Weeknotes 373

What I did:

Digital leadership

I met the candidates for RNID’s new associate director of digital and innovation this week. They had lots of questions and I hope I had some vaguely coherent answers. It started me thinking about what is digital leadership, how different is it from leadership in general, and what do organisations need from digital leaders. This probably needs a blog post of it’s own, but anyway.

Digital leaders are very different to non-digital leaders because they are rooted in the internet-era, and in case you haven’t noticed, the internet changed everything. Digital leaders understand things like network effects and how interconnected change happens in networks, and how making information publicly available shifted the power dynamic between organisations and consumers, and how being user-centred means shifting decision-making authority in the organisation, and how learning is as equally important as doing (for individuals and the entire organisation) and that feedback loops are essential for that, and so many other things. But all because of the effects the internet has had.

Why new methods fail

I picked on OKR’s but really I’m writing about how introducing any new method or technique is much more about understanding the system it exists in, and how there will be lots more incentives, motivations and behaviours to resist the new method than to encourage it. System maps can help understand how those things work, although to be effective they need some brutal honesty and that might not always be possible, which again just shows how complex introducing a new method is.


Busy week. I completed 52 tasks, averaging 10.4 a day. That makes this week my second busiest week since I’ve started tracking. I was also more effective, completing 4 out of 6 of my weekly goals, half completing another and not achieving one goal.

Also, reflecting on that we delivered more this quarter (July – September) than in the past couple of quarters, and wondering whether the focus that this system brings has contributed to that. I’ve often thought that “products don’t achieve outcomes, products change behaviour and new behaviour achieves outcomes”, so the same applies with tools and systems (and methods and techniques, as above). It’s how the system changes your behaviour that makes it work.

And if you think what you do is too chaotic to use a system like this, then that’s exactly why you need it.

I read/listened to:

Memos from me

Stumbled across Stuart Mackenzie’s Memos from me. I’ve been doing daynotes on and off for a while so I might try audio notes and see how that goes.

Neurodiversity in the charity workforce

Listened to the Third sector podcast with James Cusack, chief executive of Autistica. He makes a good point about retention being the next challenge for organisations that have been successful in recruiting neurodiverse people.

Towards value-oriented product development roadmapping

After a brief conversation about there not being any good goal-setting techniques (which there aren’t), I looked into impact mapping and found this paper exploring value-oriented product development. The conclusion is that visualising helps to compress the business model and communicate it to the stakeholders, map the many routes to reach a certain goal, and create shared understanding.

Thought about:

Start fast, slow down as you uncover complexity

“Long duration tasks have more chance of being delayed and things which are delayed have more chance of being delayed further.”- David Anderson.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about how long things take to do. There’s plenty of well establish thinking that shows that it’s the wait time between tasks that slows work down, not the time spent on the work itself. And we know that reducing work in progress has a system-wide benefit of reducing wait time because everybody has more time to pick things up sooner. So trying to reduce work in progress is a given. A challenge, but a given.

But what about variables in the work itself (the stuff inside the box from last week). The more parts it has or the more people that need to be involved, the more complicated it is. Network geometry tells us that (=(x*(x-1))/2). So, the obvious response is to slice the work into smaller, simpler, less interdependent parts to reduce how complicated they are.

I also think that sequencing work by the availability of the people doing the work makes predictability particularly hard. That’s lining up work by the biggest variable. People will be off sick, get a new job, be busy on other things, etc., etc.

Where am I going with this? Not sure, other than realising that work follows a Weibull distribution, and that tells us that the longer we take to do a piece of work, the slower the work will go. So, we should start fast and slow down only when we uncover some complexity that means it would be silly to carry on working fast.

Invisible and visible stuff

Some poorly formed thoughts about product management and design expressed on a graph of low-to-high context and low-to-high visible outputs. Product work is high context but there’s nothing to show for it. Design is low (or perhaps more accurately, specific) context but actually produces something of value. I’ve no idea where I’m going with this thought but anyway…


I thought about the idea of bringing diversity into organisations, and how it always seems to be talked about as a positive thing without any consideration of what it actually takes to achieve.

If you bring diversity into an organisation, you bring with it all the issues and barriers that those people face. All the inter-generational trauma, systemic racism, poverty, physical and mental health issues, and everything else that those people faced that prevented them from being included in workplaces. You can’t expect people who have faced these issues all their lives to leave them outside and act like someone who hasn’t faced them when they step through the office door. And if you do expect them to bring them in, then you have to be prepared to deal with the issues.

Maybe some indicators of how serious an organisation is about diversity is how many policies have been rewritten, how much budget is spent on providing support, how many professional behaviour expectations have been challenged. If an organisation isn’t fundamentally challenging it’s own way of thinking and proactively changing from within, then bringing in “more diverse people” just retraumatises those people and doesn’t actually make an organisation more diverse.