Honda nuts anticipate user need

Photo showing close up of two nuts on Honda CBF motorcycle used to adjust chain tension
Close-up photo to show two nuts that are used to adjust the chain tension of my Honda

My motorcycle chain had become too loose and needed adjusting over the weekend. A friend came over to show me how to do it. The process was loosen the wheel nut (large nut in the above photo to right) , then first loosen the outer nut and then turn the second nut until the correct tension was found. What I found very interesting was the consideration Honda clearly had for us home fixers. Normally the two nuts would be the same size but most people own one spanner set with each tool being the next size down/up thus making it impossible to adjust the nuts at the same time. Honda have obviously considered this and to my surprise the second nut is the next size up thus allowing me to use the next spanner in the set and make the adjustment without having to borrow another spanner from a neighbour.

This small detail to me demonstrates how Honda have carefully considered the “real” world and met my user need before I even knew it. They could have used identical nuts knowing that would likely result in the user having to stop the job and seek out the same size spanner but instead they did the difficult work (two different nuts on the same sized thread and adding one more different part ). Thanks Honda!

10 years on Twitter

According to Twitter, today marks 10 years on the platform for me @zakmensah. I remember resisting for over a year having grown tired of signing up for platforms that never gained traction beyond the early adopters. I’ve never been that interested in being first to the party. I was at Jisc at the time and traveling the UK for events and conferences was a big part of my role. I started to notice that the various unconference/meet-ups were being organised on twitter and I felt left out. I wanted to know which pub was the pub folks were gathering at. As with all new platforms I didn’t get the point for awhile but once I started to discover groups in the pub I was set ha. Fast forward 10 years and I’m  glad I jumped on twitter and its evolution has been interesting to watch. From nerds to the mainstream. In the same period of time many other social platforms have risen and fallen including Google Wave, myspace, snapchat and many others I’ve long forgotten.
I have met great people on twitter, some I have yet to meet in person and others I have hollered at when in their country. I have had wonderful work opportunities, learned a bunch and its often the first port of call when I’m stuck and need advice for work. I like the little tribes such as museumhour and musetech  and following the boxing or F1 for the wit and live emotion.
I like to share on twitter and also keep lots of things private. I can pick and choose as I please which is the whole point. For example I never post family photos and try to avoid tweeting much when at the pub for obvious reasons. Tweets wash over the timeline so I don’t pay too much attention to crafting messages or take myself too seriously. But I do want to live my life a bit on the web as a dry serious me online would be a dull shame.
Happy birthday to the 10 year @zakmensah version of me. Oh and the oldest tweet I can find is me saying hello to someone’s mum.

Good enough

I was just publishing my annual blog post for my reading list and my wife asked “How many people actually read your blog?”. I responded with “I dunno let’s see”. Except I can’t actually show her as it turns out my analytics stopped recording a long time ago. My bad. I decided ages ago not to bother looking at the analytics as I didn’t want to be fixated on growing per se. I write very niche posts here and at the Culture team labs blog for people like me. And there must only be a few hundred people like me across the planet. I know that the right people stumble across here as I regularly get email to ask me questions, jump on a skype call with folks across the world or to invite me to speak at a conference.

The aim for me is to share my experiences for people like me and it appears to work. That is good enough for me.

Reading list 2019

Last year I started quite a few books but only managed to read 7. Let’s hope I find more time this year.

  1. This is Marketing by Seth Godin finished 11 Jan 2019. Paperback ISBN 9780241370148. I always enjoy how Seth Godin manages to make compelling stories to explain how to level up regardless of your resources. I particularly enjoyed the section on direct and brand marketing.
  2. Creativity: Why it Matters by Darren Henley, finished 25 March 2019. Hardback ISBN 9781783963782.
  3. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink finished 25 April 2019. Kindle format. A look at how we should move to a new form of motivate that suits the non-industrial work we now largely do. Dan frames motivation around autonomy , mastery  and purpose.
  4. Retail Therapy: Why the Retail Industry is Broken by Mark Pilkington finished 12 May 2019. Hardback 9781472965103. A good summary of the issues facing UK/USA retail industry. The book is easy to read and challenges the industry to make a ruckus. One great a-ha moment for me was that we typically mark products up by 2.4 but with online it should fundamentally be a cheaper as we have less overheads. Also the supply chain should be shorter so yet more reason to reduce the cost for your bespoke range. The last 1/4 alone is worth the book cost.
  5. First Man In by Ant Middleton finished 16th May 2019. Paperback ISBN 9780008245733
  6. The everything store by Brad Stone finished 25 May 2019 paperback ISBN 9780552167833
  7. Good to Great by Jim Collins finished 14 July 2019 Hardback ISBN 9780712676090. The focus is on firstly having the right people,  level 5 leadership and using your Hedgehog Concept.

So…five years at Bristol City Council

1st July 2018 is a significant personal milestone for me as I turn five as an employee of Bristol City Council’s Culture team. Most importantly I’m happy. I absolutely love what I do and where I work. As a Bristolian, I feel immensely proud of helping the Council run such a great cultural service.

If you’ve ever heard me give a talk there is a good chance you have heard my tongue in cheek remark that “I originally came on a 18 month fixed term contract and by the time they work out how to get rid of me I’d be out the door anyway”.

In reality I set about using that first 12 months to show that digital was a key ingredient to the museum’s current and future success. I got to build a digital team from the ground up and since those early days my role has grown from one team to ten as well as shedding two job titles through promotion.

“We” have delivered lots of pieces of work in the past five years. I say “we” as no project is shipped without the effort from some of the most talented people I’ve had the delight to work with. We do so much that it is literally impossible to keep track 100% of what is delivered even though I try my best. Across the team’s there is at least 1-2 people working 7am to 2am most days of the week which is mind-blowing.

We are a team of teams and these five years have taught me a great deal about other people’s passions within the Culture team. I really love that both digital and transformation get to weave around all the corners of the Culture service so I get a glimpse behind the curtain of a much bigger picture.

I have met hundreds if not thousands of people across the globe who care deeply about using Culture as a force of good in the world. I have spoken at dozens of events and had the privilege of learning from lots of people who care enough to share time with me and the sector.

Do. Try. Deliver. Learn. Repeat.

I just wanted to pause to take the time to say thank you to anyone I’ve come into contact with, worked with, agreed with or “respectively disagreed” with. Transformation is a process not a project. Looking ahead, I continue to work on growing as a leader and helping the greatest city on Earth to deliver the best cultural offer. Getting better means regularly asking my colleagues what can I do more of, less of or what is good enough that should be kept as it is. Seth Godin says be “defenseless” in order to grow …also helps to keep the old ego in check.

I remember reading a guidance document that said a museum professional is somebody with “five” years or more experience. Totally incorrect way to foster good relations eh. I guess my tenture means I need to drop my joke that I’m a professional unprofessional…. and go make a ruckus.

Embrace constraints

There is always more work than the time you’ll ever be able to commit to making that perfect outcome/project/painting. Thus you find all the reasons you can’t ship/finish your workload. ‘I don’t have enough time’ is a common cry in the workplace. But instead of procrastinating use constraints to your advantage.

Pssst “constraints are essential for being somebody who wants to ship their project”.

If you know the edges, limitations of resource and/or time [constraints] you can ensure your project doesn’t become a never-ending saga. Too many projects seek perfection. Nothing good comes from chasing perfect. I used to push lines of code around trying to “improve” the code base and make it “perfect”. Or that’s what I was kidding myself thinking. I was wasting time. I didn’t know about constraints. You should be embracing the constraints as these prevent you from chasing perfect and will help you ship. If you needed 100 days for that perfect project execution but only have 20? great that will focus the mind and deliver “good enough”.

We all wish we had more time but the people who ship work have accepted that their work will never be perfect enough no matter how long they are given. So they ship. They get known for delivering and they ship some more. Embrace the constraints.

Its hard to Zag when you already Zig

Once I learn a particular way of doing something it’s hard to see any other path. The other evening for example I was messing around with Shopify and found a handy feature that was right before my very own eyes. Until today if I wanted to know how well a product has sold I exported the month or year to date (YTD) sales and then searched. However Shopify has a handy “Orders” feature that lets you search sales history. Bingo a super quick way to get the same result in a fraction of the time. I has previously written that feature off. I find it difficult to override this urge to follow the path well known. I know this applies to most tasks including driving routes. I’m trying to force myself to ask “is there another way?”.

My first website domain

I purchased my first website domain tribehut.com in a basement in Wolverhampton in 2002. A family friend, Tony, let me use his card.

The computer screen was glowing in the dark space which had a shoebox sized window with natural light. It felt like magic. Little ole me joining the online space.

I went on to design, build and consult on over 100 web projects with that website domain. Today it sits gathering dust. I fire it up every now and again to remind myself of previous goals met, mistakes I made and to remind me that there is plenty more to be done.

That small action and guidance from Tony was a huge step towards who I am today. Open bracket, HTML, close bracket.

How can I help?

I learned a long time ago that what makes me happiest at work is helping others. Hence a stint for about seven years working nationally in staff development with a focus on using technology to get stuff done. Most of my profile straplines end with “How can I help?”. I really mean it. If you’ve got a burning question about how I’ve done something then please don’t be a stranger. In the past 6 months I’ve had email exchanges and Skype calls with people in the USA and across Europe. you can tweet me, email me or leave a comment on the blog.

PS I get lots out of these exchanges too. I get to hear  about common problems, frustrations or even better solutions that I have used myself. 

Reading list 2017

I read 16 books last year and hope to read 20 this year. My kid is two and I hope my reading rubs off on her. I now sit and read my book as she drinks her night milk. I used to love reading as a kid – a place to get lost.

Below are the books i’ve read throughout the year. You can see my previous reading lists starting with the most recent reading list 2016.

  1. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla finished 16th January. Hardback. ISBN 9781783522941. A series of essays about living in a white world.
  2. Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet finished 27th January. Paperback  ISBN 9780241250945. A book about how a Navy submarine captain turned a poor performing team of 134 sailors into one of the best in the fleet through a leader-leader approach.
  3. The Toyota Way by Jefferey K. Liker finished 23rd March. Hardback. ISBN 9780071392310. A tale of how Toyota has developed their staff and resources to be efficient and customer focused. I really enjoyed the section on “pull” ordering and making a business plan fit on one A3 sheet of paper. Having heard about it for years i’m glad i read it but it took ages as it weighs a lot!
  4. Maverick! : The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler, finished 16 April. Paperback. 9780712678865. A business book about Richardo took over his fathers business and set about putting staff first. Very good.
  5. Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World by Doug Stephens, finished 11 May. Hardback. ISBN 9781927958810. A book that focuses on what the future of retail could be if only people got out of their own way. Doug shares some great examples of how experiences are the key to shopping and that most wholesalers will fall by the wayside in the long run. Worth a read if you have any interest in how you may be shopping in 10-20 years.
  6. Ultimate Weapon by Chris Ryan, finished 25 May. Paperback. ISBN 9780099492146. A fictional story about two SAS soldiers trying to save a daughter and on-off girlfriend.
  7. Built for Speed by John McGuinness, finished 13 June. Hardback. ISBN 9781785034800. One of the most successful British motorcyclists and 23 Isle of Man TT winner. I’ve always enjoyed watching him race so its good to hear about this life to date.
  8. Walkaway by Cory Doctorow finished 26 June. Hardback. ISBN 9780765392763. A story about a group who walkaway from the normal way of life off the grid from default. Drones, 3D printing, love, anguish and walking away.
  9. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead finished 19 August. Paperback. ISBN 9780708898406. A nerve wrecking story about a slave called Cora. Gripping to the last page.
  10. What they don’t teach you in Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack finished 25th October. ISBN 9781781253397. A personal diary from Mark on some of the ways you can run a business based on your ability to read people, situations and self reflection. Still doesn’t make me want to play golf though hehe.