Workweek 04×01: The One With No Particular Theme

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…and when Bagpuss woke up, all his friends woke up too. Stre-e-etch. The mouse organ clicks into action, kicking out rebellious neurons determined to upset bark-faced professors. Except – only the toad one and the raggedy doll know – the wooden bird is a tulpa, dreamed from the collective subsconscious of the distracted mice. They mock only themselves.

Recapping for anyone other than me (flashback, wibbly-woo-wibbly-woo), I decided back at the start of series 2 to limit each series to 6 episodes, taking a 1 week break in between to recharge and refresh. 6 weeks as an epoch – a 6 week sprint, perhaps – seems about the right to set some medium term aims, try to get something done, and reflect on progress. Also, I’d just missed a week for the first time, so there.

So I had last week off writing – no notes, no pressure. It felt good, although the fragments of plated work didn’t mean less hecticness.

What happened while I was gone?

  • I had a day off, all to myself, first time in ages. It was good.
  • We started discussing company strategy for the year ahead. Notes on difficulty:
    • It’s hard to pick focus and while brainstorming is an important step, there’s a risk of a “wishlist” approach that achieves nothing.
    • It’s hard to agree a structure to the debate / decision-making if everyone had different experience – it’s helpful to have one person run it, and an external party may have more experience and impartiality, but at the same time it’s important to try these things out for oneself.
    • It’s hard to decide between three people, and there’s a risk of design-death-by-commitee, but that’s where things like voting come in. We use it in retrospectives and team strategy, and it’s a useful and transparent way to quickly air and identify priorities, and move the discussion on
      • (Transparency is highlighted because it shows that everyone understands it and is on the same ruleset.)
  • We had our first joint monthly lookahead between Luke, Stefan, Kim and myself, and we sent notes round the team and the board on what we’d done in September and what was happening in October. It’s of different use to different people, and having done similar things previously, I still think it could be done better somehow? It’ll also be interesting to see if we can maintain the rhythm in the monthly joint meetings here – getting 4 people in a room once a month is difficult.
  • I ran a 1-to-1 for Luke finally, after many months (years?) – I decided to run this one slightly differently and be much more listening and passive than I would be with less senior people. I think it worked well.
  • External things happened which made me think a lot – and, crucially, subtly differently – about where we are as a company. It’s hard to explain this so I won’t, but I’m sure it’ll ripple into future weeks. Still, it’s good to know that there is still magic in the old universe.

Where am I now?

Honestly? Fluttering between relaxed and fragmented. I was struggling to get some stuff done that I wanted to, and that’s got a bit harder now that we’re down another developer. It feels like there’s one plate too many to keep spinning. Some things are going well, but some things need some progress and closure fast, certainly before Christmas.

Series aims

Series 4. Time to set myself some future.

Admission time – I’m also writing this up on the Monday after my original notes, and a lot has changed since then. Technically, these aims have had the benefit of an extra week’s reflection (which is good! I’ma gonna try to do this inside the rest week next time).

  1. Something about tech direction. There are a lot of movements here at the moment – new developer joining, a tech team Roadmap that needs kindling, a requirement to make our tools faster, more reliable, and more secure. I need to kick all this off, get plans in place for December onwards. I need some serious thought time on this, stat.
  2. Have a finish line for our Storm Box project (codename), which has been going on for far too long and… Needs some dedicated project management. Writing this now, I wonder how Weeknotes can perhaps help with this, as a tool in itself. There are various aspects here with such I’m slightly out of my comfort zone(s), so this requires not just time in the work itself, but time to simply have the energy to do it properly.
  3. My thoughts on craft are continuing to evolve. It’s a time line between the craft of “job” and the craft of “life”, I suppose. I’m inspired by various “Zen and the art of…” books, but at the same time I know their context isn’t necessarily my context, so it’s not totally applicable. I have one guiding sentence to start me off, and the rest is perhaps better left as exploration rather than anything with predefined aims. That sentence? “Look for sharp edges, dissatisfaction, things that stick out and contend against the nature of the universe.” It’s not succinct, or particularly wise, but it’s what I wrote a week ago and it was my state of mind at the time. It’s a good a starting point as any because I wrote it. Buy-in.

Collaboration wanted

I put this section in because I’d mentioned it previously to @stamanfar (whose nick still makes me hum Staralfur every time I see it) and didn’t want to take it out quite so quickly 😉

My previous attempt identified story point estimation as something I’d be interested in discussing with others, but no take up. That’s cool, it’s good to just think about what would be useful to get advice on.

This week, I’m listing Brighton/Sussex Weeknoters as my pie-in-the-sky shout-out in case anyone else in the local area is interested in doing the same – or already doing it. Come on Seaford, I know that train home is actually full of avid diarists hammering there day out into a small screen. Not just reading Facebook at all.

So if you’re based around Brighton/Sussex and are, or like the idea of, putting your life out there on the line (the on-line) then give me a shout via a comment, or Twitter (@6loss) – maybe we can get a scene or a zine going or something?

Things I’ve learned

Big, vague project specs are a killer all round. Obvs.

Buy in for agile isn’t obvious if you’re not used to it. I feel like I can put it across succinctly to people that are inclined, but not argue for it where they’re not. Feature lists are still attractive over real world outcomes because people attach to them as a creative endeavour, and can be “ticked off” much easier than real-world outcomes and value. Self-esteem is tied to delivering things, not change. How do we interface with that?

Things I am curious about

I’m really struggling to do 2 or 3 things at the moment, despite them being lined up to do for weeks. Why is this? Probably too many unseen, important things? Can weeknotes help me to identify stuff I’m dropping, and do something other than drop them?

Dan’s post on publicness, fast writing, getting taken the wrong way, etc got me thinking again. Is the value of Weeknotes about reflecting, asking questions, or forcing yourself to explain stuff? I write for me, but also an ‘external’ me. Um, What? i mean, like, hmm, is it possible the “weeknotes scene” is starting to take over from what I actually get out of the practice? When I wrote How Weeknotes can Save Your Life, it was all about me-me-me, not us-us-us. A bit of me likes the privacy of it still. (Note to self: Ramble more and make notes more unreadable.)

ie. I like writing things because it forces me to elucidate the murky brainthinks. I like publishing things because it forces me to be even clearer – but at the end of the day, I’m still writing a letter to myself. It just needs to be public to jump that line between the internal self and the external self.

 

OK, here are brief bullets on what I actually did last week…

 

Monday

  • Good news from HMRC
  • Catch up with HACT
  • Chat with Mike Brophy
  • AUS project planning
  • Sprint planning

 

Wednesday

Urrrrgh. Mental working as a tired parent is not good for the soul. Also #son2 is now 3? He does love fire engines though.

  • Javascript to get this mapping working – I can see me having to get into JS again over the next few months, but that’s cool
  • Storm Box planning – caught up with Joel in user support, and chatted to the client
  • Saw Joel’s work and tried to help move his needs along – a lot of our daily stuff is “in progress”, and helped me realise that we’ve hammered out our “entry points” quite well, but they’re also fairly lofty and non-transparent. Must remember to follow this up later.
  • Wrote up some notes from Monday.

Home for #son2’s birthday pizza!

 

Thursday

  • Sprint planning! Nice and quick, less people, but also a really “spritely” Backlog that knows what it wants.
  • MT catch up where we are exploring how to do stuff but making some good progress. Step by step.
  • Lunch, read a bit more of the Island of the Day Before. Getting into it.
  • Code review on some mapping, get it up in testing server for signoff. Emails.
  • Start organising Christmas. New Slack channel from one of the team – #xmax17, favourite typo of the week
  • Storm Box project admin, where I am columbo.

 

Friday

  • Dug through Storm Box contracts more, put together a list of work, contacted people
  • Helped Alex out with getting weighting data together
  • Looked at my development environment VM – and it’s working!