In an apocryphal story, Grigory Potemkin, lover of Catherine the Great of Russia, is said to have built fake portable villages to impress Catherine during her visit to Crimea in 1787.

Crimea had been annexed by Russia from the Ottoman Empire in 1783. Devastated by the war and with the Muslim inhabitants under suspicion from the Russians, it’s said that Potemkin set up these mobile villages along the route of Catherine’s visit and populated them with his own men dressed as (happy, smiling) peasants.

The term Potemkin Village has stuck despite the story being untrue and Wikipedia lists many instances…


I like film and a I like talking with others about films. When I lived in Cambridge I used to be a regular at film classes run from the Arts Picturehouse and we used to go see films together and discuss them afterwards. I’ve been missing that but recently I’ve been taking part in an online group with some friends and tonight is my first pitch.

I’ve not had to pitch films for a while so I thought I’d begin by thinking about what might make a good pitch. As is usual, I turned to the anti-problem to help me…


I first came across the concept of a service line when consulting in government 3 years ago and have used the concept ever since. It’s a good organising principle when thinking about sets of related services.

What is a service line?

A service line is a simply set of services that work together to enable a user to complete an end-to-end journey. A simple example could be a service line to enable a user to get money for energy-saving measures for their home. There might be a a service allowing the user to find and compare measures for which they…


I’ve talked before about some of the work I do with Enabling Teams (Finance, Commercial, Estates etc.)

One thing I often find is that the outcomes set for these teams don’t line up with the outcomes for the delivery teams they serve. Enabling teams are often measured on whether a delivery team has complied with a process rather than on whether the delivery team got what they needed through following that process. When things aren’t aligned like this it tends to lead to friction and dissatisfaction on both sides and in the worst case delivery is blocked or significantly slowed.


I’ve been thinking recently about how to represent service users in a delivery team space. I want to do this to help build more empathy between users, delivery teams and those immediately around the delivery teams — managers, finance, commercial etc.

Here are some ideas for bringing users more into team spaces:

  • Display photographs of users at work or in user research (if consent allows).
  • Show them using your service if you have pictures of that too or of any existing service they are using that you are replacing.
  • Share photos of the users’ workplace (if permitted); create a model…


Recently I’ve been thinking a bit about teams that are delivering to outputs (doing stuff) rather than outcomes (achieving stuff) and how to help them move to be more outcome-focussed.

I’m putting out a few early thoughts here to try and crowdsource some feedback…

At this stage I’m thinking about how to influence stakeholders who may be used to teams working to outputs.

Here are a few ideas for how to get them to think differently:

  • If a team isn’t working to outcomes, the project is not under control
  • If a team is doing work that it can’t show might…


I read Elizabeth Ayer’s “Don’t ask for forgiveness, radiate intent” blog post the other day, about radiating intent rather than doing something and asking for forgiveness later. It’s a good piece of advice that challenges the commonly heard adage “It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

How not to radiate intent?

I reflected on how I radiated intent — usually through Slack, email or face-to-face — and wondered whether I could do it better.

Regular readers will know that I oftent use the anti-problem to come up with creative solutions to a problem.

I took the problem “How could…


I’ve been involved in helping organise user research for a number of years now, usually at the periphery as a team lead or delivery manager, occasionally more directly involved in the research and it’s an area I’m increasingly interested in, particularly since a community started forming around #ResearchOps. (See this slide deck from Kate Towsey for an intro to Research Operations)

I know the pain involved in Research Operations, particularly in less mature organisations or doing research at pace or at scale.

I’ve also been an event organiser, since, well, let’s say for a very long time.

I thought it…


I’ve been using and recommending A3 reports as a way of progress reporting for the past 7–8 years. I was introduced to them while working at Redgate Software in Cambridge where they had a big impact on how reporting was done.

I’ve been sharing this description of A3s for a while now so thought I’d publish it here.

Let me know if you find it useful and start to use A3 reporting yourself.

Introduction

An A3 status report is a structured report capturing the state of a piece of work or process on one side of an A3-sized piece of paper…


Inspired by Jukesie’s recent post I thought I’d list 20 books that changed my (work) life...

I’ve listed them in (roughly) the order I read them. Plenty of other books have influenced me but these have stuck out over the years, bearing re-reading. You can see how my interests have also changed over the years, broadening out from a technical focus.

The Soul of a New MachineTracy Kidder.

A skunkworks team works hard to ship a new product. Nowadays we notice the lack of sustainable pace… Appealed to the engineer and entrepreneur in me when I joined my…

Mark Dalgarno

Freelance Agile Coach | Interim Manager | Agile Programme or Project Manager. Conference Organiser. Improver.

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