Workweek 03×02: Killing momentums
A busy week, moving fast. Not ha time to write up notes, so I’m pulling this from memories. Fortunately the gods have smiled, the family is away, I have some time to think. Step one was to write everything in my notebook. Pen = flow. The tide of recollection, strung together with inky arrows.
Halfway through the week, I was feeling apprehensive about this bit. Theme of the week, though, turns out to be RITUAL. Habit. I don’t know where the line is between that and culture, but I know practice is an ally. The internet gives us so many ideas. Practicing a single idea, developing a concept, turning it into What You Do. That’s the hard bit. Everyone wants to sell you a new ritual these days.
This week, my #weeknotes are my ritual, although I only found this out yesterday (Thursday). I’ve been doing this long enough, often enough. I can do a whole week from scratch because of this – I just have to have two things on me: the confidence to get on with it, and the apathy to not get it perfect. Or vice versa. Either way, it’s a trend that keeps popping up this week. Habitual practice to ensure Progress in the face of Chaos.
The other trend running through the week is Australia. The whole country has changed where its invisible lines are, and all the abstract symbols that refer to each set of lines along with it. We’re in the middle of adjusting our abstract semiotics to match theirs, which is sort of what computers are great at, but is never easy for the human mind. Abstract representations of abstract representations, cutting through time and space. It’s enough to make you go mad.
That and I had a whole bunch of other trips to make. So I had my invisible project management outfit on from Monday morning and organised tasks into boxes and people into tasks, before setting off for my first trip.
Laura and James from HACT came down to chat about our vision for [Hive Pixie]. We’d met once before and chatted via phone, but it was the first time they’d visited our humble office. Home turf. Comfortable chat. I’m struck how important a bit of a regular shake-up is – [Hive Pixie] needed it, and right now it’s got a fresh set of heads, eyes and minds on it. Sometimes momentum on a project can be good. Here, I think the momentum was a bit of a weight. How can you tell “good” momentum from “bad” momentum? Or when do you make the decision to let things keep going as they are, and when do you decide to wipe the slate clean?
I think, as with a lot of things, there’s a good “gut instinct” here. People aren’t happy, ideas have been thrown about, solutions have been suggested, even tried out. But if there’s no real sense of satisfaction from all of that? Then something’s wrong. The momentum needs killing. This is usually pretty obvious if you’re paying attention. it’s just a confidence thing, that decision to kill the momentum. People have invested money, time and reputation – it’s a hard plug to pull. An awkward conversation: “that thing we’re doing, it’s just not working”. But it needs doing.
Fresh starts. In miniature.
Wednesday was spent in our meeting room. Another fairly fresh pair (for me, at least) visiting this time, Phil and Stuart from Brighton Uni about a social care bid. Another good session, and maybe I am getting the hang of this… whatever it is. Transmitting. Using this weird set of thoughts and processes and pipes and cultures that we employ at OCSI, to connect and translate what other people want to do into what we want to do. Business development as a medium. Networking not to connect people. but ideas.
Then more forward thinking, only from a technical perspective this time. I’ve been wanting to run a development team check-in for a while. Holidays have made it hard, but we managed it – I really didn’t want to cancel it among the ongoing Australian work, because momentum. And personal aim number two to keep me on track – feeling like head of a tech team.
The meeting felt a bit ad-hoc – I hadn’t had much time to prepare myself or anyone else. But again managed to draw on our tools and frameworks over the last year – brainstorm, post-its, dot voting, check. We had an hour or so, and didn’t go into too much detail, but I think it probably worked better because of that, and it’s probably OK to define a meeting that ends at a high-level – so long as you have a plan to turn it into low-level somehow afterwards. We got some team goals for the next 9 months ahead in place, and I’m looking forward to giving some weight to this, and working out what can be done and how to get it done.
The day ended with a meeting of a different kind. It was hard to get structure to it for various reasons, so I suppose the positive side was more around understanding the position of the person I was talking to. Sometimes the agenda goes a different way altogether, and you have to change your expectations on the fly. Ah well. Sometimes you can share your own thought structures. Other times, you just have to keep them to yourself.
By Thursday we were all starting to feel the burn a bit, so to speak. A few issues had come up on the path of the Australian work, and while we had been trying our hardest to circumnavigate them, it certainly wasn’t coming together as much as we’d hoped, especially with a few key people away on holiday. A fairly lean team went through tasks for the next two weeks, and we did our best despite the ups and downs of the work outside the room. This was a really good example of our Ritual playing out. We’d been busy, we were scattered, but we still managed to set contexts in advance, line up potential work to look at, and get some good discussion out. I think the reality will play out slightly differently, but we can only plan as best we can, and run on hope. To be honest, the team have done a fantastic job over the last two weeks. The bar was set really high. I made sure I said that out loud.
In among the grind and bug fixing, I had a lovely Annual Review with Hon Mond, one of our developers. He has a great sense of stoic efficiency about him. We also always go out for coffee for Annual Reviews, so good to get out of that damned meeting room for once. We’ve been through a lot of structure for ARs, and this time round I felt like it was something internal – not a guide to follow of a set of rules, but a script I could improvise around as I wanted to. The note in my notebook, underlined, says: WE HAVE LEARNT SO MUCH.
I ended up staying late, looking at some server issues with Hon Mond and Lawrence, back down in the grimy SQL machine. I’m surprised “improve our debugging” didn’t get more votes at the dev meeting, but maybe it’s something I can push through via other avenues. I dashed off, trying to calm my blood flow as I half-jogged to a tai chi lesson. I haven’t been for years and was excited about seeing my old teacher again. Then a seagull shat on me. I stopped to clean myself up, arrived five minutes late. Nobody there. I sat by myself for 10 minutes, listening to nothing. It was lovely.
On Friday the office was quiet – only five of us in. There was plenty going on, but it felt like the calm before the storm – we have a bank holiday next week, and both a new person starting and a company picnic on the Tuesday. I wanted to tidy up a lot of things from earlier in the week, but ended up spending the morning with Australia. I killed the momentum, made the decision not to send it into the real world yet. The universe wasn’t right. it’s good to take pressure off people if you can. it meant I had to jump between project tracking and SQL hacking again, which is something I find pretty tiring, but there you go.
At lunch, got some news which will play out over the next few weeks. Found some awesome old magazines for £1 each:
Managed to round up the week quite neatly after that though, with lots of filing and emails and aborted WordPress efforts and user setup. Onwards and onwards…