Workweek 03×03: Chase the Bubbles

Comings and Goings

This week has been a weird, short one. I skirted round the bank holiday and took Thursday off instead of Tuesday, but Tuesday afternoon was spent at the park on a company picnic. It’s been a while since we did something like this, so props to Emma for getting it organised and to everyone else for chipping in, and being so much fun. We even had some bubbles you could crawl inside (in theory) thanks to Luke.

insert bubble sort joke here haha

We’ve also got a bit of chop and change happening this week. New starter Joel joined us Tuesday morning to support on user support things, and in the afternoon I told everyone that Lawrence, one of our developers, will be moving on to new pastures at the end of the month. So a little revolution going on.

Overall, personal relationships aside, I think it’s something that’s beneficial to any company, and especially a company our size which is small enough to be insular, but big enough to be complicated. A good mix of general enthusiasm from fresh minds is always invigorating, and a new person is always a really good test of how all the processes and documentation you’ve brought in over the last year stand up against someone with no idea of the background.

So the theme this week has mostly been “team”, and it feels like about time too. The atmosphere has been good, with photos and videos being shared, pub trips planned, and some good work getting done (as a result?) It’s been such a short, stubby week that it’s hard to draw much else out really, but here’s a quick run down of what else I’ve done (writing it up may throw something out there), and how I’m doing against my goals for this series so far, which were:

  1. Get shared direction for the company
  2. Feel like head of the dev team
  3. Something about “craft” for my job/life?

Small goals, then…

someone get this dog out of the metaphorical way

I had a few things on my list to tidy or get on with generally, which bubbled through the week, and met on Tuesday with Stefan and Luke to work things out from a management perspective, which was useful now that we’re all back from holiday. Tuesday and Wednesday (embarrassingly, I forget what/when) I was clamping down and tidying up what’s left on our update to our Australian site.

A smallish but annoying and fairly fundamental thing has hit us in the side, and we’ve had to chase a different route. In retrospect, and after an email, this was probably the route we should have taken in the first place, but I’m not beating myself up – I’m not sure if it was my decision in the first place, and there’s certainly an opportunity to re-establish the route while getting some better structure in place around it, so all good. Just annoying that it came up right at the end of the work – I feel like I could have predicted it better, but was probably blinded by “Busy Optimism”.

Busy Optimism is responsible for a lot of IT problems in the world, and I do so hate to blight myself with it. Hoping things will turn out OK because you don’t have time to do it properly is … just a Really Bad Idea. Reallllly.

Anyway, the team are under a bit of pressure as a result, and with various holidays flying about still, there’s not much room to manoeuvre – my role at this point on it is more project admin than head of tech, and so I’ve been on communications and Jira issue closing to try to maintain clarity between everyone on what’s left.

Also helped out a bit with clearing up some sticky points in our report generation system. Managed to get a few minutes to investigate more thoroughly, confirming what other people have conjectured, and suggested a few routes forwards. Hopefully that gives us enough info to line the work up in future sprints fairly promptly and we can put this particular niggle to bed.

someone ain’t in bed, but that’s cool

Thursday I was totally off.

On Friday I had a decent day. Trello and Wunderlist made way for good old-fashioned post-its to get myself focused, and I spent the morning getting some text together for a bid. I’m not a big fan of bid-writing, but actually found I can knock some decent sentences together quickly, jot down some rough work streams and stick some arbitrary numbers on them pretty well. Maybe I should re-considermy relationship with bids and tenders? But then, this was an easy one and someone else is submitting it.

The afternoon was spent in Product Owner land for [Hive Pixie], and I had a nice time taking the actions from previous discussions, and deciding what our three IMMEDIATE strands of work for the product are. In my mind now, I have this structure that breaks thoughts down but connects them together:

  1. High level strategy: We want to do “THIS”. This is pretty vague but important.
  2. Three areas of focus, each with one Aim. This is slightly less vague, but forces some decisions.
  3. Each focus area can have one or two Objectives. I see these as realistic goals that you can set a timeline on, and work towards. In Jira-speak, each Objective could be an Epic. Personally, I set the timeline first (e.g. “in the next 6 months…”) for all objectives.
  4. Each Objective then has any number of actual tasks within it, in a priority order – these become tasks or stories which can be defined, prototyped, tried out, released, etc.

My structure didn’t quite work out this time though – the Objectives and the Focus Areas sort of merged into one. I only realised at the end of the day, after setting them up in Jira, and naming them after scotch whiskies. I might re-factor them next week – they’re probably fine for getting on with stuff, but a bit of me wants to find out of my extra structure can bring extra value or not.

I also got to tidy up our Trello board for the project to make it all pretty colours, and go through some of the older tasks in Jira to close them off. Alex has been doing the same on other projects, and it feels like there’s some good momentum to get ourselves a bit leaner here.

(For reference, the whiskies were Linkwood, Octomore, and Dufftown.)

5pm on Friday

So +1 for company direction, which this feels like a major piece of. Sadly I didn’t get round to doing the same with the dev team focuses, despite Writing It On A Post-It. I’ll carry the shame of that into next week…

Right, got a bunch of other stuff to write, so I’m going to publish this and get it into the new @webofweeknotes feed. Peace.

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