Weeknotes 334

This week I did

One year on

I’ve been in my role as product and delivery lead for one year this week. It’s been a year of ups and downs with lots left for me to figure out still. I’m still not able to be what the team needs me to be and I struggle to even understand what that is. I’ve spent so much time trying to figure it all out but without much (well, any) success. I guess I’ll see what next year brings.

Garbage in, garbage out

This week’s Irregular Ideas newsletter was about how inputs are just as important as how they are processed for reaching good outputs.

Planning 2023

I started planning what I want to focus on next year. I’ll try to keep doing weeknotes, irregular ideas newsletter, and I’ll try to get better at reading books and writing blog posts. I need to try to figure out which of my side-projects I want to focus on, all of which have slipped over the past few months. I’ll probably write a review/retro of the year to help but I’m not sure I’ll be able to identify any improvements beyond getting back to the coast and having regular time scheduled.

And I read:

The Three Ways

The phoenix project is even better than I expected. I’m about half way through and am fascinated by the principles of DevOps that the book is based on. I’ve previously wondered about the relationship between ‘work in progress’ and the flow of value

Exploiting the Virtual Value Chain

I wonder if understanding an organisation’s value chain is one of the hardest things the people in the org can do. Things like vision and strategy seem simple by comparison. This article about virtual value chains explains five value-adding steps where information is gathered, organised, selected, synthesised and distributed. Because it’s from 1995, the article talks about virtual value chains in line with physical value chains but it includes a lot of points that are interesting today such as more focus on the demand-side, which we see in modern product development when we talk about validating ideas and product-market fit, recognising the characteristics of information goods and considering the implications of scale.

Social systems theory of the firm

Social systems theories of the firm see organisations as a network of decisions or interactions between the parts (people, mostly) in contrast to the mechanical view of the firm which is where we get the ‘people as cogs’ metaphor. I like the view social systems theory suggests that teams make people, people don’t make teams. It fits nicely with the idea that the system/context/environment that a team exists within is more important to their success than their actions and behaviours.

I thought about:

Team business models

How do teams provide value to other teams and an organisation they work in? So far I’ve thought of four types:

  • Agency, the team works like an internal agency where predefined work is briefed to them, e.g., service design.
  • Consultancy, the team provides advice and guidance that other teams implement, e.g., data protection policies and procedures.
  • Service, the team provides specialist skills to other teams to do things that they can’t, e.g., user research.
  • Utility, the team does things that other teams use on an ongoing basis without needing to request it, e.g., payroll.

Whichever ‘business model’ (for want of a better term for describing how a group of people work together to provide value to others) a team is using, they would probably benefit from making it explicit and should optimise for how it enables them to work with other teams.

I’ve noticed patterns emerging in my thinking which have distinct units of analysis around ‘team’, ‘organisation’ and ‘work’ so thinking about how teams interface with each other is a bit of an extension of that.

Too many cooks

How to collaborate effectively when lots of people have lots of different perspectives and the group has no structure? The obviously dull answer is that someone has to take on a leadership or coordination role, but the consequence of that is often dividing the work among the people and creating silos of effort and knowledge. I wonder if there’s a better way of thinking about how uncertainty is shaped towards some certainty without unhealthy power dynamics.