Weeknotes 375

This week I:

Product risk in practice

My focus for this week was on a potential partnership involving one of our products. It’ll need a considerable amount of work on the product, but before we begin comes the work to make sure we can do it (feasible), in a way that meets user needs (usable), in a way that they want those needs to be met (valuable), in a way that meets organisational needs (viable). A weird little thought off the back of this was how ingrained coming up with solution that tackles all four risks is. It was only after we had figured out what the solution looks like that I looked back and realised it ticked all the boxes. I wish I could find a way to communicate this to the team and others as it feels important to our product practice. Maybe it’s something that needs to be into our product owner training.


I completed 59 tasks over 5 days, which averages 11.5 per day. It would have been higher but I was ill for half the week which slowed me down a bit. Comparing the last few weeks, my averages have been increasing. Three weeks ago I averaged 8.8 tasks a day, two weeks ago 10.4, last week it was 11. I need to look into this a bit more to try to understand if I’m doing more (which is what it feels like) or whether I’m doing different (smaller) things. I’m expecting the next few months to be very busy with managing more people and more projects, so I need to figure what I should take focus away from.

I set 5 goals for this week. I completed one of them and did almost nothing on the other four. The goal/task relationship seems completely acausal. This means something. It’s meaningful for how an individual plans work and has impact, and I bet it replicates across entire organisations. I wonder what the solution is. Well, I know the solution is lower WIP, but how do you get there?

What’s your problem?

Had an interesting chat about tackling ‘organisational annoyances’, things that don’t work as well as you’d like but are really hard to define as problems. The tendency seems to be to half-heartedly apply a ‘solution’ without being clear about what problem it’s solving. Instead, I think it’s better to think in terms of creating affordances that make it easier for people to do things in a certain way that leads in the general direction you think might make things better.

Random acts of kindness

Make the world go round, really. When I was ill, a friend helped me. When I saw someone struggling sit in the road, I chatted to them and they came off the road. When I found someone’s mobile phone, I made sure it got back to them. Now I just need to do something with the bottle of wine they gave me.

This week I read:

Disempowering teams

John Cutler’s content is always interesting but his post on the fine line between empowerment and absolving oneself of responsibility is particularly good. Apart from the brilliant line “Sinek-ian leadership cosplay”, it’s raises the point that effective leadership means good delegation, and good delegation requires leaders do the work the work to actually empower teams, not just say teams are empowered and take no responsibility for that.

AI ducks in a row

It seems like organisations are starting to figure out their stance in response to generative AI. The BBC released a statement about blocking AI from crawling content on it’s website. And the first edition of the Civic AI Observatory newsletter is all about writing policies for how AI is and isn’t to be used. I think that’s pretty impressive given that generative AI has only been in our world for less than a year. The behaviour pattern for any emerging tech is like a harmonic pendulum, different things swing at different rates. Always trying to balance between multiple different extremes such as speed of progress and ethical use, scale and safety, etc., etc.

Systems thinking in a digital world

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

WCAG 2.2 was released. I skim read it, and need to spend more time going in to it, and to decide whether to suggest a piece of work to review how our website measures up. I’m certain there’s a gap in the accessibility market, especially given how poorly most accessibility checkers perform, that a charity (or consortium of charities) could fill. But I’m even more certain that it’ll never happen. Charities just don’t have the kinds of innovation capabilities required to jump on opportunities like these.

Hey designers, they’re gaslighting you (or maybe they aren’t)

This post has been doing the rounds and getting lots of agreement from people who undoubtedly recognise the problem it’s try to express. I found it really interesting, although editorially it goes to, actually they aren’t gaslighting you, they’re just “caught up in their own pressures and preoccupations”, which I found confusing. That aside, how different disciplines are valued differently within an organisation is a fascinating thing to explore. Within every organisation, different things are important. For some, it’s profit, ROI, cashflow, for others, public profile and reputation are most important, and for others, it’s innovativeness and speed. If design isn’t valued in an organisation (and yes, that’s most of them), it’s not because some people don’t see the value of design, it’s because what design enables for the organisation just isn’t important to that organisation. No amount of trying to show the value of design will change that. And no amount of assuming the value of design and not asking permission will change that. This is what the post concludes anyway. But it makes me wonder… what does design enable for an organisation?

Thought about:

Minimum viable everything

If there was ever a hill I’d be prepared to die on (metaphorically, I’d be happy to die on any hill, mountain, beach or forest), it would be lean’s focus on “minimum viable…”, “just enough”, “just in time”, etc. It gets things started, it makes progress without perfection, it forces learning. Combined with “Continuous everything”, it just might be the foundations for modern product management. Obviously, lean and agile working together isn’t news, but it’s the introduction of the ‘everything’ part that matters.

How to do product management without strategy

Is it even possible? I don’t know. Just randomly doing stuff with no discernible reason, without any sense of a hypothesis that the organisation is trying to prove, and no desire to create one, isn’t product management. If, as I believe, product management is fundamentally a scientific pursuit that uncovers existing patterns and generates new knowledge, then it can’t exist in an organisation that is driven by politics.