Nik has written 505 posts for

Leadership is a balancing act

I was speaking to a company CTO one time, when he commented that he had introduced OKRs (a way of focuing an organisation’s activity), but it hadn’t been easy. In fact, he said, he thought they had made every possible mistake along the way. This got me thinking about what this must have meant in … Continue reading

Putting things on walls aids collaboration

I once worked on a project where the key sponsor was particularly keen to get our work in progress up on the office walls. He had more significant wishes, too (such as the outcome of our project), but putting our work on display was a clear wish. His reasons were perhaps best categorised as “cultural”. … Continue reading

Don’t be a slave to the model

I was recently involved in a conversation with some colleagues, in which one of them was seeking to introduce to their own organisation “the Spotify model” [pdf] of organising teams. This a model that tackles the twin problems of teams needing to be cross-functional and to scale up the number of people. I’m always wary … Continue reading

The emotional cost of having options

There’s a principle in modern project management called “the last responsible moment”. Or, more precisely, delaying a decision until the last responsible moment. There’s sometimes some semi-mathematical talk around this issue regarding cost of delay, but as a general rule of thumb I think it’s a sensible idea. To express it as a negative, I … Continue reading

An example of culture change through process change

Some time ago I was speaking to a former colleague, who had been part of a team introduced to new ways of working and who was also a very senior technical person within the company. The ways of working were new to him, as well as to the rest of the team. One key change … Continue reading

Measure without numbers

I was in a meeting a while back discussing the introduction of new key performance indicators (KPIs) for a team. The group was understandably cautious about what we might be letting ourselves in for, and were keen to explore the options. One participant said, “We should be open to the idea that we might not … Continue reading

Moving from subjective to objective discussions

I often work with product teams who have conversations—sometimes very difficult ones with stakeholders—that are full of unstated assumptions, subjectivity, and a lot of unsubstantiated “I think…” comments. For a startup with few people the conversations aren’t often difficult, but poor subjective judgements can sink the company. For larger organisations with a product team and … Continue reading

When it’s okay to use black and white thinking

I’ve previously said—frequently—that moving away from black and white, or binary, thinking is generally a very positive thing. I previously gave examples of this in predicting the future, subversion, elections, happiness and more. However, I have to admit that sometimes it is useful to drop things into clear categories. I might say things like, “That’s … Continue reading

Good relationships help manage uncertainty

I was very interested to listen to a recent episode of The Bottom Line on Radio 4, on Dealing with Uncertainty. These kinds of discussions are necessarily high level, but are conducted with practitioners, so always offer a bit of colour with the insight. One memorable thing for me was something said by Sandra Bell … Continue reading

Asking why builds better relationships

Previously I’ve said that digging into the reasons behind certain statements, and asking why, helps us understand problems better. But it’s also personally fulfilling and rewarding. I was reminded of this last week when I came across two stories in The Guardian. The first is an interview with James O’Brien, host of a radio phone-in … Continue reading