Stardate S02E05

Mood: 🤔. Questioning what’s assumed. Balancing how to hang back without losing touch.

Tate Britain dressed up in daytime neon

🌹 What am I grateful for this week?

Being thought of. Amid all the excitement that went into kickoff week for our new project, I was asked to help vet another training offering for our leadership team next month, participate in a couple panels, and encouraged to continue sharing my voice in key areas. Pre-Covid I used to rely heavily on casual chats in the office to stay in the loop on these sorts of things, so I appreciate the reminder that my opinions are still valued and sought after by colleagues.

🍀 What surprised me this week?

It originally felt like scope was going to be the primary source of risk for a timely delivery, but now that we’ve kicked off it’s clear that our dependencies are going to be the critical factor, both technical and content. I’d had my expectations set that we would be a bit more autonomous in owning our end-to-end delivery. Not a showstopper by any means, just means that we’ll need to build out a classic ‘path to production’ strategy as one of our very first tasks for the delivery phase.

🌵 What do I wish could have gone differently?

Remembering that there’s a time to be co-creative and a time to lead with an opinion (not unlike being facilitative vs. directive). In a workshop context it’s really difficult to change gears mid-session, especially when you’ve planned it the other way from the start. The more interesting learning here for me is to figure out how we might contingency-plan this next time, in order to ensure first impressions still get made smoothly.

🔮 What do I still need to take care of?

Dave set out a challenge for the directors heading into this year — to balance our time with 49% supporting delivery on existing accounts, leaving 51% for strategy, people and business development. That said, he was reasonable in acknowledging this would take time, and require elevating our teams to free up our capacity from day-to-day delivery.

I’m trying to be mindful of this aspirational balance when it comes to current project work. Our team did an awesome job aligning with brand new stakeholders to build out a discovery plan, backlog, dependencies and journey map largely on their own — so while passing the check so far, I’m knocking on wood as we’re only a week in!

💡 What do I need to remember?

I wrote this corollary to some thoughts on value propositions last year:

Just because Strategyzer, or anyone, wrote it in a blog post, e-mail, or slide deck doesn’t mean it’s unequivocally true

A variant of that corollary came to mind during a meeting this week: apparently some VCs are now musing that the cost of developing software (not just the marginal cost of selling it) will soon drive to zero. It was a passing comment and so not one to dig into in the moment, but I’ve not been able to easily find a source for this since. I’m trying to reason… were they bullish about AI? Outsourcing? Education and everyone becoming a programmer? Unless I’m missing some key insight, the obvious answers all seem to be dead ends. It takes a lot to collapse an entire industry; I can’t see this being true any time ‘soon.’

It served as a good reminder to think critically when others appeal to an authority, ask why, and insist on citing sources (or if you can’t in the moment, at least discount the claim until it can be evidenced later). And while you can check your biases to help combat the Dunning-Kruger effect, you might be able to sniff overconfidence in others during a fast-talking meeting and try the reverse.

Just because someone smart, famous or successful said it, doesn’t make it true.

📚 What did I discover?

One from the delivery community about team health measures — with a variety of approaches captured here. I’ve seen a good rebuttal of the Niko-Niko calendar in particular, but among the others, weighing value statements reminds me of the Spotify health check and it definitely gives you interesting data to work with across iterations.

Courtesy of Tim’s newsletter, a heuristic to try: if you feel stuck with a problem, examine your frame. What frame are you using and can you change it to expose a different choice or tradeoff?

And here’s a similar type of reframing in action: rather than explaining your role by what you do (a PM writes user stories, connects with customers, etc.) try an analogy (a PM is a kind of investment manager) that frames the content of what you do.


A short story from this week’s daily writing workshop, for the prompt Moth:

Onions flying. Stock pots boiling. Chefs darting back and forth frantically across the kitchen lines.

Their first Michelin star was on the horizon tonight. They’d all worked too hard to get to this point.

The owner bellowed through the double doors for her signature soup — table 5 had been waiting for nearly 15 minutes already. Somehow every available hand had been deployed to a chopping board, saucepan or grill. But the first young chef to finish sauteeing his salmon yelled to cover it.

He carefully spun behind him, grabbing a shallow soup dish and lovingly ladled the creamy green stock in, cradling as he went. And now the chiffonade basil, a healthy round of microfoam, and two slices of thinly shaved porcini to top. Magnificent as always. He gently laid it at the edge of the ready table and rang the bell, just as quickly immersing himself in his next entree.

The owner gleefully burst in again, snatching the soup and rushing it on to table 5. And as she lay it down to the expectant reviewers — lo, the soup was suddenly alive! To her horror, the shaved porcini stirred and fluttered like wings, and fancifully took flight above her ashen white face.

She turned to the customers. They were too busy texting on their phones to have noticed the moth flying away. She bit her tongue as they lapped up the creamy broth.




Reflecting through #weeknotes. Learning what works. You’re welcome to read over my shoulder while I do.

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Sean K. Gabriel

Sean K. Gabriel

Kindness first. Lean product aficionado tweeting @skaulana, web @ Finds you interesting. (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ

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