Josh Seiden helps clients launch new products and services, and create more agile, entrepreneurial organizations. He’s a designer, strategy consultant, coach, speaker, and author of 3 books who has worked to bring new ventures into the world with many clients including household names you would know like Johnson & Johnson, T. Rowe Price, JP Morgan Chase, SAP, American Express, 3M, Taproot Foundation, and many more. He’s also the cofounder of Sense & Respond Press.
In this conversation, Josh gives a masterclass on clear, strategic thinking and how to create order out of the chaos that surrounds any creative endeavor. This is especially useful for anyone trying to create clarity and think strategically to affect change.
His most recent book, Outcomes Over Output, has become one of my favorite resources for creating clarity and is a book I think ought to be read by every person bringing something new into the world.
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In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:
- Josh Seiden – Twitter, website, Medium
- Ryan Jacoby – Making Progress
- Alan Cooper
- Eric Ries – The Lean Startup
- Alexander Osterwalder – Business Model Canvas
- Jeff Gothelf – Lean UX Canvas
- Risks dashboard – Giff Constable
- Nicole Rufuku
- The Logic Model Framework (see page 3 for summary)
- Feature Factory
- Melissa Perri – The Build Trap
- David Marquet – Intent Based Leadership
- Steven Bungay – The Art of Action
- Taproot Foundation
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew 00:02:03 Josh. Welcome to the show. I’m so excited for this conversation and I have been for a while, um, because your, your work has made such a big impact on my day to day work as a, as a product leader while I’m in the middle of launching a whole new product effort. And so I’m just so excited because this, this could not be more timely for me personally. And so selfishly, I have that interest going on. You mentioned to me that, but when you, when you were growing up in your, your parents, one was a teacher and one was the psychologist. And this led to you sort of spending long summers with them on the Cape. And I’m curious, how do you, how, how that influence you in your work today? I often joke a lot of my work is about helping teams work more effectively together. And, you know, I often find myself in the role, uh, when I’m on a team of being kind of a, uh, a facilitator or a Playmaker. And I sometimes joke that, you know, my, because my mom ran a preschool for most of her career. And my was a shrink that
Josh 00:03:00 I’m sort of uniquely qualified to deal with the craziness that is product development. You often play that sort of facilitator role armchair psychologist role. And I guess you’ve been, you’ve been getting ready for this, your whole life, huh? That’s right. Born, born to it, you know, or into it. The man’s the man of the natural folks. I’m curious how that influences you as a writer. Cause if I’m remembering correctly, you actually didn’t start your career in technology. I believe you started as a fiction writer, is that right? Yeah. I studied, I studied writing in school. I, you know, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Um, but interestingly I had, um, I had really bad writer’s block and uh, high school and college and I thought, you know, if I’m gonna, if I’m gonna keep going to school, I have to fix this writer’s block.
Josh 00:03:46 And so, um, the way I did that was by taking, signing up for writing courses. And then I discovered that I really liked it. Uh, you know, I figured out something about the writer’s block and I kept writing. So yeah, my background was in, was in writing, but, and specifically what I enjoyed was fiction writing, but, you know, I guess there’s some people who know how to do that when they’re in their twenties, but I didn’t. And so there was, there, there were no paths open for me as a highly paid fiction writer. And, uh, I moved out to the Bay area around that time and, you know, you start working in the available work that’s out there and I always enjoy technology and working with computers. And so I fell into the industry and, and, uh, that’s how it happened. I’ve had quite a few people suggest that to become a better product person and actually just a better leader in general, that one study storytelling, that one study narrative.
Josh 00:04:42 And I’m curious what your perspective is on that given, given that background that you have. Yeah. I mean, I, look, I know that, uh, storytelling has helped me it’s helped my career. And so like my, my, so I got started in my first real job in the industry. Uh, I did, I sold computers for a while and I, I helped people set them up, but then like my, I guess what I regard as my first real job was a tech support job. And so a lot of what I was doing in tech support was explaining a complicated technology to people who didn’t understand it. And so, you know, um, that kind of like making the abstract, uh, these sort of weird abstractions that are software, uh, visible to people, um, I sort of felt like I was a translator. And then at some point I realized, and I think this happens to a lot of people who find themselves in tech support or tech writing that, you know, you can spend all this energy explaining bad technology, or you can get in there and you can make it better.
Josh 00:05:49 And I was, you know, I was frustrated with always having to explain stuff that didn’t make any sense to people. And I thought if we just fixed it so that it made sense to people, uh, you know, that’s a better approach. And, and so I started working in what I, I didn’t understand then, uh, was designed, but I started working, uh, kind of as a product designer. And then a couple of years later, got it actually got a job, uh, in the, um, in the nineties, I got my first job as a designer. You could have had to be a business card that said astronaut. And it would have been more likely than having a business card that said designer, you know, I never, in a million years would have thought that that’s the work that I would be doing. But, um, yeah, that’s, that’s where I found myself and I really loved that work.
Josh 00:06:42 And then to come back to your question, I do think that storytelling is really important for that because you are, um, as a designer, in some ways you’re, you’re inventing something, you’re making up a future, you’re making up, uh, you’re, you’re taking a situation that exists today and you’re, you’re picturing how, what it could be like in the future. And then you have to, you know, tell some story about it. And, and people do that in lots of different ways. People who have, uh, visual, uh, skills, um, and can draw the future. They can, they can create pictures of the future. People who have narrative skills, um, can tell stories about the future. Um, and you know, you use the tools that, that you’re, um, that you’re, that you have some facility with. And for me, um, I really had to drag myself kicking and screaming into the world of visual storytelling, but I had a sort of a native, uh, I feel like I have a native capability in verbal storytelling. And so that’s always been a part of my work.
Andrew 00:07:48 It seems like a real through-line of your career is, has really been about getting deeply into complex problems and then finding ways to simplify solve, and sort of translate those things to basically making the complex accessible to people. Yeah. Yeah.
Josh 00:08:04 I really do love that. That’s, that’s my favorite kind of work when, when I got started as a, um, my first design job was, uh, working for a guy named Alan Cooper, Alan Rhoda, a number of really, uh, I think important books, uh, about the, about software design, um, and, uh, his, his first book about phase, which is, uh, about designing user interfaces was really, really important for me in my learning and then going to work for him. He was just like a really, really important teacher for me, you know, his work at the time he, his company at that time was based in Palo Alto. Um, and this was sort of pre-internet that I started to work for him. His companies were, you know, hardcore software technology companies and frequently enterprise software companies. And a lot of work was about taking really complex data or workflows, um, and trying to present them in relatively simple way.
Josh 00:09:03 So, uh, I designed, uh, enterprise software, uh, SAP was a big client and, uh, I designed like data warehousing tools. Um, I had a little project where I worked on a, for a company that did, um, satellite orbit, uh, planning software, you know, and I really liked some people think that that kind of enterprise stuff is pretty unsexy, but I really love it because you are working in a very complex space and the opportunity to find the meaning in that data and present it in a simple way. Um, it’s really fun. I really like it,
Andrew 00:09:44 It seems like another really big influence on you besides Alan Cooper was I believe his name is Richard Anderson, who I think was one of your big teachers before you went to work for Allen. And I’m curious when you reflect back on, you know, your career and the arc, since your time with those two, what did you learn from them? Like what, what has, what about, what do they teach you that has really influenced you and then have you carried forward?
Josh 00:10:04 So, you know, I guess, you know, Richard, um, when, so, so what happened was I was working as a tech support guy and I had the opportunity to redesign a piece of software that the company made. And, um, I didn’t know the first thing about how to do that. And I thought like, okay, well, if I’m going to do this, like I should do a little homework. And, uh, and so I was, I was lucky enough to, um, I found a, a night class at a local community college. It was like a 12 week, uh, introduction to the field. I don’t even remember what it’s called because the field has had so many different names over the years, but, um, it was taught by Richard Anderson. And so like, he really gave me the sort of here’s the foundational body of knowledge, right? This is sort of the traditional way that this has been approached.
Josh 00:11:01 There’ve been a lot of people out there thinking about this for a long time. And then, um, so, so that was great. And then the sort of interesting thing about Alan Alan is an inventor, a contrarian. And so Allen’s point of view was that everything that came before us was, you know, useless and that we had to, we had to throw away the foundational body of knowledge and build it up ourselves. And, um, you know, his, I think his thinking was that everything that the design industry knew about design had come from designing things that weren’t software. And so, you know, people with traditional design backgrounds were bringing, um, they were, they were designing as if they were designing print products, uh, print publications, or they were designing as if they were designing physical material. And his, his thing was like, software is a different thing. And he used a software developer, uh, he sort of deeply understood software. And he was like, you know, we need to question the stuff that came before us, and we need to reframe what we’re doing in, in new terms. And so from out, like if Richard kind of taught me the, the sort of foundation Alan taught me the power of sort of reframing the problem, you know,
Andrew 00:12:24 There’s a, there’s a phrase that I’m going to butcher it here, but I’m hoping you can correct me. And I think it’s in, it’s a big one in the design world, which is something like a good reframe is worth a hundred points of IQ.
Josh 00:12:37 Have you heard that? Something along those lines? No, I’ve never heard that expression, but I, I buy it. You know, one of the, one of the first articles I read by Alan before I’d ever met him, he wrote an article about why a calendar software sucks. Okay. And the article said, he said, look, the assumption at the time, like the big, like one of the big products for group calendaring before outlook took over was a product called meeting maker. Right. And meeting maker was a, it was just a, you know, it was a calendar that everyone in the organization would use this shared calendar and made it easy to make meetings. Uh, and his thing was like, look, the reason that calendaring software sucks is that nobody wants to go to a meeting and like meeting, making software, shouldn’t make it easy to go to meetings. It should make it easy to avoid meetings. And, and like, to me, that’s like a perfect example of reframing a problem. Right. Of saying like, it’s not about kind of the nitty gritty. I mean, the nitty gritty, detailed, functional details are important, but first you have, you’re working in a frame. Right. And if you have software that makes it easy to go to meetings and set up meetings, then you’re going to be overwhelmed by meetings. And like, we should step back and say like, what are we doing here? You know,
Andrew 00:14:03 It’s so interesting to me, like hearing you just talk about the influence that Richard and Alan had on you. I can really, I can start to see this, this, like the through line, like the, the, the thing Alan told you about, um, basically, you know, we should ignore all the history of design because it’s kind of not relevant to our context. Um, and it’s so interesting to be, you know, to have the, those two poles, being all those polar opposites in the tension that, that breeds can give rise to something new. Uh, because in, in listening to you say that one of the things we’re gonna spend a lot of time talking about today is outcomes thinking, right? And I think frames, frames and reframing is such an interesting lead into that topic. Whatever we’re trying to do, it really starts with a frame and with an intention, but often those are invisible is what I find, or, or we’re operating in these frames that we don’t realize we’re operating in. So tell me a little bit about that. How do you deal with that? How do you help people understand or uncover the frames that they’re invisibly operating within, and what difference does that make anyway?
Josh 00:15:04 You know, I actually think that that’s, that’s a, um, that’s kind of a super power is being able to identify the, um, the sort of assumptions about the way the problem is framed or like the unstated constraints on, on any given problem space. And, um, I think it’s something that, I mean, maybe it was my training at Cooper, um, you know, but, but that was, that was really a kind of, um, that was, that was regarded as, you know, uh, a really highly important part of the practice was to, was to always step back and say like, what, what are the, what are the, what are the hidden constraints here? And could we remove that constraint and in doing so, um, uh, you know, give ourselves access to new, uh, possibilities and new solutions. Um, and so, uh, Allen used to call his, I think he, he probably still does, but Alan always talked about his method of approaching the work.
Josh 00:16:20 Uh, he called it goal-directed design. And for him, the most important frame was understanding what the user’s goal was. And, um, you know, that, that people’s goal is, would be rarely just to go back to the other example, the goal is rarely to have a meeting, right? You, you have a meeting in service of some goal. And so, you know, what are you trying to do? You’re trying to make a decision or you’re trying to communicate something. And so, you know, if you would replace meeting, making software with decision making software, what would that do? Interesting question. Right. And so, like, that’s, I think that’s the, that’s the sort of reframing that, um, that I think is a really important part of design practice is to, is to be able to see the, the assumptions and be able to kind of, um, manipulate them intentionally.
Andrew 00:17:18 So in your work today, you work with teams large and small, you’ve worked in all kinds of situations. So I’m curious for someone listening to this who says, Oh, man, that sounds really interesting. And I, but I don’t really know how to do that. Right. Cause a lot of people don’t have training in, in design. So they haven’t had gone through this process or train themselves in this process. How do you recommend someone actually start to do that and bring it into their day to day work? One of the,
Josh 00:17:40 One of the other big influences for me about about 10 years ago, I, uh, was introduced to, uh, Eric Reese and, uh, his ideas, uh, in the lean startup. And, um, Eric Eric’s whole thing, you know, is about, um, identifying, you know, what he calls your risky assumptions, right? So how do you, how do you, you know, we, we, every project or every initiative that we have do take a, is built on assumptions. And so what are we going to do with those assumptions? And what Eric says is you want to test them early and often, right? You don’t want to spend a year building something that you assume people want, because if they don’t want it, you’ve wasted a year. And so a lot of, a lot of my work sort of post Eric has been, um, framed in terms of how do you, how do you kind of holistically identify assumptions and then figure out which ones to test and then methodically test your way through those assumptions, right?
Josh 00:18:50 In the design world. And especially in this sort of user centered design world, the questions are all focused on what is the user want and, uh, what are their goals? What are their needs? What are the obstacles? And that that’s the, the work of figuring that out is the work of design research, talking to customers, observing customers, testing your product with customers. Um, but sort of what Eric did for me anyway, was to take that line of thinking and broaden it and to say like, look, uh, if you’re creating a new venture, you’ve got users, you’ve got customers, you’ve got technology, you’ve got market, you’ve got all of these dimensions of the problem. Right. And we see that represented on things like, uh, the business model canvas, like Alex Osterwalder’s business model, canvas. Right. Um, and, um, and so, so the way you start doing that is you start filling out your assumptions.
Josh 00:19:51 And, and so whether you use that or whether you use, um, you know, other kinds of tools to look holistically at your venture, um, uh, my, my colleague, uh, Jeff, uh, got the elf who, uh, I’ve written a couple of books with. Um, our first book was called lean UX. And, uh, Jeff developed a canvas for, for that work called the lean UX campus. And again, it’s a way of looking holistically at your business, laying out your assumptions. And then you look at your assumptions and you say, okay, which ones here are really high risk. Um, and do we have to, and, and thus, we need to test them right now, you know? And so that’s the way of that. Those assumptions really are to kind of come back to them what we were talking about with frames, those assumptions, frame, your work, right. We, people want to make it easy to go to a meeting. So I think that’s how you do it. You just, you, but you have to be sort of methodical and you, and you also have to be like, you know, to be an entrepreneur or to be a product person or to be a designer is to be a little bit of an optimist. You know, we’re going to make this thing, it’s going to be so great. Insanely awesome. It’s going to be awesome. Right. You’re in the shower or you’re, you’re riding to work and you’re like, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh.
Andrew 00:21:18 Right.
Josh 00:21:21 Um, I, I’m certainly guilty of, of, you know, being like, okay, I had the greatest idea. I can’t wait to tell you about it. Um, so this guy, yeah. And so to be able to, um, to be responsible with that is not to give up that optimism, but to say, you know, I think this idea is so great that I’m going to test it now, you know, um, and to know like what, where you’re operating from a risky assumption and where you’re operating from, like, you know, something where you’ve got some evidence,
Andrew 00:21:53 The decision, the decision meeting and the risk dashboard from GIF.
Josh 00:21:57 Okay. GIF was one of my partners with Jeff, uh, at a consulting firm that we ran for a few years called Neo. And we were really influenced by the lean startup. So we had designers and developers and product people, and we built new products and services for people. And so we were very much like kind of early stage. We have an idea, we want to test it and we want to do that quickly. Generally speaking, we worked in one week intervals of time each week, we would start the week with a plan. Like here’s what we’re going to work on this week, but it was really, here’s what we’re going to test, build and test this week. Right? So some weeks we would actually be building software other weeks. We would be building stuff that we could use for testing. Other weeks, we wouldn’t build anything, we’d just be doing research.
Josh 00:22:49 Um, but the idea was each week there was something we needed to learn, right? One or two high risk assumptions. We didn’t have enough data to make a decision about. And the week was spent gathering that data. And then every Friday, uh, sitting down with the team and with stakeholders, because we were an agency, we worked for our clients. We would sit down with our clients each week and, and, and frequently our clients were working with us through the week. But, um, either way we would sit down on Friday and we would have, you know, what, when in scrum at the end of your, your sprint, you have a demo. Um, but in the way we were working, we had what we called a decision meeting, and it was essentially a demo, right. We would demonstrate whatever progress we had made that week. And we would bring to the table, any evidence that we had, and then we would make decisions.
Josh 00:23:48 And the work was guided by this thing called a risks dashboard, which was just a no, it’s like a one, a single slide presentation with a list of what we thought were the biggest risks or unknowns or assumptions and the status of where we were on testing those assumptions. Right? So in any given week, you might have one or two or three assumptions that you were testing and then a few kind of sitting in the queue. And if it made sense to continue working on the project, you’d eventually get to those. And so each week we would look at our evidence and we would make a decision. We called it, um, killed pivot persevere, right. Did we kill the project? Do we need to change tactics? Or do we need to keep going either because we’ve got such a strong, positive signal, or because we don’t have any signal at all and we need to continue to gather data. And so that was the kind of the weekly discipline of, of, of paying down the, the, the, um, the assumptions debt, if you would. Right. And, um, and we manage that all with this little thing called the risks dashboard and, um, give, has a nice little blog post on it. It was actually invented by a woman who worked, uh, at Neo, uh, named, uh, Nicole . And Nicole is, uh, Nicole is a terrific product person. And, and, uh, that risks dashboard was her idea.
Andrew 00:25:15 I love that. Yeah. We’ll link to that in the show notes. I want to actually lay a bit of a conceptual foundation here around all of outcomes, thinking, okay. Talk to me about the logic model framework and the three magic questions. Uh, the logic model framework
Josh 00:25:28 Work is something that I was exposed to, um, because I worked with a number of nonprofit clients and, and that, um, this is a, it’s called a logic model is developed by the Kellogg foundation. And it’s sort of used in the nonprofit world to, um, to plan and to assess, uh, initiatives, logic model framework says at the highest level, you’re trying to create an impact. That’s your kind of highest level, uh, target. And, um, an impact is a longterm, uh, target. That is the result of many factors. So, you know, you might be trying to increase prosperity in, uh, you know, uh, a village in Africa, something like that. Right. Um, and so prosperity is a result of many factors, you know, government policy and health and access to all kinds of things that kind of, uh, support prosperity, those factors, changing those factors in the logic model, the next level down your target is called an outcome.
Josh 00:26:38 And an outcome is some kind of change that, that leads to that impact, right? Um, in the, in my, in my work and in my book, I sort of simplify the definition, um, to an outcome is a change in human behavior. Okay. It, in the logic model framework, it’ll, it’s bigger than that, but, but for product work, I found it very helpful to just say, it’s a change in human behavior that creates value, okay. Change in human behavior that creates value for you, for the organization, whatever. Um, and then that outcome is created by some, the next level down an output. So you make a thing, right. Um, the example I give is you might dig a well, okay. And the outcome of that well is changing behavior. People spend less time carrying water from the river, right. And, uh, that contributes to prosperity, right.
Josh 00:27:41 So you’ve got your three levels. And in, in product development, we often, you know, we focus our work, I think too often on the output, right. We’re going to make a feature and then we ship it and we’re done. Yep. Right. And that feature, it might create an outcome that’s valuable for us and for our customers and for our users might not. Right. And we don’t always go back and have the discipline to check. Right. And so, um, you hear people talk about, uh, the, the feature factory, right. Or, uh, what Melissa Perry calls the build trap. Right. And we just get, we just get stuck like building and delivering building and delivering building and delivering. And we think that that’s our job when in fact our job is to make as little stuff as we can, and to create the most valuable outcomes that we can with the smallest amount of output that we can make.
Josh 00:28:47 And so if you have the opportunity to kind of reframe the way teams are setting targets and say, look, our target is to create an outcome. And we can do that by, you know, the, the smallest possible feature or policy or copy or content change, then like, let’s do it. Let’s see if it works and then let’s move on to other stuff. Cause there’s no shortage of stuff in our backlogs. Right. So, um, so how do we make sure that the stuff that we’re working on is valuable and the way we do that is by, uh, setting our sights on value, uh, expressed as outcomes.
Andrew 00:29:29 I really appreciate about the, the way you’ve defined outcomes. And I think it is very important that you’ve created a very specific, clear definition is because it seems to unpack two things that are often kind of collapsed,
Josh 00:29:42 Which are, uh, results or, or, you know, results and, uh, outcomes. I think what’s so useful about what you’ve created is that it seems to be the most tractable way I’ve come across yet to link impacts in your lingo, um, with activities. Right? So we, we all tend to think, as you said, in terms of activities, like I got to go build this feature, or I got to go do this thing. Um, and then we have this sort of abstract, high level like, Oh, I hope it creates this result. Like we, you know, we increase our net promoter score or we make, you know, we have better user retention this, this quarter on this product or, or whatever, but it’s that middle, it’s the linking between them that often seems to get to get missed. Is that what you see as well? Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Josh 00:30:25 And I think like one of the things that I see all the time in companies is, you know, we’ll set us a strategic target that is, uh, important and valuable and correct, right. Like we have to reduce, uh, customer churn or we have to increase market share in Europe or, you know, something that, um, you know, whatever it is, our leadership has decided this is important. Yep. And then we say, well, how are we going to increase, uh, market share in Europe? Oh, well, we’re going to buy this new marketing system and install it and get all of our marketers on this new marketing system, uh, by the end of the quarter. And it’s like, those things have, you have no linkage between, you know, uh, not to beat up on Salesforce, but we’re going to install Salesforce. And that will somehow magically create, uh, uh, share growth in Europe.
Josh 00:31:21 Yeah. Salesforce is great. Share growth is great, but what’s the specific thing that Salesforce is gonna let us do differently that will result in improved results in Europe. And that’s the question, what’s that thing that this feature will let us do differently. That is one of the, what I call them magic questions that we need to ask to create that linkage between the high level multifactor result. That is the impact and the day to day work of the team. So tell me about the, what are those three magic questions? All right. So, um, the three magic questions, and I talk about this in the book, um, are, uh, what are the user and customer behavior, uh, behaviors that drive results for our organization, right? That’s that those behaviors are the outcomes we’re trying to create, right. They come into our store more often or whatever.
Josh 00:32:30 Um, second question is how do we get people to do more of these behaviors? Right. Um, and then the third question is, how do we know we’re right, right. Because what often happens is we say, Oh, well, we want people to come into our store more often. And so we, we think we can get people to come into our store more often if we hire people to stand on both corners on either side of our store and hand out flyers. And so then we just go hire people, right. And I’m like, yeah, we’re going to hire you for the next year to hand out flyers. Right. But that might or might not work. Right. So how do we know that we’re right before we spend a year in product development on a feature that may not change customer behavior, this goes back to that Eric Reese stuff. Right. How do we, how can we, uh, pilot test this idea quickly? So those are the three questions. What are the behaviors that create value? How do we get people to do more of those things? And how do we know where, right.
Andrew 00:33:36 There’s sort of an underlying principle at play here
Josh 00:33:38 About when to use this kind of
Andrew 00:33:42 Comes thinking and when, like, when it, when it makes sense to use this and when it doesn’t, and I’m hoping you could expand a little bit on that. And it seems like a lot of it revolves around our sense of certainty in our actions. Yeah.
Josh 00:33:52 I think that’s exactly right. Uh, you know, I think, um, if you, if, you know, for a fact that something is going to work, like just do it, you know? Um, and, and so, you know, if, uh, if you’ve got a, if you’ve got a bug in the system that is preventing people from logging onto your website, you don’t have to have a conversation about whether it’s risky to fix that bug. Right. Like we know
Andrew 00:34:21 People need to allow God for us to be in business,
Josh 00:34:24 So fixed the bug. Right. Um, but, and, and so there’s a huge, huge amount of work that, that fits in that category where, you know, we’re making stuff that we know is going to work and we know we need to do, and we don’t have to test whether it’s valuable. Now, sometimes we have to test how what’s the best way to do it. Right. But, um, it’s a different kind of test. And so, uh, but I think, I think for product people, we often face is this idea of going to work. And so that, you know, as, as our systems get more and more, uh, filled with complexity and uncertainty, we face those questions all the time. And, and so these methods are really good. You know, I was just, I was just talking to an entrepreneur, uh, this morning, uh, who’s launched a, uh, really interesting service based on a kind of in-person service delivery.
Josh 00:35:24 And so it’s April 20, 20, everybody is confined to their homes and she’s pivoting her service to a remote service delivery. So that, that changes her, her delivery model. It changes her pricing model, and she doesn’t want to alienate her existing customer base by changing this stuff. Right. So what’s the right, what’s the right structure for her service. What’s the right way to price it. Right. How are her customers going to respond to the new structure and new pricing, right? These are, these are decisions with a lot of risk for her. Right. Um, and, um, the right answer is not obvious if it was obvious, we would just make the pricing change. Right. And so how do we, how do we lay out, like laying out our options is a, you know, it’s a design problem, but figuring out which option to go forward, that’s, uh, that’s where these kinds of methods are, are valuable because it forces us to say, to engage with, Hey, we don’t know the answer, let’s find it out quick. Um, and, uh, and, um, not make a change that could be, uh, where this existential risk for our business.
Andrew 00:36:42 What I’m hearing, what you’re saying is that if we’re operating in an environment of uncertainty, basically where we don’t know the rules, we don’t, we don’t have confidence or certainty in the outcomes that it will be generated by our outputs or our actions, then doing an, you know, shifting framing things in terms of outcomes is the way to go, because it basically lets us state our intent and then have freedom in our methods. Like we can basically navigate through the fog of war on the video game map, but we still know where that the end point is. And so it’s like, we have clarity about where our destination, but we have freedom in the methods is kind of what it sounds like.
Josh 00:37:16 Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s, that’s exactly it. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s, uh, it’s sort of, um, you know, to, to borrow a phrase from, uh, the military, it’s kind of mission driven leadership, right. Where the mission is, uh, stated, but the tactics for achieving the mission are, you know, are left to the group of people doing the work
Andrew 00:37:40 It’s like doing this would be, um, easier for them. Like it would give the team the freedom and make their job easier, but it seems like it puts a new burden on the leader. And I’m hoping you could talk a little bit about that. How does a leader, who’s not used to doing this, get used to thinking this way and what’s the benefit for them of doing so.
Josh 00:37:56 I, yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s really hard for, um, for everybody to make this shift. I think it’s it’s, but, you know, I think leaders are certainly executive leaders are operate at the impact level and they’re like, you know, this, this quarter, we’re all about cost reduction, you know? And, um, and then, you know, the, the sort of so-called teams on the ground tend to be all about the outputs. Like we’re going to install this system and this system and this system, or we’re going to build this feature and that feature and that feature and that meeting in the middle is a place where nobody’s super comfortable. Right. Um, and that’s where the new conversations need to take place. And, and it’s, it’s their conversations about things that are more abstract than features, right. So it’s, it’s easy for, you know, the sort of cliched leader to, to sort of March into a room and say, build me an app.
Andrew 00:38:56 Yeah. I want a thing, do it. Right.
Josh 00:38:59 Exactly it, you know, and, um, uh, my, my, my friend, um, my friend lane Goldstone, who, uh, I’ve worked with a lot over the years, uh, she’s a great designer. And, uh, she always talks about this, this conversation that sort of archetypal conversation with leaders and clients where they say, you know, I want a big yellow button or whatever, big yellow button. And then, so the question is if you had that big yellow button, what would it let you do? Right. And that’s the, that’s the sort of opening of the conversation. Uh, that’s that first, really that first magic question, you know, what are the values, what are the valuable behaviors that you’re trying to achieve that you can’t today? Right. So, um, and having that conversation, that’s really a facilitated conversation between the team and the leaders, because the leaders don’t have the visibility into the day to day business to say, what are the actual, what are the things that our customers and users are trying?
Josh 00:40:03 What are they trying to do that they can’t do today? Or what are they doing that creates the most value for us? And what are the sort of micro components of that thing? Like they might know, well, when our customers buy something from us, that’s valuable, right. But what are all the steps in the buying process? That’s, that’s that the, the, the more finally you get into the details, the more that knowledge lives on the team and not at the leadership level. And so that conversation about the details is really that’s that meeting in the middle, that organizations need to learn how to do
Andrew 00:40:41 A lot of ways. It’s like inspired by the way, the military works with sort of a mission driven leadership process. It reminds me, so I grew up in a military family and my father was a, was an army officer. And, um, one of the things that he explained to me was in about the way that this is accomplished in the military, for people who aren’t familiar is with the use of something called commander’s intent. So just to explain it very briefly, it’s the idea that, um, the commander says, look, the intention of this mission is to do X, like take that Hill. Right? And so the point is, is like in times of war in the military, like they deal with the most extreme situations where they might lose all communication and they can’t talk to the rest of the, you know, they can’t talk to their, the rest of the organization, the rest of the military, the, around them on an operation. And so as long as they know the ultimate intention, they can adapt their tactics and their strategies on the fly to, to work, to optimize towards that, that, uh, that intention. And I’m curious, are you familiar at all with a guy named, uh, the work of a guy named David Marquet? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I was curious, I was thinking as I was listening to you talk, it seems like his work around intent based leadership would pair really nicely with what you’re doing.
Josh 00:41:47 Yeah. I think it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s the same con it’s the same story with different words. Right. Um, the other, the other, uh, book that I really, really like on this topic, um, uh, is an author named Stephen Bungay. He wrote a fantastic book called the art of action. It’s it? He, he actually, he, he’s a, he’s an interesting, um, uh, sort of meeting of interests, uh, in one human kind of person, because he, he goes back and he talks about the military history of this idea of the principle of mission. And he traces it back to the, to the Prussian military, um, and the sort of, um, Napoleonic, uh, war era. And, um, and he’s also like a, a strategist, a management consultant and a strategist. And so he, he, that, that book, I, I can’t recommend that book, uh, highly enough, uh, called the art of action. And it’s about this sort of principle of mission applied to organization and strategy and culture. Um, and it is all about like, how do you, you know, instead of, uh, like tight command and control, how do you work with a commander’s intent and what do you need for that to be effective, right? Because you need a culture, uh, that supports that. Right.
Andrew 00:43:10 I have, and I’m definitely that book is going on my reading list right now.
Josh 00:43:12 That’s great. It’s one of my favorite books in the last 10 years.
Andrew 00:43:16 Yeah, no, that’s, that’s really interesting. Cause one of the questions I was discussing these ideas over the weekend with a few different people. And one of the questions that was raised I thought was quite interesting, which was around goal design, right. In the sense of, and specifically around people’s sense of, um, kind of their emotional wellbeing or their, their sense of esteem towards their, towards these goals. And the concern that was raised was okay, so if you, if you’re making your goals, these outcome driven things, we don’t ultimately control our outcomes. And so the concern that that was being raised was like, well, are you, if you, if you make a very outcome driven goal, are you going to basically be feeling like crap the whole time because you don’t, it’s actually out of your hands. And so I’m curious if, if you have seen that and if so, how do you, like, how do you deal with that? Yeah,
Josh 00:43:59 Yeah. So, so all of this is kind of based on the notion that, uh, you only give people outcomes to work on that are within their scope of control. Right. So I would not tell a team working. I always use, you know, like some team works at GE, right. Okay. Work on some, you know, they work on some API for some part of the data layer in some part of the business. Right. And you’ve got an, a team and you say, you, you folks, do you tend smart engineers, your job is to make GE profitable.
Josh 00:44:39 Can’t do it, can’t do it. So what is the, what is within this team scope of control, right. Um, and what would be inappropriate, uh, who are their customers and what can they realistically influence independently with their customers? Right. And so if I’ve given them, uh, an outcome to achieve, that’s outside their scope of control, that for them is in, uh, to go back to the language of the logic model, I’m asking them to create an impact. And they don’t control all of the factors that, that create that impact. Right. So I need to, I need to scope down for them, uh, to an outcome where they really have the capability to, to, to generate that outcome,
Andrew 00:45:29 This question about outcomes thinking, and they want to, I want to shift into talking about strategy, um, another, so the way you have, uh, if I’m remembering it correctly off hand, the way you’ve specifically defined an outcome is a change in human behavior that drives or creates value. Is that right? Huh. Okay. Because I think a lot about my work I work with in a highly, highly technical organization, that’s extremely engineering bias. Um, a lot of the work that we do seems, and I say seems on purpose. Cause I want you to challenge this if, if that’s right to not have a human behavior. So let me give you an example. Last major product. We worked on that I, that I led for little over two years, I’m not working on anymore, but was a big chunk of my recent history was a machine learning product.
Andrew 00:46:11 A major part of our work was in terms of, um, you know, making the machine learning system better. It was a computer vision system. And so in those cases, often the goals that we were working towards sort of non-human goals in the sense of like, we, they wanted to improve a certain score, right. They, for example, we want to, um, we want to decrease the false positive rate on this category of object that we are looking at, or that the system is looking at, which on one hand seems valuable. Um, but it also doesn’t seem to fit the outcomes definition you’ve described. So how should, if we broaden that out a little bit to someone who’s working on a, on a technical of extremely technical thing, how should, how should we think about that for a technical, um, result or impact?
Josh 00:46:55 Yeah. Yeah. So I think, um, there are a couple of, there are a couple of things here that, and so this is, this is a pattern I see often inside technical organizations is a sort of, um, and I think about it at, there’s kind of an idea maybe that, that sets this up, which is how do we, how are we delivering value to the market, right. Are we to, we, we’re going to, are we going to build this kind of horizontal platform? And when it’s ready, we’re going to release it in some kind of monolithic way to the market, right. Or are we going to do continuous end to end value delivery? Right. And I think if you’re, if you’re oriented a lot of times what happens is with, with technical architecture or I wouldn’t say technical architecture, but, but the structure of our work is we organize teams in these kinds of horizontal layers.
Josh 00:47:58 Like we have to get the AI platform ready so that it hits a certain number of, um, you know, a false positive rate is X before we can release it. Um, and we often try to do that across a very broad scope of problem spaces, right. As opposed to a vertical problem space that says, you know what, this is a, um, and I’m gonna pick an example and I know nothing about working in this space. So we’re gonna, we’re gonna create a, um, a cat face recognition system. Right. Right. And all it does is recognize cat faces, you know, um, or, or something very, very narrowly scoped down. The, the idea is that, um, the reason this is important is because, um, ultimately when I’ve reduced my false positive rate to some acceptable level, the question I want to ask is what will that let people do differently?
Josh 00:49:03 Right. When I, when I’ve got a, uh, uh, my, my machine learning AI system, performing at the level, I want, what will people be doing differently when they have this system? So what, what, what might a customer do differently? What might an end user do differently? What might somebody in our organization who’s using this system do differently? And instead of setting the focus on false positive rate, uh, I would say, can I set the focus on getting people to be able to do that thing differently? Right. Right. So I might be able to perform a task that now requires, uh, a lot of manual labor. I might be able to perform that, um, more quickly or more cheaply. Right. Um, and so can I scope down the set of tasks, uh, and deliver a task one, right. This is why I was joking about the cat face recognition system. Right. But if that’s, if I have to recognize all the animals in the zoo, right. Well, what if all I had to do is recognize when cats like today, you know, Tuesday, we’re gonna recognize cats and Wednesdays, we’re going to recognize dogs. And by the end of the week, we’re going to recognize all the animals in the zoo. Right. And so that, that’s that kind of incremental and continuous value delivery. That when you start asking that question, you can start, start scoping down to smaller, smaller units of value delivery delivered continuously.
Andrew 00:50:40 That makes sense. One of the things I’m imagining, um, some of the engineering leaders I’ve worked with pushing back on was, is I could imagine one of them saying like, yeah,
Josh 00:50:49 Yes. And, uh,
Andrew 00:50:51 Improving certain of these metrics is just sort of in that cap, you know, it falls into that category you were describing earlier of like stuff we just know makes it better and that we need to do, right. Like we need to do what we know we need to lower the error.
Josh 00:51:03 Do you think that’s, do you think that’s true?
Andrew 00:51:05 Or would you push back on that? If somebody said something to that effect?
Josh 00:51:08 I would just, the only, the only question I would have is scope. It’s like, yeah, of course we know we need, we need to lower the IRA. So that’s like, that’s, that’s a, that’s an obvious, right? Until you get to a point where error rates are low enough, that they’re acceptable. So the first question is, do we know what that is? Right. And then the second question is what’s the scope of our endeavor here. Right? Because at some point the scope is obviously too large to manage. And then at some point it becomes debatable. Right.
Andrew 00:51:43 So it’s sort of obvious until it’s sort of like obvious, it’s the obvious thing to work on until it’s sort of good enough. And then it’s, and then it’s debatable about, should we continue to work on this? Cause does it actually change the value we’re creating? Is that a way of saying what you’re saying? Right.
Josh 00:51:56 Like you always, like every, every web server could always be faster. Yeah. Right. Always there’s no one who’s going to say, Oh yeah, no, that, that server should be slower. Right. But somebody is going to say, no, it’s too expensive to make that server faster. And it’s good enough. Right. And so, yes, obviously faster servers are better, but what else could we be spending our time and money on? And is this good enough? And so when you narrow the scope enough, right? There’s some parts, maybe there’s some parts of the server performance that really have to be super fast, but other kinds of calls to the server don’t need to be that fast. Right. And so, um, the same thing goes with, with error rates. It’s like, can I segment this by, uh, the tasks that my customers find valuable, right. And now the scope of what I’m delivering and then just continue to deliver, because one of the risks of looking at your whole system and saying, we have to bring the error rate down across the whole system is that, um, there’s nothing to constrain that scope. Um, and that scope tends to grow over time. Right. Unless you’re aggressively working all the time to keep your scope down. Yeah.
Andrew 00:53:15 Yeah. That makes perfect sense. It reminds me of a phrase that came up when I was researching another episode, which is that, was it scope doesn’t creep understanding just grows.
Josh 00:53:26 Yeah.
Andrew 00:53:28 And I was like, shit, they just described the last two years of my life. It was like, Oh, we thought it’d be, you know, we thought it’d be fine. And then you’re like two years later, you’re like, God, how are we still working on this? Yeah, yeah. And I know, and I’ve done. I’ve, I’ve had plenty of it.
Josh 00:53:42 Those experiences myself. I mean, I talk about one in the book, right. Where, you know, we, we were trying to build an enormous system kind of horizontally. Right. And we, we felt we had a, kind of a, we had a broad, horizontal set of things that the system needed to do before it could be released as opposed to thinking about delivering, you know, vertical stripes of functionality, uh, over time. And, um, the risk is what happened to us, which is that you never ship because, uh, your, your, uh, your ambition out seeds, your ability to deliver or political winds shift or whatever, a million things happen. But as long as you’re not delivering, you’re exposed, you know, and actually delivering software, um, which is why output thinking is so exciting. Actually delivering software is really powerful tool to keep the naysayers away. Right. And so we get seduced by it because delivery is such a powerful thing. Some people deliver and other people talk about it. And so the trick is, once you get good at delivery, Dan, you actually have to get good at delivering value. Right? Yep.
Andrew 00:54:56 That’s so true. And that’s sort of the shift from, to me, that’s a lot of the, the real, it was, it was a real shift that people are dealing with right now in terms of your work and outcomes thinking is like, yep. We know how to run agile and scrum and all that sort of stuff. But that, that doesn’t say anything about, are we building the right stuff? Does anyone, does anyone care? Right. Basically.
Josh 00:55:13 Right. Yeah. And I think, I think one of the reasons that, that all of these agile methods are, uh, so are embraced is because they constrained scope that like when you do them, right, they constrain your scope and they put a premium on a premium on delivery. And that’s awesome for an organization that’s bad at delivery to suddenly get good at delivery. That’s super powerful, but that’s only the first step. Right. And I think what we lose a lot of times in agile is where like, okay, now we’re delivering, look at us, look at how great we are. Right. And, and it’s exactly what you said. It’s like, well, no delivery is just the first step and we need to now, uh, deliver value. And that agile doesn’t have, um, agile has a hint of an answer, but it doesn’t have well-developed methods for identifying value, talking about value, uh, designing for value and assessing for value. It says, we inspect and we adapt. That’s the basic agile loop. We make a thing. And then we see if it works. Um, but it doesn’t have a lot of robust language for talking about a value in and user centered or customer centered terms. Yeah, absolutely. So I think that’s actually a perfect
Andrew 00:56:36 Segue into talking about strategic sort of strategic thinking and how do we, how should we approach launching a new, you know, a new product. So I’m curious, based on everything we’re talking about here and your own experiences, whether that’s with clients or in your time at Neo, um, how do you think about how does this all come together for you and how do you guide teams to think about like figuring out our product and our strategy, and actually launching a new thing into the world, as opposed to where, you know, we’re already up and running.
Josh 00:57:04 One of the things that, um, that is really attractive about, uh, development processes and design processes is they have this kind of illusion that, you know, you start at point a and you do all of these things, and then you get to point Z and you’re done right. That there’s some kind of linear process to get stuff. And I think one of the hard things with, um, with, uh, starting a new product or a service or venture of any sort is that it’s essentially, non-linear, you know, you’ve got, uh, you’ve got a business problem that you’re trying to solve and that business problem can, can take lots and lots of different shapes. It, you know, you, you might be launching, uh, you want to launch something new to your existing customer base. You might want to be broadening your customer base. You might have a new technology and you don’t know who the customer is.
Josh 00:58:08 Right. You, um, so, so your starting point, like the first variable that is defined it, you can start in so many different places, right? And then depending on where you start, you’ve got all of these other components that you need to develop. So I’ve got a, I’ve got to figure out who my customer is. I’ve gotta figure out what their problem is. I’ve got to figure out what the technology is that I’m using to, to, uh, to solve that problem for them. Um, I may have an opportunity. That’s not really a problem, so to speak. It’s just, uh, I’ve got a hunch that there’s an opportunity somewhere. And so I think that the approaches that I have become popular and that I think are popular for good reason, are these approaches that use like the business model canvas or the lean canvas, or the opportunity canvas, or the lean UX canvas or all these canvases.
Josh 00:59:07 And the point of all of these canvases is that they are a single page description of all of the variables or of many of the variables that you need to develop and that you need to develop together. Like they are interdependent. And if you change one of them, maybe all the others change. So, so for me, a lot of the work there is just kind of helping the, helping the business, articulate the kind of result when we have this business up and running, what will the change in the world be? Right? And that change can be like, what will the change be for our company? Like we’ve defended ourselves from this competitor or we’ve entered a new market, or we’ve, you know, we’ve, uh, we found a new high growth product, right? So when we’ve, when we’ve achieved, when we’ve achieved success, this is what our change will be for our organization.
Josh 01:00:05 Sometimes that vision is expressed as when we’ve created this new thing. There’ll be a change in the world that benefits a customer, or, uh, there’ll be a change in the world that benefits a city, right? Maybe we’re a nonprofit organization looking to create some social impact. And so it starts there with, it goes back to the magic questions, right? What’s the, what are the user and customer behaviors that drive results that create value when we’ve created that value, what will people be doing differently? What will the change in the world be? And then you just the problem with innovation and, and with, uh, creating something new is that you have to sort of, there’s so many variables to manage here, and you have to find a sort of, um, a methodical way to keep all of those things in play. Um, I’ll give you an example.
Josh 01:01:02 I’ll give you an example, cause this is all very abstract. Um, a few years ago, uh, we were working, I, I, this was, uh, a project I did at, at Neo. I talked about that company before we were working with a nonprofit organization based in New York city called taproot foundation. Okay. And tamper foundation is their mission is to bring what they call pro bono service, uh, or to, um, to, to spread it to the professional world. Right? So, you know, the legal profession, well-established 10% of their hours goes to pro bono, right. But lots of other professional organizations could do that. Doctors, uh, marketers, accountants, you know, uh, human resources, professionals, lots of people could use their professional skills for social impact for organizations that can’t afford it. So taproot matches nonprofit organizations with professionals who want to donate their time when they came to us in 2013 or 2014, uh, they said, look, we’ve been doing this matching manually, uh, for a small volume of, uh, nonprofits and professionals.
Josh 01:02:22 We want to create an online service that does smaller projects for more people. Okay. Um, so that’s the kind of like, that’s a, that’s a very clear, like strategic mandate. Like we have this service and we need to launch a complimentary service. That’s higher volume because we want to grow our impact. They came to us with a laundry list of here’s all the stuff we need to build to do that. And so the conversation with them was about like, well, when this service is up and running, what will people be doing differently? And you’re a nonprofit with a limited budget instead of building this laundry list of features, can we get to that result more cheaply, more rapidly, right. More effectively by building only the features that support that change in the world. Right. And leaving those other, this laundry list of nice to have features, uh, leaving them for later, or maybe not doing them at all.
Josh 01:03:24 And so that’s an example of sort of how this, this thinking applies sort of to, um, to do ventures, which is to sort of take that, take that sort of strategic play and to clarify like, okay, when this strategy is a success, what will be different in the world and how do we get there sooner? Yeah. I’ve heard you talk elsewhere about sort of two kind of two broad flavors of projects that you all worked on at Neo. One was I think what you just described where someone you’re working with, they’re committed to doing a thing. Right. They’ve they’ve said, yep. We’re going this way. And then it’s about the conversation that you just described of figuring out, okay, what does success really look like and how do we most effectively and efficiently get there. But I think there was also another sort of category of project you all did, which was maybe earlier in the process in terms of getting to sort of an organization trying to make an investment decision.
Josh 01:04:21 Well, I think, you know, that, that, um, I think about, uh, so this is, uh, one of, one of my side businesses. Uh, I, um, I’m a, uh, I’m a publisher and I’m a co founder of a business called sense and respond to press. And, uh, we, um, we worked with an author, uh, a guy in New York city, uh, called Ryan Jacoby. Uh, Ryan wrote a book for us called making progress. And Ryan says that, you know, the, the job of innovation is to make progress. And what progress means for any given organization is going to be different. Right. And so part of your role, if you are responsible for innovation, or if you’re working on an innovation project is to understand what progress means for your organization or your right. And so to define, to, to, to help your help your client have a conversation about what progress means, right. And, and, and, and how then, and that’s going to drive sort of your, um, uh, the way you define your, your sort of portfolio of options that you’re working on. Uh, they should all be oriented towards some kind of progress that, that the organization needs.
Andrew 01:05:47 Totally. So how should someone, you know, if someone’s out there and they are, they’ve got an idea for a new thing, right. Either that’s their own own work or a, um, you know, let’s say they’re a product leader and their leadership has sort of handed them a new thing. Right? Th th their leadership has come to them and said, Hey, either us or our clients, we want to do X very concretely. Like, what would their first step be if they’re having that? You know, if they’re having those alarm bells go off of like, Oh, no, someone just prescribed this solution to me and told me that we need to go build X, but I don’t know that that’s validated. I don’t know that it’s what we should do. Um, what is the first step for that product leader or that, that, uh, that entrepreneur to shift the conversation and actually get them on, get themselves in the whole thing on the right track?
Josh 01:06:33 Well, I don’t know. I I’ll be Frank with you and say, I’m always a little hesitant about advice to shift the conversation because, because it’s, so, uh, it’s so dependent on the relationship you have with the other person, for some people shifting a conversation is a nonstarter, right? Like I’m going to go, I’m, you know, I’m a staff level product person, and I’ve got to go face down the charismatic CEO and, and shift the conversation like that. That’s a career limiting move, Andrew. Yeah. So, so with that caveat in mind, I think the question you’re always trying to ask is when we have succeeded, what will people be doing differently? What will the world be like when we’ve succeeded? How will we know we’ve won? Right. And the answer first answer to that is while you’ve shipped, like I drew this on a napkin and you’ve shipped it.
Josh 01:07:35 So we’ll know we’ve won when you’ve done what I’ve told you to do. Right. But I think the, like the next question, if you can get to it is when people have this thing in their hands, right. What will they, what will our customers be doing differently? And that’s really, you know, for me, that’s a very, very powerful question. Right. Um, with that, with that taproot example, uh, you know, we went to the, we came back to the client and we said like, look, it’s actually going to be impossible to build all of this stuff in the time and in your budget, that you’ve right. And they said, well, listen, our timeline is not negotiable. We have a, this was the spring. And we have an event in the fall and we have to release this product at this event. And we have to demonstrate that it’s working.
Josh 01:08:34 And so we said to them, okay, when we demonstrate that it’s working, right, what will, like, what will the results be? Like, not that the system is up and running, like we can show blinking lights, but what change will those blinking lights have created in the work in the world? Because we want to be able to demonstrate, we want to demonstrate customer success stories. And they came to us and they said, well, okay, we’ll have X number of customers on the system and we’ll have completed Y number of transactions. And we will have, as a result of those transactions, we will have created, you know, three stories of success, whatever it was. Right. So we want to be able to launch in October onstage with blinking lights and these numbers. And we said, do you care? Which lights are blinking? You know? And they said, no, we don’t.
Josh 01:09:30 We just, but we do care about the results. And so what we then focused on was how do we get X number of customers in the system to complete Y number of transactions and have Z impact, right. And I think that’s the conversation you want to be having with your stakeholders, because ultimately the reason they’re writing you a check isn’t to build an app or launch a website, right. But is to have X number of customers and Y number of transactions and Z impact. Right. And if you really have that conversation with them, you become their strategic partner. And so there’s like the art of having that conversation, but then that’s the conversation you want to have. I love how you,
Andrew 01:10:09 We reframe that in terms of, let’s really talk, let’s talk about what you really want and get to what’s behind that. That’s really powerful
Josh 01:10:15 About helping them succeed. Right. It’s not about challenging their vision, which sometimes if you do it wrong, right. They feel it’s like, you’re challenging their, their vision. And like, no, you don’t, you don’t actually want to have this baby because this baby’s ugly. Like you can’t tell them that, you know? Um, but, uh, but you can help them succeed. And that’s really the, that’s really what you need to focus on. Yeah.
Andrew 01:10:39 And I can see how, how going down that path when it’s framed that way, the way you’ve talked about this taproot example, that then all of the things we’ve been talking about from sort of crafting outcomes, and then getting clear about the risks and having those weekly decision meetings and the, and the sprints, like, I can start to see how this all really kind of comes together in the way you frame it and set up that, like, it seems like if you really set things up strategically, right. From the jump, then a lot of things downstream are gonna go a lot better.
Josh 01:11:07 Yeah. And you know, not every client is willing, not every client and not every stakeholder is willing to go with you. Right. Some of them are just going to be like, look, I need an app. Are you going to build me an app? Or am I going to find someone else who will, and that’s okay. Like, you know, but having that conversation early and being able to then enter into that relationship in an informed way, you know, you, uh, that that’s important too.
Andrew 01:11:39 So, uh, I want to start to shift and kind of close out here with some rapid fire questions. They’re, they’re short questions, but your answers don’t have to be, they can be,
Josh 01:11:45 You know, as long as you, like, what is this
Andrew 01:11:47 Small change that you’ve made in recent memory? And that recent number, it could be a week. It could be a year, whatever, but what’s a small change that has had an outsized impact on how you work or just your life in general.
Josh 01:12:02 Okay. Uh, here’s a small change that I made. I, um, you know, we, we, uh, the, with the sort of self isolation, the coronavirus, self isolation, um, suddenly all of our, all of the structure in, uh, in our day got shifted, right. The normal routine getting up and, um, all of that stuff. And so what I had to do was really set myself a very strict Monday to Friday, I have to enforce the workweek and I had to enforce them. And so I have a very strict, like two hour morning routine on weekdays. Um, and I, and a very strict, you don’t have any morning routine on Saturday and Sunday. So that’s, that’s changed. That’s been very effective for me in kind of setting the tone for the last four weeks. How’s that? How has that shifted things for you? Um, I think the first week that, uh, we were in isolation, it was really, um, like, it felt like we were just sort of improvising every moment of every day. Right. And, uh, this was sort of about, um, me setting aside and these two, these first two hours are really like, I’m the first one up in the house I get up and I make coffee and that’s my service to the household. But then the rest of the, the rest of those two hours are like for me. And so like, don’t expect anything, except there will be coffee in the kitchen. Right.
Andrew 01:13:44 I will have covered that base,
Josh 01:13:46 Leave me alone. And I think that’s, I think, uh, you know, like, so, um, I mean, just for context, I’m like, I’m living in a house with, with uh, there’s, there’s six of my family here, you know? And so being able to set boundaries about, you know, how we’re responsible to each other and what is the Workday and those kinds of things like that, that’s been important. Yeah. For sure. The boundary setting is one
Andrew 01:14:12 Of those things that is, it’s simple but difficult. Like, I, I think that’s true of a lot of the, these ideas. Like they’re not that complicated, but doing them is actually the challenging part. Right, right, right. Yeah. Do you have any, any advice for people on that by the way? Cause I think boundary setting is something that everyone could be better at whether that’s at home at work, whatever.
Josh 01:14:32 Do I have any advice for that? No, I’m not an expert on boundary setting. I’m not going to take that bait.
Andrew 01:14:39 It wasn’t paid. I was just curious, selfishly curious. I’m like I could use that advice too, so, but no problem. Um, all right, cool. So then, uh, what, what, I’m curious, what do you either like reading or watching, or just like, what ideas are you taking in lately that are really like grip, you know, that are grabbing your attention in your mind? What’s, what’s interesting to you lately.
Josh 01:14:59 I guess I am a lot of my work. A lot of my work is about, uh, these days is about, uh, coaching and training and, um, I’ve, I’ve done most of my career learning about that, uh, informally right by my, I mean, honestly most of my career has spent learning through some sort of apprenticeship model, you know, working with people who are more experienced than I am, who are, uh, and learning from them and learning their methods and, uh, working with, uh, peers who have more experience than I do an X or Y or Z. And so for the last, um, the last six or eight months, I’ve been thinking a lot more about, um, about pedagogy, trying to think more critically about as I’m moving, you know, kind of moving my teaching online, right. Things I knew sort of intuitively, or that I’d learned about facilitating a room, they don’t necessarily translate to facilitating the zoom.
Josh 01:16:05 Right. And so like, uh, room to zoom. Right, exactly. So how do I, how do I think about, um, how do I think about that kind of stuff? So, so, uh, I would say that like, my focus learning has been about that. I, and on the other side of it, um, I’ve always found like for me, a lot of my learning comes from having hobbies that are, that are sort of tangentially related to work. Um, and so I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two years, uh, working on my photography. Um, and, and, and so, uh, and this year I, I, uh, I did for the first time a number of I’ve signed up for a number of, um, uh, photography classes and, and workshops and things like that. And so I enjoy it. It’s a, it’s a change from my day to day work, but there’s something about, there’s something about it in a kind of a hard to articulate way that makes my, makes work better. Even if I can’t tell you exactly how, you know.
Andrew 01:17:14 Yeah. I completely get that. I’ve had the same experience with, uh, with cooking over the last couple of years. I can’t really explain it, but there’s something about it that I don’t know if it’s just like the creative outlet or whatever, but I totally feel you on that. Yeah. Um, for the listener or for me, uh, what homework would you assign me or another leader listening to this, to take action on these ideas? Like, what’s, what’s my starting point.
Josh 01:17:36 I think it’s always good to take a, kind of a look at your portfolio of initiatives and, um, imagine like really, really clarify, like, what is the success that I’m looking for on those initiatives in the next month, three months, 12 months, right? When this initiative has succeeded, what will I be doing differently? What will people be doing differently? What will my organization be doing differently? My customers, my users, like really thinking about, uh, success in those terms. And then you can kind of go back and you can look at your, to do list and you can say, Whoa, this isn’t driving any of those successes. Right. Uh, does this really belong on my to do list?
Andrew 01:18:32 I love that. I love that. So for the listener, for anyone listening to you, listening to this conversation rather, um, do you have any asks of the listener, any requests you would make of someone listening to this?
Josh 01:18:43 If you haven’t read my book, go get it, read it. The book is designed. Book is all of our books are designed to be short reads that can be read in a, you know, one or two sittings. Our goal was to have a book that you could read on a flight from San Francisco to Seattle or New York to Boston. And if you haven’t read the book, go get it, read the book. If you have read the book, my emails in the book, send me an email, tell me what you thought of it.
Andrew 01:19:14 Awesome. Yeah, I know that that’s one of the best things is hearing the feedback from people about how your ideas are actually changing things for them and shifting their behavior back to the outcomes. Um, and so if people do want to reach out to you weird or learn more about you, your work, engage with you, where can people find you online and follow up?
Josh 01:19:30 Yeah, my, my website, uh, so two, I’ll give you two websites. One is my personal website. It’s a Joshua sidon.com and, um, you can also check out sense and respond to press at, uh, sense and respond, press.com.
Andrew 01:19:48 Perfect. And we will link to all of that in the show notes. Well, Josh, again, thanks so much for the time. This has been like a master class in strategic thinking for me and for the listener. And I’m so appreciative of you and your work. So thank you for being here and keep up the awesome work.
Josh 01:20:02 All right, Andrew. Thank you so much for the conversation. I really enjoyed it.