On interim roles, trade-offs and looking outside my “woke” filter bubble.
For the last six months or so, I have been spending most of my time working on our finance and workforce systems but the intention was always to get back to my core agile coaching role at some point. We’ve got a full year of experience working with the new systems so we have a pretty good idea of what we need to do to run them effectively. This week we have been putting the finishing touches to some of the new roles we are going to need. Once we have recruited into these roles I will be able to hand over and get back to, what should be, the day job.
This week we have also been helping the last few people move off our old finance and workforce systems so we can then shut them down and dismantle them. Everyone has been using the new systems for day to day work for over a year but a few people need to access historic information and will occasionally need to do this for years to come. Since the historic data does not change we have created a set of reports to meet the most important needs, such as the records we must keep for tax and other regulatory purposes.
As we fill out the long term organisation to run our finance and workforce systems we will open up some opportunities but will also have to make some tough trade-offs. We will get the opportunity to pick up more of the items in our roadmap and deliver the benefits they promise but the trade-offs also start with the roadmap items.
All of the roadmap items are good ideas in their own right but we can’t do them all and certainly not at the same time. We could tackle the items with the greatest benefits first but that can crowd out smaller items which, as a collection, may produce more value for the same effort. To find the optimum schedule we need a bit more information about the costs, benefits and risks of the items. Developing that information will take effort but any more work we do on items that are subsequently rejected will be a waste.
Managing the roadmap itself also involves trade-offs. I would like to see richer information about the expected benefits from the work we are being asked to do but other stakeholders are comfortable with the benefits and want better information about when the work is likely to start and finish. We could do more work on all of this but that involves making estimates which might prove to be unreliable and consumes effort that might be better spent on delivering the most important items.
Why not just increase capacity so we can cover all of the work? For a variety of reasons, our finances are effectively fixed in the medium-term so increasing capacity in one team means that another team will have to do without. This becomes another trade-off and when the other teams are on the front-line providing essential care services these are not simple trade-offs to make. We can shift how our capacity is allocated within the team. For example, reducing the effort we put into training, quality or contingency measures would boost capacity in the short-term but would store up potentially dangerous problems for the future.
There are other trade-offs to make in how we get the work done. For example, when teams collaborate it can help if they have adopted similar approaches such as how they organise, prioritise and plan their work. We could set standards and apply controls to achieve this but these would then become obstacles to teams developing new and better ways of working. Even the structure and scope of the teams themselves is a trade-off between a multitude of alternative ways to organise ourselves.
To be honest, I can’t hold all of this in mind at one point in time so even which challenge to focus on is a trade-off. So far, my focus has been on getting the right capacity in our team. We are not there yet but the next few steps are clear. It is probably the right time to focus on something else. I can see some more roadmap work coming my way!
I am trying to be a good ally1 and work against inequality. Part of this work is about being better informed and there are two sides to this. One is to learn more about the experiences of people facing discrimination because of their gender, skin colour, physical abilities or other characteristics. The other side is to learn more about the people who don’t share my views on these topics. Personally, I quite like the idea that someone might think I am “woke” but many people use this as a derogatory term and that probably includes some of my friends and family. I am not a fan of the Daily Mail or GB News but there is no point in me pretending that they aren’t influential and I would just become a different sort of bigot if I dismissed criticisms or challenges to my views out of hand. It isn’t comfortable getting out of my filter bubble2 and engaging with some of this material but there can be some pleasant surprises on occasions. Anyway, it is a trivial burden compared to the bias and inequality that others have to face on a daily basis.