Weeknotes #225

What I did this week:

Scope

Defining scope is hard. Because you don’t know what you don’t know. We’ve been trying to reach a base-lined definition of what we should deliver in our current project. Writing a list of things is easy. Feeling confident you haven’t missed anything is not so easy.

Study

Qualitative interviews and transnational innovation. As with most things, the more you look the more you see. I thought qualitative interviews would be easy after the statistics lectures (and they are, statistics is still the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn) but of course there is lots to learn about how to make them successful. Transnational innovation is about companies moving into other countries, not to access another geographic region, but in order to leverage the innovation and learning potential that doesn’t exist in their home country. This is based on the underlying thinking that strategic success for companies in the 21st Century comes from developing and leveraging knowledge rather than capital resources.

Wipeout

I bought a wipeboard. The note-taking cult on the Internet says you should write everything down. Connect those ideas. Build on them. Don’t loose anything. I wonder if letting go of ideas might be ok. I’ve also been thinking about all the things I want to do, products I want to build, all those projects on my roadmap, and I wonder if the world really needs more poorly implemented digital products. Probably not. I’m becoming more essentialist in my thinking.


Thought about:

What is product management?

I think the product management function in an organisation serves three purposes: interface between the customer and the organisation, vertical integration between hierarchical levels in an organisation and horizontal integration between teams, and feedback loops between all of those. When organisations learn to organise in ways that achieve this without a facilitating function/role then Product Managers won’t be necessary.

BPAAS vs. SAAS

What’s the difference between Business Process As A Service models and Software As A Service models? I think the key difference is that BPAAS model requires inputs from the organisation using the service, whereas SAAS doesn’t it is just used. I think BPAAS has an advantage over SAAS, it has two opportunities for learning. It has the same feedback loop that SAAS has where the usage of the service is used to improve the service, but it also can help the customers improve their inputs and so get better outputs.

Ramblechats

I’ve been thinking about making videos. This might be driven by three intersecting things: My ramblechat with Bobi Robson, upgrading my phone package to give me unlimited data, and spending most of my time on work and study meaning I don’t have time to write blog posts. I thought I might go for a walk and talk to myself about some of my ideas, having a ramblechat with myself whilst rambling. It might be a quicker way to explore ideas in a non-precious way whilst pushing me outside my introvert comfort zone.


Reading and tweeting this week:

Inputs

I normally have lots of inputs. It’s part of my synchronicity of ideas. I listen to podcasts, read newsletters, scroll through Twitter, add interesting articles to my website, and write notes about all the inputs I have. This week I’ve hardly consumed anything other than what was on my reading list for lectures. At the other end of the process, my outputs are drastically reduced at the moment too. Lots of work and study means I’m not participating in the digital charity or maker communities I’m part of, not working on any of my side-projects. I’d like to structure my time better to make sure I get some time each day for this kind of stuff but its hard to justify when exams are only a few weeks away.

Reframe the challenges

Not feeling bad about failure is an important factor in trying things more times and so increasing learning.

Not a failure

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

– Thomas Edison

Learning from failure – experimenting with start-up thinking in charities

There’s increasing evidence that the traditional charity business model is being disrupted. It’s becoming harder to generate new income from mass fundraising. And new competitors are emerging to deliver social impact. According to Deloitte, 87% of Millennials believe that companies should do more than generate profit. In response, a new economic category is growing at lightning speed where profit is closely linked to social purpose (e.g. Belu, Elvis & Kresse, Change Please). What does this mean for the future of the charity sector?

The four R’s of Failure

Failure is closely aligned is Risk. Failure is what happens when we aren’t able to prevent the risk from manifesting. As we develop better ways to manage risks we should also consider the means for dealing with and learning from failures.

Resilience

Resilience is about preventing failures.

It requires:

  • analysis and prediction,
  • contingency planning, and
  • monitoring.

But:

  • how does Resilience embrace uncertainty and accept that not everything can be predicted or monitored?
  • how can failure be accepted as necessary for learning and be planned to be prevented at the same time?

Response

Response is about responding to and continuing to operate whilst a failure happens.

It requires:

  • broad knowledge of situation,
  • deep knowledge of the impact over time,
  • careful consideration so as to not make the failure worse,
  • priorisation, and
  • fast detection and early steps towards recovery.

But:

  • should we protect other work over prioritising dealing with the failure?
  • should an assessment of impact be the deciding factor over likelihood of the failure, and
  • should dealing with failure be a whole team responsibility?

Recovery

Recovery is about fixing the failure after it has happened.

It requires:

  • a plan,
  • resources to put the plansinto action, and
  • testing to be embedded in process.

But:

  • how do we maintain a close feedback loop with the Response phase to get the solution right, and
  • who should fix the failure, those involved in creating it or someone else?

Review

Review is about learning from the failure.

It requires:

  • documentation of actions, and
  • commitment and processes to make improvements to Resilience, Response and Recovery.

But:

  • how does it spread the learning,
  • and is it’s aim to prevent future failures or encourage them?

How we approach Risk and Failure is essential for fostering psychological safety, to enable rapid experimentation, to make people awesome. We tend to assume that failure is a result of fault. A fault occurs which leads to a failure, and if there is a fault then there must be someone at fault, someone to blame, someone who did something wrong or different. If dealing with failures is underpinned by this assumption then failure can never be looked upon as a positive. The best we can see is that at least the failure has been uncovered and fixed. And perhaps that is enough to drive some kind of iterative process of continuous improvement.

Designing for failure

I was chatting to an Enterprise Architect about how modern cloud infrastructure is ‘designed for failure’, that is, accepting that isolated failures are inevitable and can be anticipated and so systems designed to deal with them.

It made me think about how you could use the same approach in designing services and businesses. So, rather than only designing for success by setting goals, objectives, milestones, etc., you could assume certain points of failure in the business model and implement alternative failsafes. I’m not sure what this unreliance on a single means would look like in practice but I think it’s worth thinking about it some more.