Week notes: 29 January – 4 February 2024

Hard to please, good service designers are verbs, Kano model, me at 21.

This week felt like a day and now it’s Feb.

But on my Stendig calendar the even-numbered months have white text on a black background and I slightly prefer those to the inverse, so fine.

Work, work, work

I’m 3 days away from my 2-year BFI anniversary and I’m feeling buoyed and motivated, doing my thing, and more like I belong. 

FWIW I think my thing is setting clear, exciting direction and a high quality bar (a former employee once warned another I’m “hard to please”) – but always tempered with trust and autonomy, zero blame, and valuing wellbeing, evidence and pushback.

Strong opinions loosely held” and “mission command” sum up how I like to be led and are (I hope) core to how I lead, at least when I’m on my game. 

So I’m trying to apply that style both in my own directorate and across the BFI, with varying levels of success. A reflection at this 2-year point is to double down on getting things really singing in my own directorate now and keep pointing at what works for us, disseminating it outwards. But also be bolder in my cross-org work.

Chatting about this with a colleague this week I used Kate Tarling as a verb – “let’s Kate Tarling our stuff first then we can help Kate Tarling others”. (Good service designers are verbs?)

I spent a full 8 hours in Exec team meetings plus 3-5 hours reading papers for them this week. For a week with no retreats or away days that’s probably a record! But it’s no bad thing for us to spend more time co-leading the org and less in our respective directorates – it’s just no wonder the week flew by and my tasks piled up. 

Exec joint work included an accountability session with members of our race equality network. Those conversations belong in the room so I’ll just say it was challenging, as anti-racist work must be to get anywhere. White supremacy culture is pervasive and pernicious, we have much to do.

We put our internal guidance on safe use of gen-AI live and immediately got responses that’ll help us improve the guide and understand what early adopters are up to. I feel proud (and vindicated) for holding a position of “feel free to experiment within these parameters but tell us what you’re doing” rather than “thou shalt not use tools without prior approval” which would be unrealistic and push it underground. That said, my bias is heavily towards tolerating risk and I do need to listen to the voices of caution. Somewhat.

I’m continuing to network actively. This week I hopped across the path to the National Theatre to meet the excellent Emma Keith. So much common ground (not just said path!) including commercial-cultural streamers, ticketing UX, digital-first mandates in old analogue arts institutions. Many threads to follow up on. Sometime. 

David Hamilton got announced as our new lead for comms and we’re in touch about a pre-meet before he joins, yay! He appears to be rather marvellous.

I spent time reviewing Re’s 2nd-round designs for the BFI Player website. Arguably that’s the kind of detail I should keep out of but where’s the fun in that? The Re team had listened and iterated well, and it’s heading in a more distinctive direction. It raises questions on service proposition and buying-decision heuristics, the answers to which exist in people’s heads but likely vary, so I’m pushing for writing more decisions and hypotheses down. 

I spent some quality time with Anthony who runs IT service delivery, to hear how he’s developing and maturing the function and embedding continuous improvement. There’s such great, professional and thoughtful work happening here, so my main steer (as it often is!) was to do it out loud.

Of relevance to both previous paragraphs, for decades I’ve kept coming back to the Kano model and its helpful categories of basics, performers and delighters.

A diagram illurtating the Kano model. Axes are customer satisfaction vs quality of execution. It shows that basic features cause dissatiafaction when absent, but don't raise satisfation when present. Performance features improve satisfaction in proportion to the quality of execution. Delighters are unexpected and create high satisfaction for low effort.

At the macro level, colleagues won’t believe in our directorate’s digital-first transformation work (delighters) if they’re struggling with WiFi or screens in meeting rooms (basics).

At a micro per-product level, it’s a helpful check on investing effort evenly to meet the gamut of attraction and retention user needs – for things to work, perform well, and be better than alternatives. (See also “useful, useable and actually used“).

I like it in tandem with the Three Horizons of Growth which Tanya Cordrey once told me about. Both models encourage keeping a constant eye on three fronts at once: fixing stuff, optimising stuff and breaking new ground. 

So I’ve been wanging on about it a bit to colleagues. Sorry, colleagues!

I also had meetings on:

  • progressing some kind of blanket learning and development across the org to further everyone’s digital understanding
  • a new approach to introducing OKRs across the org where useful and relevant, through a coalition of the willing and community of practice 
  • the H22 programme. It was the last board, reviewing closure reports. It’s been epic!

It’s not all work, work, work

Prompted by an Instagram trend I dug up these pics of myself age 21-ish. I’m still this guy, but also not. 

A grid of 4 images, taken in 1996/7. A student with spiky hair, died either red or black, with young women, smoking in student rooms with a saxophone, posing.

I bought stuff and took photos in 3 shops for my SE19 triangle series (including clobber from Simon Carter to wear for the Nolan fellowship event) but god knows when I will write them up!

Dylan’s got his 2nd round of mocks and a sixth form interview next week. Joel’s surprising himself (but not us!) with how good he is at drama. 

There was other stuff but it’s not for here. 

On the streamers: 

  • BFI Player: Irma Vep, Scorsese’s A Personal Journey pt3 (saw the other parts over Xmas) and some of Stroszek.
  • Elsewhere: Airplaine! and Top Secret! cos the kids hadn’t seen. Former stands up better than latter. Also showed them Point Break.

2 quick Airplane! asides: 

  1. I suggested the inflatable autopilot pic to accompany our intranet AI piece but was underuled, so it’s the featured image of this post instead.
  2. The day after watching it I heard Joel (13) on VR multiplayer saying “looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue” and I’m so proud!

📺 On the telly: Detectorists s1e1. Way too gentle, not for me. Plus nostalgic Come Outside eps the kids loved when they were little. “Oh, Pippin!”

📽️ On the big screen: Nothing. Saw all the best new stuff during LFF innit. 

🕹️ On the consoles: Finished The Wild At Heart which was perfection. Started Cocoon which is intriguing. Bought Tekken 8 for when I go to Nottingham in a couple of weeks to see my oldest and bestest pals Alex, Mark, Ben and Jon. Not gonna play it until then so we can have an equally unskilled middle-aged button-mashing contest (then I’ll probably CEX it).

🎧 In my ears: New Burial tracks of course. Cymande because of the upcoming doc (on BFI Player from 19 Feb). Started listening to Jon Ronson’s Things Fell Apart on BBC Sounds. Season 2 is out but I’ve started on S1. Fascinating, insightful, jaw-dropping. 

📓 On the page: Still Ted Chiang, slowly. 

🔎 Found, interesting 🧐

I resubscribed to Dan Hon’s newsletter (can’t recall why I ever unsubbed) and really liked his piece this week on how AI won’t be able to operate across platforms and devices the way humans can, unless the economic incentives change to prioritise interoperability over walled gardens. Or at least I think that’s what he said. Oh yeah that’s why I unsubscribed, he’s too clever for me and it hurts my brain. See also Rich’s platform land. 

The dangerous animals of product management via Roger Swannell via Oliver.

Interesting thoughts on AI hardware gadgets, from Matt “little printer” Webb who is making a cool one. Via Dan.

My colleague Vilma mentioned she likes the COM-B model for behaviour change but that others are also available

Creating the agile enterprise. Via someone, can’t remember sorry. Viney’s other posts are worth exploring too for their healthy dose of real talk, which some colleagues might find less annoying than more zealous agile preaching. 


I’m a scrum master [TikTok]

Gen Z are different and scary [TikTok]

Jodie Foster agrees (reaction incoming?)

Thanks for reading, byeeee!

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