Weekly Braindump #50

Resisting Robots & Double Diamonds

Hello — welcome to a very slightly delayed Braindump. Here’s a what I’ve been doing, reading and listening to for the last 7 days.

I’ve been working on…

Last week I encountered cracking examples why automation is great in theory but can be so challenging in practice.

Humans have an innate knack for creating complexity without really thinking too hard about it. Trying to automate those processes can be difficult because after a while people are almost functioning on intuition. They just know what things should look like, but they can’t always articulate the ‘why’.

We’ve been touching on this recently in terms of distributing good practice and encouraging leadership. How do you download your decision making process to someone else? Do you understand your own decision making process in the first instance to be able to convey it to another person?

Inconsistency isn’t always a bad thing. A housing officer who’s able to think outside standard operating procedure to help a tenant who’s desperately in need is a desireable behaviour. Someone who sticks to the rules and ignores the needs of the person they’re speaking to might be described as cold or robotic.

But some processes absolutely need to be consistent and logical, day in, day out, regardless of who’s doing them. I suspect these are the places that automation could add the most value. But there’s a whole slew of entirely rational (and irrational) reasons people create barriers to cling on to these very same things.

I guess what I’m hinting at here is… automate the right stuff. It seems automation often starts where the user meets the service, but I suspect there’s a lot to be done elsewhere too. Perhaps a user centred approach to designing services ensures that the friction is taken out of the right places? Perhaps a degree of friction needs to be there where humans have more more complex than can be delivered via a well designed web service?

What else?

I sat in on a product demo for a potential housing system based on Microsoft Dynamics. I’m still thinking about how to deliver on user needs and generally speed up the change process. Generally, Microsoft’s stuff is hugely improved since they started playing nice(er) with the rest of the Internet.. but I still break out in cold sweats thinking about the likes of Sharepoint.

I’m going to be re-visiting some of the digital transformation principles I wrote to make sure that we’re not in danger of committing self harm. I may also refer to this list which is a compilation of all the terrible IT experiences I’ve endured over the years.

What else?

Some project work I’ve been doing hit some rocky ground due to uncovering mostly cultural (rather than technological) wrinkles. The problem with waterfall project management is that when new or emerging things pop up, it’s incredibly hard to course correct to address them. I need to reflect on this and consider if there are any ways we could’ve discovered this information much earlier as part of the initial scope (other than.. don’t do waterfall project management).

On a related note, I’ve been floating the idea of using the double diamond as part of any new piece of work.. for the very reasons mentioned above. If we spent more time discovering and defining the problem, how much time and energy could be saved later during development & delivery?

Photo Credit : http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/design-process-what-double-diamond

I’ve been reading…

I’ve been listening to…

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