S01E02: Learning to learn and other future-proof organisation designs


Welcome to episode 02. Looks like we both made it back for another catchup and another chance to connect. This week has been meetingful and meaningful, so let’s recap.

A quick recap

In last week’s episode, I mentioned the three threads at the top of my mind:

  • Designing a remote-preferred, digital-native, mobile-ready, data & evidence-led organisations;
  • Data governance as a service; and
  • Design patterns for data and analytics.

The first is about creating the conditions for people to thrive and data to be effective. An organisation designed this way can more easily support an agile, service approach to data and use design patterns to scale.

So what happened next?

Define, refine, confine

Image: My white board with a Radarban Roadmap showing Now and Next

As a reformed developer, I’m ever cautious about scope creep — uncontrolled growth that can kill a project by making it too big to tackle. To keep my threads tidy, I made list of related things that could derail my thinking. The idea is simple — if I make a note of them, I won’t forget about them. I also won’t roll them into my three threads and lose my way. This helps me confine the scope.

I’m also moving on from define to refine. Last week, I laid out what these threads meant to me. I wasn’t aiming for ‘accurate’, just documented. Now I can look back at what I defined and decide how it should be refined. For example, I’ve already rephrased the long-winded ‘remote-preferred, digital-native, mobile-ready, data and evidence-lead organisation’ to the ‘designed organisation’. Less of a mouthful for everyone!

Fingers and toes crossed for me to stay on track!

The designed organisation

The designed organisation at its heart is an organisation designed to learn. Think about the things I listed: digital-native, mobile-ready, data and evidence-led — to be these things and bring people along on that journey, the organisation has to learn well and learn together.

Have you ever been so busy, you barely finished one of the dozens of tasks you have, just to move on to the next? Did you review what you did, how you did it, how useful it was, get feedback and reflect on how you would do it better next time? Maybe you call it a retrospective, maybe you call is lessons learned, no matter the name, how do you learn? Do you learn as a team, as a department, as an organisation and use that learning to improve?

It’s easy to think innovation must come in leaps and bounds from a team wearing designer glasses and welding post-it notes, ignoring the small and large innovations that come from learning and reflecting together.

This brought me to one of Harvard Business Review’s 75 seminal management books of the previous 75 years: The Fifth Discipline by Peter M. Senge. I haven’t delved into it yet — the links to systems thinking and articles like Here’s How to Become a Learning Organization and The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization have me curious. More next week.

Finding the best person for the job

In the designed organisation, finding the right person for the job is important. Everything revolves around people — relationships, delivery, decisions. So I caught up with Giuseppe Sollazzo, Head of Data at Department for Transport (DfT), to pin down some thoughts on better interviewing.

We considered the constraints of recruitment policies and how to work best within them. What’s in our power to improve and what can we feed back to improve the process as a whole?

Also useful was reviewing questions to stop asking candidates by Liz Ryan, author of Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and Career You Deserve. How might we fine-tune these brother questions to start asking candidates the right ones so we can find the right person? More conversations to come as we recruit across our teams.

Remote-first, Location-neutral or Living-at-work?

Screenshot from Chrsitne Locaher on Twitter “It’s not the working at home bit, it;s more about the Now Living At Work 24/7 bit…”

I was incredibly fortunate to spend some time with Rachel Murphy, CEO of Difrent Group this week. After I challenged the idea that you could add remote-working on top of your existing organisation structure , we got together to discuss how her organisation is supporting people in what is the ‘new normal’ (yes, a cliché and that’s OK).

As a civil servant in a global organisation not everything Difrent do would work here. One key lesson that anyone can take away, no matter your organisation size or shape is ‘Duty of Care’.

With everyone who works for or with you, consider your duty of care. This is more than the legal obligations you have as an employer, but also your moral obligation. Your duty to keep people physically, emotionally and mentally safe. That means as leaders modelling the behaviour we want to encourage, knowing the people who work with us so we can support them as individuals, and sometimes, enforcing this by taking effective steps.

It’s not easy and it takes a lot of time, effort, and juggling of priorities to get it right. It also never stops. New situations will pop up, little road bumps or massive black swan events like COVID.

So as you consider your duty of care and your employees are working off-site, remote-first, location-neutral or living-at-work, what does each person, each time, the organisation need to thrive?

That’s all folks!

And that’s it for this episode. Light on data, heavy on thinking about the things that help us do data better!

Hey you! I think there’s an article in each of these, so get in touch to let me know what you’re interested in reading or collaborating on.

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