Weeknotes 356

This week I did:

Product ownership

Made some pretty good progress on my plans to get more product thinking into other charity disciplines. The idea is to turn sections of the website into mini-products, each with their own goals, personas, user journeys, and an owner who uses to product to achieve their objectives. The first experiment is with legacy fundraising. Our short-term goal is to optimise the product we currently have. We’ve started to think about acquisition and activation goals, user journeys for . Soon we’ll work on a roadmap for longer-term goals. While we’re improving the mini-product, I’m also introducing product thinking and techniques for using technology to meet user needs and achieve organisational goals.


I started writing about what it means to be digital-first (but haven’t finished yet). I think the defining characteristic is in the approach to org-design. Digital transformation is about changing an existing, traditional organisation into a more digital-enabled one, whereas digital-first means to design an organising from scratch to be digital from day one. One day, I’ll finish the post I’m writing. The challenge I’ve had recently is that by the time I’ve researched an idea for a blog post I’ve lost the point of writing it.

I read:

Starting together

I’ve been reading John Cutler’s stuff on starting together: Start Together. Finish Together, The (Messy) Shift to Starting Together, Teach by Starting Together, and a thread on “Starting Together”. I’m recognising a problem with the low-context, narrow scope, linear request process that makes it difficult to understand what a piece of work is trying to achieve. By starting together, even if just with a single shared document, and even for simple pieces of work, I think we increase everyone’s contextual understanding and help everyone learn more widely.

Lean change management

I started reading Lean change management. I was looking forward to it but a few chapters in, I’m pretty disappointed. It seems to be very focused on how to change people rather than how to change the systems and environments the people are in. I may carry on reading it some other time, but right now I’m looking for more advanced thinking in how the change the systems.

A framework for council technology planning

This post about technology capabilities in councils is really interesting. I’ve got some work coming up to map our technology capabilities and connect them with governance. I see this as a parallel, although at a deeper level, to the mini-product thinking I mentioned above. A leader and their team will take ownership of a capability, for example ‘communications’ which might be made up of email service provider and SMS provider, or ‘surveys’, which could include MS Forms and Survey Monkey. Each capability could have it’s own roadmap and change log. Products are made up of a combination of capabilities, so the strategic management challenge of the capabilities is how to use each capability for multiple products with different needs.

And I thought about:

The Mojito Method

I’ve thought for a while that the next step in the evolution of frameworks and models is how they fit together coherently to be more useful in more situations. I’ve seen a bit of a trend of this being explored with product thought leaders combining OKRs and User Story Mapping, and in job ads asking for experience in using multiple methods.

Jurgen Appelo calls this the mojito method. He says, “When you mix different ideas from multiple sources, a new idea can emerge that both aggregates and improves on the pre-existing ideas.” I haven’t seen any examples yet of how different methods have actually been successfully put together, but it’s definitely something to explore.

Never finished

I think maybe the biggest realisation and mindset shift for organisations becoming more digital is that nothing is ever finished. The old way sees systems, products and services as being developed to a point where they are good enough and no longer need ongoing investment. The new, digital, way sees everything, the systems and tools orgs use, the products and services they deliver, the culture and structure of the org, all of it is never finished. It all requires ongoing investment of time, money, effort and expertise to keep pace with the environment the organisation operates within.

Understanding this completely changes how an organisation is resourced, how work is planned, and how value is delivered. It’s the underlying rationale for long-standing, problem-focused, cross-functional teams. It’s why feedback loops and continuous improvement are vital aspects of running a digital organisation. Not only do they tell you what to change, really they tell you that things need to keeping changing.

Changing the system

“The slowest way to change a system is with numbers. …the fastest way to change a system is by changing the mental model…out of which the system arises”. – Michael Jones, The Soul of Place

The mental models we bring to bear in our work never cease to amaze and fascinate me. One of the mental models I’ve been pondering this week is around how work is ‘approved’. It seems so counter to the mental model I have around pushing the decision-making authority to those closest to the work, and enabling them to make good decisions by building on their expertise and trusting them. Approving decisions feels so disempowering.

Another is about how people who work in charities understand how charities work. I mean the whole business model from governance and how focused it is on the organisation over the individuals, to fundraising and how precarious that is right now. Understanding these things, and a whole lot more, is essential for developing a mental model that closely matches reality. Without that mental model, the choices people make can be in conflict with the collective needs of the charity.