This week I did:
Did a bit of listening, thinking and writing to help me understand the barriers to making an environment more enabling. The environmental solution seems to be around helping people feel like they can be in control of their time and their work. Which, to me, feels connected to the purpose of the team and whether we are an internal digital services agency where the client chooses what we work on and when (at one end of the scale), or whether we’re strategic leaders in transforming the organisation (at the other end of the scale). The work probably looks similar, but the attitude with which we approach it is very different. If we’re leading transformation (which is what I think we should be doing) then every little project becomes a chance to remove another barrier to the fast flow of value, another opportunity to learn and to teach, another piece of the puzzle in shaping the future of how we achieve our mission.
At a deeper level, I’m trying to figure out which parts of the environment should be teleological and which emergent, and how those fit coherently together. Is there a perfect end state for the environment that we can define and then create, or should it all be emergent with some guiding ethos?
The technology charity
I set up the technology charity website. And two people signed up, which surprised me. I wrote a few more notes but haven’t written much this week. At the moment, I think there will be three sections. One is around the case for transformation and why we need technology charities. Another will be about the ethics and issues of using tech at scale, a bit of history, and hopefully some ideas for different ways. And another will be about the different ways charities use technology and more about the definition of a technology charity. At the moment they feel very separate so I need a way to join them together and make it less boring.
And I read:
A Guide to Collaboration
One of ‘enabling environment’ questions I’ve been pondering is, how should matrix teams work? And part of the answer is that they should work collaboratively. For me, that means everyone on the team, regardless of their discipline or who they report to, has shared goals that everyone wants to achieve, but I haven’t got much further. This guide to collaboration has a six-part model that could form the foundation of good matrix teams.
Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage
It still bothers me that if you google ‘autistic manager’, the results are either about how to manage someone with autism or how to deal with having a boss with autism, but always from the perspective of the neurotypical person and always implying the neurodiversity is a problem. This article isn’t much better but at least it tries to point the finger at organisations and their hiring practices.
“the behaviors of many neurodiverse people run counter to common notions of what makes a good employee—solid communication skills, being a team player, emotional intelligence, persuasiveness, salesperson-type personalities, the ability to network, the ability to conform to standard practices without special accommodations, and so on. These criteria systematically screen out neurodiverse people.”
How to lead with kindness
I listened to Lauren Currie’s podcast about the difference between being nice and being kind.
And I thought about:
The internet era
Tom Loosemore described digital transformation as “applying the culture, processes, business models and technologies of the internet era to meet people’s raised expectations”. The “internet era” part of that is the most difficult and interesting part because it’s still emerging. It’s fairly easy to define and describe a working practice as being from the industrial era because we’re able to look back and see a clear pattern. The idea of the factory, linear production line, specialisiation, all of these are from that earlier era. But internet era patterns aren’t entirely unknown. Some things, like networks, are clearly more modern.
So, what does this mean for how we work? One very specific example is how we approach document management. The old way would be to try to store all the documents in one place, catalogue them. The internet era way might be to treat documents more like websites, independent of each other, in different locations, and link between them.
The idea of sign-off feels weird to me. It suggests the wrong people are making the decision. As an example, imagine you’re a designer who has been asked to solve a problem. The stakeholders are experts on the problem, and you’re the expert on the solution. Expecting those who are experts in the problem space to have an informed opinion about the solution isn’t going to provide good feedback or an informed sign-off decision about whether the solution will solve the problem. So, the job of those who know about the problem is to make sure those that know about the solutions are solving the right problems.
Wax on, wax off
Practice, practice, practice. Repetition, repetition, repetition. The best way to learn is to do, a lot. So, to take us back to the top in a loop, one important aspect of enabling environments is that it supports repetitive practice.