Weeknotes 325

This week I did:

Be cool, Scooby

Online services go down all the time, no service has 100% uptime, that’s normal. We had an issue that, at the time, looked like a small blip that had quickly been resolved. But I was wrong about that. There were other plans that I wasn’t aware of, which turned it into a bigger issue along with a inadequate response from me. No one knows what everyone else doesn’t know. So, should I assume that there is always more going on than I’m aware of and act accordingly, even if most of the time that won’t be the case? It also reminded me that if you build an MVP, you can only use it as an MVP, and can’t expect it to work as a fully-functioning, strategically-important product. Lots to figure out about how we use technology better.

Charity opportunity canvas

The charity opportunity canvas helps teams working on difficult problems align around who they are helping, what problems and barriers those people face, and what solutions and outcomes could help them. There’s still more to do in improving the page to talk more about the role of the canvas in having conversations about the work shown on the canvas. And I should probably think about some marketing for it so more charities might try it out (yeah, like that’ll ever happen).

Defining a technology charity

I wrote down some of my thoughts about what a ‘technology charity’ might look like, and created a comparison table for how charities approach technology of the software they use, how they interact with people who use their services, and how they have the capabilities for using the technology. I’m sure there are far more criteria a charity could be assessed on, and I’m interested in whether a charity can only be in one of the four types (low-tech, tech-enabled, tech-first, or technology charity) or whether the definitions can be tightly connected enough to make that not so.

Asking better question

The first part of my investigation into how we can ask better questions looks at the types of questions we ask for gathering information. The second type of question is about guiding thinking, so I want to do similar breakdown of questions that do that well. And then bring together into some kind of framework or guide or flowchart for asking better questions.

Growth at all costs

This week’s Irregular Ideas was about how the human species is biologically and culturally programmed for growth, and unless we can find a way to re-programme ourselves we’ll continue to overwhelm the planet. It felt like a very negative post, but I’m interested in thinking through the deeper reasons about why things are the way they are, and our need to grow is one of the most fundamental things causing the climate catastrophe.


What Does It Mean to Decolonize Design?

I read this article by Anoushka Khandwala as part of my thinking around decolonising new product development. From research and discovery activities that aim to access the knowledge resources of others for the benefit of the company doing the research, to one group of people deciding what meets the needs of those that are ‘others’ to them, there is a lot to understand. I really like this: “Realizing that the standards we’ve been taught are not universal is key to decoloniality.”

Seven steps to tackle complex issues

In thinking about what a system-shifting product development process might look like I read the System Design Toolkit Methodology. It was helpful in thinking through some of the stages and how to frame them as things like ‘building mechanisms for change’ rather than ‘building software’.

The Scatter-Gather Process

This brilliant article by Tim Ottinger explores some of the issues of how work is divided up and brought together, and importantly, how fitting together things that have been created in isolation means they probably won’t work as well as we’d like. It has the making of a agile zeitgeist phrase and is an important concept we’ll see talked more and more about.

Thought about:

Product managers and company problems

Maybe the best way to figure out what kind of product manager a company should hire is to connect the kinds of problems the company is solving to the skills and experience of the product manager.

So, if a company is solving ordinary problems that have been solved time and again, and is in an industry with easily transferable knowledge, then they should probably hire a product manager who is skilled in applying standard product practices. But if the company is trying to solve as-yet generally unsolved problems but nothing too complex, or is in an industry with lots of complicated aspects to it, then they’d benefit more from a product manager with solid knowledge and experience of the principles of product management. And, if they are tackling new, unique, complex or wicked problems, then they should hire a product manager that excels at the deep thinking of the core concepts that underpin product management.

Trying to solve new problems by applying practices that are designed more for predictable situations will fail. Hiring someone with a deep understanding of economics or rationality and asking them to apply standard practices to ordinary problems is going to cause them to fail.

The thin line

I’ve written before about management as interface between individuals and the organisation, but recently become more aware of just how narrow that interface is. It doesn’t have a lot of scope for flexibility. We talk about it in one way, not that it could be this or could be that.

I’ve recently started working with a coach, mostly because I don’t fit that narrow, single view of how a manager is supposed to be. It leads me to question where the line is between being coached to hide my autistic traits, with me being implicit in that, and it being an opportunity to learn more about how to support others, which I something I like doing. And what the power dynamics are between manager and organisation in shaping the interface to be the one way the organisation wants.