Weeknotes #253

This week I did

New strategy

Our new organisational strategy was released this week. I’m keen to spend some time soon reading it more deeply and thinking about how to interpret it for the work we’re doing. I’ve noticed a few strategic mis-alignments recently between the work our programme design team is doing and the direction I thought the product team was heading, so now is the time to bring together the different perspectives and course correct before we get into the next phase of work.

I also spent a bit of time working on product strategy to develop some guiding principles. One of those is about the ensuring that the speed we introduce change is matched to the speed at which the changes can be adopted. Just going as fast as we can seems like the wrong thing to do, as counter as it is to lots of product development thinking and my personal beliefs, because it’ll cause bottlenecks and futureshock.

Systems training

Delivered training on using some of the new systems we’re putting in place. As part of the thinking for what to include in the training I was imagining the ‘system of systems’ we have. There are lots of distinct systems that have certain data and perform certain processes, and then there are linking processes, automated and manual, that move that data between the systems, and then the human nodes in the system that contain information about how the system works but are very much part of the system. Maybe I should just stick to delivering the training.

Delivery planning

I wrote out my delivery plan (still a work in progress but mostly there) to help me track what I’ve done throughout the year towards the goals on my roadmap and to get into the habit of monthly planning. As part of my monthly planning cycle I did a retro of the things I’d learned in May that had affected my ability to deliver on my goals. I don’t really have a format that works for me yet but it started me thinking about methods for retrospectives and what they should aim to achieve. I think looking back is useful but really retros should be about increasing agency and ownership in order to change the approach which then improves everything you do in the future rather than just individual process improvements.

Vanlife fail

I visited Stonehenge and found a large community of vanlifers. I wanted to hand out my flyers to ask them to do the survey but it felt really uncomfortable intruding into their community as an outsider. There’s a different between vanlifers who live in semi-permanent communities together and those who live more solitary, transient lifestyles. Some outsiders and more outsiders than others.

Blockchain and social good

This week’s lecture was about how blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are being used for social good, and posed the question, ‘should more technological development be focused on making the world a better place?’ The answer is clearly and obviously, yes. The case study was how blockchain was being used to manage commons resources and some of the resources included a sector-specific study from Stanford University and looking at Blockchain for Humanity, which is a not-for-profit foundation with the mission to drive the adoption of emerging technologies that can offer a positive social impact. There is so much possibility.

And thought about:

Hybrid meetings

I had my first hybrid meeting, with some of us in the room and some joining via video. It started me thinking about the pros and cons of hybrid meetings so I collected my thoughts into a blog post. Although I’m certain that remote, virtual, asynchronous work works best for me, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something interesting to try to figure out about hybrid working, especially if it’s likely that we’ll be working with others who do have hybrid ways of working.

Dealing with unknown unknowns

The common wisdom for dealing with unknown unknowns seems to be to adding them to a matrix with the known knowns, unknown knowns and known unknowns so you can (hopefully) identify by contrast the unknown unknowns. This way assumes that all domains of knowledge exist within that matrix, so I wondered about switch it around and putting a matrix within each domain of knowledge. Galbraith talks about how organisations deal with uncertainty and unknowns by processing more information between decision-makers as the way forward is figured out than is processed where decisions can be pre-planned. If unknowns are broken down into smaller and smaller domains of knowledge then perhaps the unknown unknowns become smaller and more specific, which might make them easier to imagine. Dealing with uncertainty and adapting to change is a capability every organisation is going to have to figure out how to build and I’m not sure there is a lot best practice in how to do that yet.

Ukrainian aviators love me

One of my most popular (I mean popular in my terms, which isn’t very popular by most people’s terms) blog posts is Schmenner’s Service Process Matrix – but for charities. It seems to show in Google searches for Schmenner, and weirdly, the Ukrainian National Aviation University link to it in one of their papers about applying the service process matrix to logistics. This amuses me.

And read this:

Maintaining Radical Focus and Staying on Strategy with OKRs

The One Knight In Product podcast episode with Christina Wodtke was really good. It seemed like a really authentic talk about when and how to use OKRs effectively rather just a sales pitch for a book. The best thing I took away was ‘Cadence is everything!’

What is digital ethics?

“No framework can possibly be complete, so it is important for employees in any organisation to examine the digital ethics dimension in any digital project they undertake.” Ethics isn’t about big dramatic decisions. Every single little decision is an ethical decision.

A thread of product management frameworks

Another thread from Shreyas Doshi, this one about product management frameworks.

Capital investment vs knowledge investment

Investing in capital goods, e.g. a new machine for a factory, sees a high but fixed cost and then a almost fixed return over the life of that machine that starts immediately as the business use the machine to produce more.

Investing in knowledge, e.g. training people, sees an ongoing cost with an uncertain and variable return in the future as people learn how to utilise their new knowledge in improving productivity.

Assuming that investing in knowledge will provide the same returns profile as investing in capital goods could lead organisations not invest sufficiently if they recognise that they didn’t get an immediate return in productivity from the investment but don’t understand why.

Mental Health First Aid training

Mental Health First Aid Training

I completed the two day Adult Mental Health First Aider course. It provided an overview of various mental health conditions and a framework for supporting people with poor mental health.

Although the course was really interesting and helpful, what was also interesting was who was on the course and what that says about mental health awareness in workplaces.

Who was on the course

The types of people taking the course is interesting in helping to understand how mental health first aid and promoting better mental health in the workplace currently is and where any gaps might be. As this is only one course it provides a very small data set so the conclusions are spurious at best, but still it’s interesting to think about.

Gender split

There were twelve people, two men and ten women, on the course. I wonder if its because mental health first aid is seen as the responsibility of the HR department and more women work in HR. Arguably, men need to learn the skills of a mental heath first aider so I wonder if there is an opportunity to encourage more men to take the course and target more traditionally male workplaces.

Role split

6 in HR, 4 in frontline service delivery, 2 others.

It makes sense that frontline service delivery people would need mental health first aider skills, and it’s interesting that organisations still regard mental health as falling within a HR role in the workplace rather than being a shared responsibility, although perhaps HR people are best placed to raise awareness all across an organisation.

Two of the participants were from PR agency that had received Mental Health Awareness from Bucks Mind, so although this is just one example it suggests that small awareness sessions create lead generation opportunities.

Sector split

There was a broad spread of industries; insurance, construction, charity, PR.

It was good to see some many different industries. I guess it could be good to target industries with more well-known mental health issues, high-stress environments, those with lethal means, etc.

MHFA isn’t a legal requirement in the way that physical first aid is so businesses that pay for their employees to go on the course must be doing so because they believe in the value of encouraging better mental health at work.

What did I learn

The course changed my perception of mental health. It made me realise that we all have mental health and it exists on a spectrum. Sometimes we have better mental health and sometimes we have poor metal health. This viewpoint removes the ‘us and them’ between those who society regards as having mental illness and those who don’t. It makes it about health rather than illness.

It inspired me to want to find ways to build better mental health and acceptance around seeking support into the workplace culture so that rather than there being a single mental health first aider in a workplace that people go to for support, we all work in ways that encourages better mental health and supports people