Weeknotes 336

This week I did:

Being dynamic

Most of this week was spent learning about Dynamics CRM and Marketing applications. I have mixed feelings about how CRM’s reduce or increase complexity in an organisation.

Oblique prompts

I’ve started using Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies as prompts for writing. Each evening I go to that website, pick a statement and start writing whatever comes into my head. Inevitably, it’s always about work. I doubt that will ever change. Today’s was “First work alone, then work in unusual pairs.” If I was being obvious about this, I would write about scaling collaboration and challenging ideas. First work alone to establish an idea, then find someone you wouldn’t usually pair with to critique the idea, then go further.

I read this week:

Agile versus Waterfall Project Management

This paper on a decision model for selecting the appropriate approach to a project explores the conditions within an organisational environment to help identify the best project management approach. It says, if a product can’t be broken into separate deliverables, there is only one chance to deliver a solution, and the risk of incomplete solutions is too high, and if management do not support or accept agile philosophy and/or the organisation can’t accommodate frequent delivery of increments, then waterfall is the best option. I’m sure there are lots of reasons outside of these conditions that teams choose to use a waterfall approach, but it’s good to have a means of making the decision clear.

Dandelions and Elephants

Dimitri Glazkov is exploring some really interesting ideas around applying biological growth strategies to ideas. What I find particularly interesting is the thinking around the conditions each strategy exists within. It relates to the decision making for agile or waterfall project management above and to the ‘build the right environment to build the right thing and build the thing right’. It’s all about understanding the world around the product / team / project / organisation / strategy / whatever. Where you draw the lines matters.

I thought about:

What product managers do in charities

I spent a bit of time thinking more about what product managers do in charities, mostly around creating valuable, feasible, viable business models and how they manage value chains rather than only being able to work on the thin slice of the value chain that interfaces with the user (usually through the technology that people think is ‘the product’). I think it’s in managing that value chain that ‘product managers should work strategically’ and ‘users should have a coherent experience’ come together. A strategy is a coherent response to a significant challenge, and users can only have a coherent experience if someone manages the value chain strategically.

Also, a system-shifting product management thought using the system change iceberg in product management to consider where to apply leverage for achieving outcomes. I’ve often said, “products don’t achieve outcomes, product change behaviour and behaviour achieves outcomes”, but changing user behaviour is at the top of the iceberg. Affecting change at deeper layers is far more complex but definitely more impactful.

Types of work

I’ve been thinking a lot about types of work. Understanding the different types and what really makes them different seems like the key to effectively managing work. The Three Ways suggests four types of work: projects, internal process improvements, changes, and unplanned fixes. And then there is the work/meta-work split (work = results in tangible value for users, meta-work = coordinating, planning, organising the work).

As an experiment to test my understanding, I listed the things I’m working on at the moment, and stopped when I got to thirty. I tried to add characteristics to each item on the list but quickly realised I don’t have a good understanding of how to classify it. And that’s the problem.