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Ed. 007 Vending Machines and Reinforcement Schedules

An amusingly different way of analyzing business processes

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Vending machines have a humble two-thousand-year history and serve as an excellent example of the most simple business process. Insert money, get something out.

Why does this matter? Upon closer inspection, however, it reveals a small lesson in operant conditioning and reinforcement schedules. Too often do program managers simply adopt or implement a new business process or tool without accounting for the possible behavioral requirements of the “customer” (people using the process). Business processes that reinforce or support the desired behavior get adopted faster and are more successful.

Roles and responsibilities are typically decided during the initial stages of projects, but what about during execution or ongoing operation? RACI charts help explicitly dictate who owns what.

Why does this matter? As projects end and transition into an ongoing operation or program, it may be useful to provide an easy-to-understand visual to stakeholders or customers that outline purview and ownership. Using RACI charts help clarify ownership, increase initiative, and ensure accountability. These are particularly useful when multiple teams are working on separate related yet separate initiatives, a common scenario for program managers.

Think your phone autocorrect or Gmail smart suggestions are good? Think again. GPT-3 puts them all to shame. The AI runs it’s training data off neural networks consisting of over 175 million parameters.

Why does this matter? If you’re a TPM it’s an interesting read into the developing creative uses of AI and could one day interpret your dashboards and compose your weekly updates for you. Imagine having an AI send curated reports or interpretations of business intelligence or project updates from status reports. It feels almost like cheating.

I recently saved my organization $3 million dollars in productivity costs. I swear, it’s true. I presented a problem statement and proposed a solution to them in an epic (yet succinct) slide-deck presentation. What really sold them, however, were the visuals that weaved together a story.

Why does this matter? As a program manager, you’ll be tasked with driving progress and improvement across the organization. This isn’t usually done by individual execution, but instead by the execution and leveraging of others—and the best way to do that? Convince them with a compelling story with excellent visuals to communicate your solution. Adopt the mantra of “show me, don’t tell me.“

Full disclosure, there’s math. An interesting article on how an MIT student’s trend detection algorithm was able to detect upcoming trends on Twitter.

Why does this matter? Assuming you have enough data, predictive modeling can be used to proactively execute a business rule/transaction/process. Imagine sending notifications out to engineers or stakeholders before a system outage instead of when.

Looking for a new role? We’ve curated a few PgM, TPM, and Prod Ops roles that may interest you.

We’ve added a few new assets recently. Take a look and feel free to suggest additional resources in the comments.

Do you need a structured methodology to get you through the interview process? We’ve recently updated our own Unblockers Interview Course with more content.


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