Weeknotes 372

This week I did:

Shaping strategies

What’s interesting about planning and prioritising work across products is what you do and don’t know at the time. It’s like having lots of boxes that are all identical on the outside, and uniquely different on the inside. You have to arrange them based on what’s on the inside, but you can’t see that yet.

We’re in Cynefin’s complicated domain here. Those boxes are our known unknowns. Which means we should use lean thinking and methods. Lean is better than agile here. Agile is the right choice for complex domains, but that’s not where we are. Fast feedback loops and course correction aren’t so necessary, not because they aren’t good things, but because the consequence of going in the wrong direction is low.

So, we’ve got to come up with a set of rules that are general enough to be applied when some of the boxes are opened. And still apply later when more boxes are opened. I’m thinking about how to recontextualise devops five ideals for this. The ideal of simplicity and locality tells us that each of those boxes needs to be independent and small enough that it can be opened and understood on it’s own. Focus, flow and joy could be in the work being true to it’s core value so that those working on it feel satisfied that it’s meaningful, impactful work. Hopefully I’ll make some time to explore these more soon, and I need to think about how ‘sense – analyse – respond’ works in this context too.


Completed 40 tasks this week, which averages 8 a day. That’s the lowest number of any full week since I started tracking this way. I was focused on product strategies, which were bigger more important tasks, but it meant I didn’t achieve any of the other things I set out to last week.

Failed to consistently write daynotes too.


My content discovery system seems to be working well. I’m reading more things, but reading them more lightly. Whereas previously, if I found something I wanted to read I’d share it to me website so I don’t lose it, now I know I’m not going to lose it so I don’t pay as much attention to it. Interesting unexpected consequence. Of course it could also just be the result of not-so-normal week. One to keep an eye on.

I read:

Agile Is the Steering Wheel, Not the Gas Pedal

Nice metaphor. And interesting point about the steering wheel being in the car, where the team driving the car can change course. Also makes me think about the roadmap metaphor and having multiple routes to the same place that the team can choose.

The influence of mobile technology on user cognition and memory

Might be doing some work on improving our website for mobile users so I’ve started collected interesting articles that make me think about mobile in different ways. The thing that caught my attention in this article was about the time spent on mobiles versus desktop devices. That’s obvious really. Our phones are with us 16 hours a day, whereas desktops, even if you use it for work, is probably only in front of you for 7 hours a day. So, time drives mobile traffic over desktop traffic. That’s different from availability being the driver. It isn’t just that more people have mobiles than desktops, it’s that they also use them more of the time.

And I thought about:

Simple rules in complex systems

The go-to example is starlings murmurating. They follow simple rules to avoid flying into each other. But, as I wandered past a football match, I wondered if the same applies. One team had three phrases they all kept using:

  • “Give him options” – means support a team member who is being pressured by the other team.
  • “Pressure them” – means act offensively towards the other team.
  • “Unlucky” – recognises a team mate taking a risk and trying something even though it didn’t work.

Those three phases are enough to coordinate a group of people around a shared goal, within a fairly closed system with fixed rules.


I listened to two podcasts, both vaguely about networks. It made me wonder about workplace networks and how people are connected. What would a network map for your organisation look like if it showed the five people each person spent the most time with? Would it give you a better idea of how information flows? Would it give a more realistic picture of the organisation?

What if projects started with a reading list?

Before goals or scope or any of the practicalities of running a project, what if people spent time reading about the subject of the project? We talk about learning, but we expect it to come from and after the project. What if learning was built into the project, partly to get everyone some shared knowledge for the project and partly just to support professional development? Might try it some time.

Weeknotes 371

This week I did:

Impact and reach

Did some prioritisation work across multiple products to see how they fit together and prompt discussion about how they contribute to the wider organisational goals of increasing reach and deepening impact. It was a useful dimension to look at all the products because it takes them above the goals each product has.

The next iteration, in my head at least, is how mapping features by impact and reach (or whatever the goals are) shows how they alter the strategic positioning of the product. Maybe a bit like how a Wardley map shows how things move from genesis to commodity, this would show how delivering a feature that increases reach pulls the product further along the reach axis. It might be a (very blunt) way of showing how a feature contributes to maximising a product’s impact and reach.

Products for change

I took part in some research for a case study. The interesting thing it revealed to me is how much implicit knowledge I have about how the digital products and services we create contribute to the organisational strategy and social change mission. It’s easy to think of products as being just about doing something for the individual user, and much harder to think about them as redefining an entire space within society. Maybe this is part of the move from user-centred ways of thinking to system-shifting approaches. Amazon redefined ecommerce with technology products. Uber redefined personal transportation in cities. I reflected later that perhaps the three things that get in the way of charities using technology products to redefine a market is lack of investment, lack of knowledge, and lack of vision.


I completed 48 things this week, averaging 9.6 a day. My busiest day was Tuesday with 14 things and my least busy day was Friday with 6 things. I haven’t made any progress on my ideas about how to improve my system yet.


Monday was the busiest day on my website. My post on systems thinking for product managers is still bringing lots of visitors from a product management course. Is this some validation for product managers being interested in systems thinking? Does it mean there is an audience for my ideas on system-shifting product management?


Not the digital type. The button fell off my shorts. I got a needle and thread out of my go bag and sewed it back on. Being prepared for the little problems as well as the big ones is what makes a good go bag so special.

I read this week:

What makes a failure intelligent

Tanmay Vora’s post about Amy Edmondson’s book “The Right Kind of Wrong – The Science of Failing Well”, goes into the five characteristics of intelligent failures, and comes with sketchnotes too, which tells us that “masters of intelligent failure are driven by curiosity, experiment fearlessly, and make friends with failure.”

Inequalities for disabled people

Published a couple of weeks ago, I got around to reading the research briefing on UK disability statistics: Prevalence and life experiences. The definition is disability is “whether they have a physical or mental health condition or illness that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more, and whether the condition and/or illness reduces their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. A person who answers yes to both questions is considered disabled.” So, the definition contains both the medical model of disability and the social model. If society becomes more equal and it gets easier for people to carry out day-to-day activities, they are no longer disabled, even if their physical or mental health condition or illness hasn’t changed.

The Automattic Creed

I read a bit about Automattic, the company that built WordPress and came across their creed. What’s kind of nice about it is just how uncrafted and unpoetic it is. It’s like the first try from a group of people who have never done it before. But it’s good enough for them. To me at least, that speaks to where they focus their efforts.

And I thought about:

Personal websites that introduce someone

I thought a bit about my website’s home page and what it’s purpose should be. I looked at a few personal websites, particularly that say stuff like, “Hi, I’m…. I do this and that.” My home page has always been about the things I’m working on or writing rather than about me. Maybe that’s an introvert thing but I’m hoping it’s because my audience is more interested in knowing about my projects and thinking than about me.

The half-life of things

Conceptual things like relationships, reputation, skills, etc., have a half-life. They degrade over time if not maintained. Maybe it’s like the opposite of compound interest. For something like skills, the aim might be to add new skills more quickly and than old skills fade away. That way the total of your skills is always increasing.

Weeknotes 370

This week I did:

Data maturity

I spent quite a bit of time creating an analysis of a data maturity survey we’ve been conducting. It’s been really interesting, not only seeing the results but also how different people approach answering. Together, I think they paint the best picture because there’s a mix of the objective and subjective. Despite my complicated analysis, I think the best visualisation so far is a simple heat map that shows where people agree and disagree.

Responsible product management

I’ve decided that the side-project I want to work on is about creating a framework and guide for responsible product management. I can develop my ideas about the different aspects for creating products that are valuable, usable, feasible and viable in a responsible way.

Give Blood app

I tried repeatedly to book an appointment to give blood, and when it didn’t work I took out my frustrations on the app.


This week I completed 30 tasks, which is an average of 6 a day and quite a drop from previous weeks which have all been between 9 and 10 a day.

This is what my productivity looked like over the 22 working days in August.

Completely unrelated to my productivity, I current have 49 tabs open in Chrome, 56 in Edge, and I’ve started using Edge Workspaces to organise and share files, so I have 2 of those, one with 3 and the other with 5.

I read this week:

The importance of psychological safety for remote teams

Diana explains how psychological safety could result in individuals thriving, where people feel safe and empowered. Consequently, thriving employees give an organisation a competitive advantage in today’s dynamic environment. Business leaders must recognise this potential and embrace a culture that empowers product teams.

From Projects to Products

“It’s easy to see why so many companies may talk about the importance of outcomes over output, yet their culture and behaviors consistently prioritize predictability over results.”

The ultimate collection of Pretty Rad Documents

This is the ultimate collection of PRD templates from great companies like Miro, Figma, Asana, Intercom & many more. Edo Van Royen reviews each, and share his highlights.

Why The Impact Effort Prioritization Matrix Doesn’t Work

Mostly it doesn’t work because it tries to establish a relationship two things that aren’t related, but also because it “requires us to make somewhat reliable predictions on future events — the effort we will require to complete a task and the value that will be delivered to users and/or to the company once completed. As it turns out both are jobs we’re exceptionally bad at.”

Personal playing to win strategy

You need a better Where-to-Play/How-to-Win.

And I thought about:

Which discipline do charity CEO’s come from?

I had a quick look at the CEO’s of the ten most popular charities on LinkedIn to see which discipline they came from. Obviously, they choose what they put on LinkedIn so it’s not a complete dataset, but some common themes were:

  • The main experience CEO’s have is other leadership roles.
  • Domain experience seems secondary.
  • Discipline (e.g., marketing, fundraising) seems almost irrelevant, except perhaps as a route to leadership roles.

Time to value

What is the relationship between the time spent on a piece of work and the value of what it produces? And what about the time spent developing the skills to spend the time doing the work?

It always reminds me of the story about the woman who approached Picasso in a restaurant, asked him to scribble something on a napkin, and said she would be happy to pay whatever he felt it was worth. Picasso complied and then said, “That will be $10,000.” “But you did that in thirty seconds,” the astonished woman replied. “No,” Picasso said. “It has taken me forty years to do that.”

Maybe the little bit of time spent doing the work in the middle of the long time spent developing the skills and the long spent getting value from the work, is actually quite small.

Weeknotes 369

This week I did:

Researching why people donate to charity

We’re planning some user research to help us understand why people donate to charity, so I’ve been going through lots of secondary research to help frame the questions we want to ask. There are lots of different perspectives but no academic consensus on why people donate to charity. Snip & Babiche (2011), said, “Trust in a charity organization, affinity with the cause of a charity organization, moral obligation to donate, and donating experience are factors that could positively influence people’s intention to continue donating to a charity organization, while perceived opportunism or risk is a factor that could negatively influence people’s intention to continue donating to a charity organization.” I’m really looking forward to the user interviews.

Check your hearing later

I wrote a blog post about a piece of work we did. The blog post went from idea to live in about 27 hours. I was aiming for 24 but there was some confusion about who was publishing it which delayed us. Speed of delivery is one of those things that is both important and unimportant. I think teams should know how to deliver quickly so they can choose whether to deliver quickly.

Reverse engineering outcomes from outputs

I think we all agree it’s better to start with the outcomes we want to achieve and then figure out the outputs that will get us there, but when that’s not possible it’s good to be able to reverse engineer outcomes from outputs.


I’ve been trying to get into the habit of writing daynotes, which as you’d expect are smaller versions or weeknotes. I try to capture a few things that I’ve thought about that day.


I completed 46 tasks across 13 projects. I averaged 9.2 a day, which is a drop from last weeks 9.6. Three days next week and I’ll have a month’s worth of data to review. I want to try to understand if I’m focusing the right amount on the right things. I also shared my tracker with a colleague in case its helpful for them.

Website metrics

In the last five days, my three most popular blog posts were What’s the difference between a roadmap and a delivery plan? with 42 views, Case study on Amazon’s approach to innovation and competition in the knowledge economy, with 33 views, and Systems thinking for product managers with 19 views. Total views was 349.

I read:

The tyranny of collaborative ideation

I read this article about why collaborative ideation is bad, not to find why, I mean who needs more than four words to make that point, but for the last section that mentions how to ideate alone. Last week I started thinking about how there aren’t really any well-established frameworks for developing ideas. Maybe this will help.

Is full stack product management a good idea?

“…whether it’s called “full stack product management” or not, the essence of the product manager’s role remains the same: to be knowledgeable in multiple disciplines and bring them together” I prefer the term “full loop product management”, but I guess the point is the same.

Defining the role of the Product Manager

This is an interesting study on what Silicon valley tech companies expect from product managers, and it’s a long way from full loop. It’s not that different from how the charity sector sees the role of a product manager.

And I thought about:

Product teams are different teams

For a little while I’ve been trying to figure out what makes digital product teams different from other teams. One idea I’ve had is that most teams figure out what problems they need to solve and establish ways of working and processes for that solve them, and then they repeat again and again. That’s the nature of their work. Product teams face new problems each time. Attempting to solve every new problem in the same way will lead to sub-standard solutions. The nature of product work is that it is novel. Maybe that’s part of the difference. It’s also why product teams need to spend time reviewing and improving their working processes, because they might not work on today’s problem.

Prioritise value

Some prioritisation frameworks attempt to prioritise work by what’s convenient for the organisation. Impact/effort does this. What work is most likely to achieve the goals (impact) for the least effort. But, if we want to be focused on delivering value to our users then we should prioritise the most valuable work, even if it’s harder for us.

Barriers removed, value delivered

This diagram tries to show how the most value is delivered when we remove the biggest barrier, and that as we remove progressively smaller barriers the value diminishes until there’s no reason to invest anymore.

Hand drawn diagram of the surface area of work required to remove barriers and deliver value

Weeknotes 368

This week I did:

Learning & development

Our team had it’s first learning and development day this week. I wanted to learn more about AI in the charity sector. I read a few articles going back to 2018, which showed how we talk about AI has changed from being innovative experiments to mundane, and of course I used ChatGPT to summarise them for me. I started a Microsoft Learn course to understand how Azure AI could be used. And I experimented with the three use cases for LLMs; summarising, first drafts, and interrogating data.

Related, I’ve also been working how and whether we should prevent AI bots from crawling our website and using the information as training data. There are two, almost opposite use cases. Pages that we do want to be included in training data, and may even want to think about how we optimise for it. And pages that we don’t want to be included because they contain information about real people that LLMs could misinterpret.

Content discovery

One of the things I (used to) use social media for is new content discovery. As social media is collapsing and the future of large sites seems uncertain, I’ve been looking for a way to decouple that part into a more reliable system.

I set up a Slack workspace, created channels for each of the topics I’m interested in (agile, charity, product management, etc.) and used Slack’s RSS app to post messages whenever there’s a post on a website or medium of the people I follow on Twitter. It’s a shame not every website and newsletter platform provides an RSS feed, but it makes reading stuff from those that do more reliable as I’m not dependent on an algorithm hiding stuff I might want to see.

Next, I’ll think about a way of decouple conversation away from social media.


I completed 47 tasks this week across 13 projects, averaging 9.4 tasks a day. The two projects I did the most on each had 7 tasks completed and the least busy project only had 1 task. As I get more into visualising my work in this way I hope it can help me understand how much work I have in progress, not just a vague list of things, but an empirical understanding built on the actual work I’ve done.

I read/watched:

The founder

I like these kinds of films. Origin stories for companies like Apple, Spotify and in this case, McDonalds. The two lessons I took from this; the value stream is bigger than you think it is and where the most value is isn’t always obvious, and that the ‘McDonaldisation’ of products and services in an attempt to make them all the same is only a good idea it’s the fifties and you are McDonalds. Every other organisation should be aiming for variability.

Harmful design in digital markets

How Online Choice Architecture practices can undermine consumer choice and control over personal information by the ICO, CMA and DRCF, goes into how deceptive patterns are used on websites and contravene data protection regulations.

Speaking a second language

Helen Jeffries shared this article she wrote about experience of autism and struggles with communicating from a couple of years ago. One day I’d like to write more about how my autism effects my communication. For neurotypicals, conjunctions like ‘and’ and ‘or’ seem like they are just words they throw into sentences without thinking about it, but for me that are logic gates that explain the path of the point I’m trying to make. So, to answer a question with anything more than a few sentences, I have to map the logic in my head and follow it as I speak. If I loose where I am in my map, it’s really hard to keep speaking. If it was acceptable, I’d use ‘nor’ and ’nand’ in conversation too.

I thought about:

Outputs into outcomes

I’ve been thinking about how to reverse engineer outputs into outcomes. If I can crack it, and create a system for it, then rather than always having to stop people when they start with what they want to do and ask them what they are trying to achieve, I can group up the ‘whats’ into ‘whys’. Then it’ll be easier to check with them if that’s really want they’re trying to achieve.

Changing users

Something occurred to me about how we talk about users is a bit wrong. I think I’d always assumed that ‘user’ and ‘person’ were synonymous, so a person who uses a product is always the same user. But maybe the goal of a product is to take a person from being one user to another. Same person, one user one day and a different user the next day. This is a far more interesting way to think about people and users. People are changeable. Users are just states they are changing from and to.

Idea development

There are lots of frameworks and processes for new product development, but I’ve yet to find one for ideas.

Something I try to do when exploring an idea and understand whether it’s worth turning into a piece of work is to start by assuming we shouldn’t do the work, and then try to prove myself wrong. I look for data that suggests doing the work would be valuable. When I was explaining this to a colleague, they referred to it as trying to prevent confirmation bias, which I think is a good way to look at it. It stops you wanting to work on your ‘good’ ideas.

Weeknotes 367

This week I did:

Small and independent

I was thinking this week about the value that small internal systems projects can deliver. By understanding the essential problems we’re trying to solve, and by using existing nocode tools, and with about a week’s work, we built a new tool to replace an old one. It’s free, which is cheaper that what we’ve been paying, it enables the team to adapt it as their needs change, it fits better with our open working ethos, and it puts us in a stronger compliance position.

Reducing costs and being compliant is important, but for me, the real value from this approach comes from the independence it creates. The system is independent, it doesn’t rely on integrating with other systems. And the team is independent, they are able make changes easily. More small, independent systems, I say.

Full loop product management

I wrote about what I’m calling ‘full loop product management‘ to describe what I think the whole job of a product manager is, and where organisations often go wrong. It’s kind of the product managers version of a full stack developer.


I completed 53 tasks across 11 projects. There were four projects that I didn’t work on. Tuesday was my busiest day with 16 tasks done. The project with the most tasks (9) is also one of the smallest projects and is getting quite a lot of focus because I want to finish it in August.

Systems thinking for product managers

My post on systems thinking for product managers is being used in a course for product managers. I noticed an increase in traffic the the page and tracked it down the a course website. I feel honoured.

And I read:

The unicorn project

I’ve been reading the unicorn project and I’m at the point where The Five Ideals have been revealed. I haven’t spent much time thinking about them yet, but I’m keen to understand why they are what they are and how I might apply them.

Making change happen

Nesta’s post on how to use different methods to make progress on big problems has some interesting insights, including “going deep enough but no deeper”, “it’s very easy to underestimate the opportunity cost of doing nothing” and “by paying attention to behaviours we can figure out what drives them”.

Prevent problems

This is an interesting way to run pre-mortems. I definitely think we should have better ways of thinking about what could go wrong. We don’t have perfect foresight but there’s something there about using guesses to reduce the guesswork. Maybe the four big risks offers a way of theming all the things that could go wrong.

Reduce the risk of product failure

This post about reducing the risk of products failing by running experiments to validate value, usability, feasibility and viability is almost there. I feel like I need to rewrite it to have more focus on the experiments. Maybe one day.

And I thought about:

Product development metrics

I thought back to my old post about measuring product development performance and whether the four measures help to optimise for a fast flow of value.

  • How long does it take us to go from starting work to making it live?
  • How often does work go live?
  • How much work goes live that doesn’t solve the problem it set out to?
  • How quickly is work that doesn’t solve the problem fixed?

Good metrics balance each other to prevent over-optimising for one thing. So, a team that reduces the time work takes to go from idea to live by not validating that the idea is worth doing is going to see the amount of work that doesn’t solve a problem go up. The aim is to improve all the metrics together.

Porous organisations

The remote/office argument reared it’s head on X again this week. I think it’s a silly argument. Organisations should intelligently figure out ways of working that achieve what they need to achieve. However, one of the big benefits organisations will see from remote flexible work in the coming years will come from making what Hugh MacLeod calls the ‘porous membrane‘ between orgs and the rest of the world, more porous. It opens up entirely new ways for information, ideas and value to flow in and out of an org, from economical in local communities to more lived experience shared which improves how orgs treat customers. It breaks down the barriers of thinking about orgs as only providing value to shareholders and starts to make them part of communities, part of real life. Orgs don’t only exist between 9 and 5, Mon to Fri, in one location, they can be better woven into the fabric of society.

The fine line

There’s a fine line between technology that reduces complexity for an organisation and technology that increases it. Avoid complexity at all costs. Thank me later.

Weeknotes 366

This week I did:

Fall in love with experiments

A new feature went live on the hearing check. It allows people who are busy or in a noisy environment to get a text message reminder to take the hearing check later. Hopefully, it’s useful to the mass-market audience but more importantly it’s also an experiment that will allow us to validate whether people will engage with reminders. If they do, it opens up opportunities for doing other things with the hearing check. I love these kinds of experiments. We learn so much from how real users interact with a product.


I worked on 44 things over 4 days (I forgot to record what I did on Monday).

And I read:

Do Something, So We Can Change It!

There are no two-way doors. You can make a new decision based on new information, but you can’t undecide something that has previously been decided. And timeliness of a decision is probably the most important factor for making good decisions, not the amount of information as is sometimes thought.

Product life cycle: the evolution of a paradigm and literature review from 1950–2009

The product lifecycle came about from the manufacture of physical products in the sixties and has been applied to digital products without a great deal of reconsideration. So, do the four stages of introduction, growth, maturity and decline still fit? Or have the definitions changed?

And thought about:

Creating new knowledge

The functions that ‘create new knowledge’ are hard to integrate into the main body of an organisation that is designed around production. Creating knowledge and using it require such different approaches that organisations either specialise in one or the other or separate out the knowledge creation parts (think research teams and innovation hubs).

Strategic leadership

Is thinking strategically a necessary skill for leaders? The obvious answer is yes, but I’m not so sure. I wonder if a lack of strategy drives better stigmergy, and that is ultimately a better way for people to organise themselves?

Weeknotes 365

This week I did:


I was on leave this week so didn’t do much work. It gave me some time to think about what I want to focus on outside of work. I could try working on the book I started about what a technology charity might look like, or that white paper I started about system-shifting product management, or maybe something new. Don’t know yet, and I don’t know how to decide.

No drama LLaMa

I’ve been using LLaMa a bit this week instead of, and as well as, searching for info. I feel like I’ve lost some of my curiosity about new tech over the last year, so maybe I need more resolve to explore things without an end in mind.

I read:

Why Agile Coaches Can’t Be Product Coaches

It’s weird how much “agile” gets conflated with “product” when they are so different. Petra Wille’s blog post talks about why agile coaches can’t be product coaches, but I think the overall point is that so much of (generally poor) product management is about delivery, which makes knowledge of agile as a delivery method seem like pretty much the same thing. So, more product management focused on discovery is the answer.

Exposing the Invisible

The Kit is a collaborative, self-learning resource that makes investigative techniques and tools used by experienced investigators more accessible to people and communities who feel motivated to start their own investigations, collect and verify information, build evidence and create a better understanding of issues without losing sight of ethical or safety considerations.”

Lean product lifecycle

I started reading the lean product lifecycle.

And I thought about:

Being an autistic manager

There’s hardly anything useful on the Internet about how to be a good manager if you’re autistic. Plenty about being a neurotypical manager and making the most of that one autistic person on your team (can you sense my sarcasm?), but it’s almost like no one expects autistic people to be managers. Even LLaMa says, “It’s important to recognize that autistic individuals bring unique strengths and perspectives to the workplace, and they can be highly effective managers when provided with appropriate support and accommodations.”.

Great strategy disrupts power hierarchy

Great strategy provides clear guidelines. It enables everyone to make coherent decisions. Maybe the reason so many organisations don’t have great strategy is because it requires leaders to hand over decision making power to those responsible for delivering on the strategy. It takes away from the leaders’ authority, it disrupts their power, they can no longer choose what they want delivered.

The fire control problem

Ages ago, I started working on an idea for a goal-setting method that started with deliberately vague goals and used fast feedback loops it iterate and refine the goal as you get closer to it. And more recently I’ve been wondering if the same approach of embracing uncertainty to start and validating your way towards (more) certainty might be a useful approach for product development. If I might try to spend some time figuring out how it might work in practice.

Discretionary quality of engaged workers

I heard a podcast talking about engagement at work that mentioned one of the benefits of more engaged workers putting in more discretionary effort. It doesn’t seem to fit for modern knowledge work, where more value is always the result of more effort. So I wonder if, for knowledge work, discretionary effort is replaced by discretionary quality. An engaged worker chooses to do great work rather than merely good enough work.

Behaviours over tools

Emily asked about how we might help teams bump into artefacts like roadmaps when working remotely. The thing that struck me about the answers was that they were all about tools for collating information and not about how to build a behaviour of referring back to information wherever it’s stored. I guess it’s parts of the “watercooler moments” narrative of remote work that no ones knows yet how to manage the flow of information.

Weeknotes 364

This week I did:

Strategy stuff

Quite a bit of strategy stuff this week for a few of our products and around product processes. I really enjoy it. The downside to it is always being left with a feeling of, ‘why didn’t I think of this ages ago?’ It makes me wonder if the best strategies are always hidden in plain sight and seem obvious when made explicit.

Highlight of the week

I’ve been working with a colleague over the past few weeks on how to create a digital journey, set goals, design web pages to achieve them, etc., and today he published his first page on the live site. He’s been a fantastic guinea pig and I hope I can take what I’ve learned from working with him and use it to help others create their own digital journeys.


My done list is working well. This week I did 44 things across 15 projects or the like. That’s 8.8 things a day.

I read:

Mind the moat

Having something unique and defensible (AKA a moat) to give an organisation a competitive advantage is an interesting concept. Obviously it has a particular start-up investment bent to it, and I’m not convinced that thinking of a business purely in terms of competition and advantage is wise, but nonetheless Flo Crivello’s review of Hamilton Helmer’s 7 Powers is really good.

Collapsing the talent stack

This post, off the back of AirBnB announcing that product manager wouldn’t be a role they have any more, talks about the advantage start-ups have from having multi-skilled generalists. Well, duh. Charities have always known that. Maybe it’s from necessity rather than choice, but I wonder why there’s a push in the charity sector towards specialism? Maybe the benefits of generalists just aren’t recognised as much as they should be.

2023 UK Charity Digital Benchmarks Study

The 2023 UK charity digital benchmarks were published this week. I listened in on the webinar and read the website with great interest. I think the most interesting stat for me was that on average, donation pages have a conversion rate of 21%. Oh, and not a PDF in sight.

And I thought about:

The future of AI is personalisation

In the future, websites won’t exist. They’ll be no need for them. That means of interacting with information on the internet will be like going to a library to find a book is today. Having to actually navigate to one place on the web to read something? That’s so old skool. Organisations will still publish information to the web but solely for AI to read. Our personalised AI assistants will bring that information to us, written specifically for us to understand in our own way.

But in the meantime, the AI hype is dying down and people aren’t so panic-y about the end of the human race. The dominant design that is emerging is as AI as a co-pilot, helping people do the things they’re already doing. This isn’t much different from the introduction of email and how it changed communication. AI will change admin and creative work, but probably not much else that most people will notice for a while.

The scientific method

The scientific method is my main mental model. All day along my brain is observing, coming up with hypotheses and experimenting to prove them right or wrong. This week, this approach had some very real benefits on someone’s health and life. I hypothesised a chain of cause and effect that was making someone ill and prove that changing one seemingly unconnected behaviour made them well again. If I ever start my own product agency/consultancy I’m going to call it Cause & Effect.

Weeknotes 363


Digital asset management

More internal focused work this week. This time on a digital asset management system. It lead to me thinking about a two-by-two grid to describe where product managers focus. On one axis are the internal and external barriers to success, and on the other axis are the enablers to success, which I’ve broadly called Discovery and Delivery.

A product manager could be focused only on the internal delivery quadrant, where they are taking business requirements and delivering features. Or they could be focused on external discovery, where they are figuring out how government policy or competitor products affect their product and organisation. Good product management needs a balance across all four quadrants.


I’ve started listing all the different things I work on each day. It’s part of an experiment to make my work more visible to help me understand the effects of high work in progress, context switching and the flow of value. On my busiest day I did 14 different things across 8 projects.


New products: what separates winners from losers?

Robert Cooper and Elko Kleinschmidt present a series of ten hypotheses which they test and conclude that product superiority is the number one factor influencing commercial success and that project definition and early, predevelopment activities are the most critical steps in the new products development process. Success, they argue, is earned. It is not the ad hoc result of situational or environmental influences. Synergy, both marketing and technical, is crucial.

Local optimisation

This cartoon describes leadership in a VUCA world, but the interesting part for me is how it shows that teams working in isolation, however well they are performing, is local optimisation, which always always reduces global optimisation.

AI and work… it’s imminent

It’s starting to feel like AI is coming out of peak hype and settling into normal life. People are using ChatGPT at work, organisations are exploring how they can get value from AI data analysis and Microsoft is releasing co-pilot AI tools into Teams. This podcast talks about some of the research Microsoft has conducted.


Stages of optimisation

  1. Teams work in silos without feedback loops and with hierarchical control.
  2. Teams work in silos with feedback loops to help them improve but with hierarchical control.
  3. Teams work in silos with feedback loops to help them improve, and taking feedback from other teams to improve the flow through the whole system.
  4. One value stream team with feedback loops to improve the flow through the whole system.

Do OODA loops have to be created?

Does an organisation have an OODA Loop even if it doesn’t know it, or does it only exist if an organisation consciously creates it? When we say that one company has got inside another company’s OODA loop, do we mean it metaphorically to describe how they’ve gained an advantage, or do we expect that both companies are actually, actively thinking about their OODA loops? I think it’s probably more likely that most companies aren’t intentionally using OODA loop thinking, so than maybe the question is; do those that do have an advantages over those that don’t?

Empowered leadership

There’s lots of talk about leaders empowering teams but hardly any about what it takes to empower leaders. Leaders aren’t empowered by default, only by design. And Command and control leadership thinking is deeply embedded, more familiar, and just easier. Empowered leaders is a cold start problem that depends on leaders who are willing to do the hard work of being beginners again, unlearning old ways, being open-minded. That’s a lot to ask.