Weekly Braindump #23

More kanban, Leadership and getting sketchy with sketchnotes.

The braindump has been on hiatus for a week or two as I’ve been on much needed holiday. But I’m back (with a vengeance) with more waffle and some interesting links. Enjoy!

I’ve been working on..

Lots of learning to plunder from this week (which is a more positive way of saying it’s been a bit of a ‘mare). My carefully laid plans were subject to unavoidable disruption and I pretty much had to stop everything I was doing to refocus on the things that were on fire.. metaphorically speaking.

Whilst I won’t delve into the specifics (because I don’t think they’d be super interesting to the wider world) the emergency was due to something which had been hastily bolted together in similarly urgent conditions about a year ago. Whilst it fixed the immediate problem it left a lot of unaddressed complexity in its wake. A year later, that complexity was rearing its head and causing problems. *Side note — we’re doing a 5 whys on this next week to avoid a repeat.

If you read my previous blog about getting started with kanban, you’ll know that was a direct result of a similar situation a few weeks ago. So this was actually a good test to see if kanban helped me better organise my priorities based on emerging demands.

In short — it did! It enabled me to quickly identify which items of work could be parked and which needed to be kept. I didn’t quite manage to clear the board for the week, but I’d say that 80% of items got done.. and most importantly they were the ones that HAD to be done by Friday.

When I get a minute I quite fancy writing a follow up kanban post as I’ve gleaned some additional learning and some extra bonuses for using it as a team.

So.. what else?

I’ve been talking about leadership with colleagues as part of working through Turn The Ship Around. We identified that transparency and clarity are pretty damned important if you want to push authority (and autonomy) down to the lower reaches of the org chart.

We often think of great leaders as this heroic force of nature that walks in and magically tells everyone the exact right thing to do in any given situation. In reality I think we actually need leaders who do less telling, more listening and ultimately facilitating for those around them. The people closest to the problems often have the best ideas on how to address them.

We then started talking about some of the factors that prevent people from working openly and transparently. Regular readers might know that I’m a big fan of working in the open, as evidence by this very blog. But I totally understand that others don’t always feel safe in talking about their work outside of their teams. This psychological safety is crucial to operating in a more open and transparent manner. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s the only way we’ll ever really learn from our mistakes and get better!

So why don’t people feel safe in sharing more publicly? How do we show people that it’s okay to talk about the ups and downs of your work?

Some thought that this behaviour had to be demonstrated by senior management before the rest of the organisation would feel emboldened to follow suit. Others thought it had to happen inside teams first before it could be adopted more widely.

My view is (and this is a bit of a mantra for 2017) start by starting! We can often postulate on the many and varied reasons things might or might not work — but we only ever actually learn by doing. Try some stuff that isn’t too risky, reflect on what impact it has, adjust accordingly and keep going.

What else?

Sketchnotes! About two weeks ago I was thinking that I needed a better tool to communicate ideas and concepts than writing small novels which ultimately some will never read.

Lucy Knight very helpfully chimed in on Twitter and gave me some top tips on getting started. If you’re interested, see the replies to the tweet below.

Anyway, Lucy’s advice has been ringing in my ears and I really wanted to do something with it. You can see my first attempt at a sketchnote below. I’m going to try and keep banging these out over the next couple of weeks to develop the technique. Ultimately my goal is to try and distill some ideas that I’ve got knocking around my head regarding digital/service transformation into something more relatable.

First stab at a sketchnote.

I’ve been reading…

Here’s a selection of what I’ve been reading this week.

I’ve been listening to…


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