S01E07 A brief weeknote?

Fergus Oliver Slonerhime: Image shows a black cat staring up between jean-clad knees

I’ve fallen in love and his name is Fergie. This week I talked network theory, systems thinking, patterns and data maturity — oh and cats, lots about cats. Here’s a brief update because little purring bundles of joy need attention.

CDO Summer School — Data maturity edition

This week in we covered data maturity and how to assess it a CDO Summer School. At work, we’ve been immersed in this process for 6 months, so was there anything to learn from the session? Unsurprisingly yes! Caroline Carruthers and Peter Jackson don’t just talk through their thinking about why data maturity is important, they supplement with real life stories. Along with superb contributions from the cohort, each session is a deep learning experience.

I’ll write up a little more on why data maturity assessments are so important next week. As a summary, they help you know where you are now (with data) so you can plan (with a roadmap) how you’ll get to your destination (as outlined in your strategy). When should you assess your data maturity? Some disagreements here but as soon as is practical — with leadership support.

I wrote in previous weeknotes how chaotic environments are like a body with a fever, you need to take the patient’s temperature down before treatment can be effective. Same here. If the organisation is going through a crisis, a data maturity assessment might not land as well. How can you calm the fever so a data maturity assessment delivers? More on this next week.

Like patterns for data

One of my three “threads” this season is patterns for data. I’ve worked through the other two (learning organisations and data governance as a service) over the last 6 weeks. Patterns for data has been on the back burner, though I did have excellent conversations with Tim Paul, Head of Interaction Design at Government Digital Service (GDS) amongst others. This week, those conversations bore fruit.

What do I mean by patterns for data and why on earth do we need them? I love Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns’s definition in Fearless Change: Making Change Happen by Using Patterns: ”A pattern is a named strategy for solving a recurring problem”. It captures exactly what I mean when I say patterns for data. A pattern for data is a named strategy for solving recurring problems in systems with common things, relationships or work flows. Patterns help us deliver faster by solving a problem in a system once then using that solution over and over again. Like a recipe or a cookie cutter: Build once, reuse many.

What do systems have to do with patterns? “A system is a set of things — people, cells, molecules, or whatever — interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time.” ― Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer.

This week, I delivered a workshop on patterns for data where I started and ended my presentation using OKRs — Objectives and Key Results — to keep me on track and measure how effective the workshop has been. The aim? To track by the end of the year if I nailed my goal: to persuade my team to adopt patterns, develop and learn from a prototype. Let’s see how that pans out.

Know the network, knit the network

While I’ve been focusing on leadership when it comes to a designed organisation, (an organisation that learns and is resilient), understanding the space you’re in has also been on my mind.

A provocation from a civil service colleague got me pondering how we might understand, baseline, track and change the people, organisations and influences in the environment outside and within our ecosystems.

My first step was understanding what “scale-free networks” are and how we might check we are operating in one. This led me to an early morning masterclass on systems thinking and network analysis with the brilliant Esko Reinikainen. The quote “Know the network, knit the network” comes from Valdis Krebs who urges us to “Connect the dots. Discuss the patterns.“. This is important because a network graph is a tool to discuss and collaborate around — it doesn’t tell you what to do.

I shared my thoughts which led to this bit of wisdom from Valdis:

Simple three step process:

1) Know the Network = map the network, the “as is” view.

2) Knit the Network = improve the network, build bridges, etc.

3) After some time spent on 2), go to 1) and repeat.

And there you have it. How might we use this to make positive, ethical changes to our ecosystem? I’ll explore this next week.

His name is Fergus, fear him

The handsome fella in the header photo has stolen my heart — I’m awash with something akin to New Relationship Energy. He is Fergus “Fergie” Oliver Slonerhime (Slack + Onerhime), first of his name and our newest family member since 18:00 on 07.08.2020.

We adopted this little ball of purring delight from a local Glasgow rescue CatFlap. The team there are wonderful, caring and do so much to match cats with the right people. There’s lots of ways to donate, so please them consider if you can.

We renamed him Fergus, derived from Scots Gaelic . It means the angry (one) or the wrathful (one)! He’d struggled for attention at his previous home as one of many cats, he just needed a second chance where he could be the centre of attention.

We all deserve all the affection our hearts desire right now. This was meant to be a brief note but Fergus is asleep and I don’t have the heart to move him off me.

Till next week — stay safe.

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