Weeknotes 396

This week I did:

Write stuff down

With four weeks to go in my current role, I’ve been focusing on finishing off whatever I can and writing handover notes for whatever I can’t. Luckily for me, I’ve religiously documented all the work I’ve done over the last two years so it’s more of a case of pulling all those documents and Miro boards together into a semi-comprehensive narrative. It’s been really interesting to look back at all the things I’ve worked on, which things have succeeded, and where things have failed, and what patterns have emerged.


I completed 43 things this week, an average of 8.6 a day.

I completed 50% of this week’s goals, with (as usual) one goal completed fully, another progressed a bit and did very little for the third goal.

I had 51 interactions with 30 people.

After 7 months of tracking, I’ve completed 1498 tasks. One month left of this experiment before version 2, which will dive more into the theory of constraints and how doing tasks is essentially about removing blockers to enable the flow of value (I also need a refresher on the principles of kanban to help with this).

I read:

Is the A.I. ship sailing by the ‘social sector’, just like the digital ship did in the 90s!

I started reading Ed Howarth’s post on AI in the social sector wanting to agree. But I changed my mind. Ed says, “Don’t be led by the product, be led by what you want to achieve.” I think maybe it was this kind of thinking that prevented the social sector from realising the potential of digital in the 90’s and ever since.

Technology push is just as valid a driver of innovation as market pull. But if you only allow yourself to see the world from what you already know – your purpose, and how you think you can achieve it – then you severely limit your ability to explore new possibilities. Over the past couple of decades, the internet and digital has enabled entirely new business models that weren’t possible before and couldn’t be conceived of by people who didn’t understand just how different digital is to what went before. I think the same is probably true of AI. The charities that look at AI as, at best, a way to improve productivity won’t be able to imagine the completely new ways it might enable them to have an impact on the world. They will get left behind.

Ed finishes with the suggestion that social sector organisations experiment with AI. This I agree with, even if for most of them it probably means just starting to use it in unstructured ways rather than actually running experiments. But, for any charity that has a ten year vision which doesn’t recognise the impact of AI, the ship hasn’t just sailed, it’s already over the horizon.

The Product Kata

I was thinking about ways to establish and maintain a practice approach to product management and wondered how to apply an Improvement Kata approach, but of course Melissa Perri has already written about it.

Visualising Experiment Portfolios

Sam Rye shares a number of different ways we could visualise experiment portfolios, with the aim to spur discussion, surface promising angles to pursue, and perhaps identify existing tools which could deliver some / all of the main views. And of course, visual working FTW.

More resources and toolkits

I thought about:

Delivery management

There are four ‘modes of organising’ for a team: coalition, coordination, cooperation and collaboration.

Working separatelyWorking together
Different goalsCoordinationCooperation
Same goalsCoalitionCollaboration

Each of the different modes is applicable in different situations, so none is better than another. But they do work very differently and have wider implications outside the team.

One of those implications I’ve been thinking about is, which modes can delivery management be effective, which does it not work, or which does it have to be adapted for?

We know delivery management can bring lots of benefits to teams working in a collaborative mode, that is, a true team of people working together on the same goal. Can true delivery management only be effective if the team is working together to achieve the different goals? Or, even more challenging, can it help where people are working separately on different goals? And is good delivery management essential to move teams from one mode to another?

Does start small work without think big?

Think big, start small, learn fast. That’s well known, and it makes sense. Thinking big helps you understand where you want to get to. Starting small helps you do something in the right direction. And learn fast helps you figure out whether you are heading in the right direction (and sometimes if the direction is right).

My question is, does starting small work if you haven’t thought big?

Matt Edgar says, “Starting work on anything without everyone having a shared understanding of the big picture is incredibly risky.” He goes on the say that the risk is around only a small number of leaders knowing the big picture, but there’s a tougher risk to tackle where no one knows what the big picture might look like. If no one has done the thinking and communicating about vision, direction, goals, etc., it seems really unlikely that starting small can be effective. Maybe you can start small and learn fast to help you think big and figure out the direction and ideally end state, but that would need to be really explicit for those working on it, and, to some degree, is thinking big. So, at the moment, until proven wrong, I think starting small without having thought big is a recipe for ineffective busy work.

Ten years in charity product management

I’ve been thinking back over my ten years as a product manager in the charity sector. I might try to write about my experience and where I think charity product management should go in the next ten years.