together the strands of work that we’ve been building more recently. It’s like the plot reveals in a detective story where we can start to see why that decision was made back then and why we wanted to do this other thing that way.

More irregularites

Sent my third Irregular Ideas newsletter and got my fourth subscriber, but still have no clue about solving the feedback loop problem. The newsletter is supposed to be about sparking ideas together, but maybe my ideas don’t connect with other people’s, or maybe most people aren’t interested in ideas as a unit of value in the way I am. Maybe it needs a lot more subscribers and then a call-to-action to ascertain whether it’s solving that problem, but I think it’s probably just too amorphous a problem to measure in that way.

Human relationships

I caught a bit of the talk Andy Tabberer did called ‘Human side of delivery: forging relationships & building trust in a remote world’. It was good to learn a bit more about delivery management from the people side rather than practices. In a very simplistic and tactical way I’ve always seen delivery management as being about removing barriers for developers but I found the idea of ‘team health’ interesting and it made me think about what that might mean in different team contexts.

Future charity DAO

I’ve started doing a bit of research into how a DAO could be set up to run as a charity. There’s a lot to think about (that’s an understatement). There are barriers such as DAO’s aren’t a legal entity, and they rely on being able to codify the rules of the organisation, which is difficult when charity law is so messy. But there is also lots of interesting potential to explore for how each of the functions of charity might work in a tokenised system.

And I thought about:

Teams interfacing

I’ve been thinking about how difficult it is to conceive of and describe how different teams within the same organisation interface with each other. I think there’s a difference between teams interfacing with other teams and functions affecting teams, so for example the HR team manages the payroll function, but they aren’t interfacing with any other team as part of their work, payroll happens for all teams equally and so without any particular affect. Interfacing affects all those that interface. Some teams have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and practices, and I wonder if when they interface with teams that are less well defined, that their ‘harder’ boundary is more likely to push the more flexible team out of shape. How teams interface, and the shifting interplay of that interface, could be a systemic cause of friction or lubrication. How well teams understand their place in the organisational systems, however implicit that understanding (because it’s not as easy to depict as an org chart) must also be important for working effectively. It isn’t as simple as saying, ‘this team’s role is to do x’, because that speaks of the team in isolation and not in relation to other teams. Maybe value chain mapping could help to see where and why teams interact, even if not quite how.

Flywheel business models interacting with each other

The usual flywheel business models, as described by the uber napkin drawing, show how different aspects of a business drive others and that growth comes from increasing the throughput of the flywheel. But that are always shown as closed systems, in isolation from any other systems they might interact with. I’ve been wondering if multiple flywheel business models might interact with each other in an eco-system of business models. The difference between flywheel and linear business models is that flywheels feedback into themselves whereas linear takes an input, processes it and outputs something of value. I haven’t yet thought of an example of flywheels interact, either to drive to flywheel or slow it, but I’ll keep thinking about it.

Second-order personas

I’m still thinking quite a lot about what systems-shifting product management might look like. One of the ideas I’m playing with to shift the focus off user-centred design and to achieve outcomes by causing changes in systems is to affect the people who affect people, or, to put it another way, work on second order personas. For example, if you wanted to improve the experience someone with disabilities has when interviewing for a job, you can provide them means for overcoming barriers (first-order persona) or you could provide employers (second-order personas) with the means to remove barriers and so change a part of the system.

Spectrum of approaches to problems

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks now about the two opposite ways of approaching problems; engineering thinking, which solves known problems with upfront design and results in repeatable solutions, and design thinking, which solves less certain problems by uncovering the way forward step-by-step and results in more unique solutions. In thinking about critiques of these approaches it occurred to me that the design thinking approach could be seen as ‘throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks’. It then occurred to me that uncoordinated haphazard attempts to solve problems might actually be an entirely different approach, which then places all three on a spectrum from unplanned to planned with the design thinking approach somewhere in the middle.

And this week I read:

World Building

World Building is about story-telling. But it’s about more than that. It’s about how everything connects with a purpose in a coherent way to create the story that exists when it isn’t being told. This is an inspiring idea. In thinking about a portfolio of products all centred around similar problems and users, the world we build shows all who enter it how things are now, where we’re going, and why it’s the right place to go.

Trojan mice

On the theme of lots of small solutions being better for approaching complex problems than big single solutions, What’s the pont’s post about Trojan Mice as safe-to-fail probes into complex situations to gather data and make sense, is really interesting. I’m not sure I fully understand what the post is saying as it seems to be talking about replacing Trojan Horse projects with Trojan mice, but they serve very different purposes and so couldn’t be direct replacements, but it’s useful to think about how we might send . And to throw in another thought, clockwork mice behave in predictable ways but might collide in interesting and unexpected ways. Something to consider for multiple safe-to-fail probes.

The narrative on charity overhead

This is an interesting post about charities position on the narrative about the overhead costs charity’s have on many levels. I wonder where justifying low percentage of overhead as a good thing started. Was it in response to a genuine problem or hype and moral panic? As the post says, those charities that spend most of their money on what would be considered overhead, because of the type of work they do, become disadvantaged by that narrative pushed by the charities that don’t spend in that way. The specifics of overhead aside, it raises interesting questions about where charities draw the line in being competitive or collaborative. In what circumstances is it ok for a charity to do what’s best for itself rather than what might be good for the sector? And when should a single charity disregard it’s own best interests in favour of the sector benefiting more generally? If a charity makes a choice that results in it having less funding and so being less able to achieve its objectives, isn’t that bad for the sector as a whole? It’s a complex issue.

My growth area this week:

Recognising the ask

I’ve been thinking about ways in which we ask for help when we don’t know how to ask for help, or don’t realise that we want help. Maybe it relies on other people recognising changes in behaviour, but sometimes there just isn’t any way to help.

What good product management in charities looks like

I don’t have the answer. But I’m pretty sure that it is rooted in compassion, kindness, integrity, justice and inclusiveness before it even thinks about product practices or applying them in the context of a charity. That’s the hard stuff to get right. Without that it’s easy to go astray and with that the rest of it looks easy.

Why Web3 is important for charities

What is charity?

As a concept, ‘charity’ refers to the social contract we all enter into as members of a society. The social contract says that we have a responsibility to contribute towards the betterment of others in society even if we don’t know them.

As a behaviour, ‘charity’ is the fulfilling of that social contract. There are many many ways for individuals to commit private resources to public good. Those resources may be time, money goods, expertise, in fact anything with transactable value. Sure, some people choose to renege on their responsibilities, or even deny the contract exists, but such is the freedom of a democratic society.

As an organisation, a ‘charity’ tries to encourage people to fulfill the social contract in service of a particular cause. The wide variety of charities for the wide variety of causes allows for anyone to contribute towards a cause that matters to them.

What is web3?

Web3 encodes social contracts. It is computable law, or an executable Magna Carta.

Web3 provides a governance layer for the internet. It offers technologies and protocols that allow applications to enable a paradigmatic shift in how the transactable elements of society; money, data, rights & laws, are processed. It offers the possibility of moving from a centralised model, where we rely on an institution such as a bank to govern the exchange of money, to a decentralised system of processing money between people without intermediaries.

Web3 utilises blockchain technology as a tool for distributed consensus, or to put it another way, a means of everyone agreeing on something because everyone can see that it happened. A transfer of ownership of a unit of value is recorded, immutably, in a way that

Why is web3 important for charities?

As with all new technologies, web3 will enable charities do the same things in different ways, such as accept donation, but with cryptocurrencies rather than fiat, and run charity auctions, except with NFTs rather than physical goods. Charities will start with this type of incremental innovation. But, and far more importantly, it will empower them to do different things. Charities will create radical innovation. Charities will create dramatically different ways to achieve their charitable purposes, and enable people to contribute to a cause and fulfill the social contract.

Web3 drastically alters the need for centralised institutions. As Decentralised Autonomous Organisations become better understood, providing a means of moving the bye-laws and decision-making of an organisation into smart contracts, a charitable organisation acting as intermediary to manage the distribution of donations will be replaced with peer-to-peer networks, with governance encoded into a smart contracts, and with the supporter members of the organisation having equal voting rights about how the rules of those smart contracts are written.

This future frees the charity from dependence on other centralised institutions like banks and marketing platforms too. When the next big social network emerges to replace Facebook and Twitter it will be built on the blockchain. As users migrate to a platform that doesn’t trap them by locking-in their data so they can be advertised at, so to will charities move their social marketing and find new ways to connect people to causes.

The labour market of the web3 future won’t have employees. Charities will offer up contract work with the briefing, completion and payment all handled through smart contracts. DACO’s will have no need for large teams across multiple departments, only hiring in developers to create smart contracts that govern the work.

What might a web3-enabled charity sector look like? No one knows yet. But it will come.

Systems-shifting design for charity products and services

I have a hypothesis about product success: users are far less important than we think. How and where a product intersects with other systems is far more important for achieving outcomes.

Human-centred design, the dominant mindset for product design, places the user as the most important consideration, but this, I think, is built on the assumption of the user as separate from the world around them. If we think of the user as just one actor in the network of systems that makes up the product, then this

Rightly or wrongly, charities are often held to a higher ethical standard than commercial enterprises for how they design and build products and services, and I think as the ideas around systems-shifting design take hold we’ll see more charities designing for how to products interact with other systems to affect change and achieve outcomes rather than the user-centred approach for products that seek to change behaviour.

Product management in charities and public health: how different is it?

The role of the product manager in high-entropy environments

Trilly Chatterjee’s post about the framing of the product manager’s role, particularly in the public health space, prompted me to try to pull together some of my thoughts about the role product managers play in charities. Trilly starts with the challenge of explaining what it is that product managers do, and how this seems to apply in all sectors and industries. He also highlights how product managers have “very different routines depending on the particular context of their product or service”.

Then specifically speaking about the public health environment, Trilly goes on to explain how there are many perspectives, tensions, trade-offs, processes, people, teams, departments, etc., often pulling in different directions, that all together create an environment of high entropy. In high-entropy environments, where things tend to fall out of alignment quickly and easily, a product manager’s role is to maintain alignment. They achieve this through conversations. Trilly’s point; conversations are the first best tool for reducing the entropy. Or to put it another way, keeping people talking to each other reinforces alignment between the problem and the solution.

I wonder if the product manager takes on this role purely because there aren’t other mechanisms for maintaining alignment and so preventing entropy in the system. If this is the case, then the working environment/system is a causal contributor to why the role of product management is so hard to define. In a very different environment, a small tech start-up for example, a product manager might not need to focus on conversations to as a means to maintain alignment. Different environment (low-entropy), different need (other mechanisms in place), different focus for the product manager.

The goal of the product manager in all environments

So… is product management in charities different to in the public health sector?

Public health and charity, at first glance, look like they could be quite similar. Both are about helping people and both deal with complex multi-faceted problems. But even the slightest scratch beneath the surface shows more fundamental differences than similarities.

Starting with the funding model, public health is centrally funded whilst charities usually receive their income from a diverse and often uncertain range of sources. This matters because how organisations are funded underpins how they organise and manage resources. Although no public health or third sector organisation is ever funded sufficiently to meet the demands placed on it, the funding ecosystem in which an organisation sits makes a huge difference to how the value-chain operates.

Secondly, branding and public perception. The National Health Service, under one banner, is made up of thousands of separate organisations. The charity sector consists of hundreds of thousands of organisations, all under their own brand. For all the benefits it brings, the NHS brand creates an expectation of joined-up-ness that just doesn’t exist in the charity sector. And perhaps it is this expectation of joined-up-ness in a disparate eco-system of organisations, processes and technologies that creates the environment where for a product manager to facilitate the value exchange between organisation and end user they first have to facilitate the conversations that create some kind of connectedness that allows the value chain to product something of use to the user.

From these examples it’s easy to see how the environment that the product manger’s operate in is very different. But, what the product manager is trying to achieve is very much the same.

At it’s most fundamental level product management is about facilitating the value exchange between the organisation and the customer/user/beneficiary. In some organisations the product manager focuses their effort on the sharp end of the value exchange, on the point of interface, the technology the customer interacts with to make the value exchange happen. In other organisations product managers have influence over the entire value chain, the strategy for taking organisational resources and packaging them in a way that is of value to the user. Neither of these positions, or anywhere in between, is more of less important a role, or of greater or lesser value to the organisation. How a product manager fits in the organisation is most often a factor of how the organisation arranges itself, as we’ve seen in the differences in the environments between public health and charities, than it is in the definition of the role itself.

The opportunity for product management in charities

But what about product management in charities? Product management in the charity sector is still fairly new and immature. It feels as equally misunderstood as product management is the public health sector, partly because of the lack, or misunderstanding, of definition, and partly I think, just because of how new it is.

A point I’m always keen to make when talking about product management and charities is that the product management function of an organisation doesn’t necessarily require someone with the job title ‘product manager’. Product management should be viewed more as a mindset and a skill set than it should as a job. Lots of people working in charities, with all kinds of job titles do product management work, it just isn’t framed as such. Perhaps this point of view makes defining what product managers do even more cloudy, but if we .

Charities, even the biggest of them, don’t have the high-entropy environments in the same way as the NHS. That doesn’t mean alignment is easy, it just means the differences between those people and things that should be aligned are less.

Traditionally, an organisation’s value-chain applied ‘engineering thinking’. Engineering thinking is based on the assumption that a problem can be understood upfront, a solution defined, developed and then delivered, resulting in no more problem. And if you’re building simple solutions to tame, well-understood problems, that approach fits. But then the world got more connected (blame to internet if you like) and the problems became more complex, and so engineering thinking ceased to be the best way to solve problems. But many charities continue to apply this thinking to the products and services they provide.

Nowadays, more organisations are applying ‘design thinking’ to how they approach solving problems. Design thinking recognises wicked problems and says that the best way to even start to solve highly complex problems is to experiment, use prototypes, get feedback, understand what effect your solution had on the problem, then try again and again, learning more each time. None of this can be done upfront and then delivered, it can only be done in real-time with real people in real life situations. Increasingly we’re seeing charities adopt design thinking approaches to problems.

What does this have to do with product management? These more complex problems require more advanced means of managing in order to reach a solution. This is where the modern product manager steps in. Their role is, as Trilly says, to facilitate alignment, or as I’ve written before, to interface, integrate and iterate. Importantly, managing alignment between the people within an organisation is done in service of managing the alignment between the problem and the solution. That is any product managers ultimate goal; to ensure the solution solves the problem.

Whereas a product manager in the vast public health system might only work across a thin slice of the value chain, product mangers have increasing scope in charities to work across the entire value chain. They can mange the interface between the charity and service users and supporters, usually using technology to provide the value exchange mechanism. They can manage the integration within the organisation, vertically between strategy and the logistics of delivery, and horizontally between different teams. They can manage the iterating of the solution to apply that design thinking approach to solving complex problems.

Charities need good product management because charities face increasingly complex problems.

Why we should measure charity impact more widely

When it comes to doing good in the world charities aren’t the only show in town. Social movements such as gender equality and black lives matter, and ethical & socially responsible businesses such as Patagonia and Warby Parker demonstrate that positive impact can be achieved without being a nonprofit organisation. So, where does this leaves charities? If social impact can be achieved by organisations that are financially self-sustaining and without the need for an organisation at all, then it leaves charities stuck in the ‘squeezed middle’ between the two, justifying their place in the for-good landscape.

In pushing out of that middle, charities need to be able to demonstrate their impact, to be accountable to funders for how they spend money, to the public (and perhaps the press although not justifiably so) to ward off questions about the need for their existence, and also for themselves to know that they are doing a good job and making a difference. It’s this accountability that makes charities different to social movements and for-profit businesses. Not just accountability for spending money, but accountable for achieving impact. But impact is a difficult thing to define and even more difficult to measure, especially across the wide range of different charities that make up the charity sector.

There is an argument for charities to measure impact against their mission. This approach suggests each charity be clear about it’s mission and measure it’s impact accordingly without the need for defining measures that work consistently for all charities or adhering to externally applied regulations. If a charity’s mission is, for example, to prevent a particular species from extinction then it’s impact in achieving that mission can be considered simply by asking if that species is nearer or farther away from extinction following the charities work. A simple, single measure that applies whatever the charity. But simple, single measures only ever provide a small part of the picture. To go down the route of measuring impact narrowly against each charity’s mission is to fall into the trap of businesses measuring their performance by their bottom line. It provides a limited understanding, which risks being used to make the wrong decisions.

But there is another approach to consider. Rather than focus on the measurement of mission, charities could seek to demonstrate the wider benefit they bring to society. They could demonstrate the positive sentiment they create, the good vibes people get from supporting charities. And the benefits volunteering brings to people, not to mention the state in reducing social care needs and the commercial sector in giving people work experience. And sense of pride and achievement felt but those who work in and for charities to make a difference. And the security that people in need get from knowing that charities are there to help, even if they don’t need them right now. Charities do so much more good in the world than just in achieving their missions. This is their impact, and we should celebrate the widest possible definition of the impact charities have on the world we live in.

Weeknotes #265

Photo of the week

Great Wheal Charlotte

All that’s left of a now abandoned tin and copper mine on the Cornish coast.

This week I did:

Turning dreams into reality

I think a product managers job is to turn dreams into reality, ideas into things, abstract concepts into real understanding. Usually that means bringing those dreams crashing down. In reality, things take longer and are more complicated than people’s ideas and expectations. I’ve spent quite a lot of time this week trying to let people down gently as I smash their dreams of a perfect product that automates all the boring work, achieves operational efficiencies, and provides mind-blowing user experience. Such is the process of gathering and refining requirements, distilling and filtering them down into a manageable scope of work.

The end is nigh

I’ve been working on the introduction and conclusion for my dissertation, and hope to put all the sections together and finish it this weekend. I’ve learned a lot from it and reached conclusions I didn’t think I would. I will be glad when it’s done but I’m also going to miss studying and the pressure it puts on me so I’ll definitely need to think carefully about what I focus on in the coming months.

I thought about:

The future of influence at work

Gaining influence at work used to be about people getting to know people, and it’s still very much that way in meeting-orientated organisations, but as remote work shifts towards more asynchronous communications methods the way we build our influence at work will change. Influence will come from written and pictorial communication rather than spoken. People will demonstrate the quality of their thinking in how they create diagrams or write convincingly, rather than ow they talk in meetings. It starts to make influence somehow more evidence-based than using relying on social cues. Written language, although still completely open to interpretation and misunderstanding, has more of an agreed understanding, but visual communication requires learning a new language. All the concepts of design; information architecture, use of space, size, proportion, etc., it all becomes necessary to understand into to understand the diagrams. So, influence through visual work isn’t as easy as just using images, diagrams and maps.

Selection mechanisms

I could call this a ‘prioritisation method’, but the word prioritisation is so overused that it’s lost meaning, so I prefer to call the stuff I’ve been thinking about ‘selection mechanisms’. It’s basically about choosing the right criteria to judge something by and how you get information for each criteria to make the judgement. The three criteria for the selection mechanism I’ve been using this week were: How essential is it? How complex is it? How certain is it? So, for example, if a requirement is essential, doesn’t have lots of variation to make it complex, and is well understood to make it certain, then we’ll put it in scope. Why three? Because we usually have two criteria, e.g., the Impact Effort matrix, because it makes it easier to represent in a diagram, and I want to explore how having three dimensions leads to better more nuanced decisions.

Game theory for project planning

What if, rather than project planning being able coming up with ‘the one and only plan for how things are supposed to work out’, we used game theory scenario planning to explore multiple ways projects could work out. What if, all the people who are on the project and a few others to play external actors, played out hypothetical scenarios for different ways the project could happen. And what if our understanding of project plans was based on possibilities and potential outcomes rather than things being fixed and changes being considered deviations?

And read:

Charity management

I started reading Charity Management: Leadership, Evolution, and Change by Sarah Mitchell. It is full of challenging questions, like ‘are charities making a significant difference?’ and ‘can they do better?’,and interesting ideas like charities as innovators for the state (I may have mentioned that idea before), how the diversity of the sector is a strength and a weakness, and how market mechanisms do or don’t work for charities. So far, it’s a really good book.

Developing Mastery in a Digital Age

Kenneth Mikkelsen writes about how leaders need to use learning to lead successfully. I like the idea of ‘Seek, sense, share’, and have previously read about leadership as sense-making, which seems to fit into what Mikkelsen talks about. It’s an ‘input-process-output’ approach and perhaps doesn’t seem to consider connecting and compounding as parts of the process, but it’s very interesting nonetheless. I think I’ve decided, for the moment at least, that I’m interested in leadership from the perspective of someone who is lead. Almost everything I read on leadership is from the perspective of helping people become better leaders, perhaps with the assumption that good leaders automatically create followers. I wonder why there isn’t much written about being a good ‘leadee’?

This week I’m grateful for:

Seeing dolphins

I went to beach one evening. I took my laptop and notebook but forgot my short and diving mask. As I sat there writing random ideas and staring out to sea I saw dolphins arcing out of the water a few hundred metres away. I’m so appreciative of the life I lead and I hope I never lose that.

Weeknotes #264

This week I did:

Solutions principles

I’ve been working with lots of stakeholders to get a deeper understanding of all of their problems and looking for commonalities to create principles and models for solutions. One example is four different teams who all need to use the data our product collects but for different things. The solution model provides a way to think about the data sets together and how making a change in one place affects other processes elsewhere. I really enjoy getting into these kinds of complex modelling problems and abstracting them to simple principles.

Charity innovation model

I’m onto the theory building stage of my dissertation and fours weeks away from the submission deadline. I’m developing a theoretical model that describes how charities approach innovation by placing them in a matrix of incremental to radical and organisational to social innovation.

Top-down or bottom-up?

I wrote some of my thoughts about top-down and bottom-up planning and the use of the right reasoning behind both of them.

Hitting bottom

I made it to Land’s End, so now I’m heading up the other side of the country. And I started adding the places I visit to a map, not in any way to track progress because it’s not meant to be a mission but just so I can look back on it later.


I’ve collected 333 stiles on But what makes it the greatest collection of styles on the internet? Is it quantity, the sheer number of stiles? Or is it the gleeful grin I have on my face as I run up to a newly found stile with my phone out to take the photo? I’ll let you decide.

And this week thought about:

How far upstream should charities operate?

It seems to me that most charities act on problems at a down-stream point closest to the impact, and not many take solutions up-steam to prevent the problem form happening. The reasons why are multiple and complex, but maybe social innovation offers some thoughts about whether charities should be involved in creating bigger solutions to wicked problems.

Value Chain Mapping

John Cutler tweeted about ‘the product’ being the value chain that takes the value an organisation produces out into the world for the customer. There is a truism that clear deep thinking seems obvious when you look back at it, and this idea is one of those, but it slightly blew my mind. It seems like an important part of the definition of a product that isn’t talked about much. I also watched Introduction to Value Chain Mapping by Simon Wardley to help me think through a bit about how value chain mapping applies to product strategy.

So far I’ve been thinking about how it helps to identify the uniqueness of the product which helps to understand the UPS, competitive advantage and how to make decisions. For example, the unique thing about our courses is how much support we offer for those doing the courses, so that’s quite far to the left in the Genesis section (which I also interpret as unique/specialist). Because each of our courses is different we need to develop a website that can handle the variation rather than use an off-the-shelf elearning product, so that goes somewhere in the middle-to-left. We don’t need unique website hosting so that goes over to the right.

I’ve also been thinking about where to add intangible parts of the value chain such as the skills and knowledge of the people who manage the training to help us answer questions like, ‘if we improve the skills and knowledge of the trainers, how much will that improve the quality of the product?’.

Big things beat little things

FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) is used to “describe a particular pattern of decision making that supports rapid, low-cost innovation“, but it is often counter to enterprise IT strategies that see the benefits in only having a few large systems to maintain. Maybe Agile is an attempt to move the FIST characteristics out of the technology and into the processes, and so realise the benefits of working quickly with small things within enterprise technology stacks and large organisation strategies. Will it work? Probably not. Big things beat little things.

On the theme of big and small, Paul Taylor wrote a post about how we usually think (especially in organisations) that change has to be a big thing but maybe we underestimate the small changes.

Responsibility, given and taken

When you put litter in the bin you are making it someone else’s responsibility, but someone who has chosen to take on that responsibility. If you throw litter on the ground you are abdicating responsibility for it, and it still becomes someone else’s responsibility but there’s less of a socially acceptable agreement there, but it’s not that different. Responsibility is the currency that defines how people operate in groups. It isn’t the distribution of labour, or power and authority. Giving, taking, accepting, refusing responsibility, these are the interesting dynamics of groups.

My growth area this week:

Not causing chaos

This week I’ve been trying to be more conscious in how I frame information and communicate about uncertain things in ways that don’t cause chaos and confusion. It’s difficult to know how well I’m doing, but just not communicating isn’t an option so at least trying to do so intentionally is hopefully a little better.