WW 03×04: It is happening again

Nuclear war and project admin. That’s how my week started. The swirls of power and closure wafting round my head. Term time and dictators. Strategy and strategy.

Sorted myself out on the train. Interesting to tie everything back to goals – series goals, week goals. Busy week ahead. Free coffee.

So I thought I’d sprinkle in a few links this week (or “splinkle”?), for gits and shiggles.

Link one is a selfish one. But one that introduces a thread this week. Last Sunday I wrote a piece on How Weeknotes can Save Your Life. I’m not really sure if it was an ironic title or not, TBH. But it did seem to go down well within the weeknotes community. And more importantly/ironically, got me actually writing more about my week than ever before. So much so that I don’t even know how to present it. Am I escaping the confines of my existing weeknotes structure and questioning my own routine?

We’ll see what happens as I write up and tidy up.

It was Monday. We all sat down, I warbled on a bit. I figure I should probably be better at the big company stuff – team cohesion, inspiration and all that. Monday’s a weird time – I’m recovering from the weekend, getting thoughts together for the week ahead, thinking about sprint, and all that. I’m probably just expecting too much from myself, but maybe it fits in with that “craft” thing I’ve started on about for this series. or maybe it’s the hardest thing to empathise about – what do team members want from their management? At that point in time? After all, everyone’s probably in the same, confused headspace I am, right?

Then I pulled the old giant sprint board into a precious position, and held our AUS update chat in this new “meeting space” plastered with marker-drawn arrows and fading progress demarcations. Boundaries surrounding boundaries. Never be afraid to re-factor physical space.

Then I touched in on my journey on bid-writing, which I still have a love-hate relationship with, but seem to be OK at. Took the company blurb that Kim had written and tidied it up to send. Nice to get in touch with Giuseppe with some business talking. Felt all professional, like.

Then I ended up wading into emails, lots of emails. Everything felt a bit wild and out of control. I haven’t even updated my email backlog stats in ages. Maybe I should. Maybe it’s the first step to knowing what state you’re in. (Friday Note: I didn’t.)

Luke was putting together a summary of the year behind us for a Board meeting on Wednesday, so dug through my old monthly round-ups. We done lots. It’s been probably one of the madder years of my life, and doesn’t feel like it’s over yet.

Then (FN: wow I was busy this day.) caught up with the devs on what we can do about our error logging, and then straight into our pre-sprint chat ahead of Thursday. Stefan was away, and I’m out Tuesday, so needed to set some initial priorities for others to discuss in my absence.

Link two: Warren Ellis on journals. Montaigne, via Brian Dillon, via Ellis:

What I write here is not my teaching, but my study; it is not a lesson for others, but for me. And yet it should not be held against me if I publish what I write.

It was Wednesday. We had a Board Meeting lined up, but a special one – sort of a review of where the company is at 6 months on from Tom leaving as CEO, except it got delayed so it was more of a 8 month review. Time inflation is cool like that. I have this written down in my notes from the train journey in:

“How much should one stare out of the window?”

Which is to ask: how much should one just sit and think? If I was clever I’d tie together the reflection in the window with the reflection on one’s own life. But that would be weird, so I won’t. But I do find thinking things through and reflecting-without-doing a very useful practice. Wu wei? But can you do “nothing” too much? Or is the problem a qualitative challenge of knowing when to do it and when to act?

Then we had a really good meeting and we got to have a think about the vision and direction of the company as a whole. I wanted to have that discussion at Board level because it acts as the yardstick by which I measure my own actions – and help others with theirs. Knowing we have buy in from the Board makes every day life just that so much easier. Maybe I should think about how we take it to the team.

Back at the office, my big focus for the week was to kick the Australian work we’ve been doing for the last few weeks out of the door. It’s not simple, and the deployment involves a lot of converting old data to new, so I’m trying to get into full on “completer/finisher” mode.

Long story short, we rolled it out and tried to get on with our lives. Booyah.

Link three: an awesome visual guide to being a Product Owner which I might try redrawing into my own separate notepad for reference if I can be bothered.

It was Thursday and Life was being interrupted with tales of bombs and having to dodge Twin Peaks spoilers.

I was pleased about releasing the new Australian code, so bought some muffins for the sprint meeting.

Then I did some checking and tidying on the Australian site. There are some aspects here that really only come to light when we’re dealing with that blue-moon release that needs to revise all of history, and it tends to get ignored or brushed over. I wonder how we could capture this for future similar work.

Then sprint planning, which was tense in places, but I think we navigated it well. Sprint meeting is an anxious time sometimes – nobody really likes the heavy mix of priorities and details. But it does force the conversation, and in a relatively short, intense time. Should probably write up an “it’s ok to…” article for the occasion.

Then AUS AUS AUS Complete Complete Finish. Sort of.

I got to read through the draft text for the bid I’d submitted draft text for, which felt like being an academic again. Mixed feelings.

Thursday evening I was a bit all over the place. I had some conflict bubbling around my brain, which usually means I lie awake for hours repeating what to say in my head so I don’t forget it. My post from earlier led me to want to use writing as a way to dig into my thoughts, and so a “Stream of reflection” happened. It was useful, and calmed me down a bit. Then I wanted to reflect a bit more, so I started going through my Season Aims and noting down some positive progress. I’ll admit that I have no idea what to do with this, or the effect it had. I’ll probably publish it separately in a few days, rather than overload this week’s (already lengthy) notes.

Link four: James’s month of blogging:

“Blogging is also a good way of processing the massive amount of information I take in. A few months back, I quoted Warren Ellis: “If we’re not doing something with the information we’re taking in, then we’re just pigs at the media trough.” These posts put this information into a larger structure. It also acts as a brake on the amount of information I take in, giving a way to see how relevant it is.”

It was Friday. We weary travelers dripped graciously into the end of the week. Raindrops hammered their song into the slats outside hard like the echo of hurricanes and earthquakes. At home, taps broke, sending us stumbling for the stopcock. The weather and the news weighed on the office, manifesting as a certain desire to escape.

Looking back, my plans were many, and fragmented. Lots of cruft which I’d hoped to not necessarily tidy up, but cleared from my head. As it was, it took me a while to tidy up some more bits of the Australian work from the day before. I really tried to stick to my “completer finisher” role to stop things lingering, but it’s a lot harder on some tasks than others, and bloody knackering after doing it for 3 days. (FN: There’s a lesson there.)

Still, my general plan of 1) INVESTIGATE 2) WEIGH UP OPTIONS 3) WRITE UP 4) DISCUSS worked well. Found a way forwards with Flo that meant I could park the work until the end of the day and get on with other stuff.

Alongside that, we had a slightly irritating conversation happening (or not happening) and it took a fair bit of energy to decide a route forwards. Not helped by everyone seeming to be absent, and also being in code mode. I wish there was a way to balance two tasks which are both urgent, but require completely different mindsets. If “craft” is about committing to a polished job, then multitasking is the opposite of it.

The grey rain crashed down into lunch. I returned to thinking through my strategy, objective and epic organisation for [Hive Pixie], wrote it up in Confluence to get some thoughts straight, and went through it with Alex which helped a lot. Made me realise that understanding (or defining) what you mean by an “Epic” is actually really important – too big, and it becomes just a category, a box without any attempt to sense “progress”. Too small and it becomes ignorable. I now have 1 short term strategy, with 3 objectives, each with 2 epics. It feels good.

(I also showed Alex the Epic reports I’d found in Jira. His response went “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, which is either very encouraging or a bit spooky.)

The Friday feeling evolved into talk of chicken houses and from there Baba Yaga and the Witcher.

Going through the [Hive Pixie] work had brought up a few questions, but the structure and Trello board meant it was really easy to talk through with the co-PO at HACT in the afternoon, so I think a big TICK for improving general cross-organisation coordination and understanding. Yesss. She also had some great ideas to take it further, including review dates and ways to start capturing user feedback in a useful way. I’m enjoying working with her and her new team.

I went back to the code at the end of the day, to hammer out some SQL to dig through our slightly gnarly data model. Ran it past Hon Mond and it seems legit, so hoping we can run it on Monday and deploy a move new feature on [Hive Pixie] – it’s been knocked about by holidays, other work, and complications for so long that it’ll be good to get it out before end of the sprint. Completer-finisher go-go-go.

Had a small beer, used the late money to buy crisps, played table football, washed up, went home. Can’t wait to try out our new tap.

Link: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals:

Professionals think in probabilities.


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