Friday Monday – what have I done, and what have I learnt?
On direct action vs teamwork
Been in something of a maelstrom this week, which has really highlighted the fact that I seem to have two main roles. On the one hand, I’ve been getting more 1:1s in the calendar and really trying to help other members of the team get a chance to reflect. On the other hand, we have a lot on and I need to be very hands-to-the-pumps with it.
So I’ve been helping others get on with stuff, while getting on with stuff. Which is fine, but the two are very different mindsets, I find. Pretty tiring to be constantly assessing whether you should do something, or delegate it (because someone else is interested, or I don’t have time). Whether to let people get on with something and learn from it, or step in to move the work forward.
It’s not a conflict, as such. But it does risk confusion as well as tiredness – confusion on my part if I forget what I’m supposed to do, and confusion for other people if they’re not sure if they can get on with something or need to check. Confusion and the slowness that arises from it isn’t a Welcome Thing, not when we’re super busy, and not just before Christmas.
I don’t really have an answer, if there even is one. But if feels like a tension that needs some sort of resolution – maybe changing the workload in the new year will help, or maybe it’s something more fundamental, structural, definitional that needs some further investigation.
Do all team leaders get this?
On tidying and doing up
One of the big pushes this week gone has been around company strategy. We (Stefan, Luke and myself as the senior management team) have been choosing the areas we want to focus on over the next year, splitting them up between us, and defining them. But to move things on, we meet to finalise this and actually communicate it to people. Otherwise whats the point?
We had a couple of meetings going through our thoughts (cobbled together into a Google doc), which I then added some basic formatting, structuring, and consistency to (plus an overview, title page, etc). By end of Friday it was looking much better – certainly good to present to the team on Monday morning.
It made me realise how easy it is to skip over the “decoration” stage – which feels like something separate to the apparent “proper” stuff, the content, the semantic meat. All this stuff is essential, but it’s also all just thoughts – core concepts, a record of decisions made and a series of reasonings. It says nothing to anyone else who hasn’t been part of that process. Or, at least, not very much, and that act of “saying something” is key. Layout and formatting is the UI of concept recording, along with the act and process of dissemination over time. A document without decent formatting is like a website that makes you want to stab your eyes out. A document that never gets passed around is like a website that isn’t linked to.
It’s a shame that we didn’t have more time/focus to consider this stuff, I guess. But at the same time, it’s very much an ongoing process and will roll out over the next few days and weeks.
It just made me think about how important that last little step is.
On the last 6 weeks
So this is “episode” 6 of “series” 4. As is my “tradition”, I take a week off weeknotes after 6 weeks to give myself a rest and a chance to reflect and start again.
At the start of this series, I identified 3 aims I wanted to make some change on. How did I do? Brief thoughts follow.
1. Tech direction – some serious thought time on this
- Not as much time on kicking off our identified team aims as I’d like…
- … However, there have been movements around VMs, environments, bug fixing, etc. Pockets of some dedicated time to get things going. Small pebbles, perhaps.
- 1:1s have been useful in driving this – even if each person only has a single thing to progress over a month, that can add up to a lot over a few people.
- Moreover, this has led to a lot of ideas for what to do next – I need to run a few internal sessions to go over a few key aspects of our work, so it’s not just me that understands the underlying concepts.
- So a sneaky one this, and not as overt as back when we were having Roadmap meetings and the like. But some interesting progress being made, in among the busyness.
2. Have a finish line for our Storm Box project
- This changed tack a bit at the start of the series, and I handed over my project management duties on this (very ongoing) project.
- It’s not quite as clear a line as some of us would hope for, but we are hard at work on a Christmas delivery schedule (always a shudder), and more importantly, it feels like there’s a renewed effort in the team to really get this out of the way.
- It’s felt really good to pick some task cards off our planning board after they’ve been up there for what feels like lifetimes.
- Keep pushing, basically. I can see a light now.
3. Investigate “craft”: “Look for sharp edges, dissatisfaction, things that stick out and contend against the nature of the universe.”
- I’m not quite sure what to say here, but maybe that reflects a much deeper, more long-term shift than a lack of any change. Um. On the whole, I’ve been finishing days exhausted, but would describe myself as “busy, but in a productive way”. There’s a lot on, but it feels like we’re setting things up well, not just responding to needs with quick hacks.
- What I realise, writing this up, is how much this depends on the team as a whole, and how much of the “craft” manifests as what gets made, as a result of the processes and pushes within the organisation. Is it possible to separate the effort from the outcome, or are they joined interminably like a torch and it’s light? I’m tempted to think the latter.
- If that’s the case, my craft is something that both encompasses and cuts through everything – the craft of a team delivering something.
On other things
- Exercise is awesome. Went for some walks in the evening, felt great the next day for it. Screen time in the evening is a killer.
- We discussed a potential project on radioactive waste, which was a great discussion and really helped ask and answer some really difficult, but valuable questions around what we want to do.
- It felt great to do some 1:1s with people I hadn’t talked to like that for over a year. If I didn’t have to do anything, I think I could easily just listen to people’s stories.
- Induction for a new member of staff feels really streamlined now, even when we’re up against it with other work going on.
- I got to meet Prem in Brighton again, who is looking for funding to help rebuild his home village after it burnt down.
On other places
- I wrote about Ghost Cats for my semi-irregular Disposable Evidence feed.
- I finally finished The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco and felt like something inside me had altered in that way that Eco can do. It was good to read one of his older books again.