Weeknotes 07×06: Staff Development, the I Ching, and Washing up

Is this the latest weeknotes ever?

STUN

Set weeknotes for STUN

Anyway. I took notes as I went, so there’s no excuse for lateness, and no second excuse for not publishing.

Next week (wait, this week now) is my “fallow week” at the end of the series, plus I’m only in 3 days, so no notes next week. Yeah, hard life, etc.

Right, what happened in the distant past then?

Monday

Crumbs, what a day.

Spoke to somebody about some potential work in Northern Ireland, which reminded me that I do really like the policy talking side of things. We delved into evidence, borders, brexit, rural populations, which helps to bring the day job home and make you think again. I feel a bit detached a lot of the time.

Had a security policy chat with Emma and Stefan. I still don’t think I’m a lawyer, or would make a good one.

Had John’s 6-month review after he joined as web developer way-back-when. I haven’t done a 6-month review in a while, but it was really good – lots of open chatter, and he’s fitted in well and I think I’ve done a good job bringing him on board. Key things I aim for with new starters are:

  • Regular monthly 1-1 support, to make sure any questions about anything get brought up / answered within a decent time frame. I find 1-1s are a great place to help explain the less ‘open’ aspects of a workplace, such as oddities that people live with, histories that nobody else cares about, and general personal observations, eg mannerisms and aims of different people in the company,
  • Putting them at ease about the long haul stuff – there’s a lot here, and we’re not going to get it all changed instantly. “Putting at ease” can also be translated as “dampening frustration” and “taming enthusiasm”, depending on the scenario.
  • The right set of work to get them going – something that fits the expectations of the job, but that tests them a little to see how they do. This can often be tricky if the wrong work just happens to be around at the time, so looking for opportunities to apply the expected skillset is useful (talking to others in the team helps, to get some potential work lined up), or personal projects and reading/training in preparation can be useful diversions.

Had Sprint-planning-planning, which was a useful exercise to review priorities and drop some work.

Then bugfixing for bugs which should have come up earlier? – damn you, PHP settings! But still lots of fallout from our server migration, and there are times when infrastructure changes and stuff comes up and gets fixed, and you still don’t understand what happened. They’re the dangerous ones, and I haven’t managed to work out how to prioritise deeper understanding into these kind of technical issues – a lot of the time they can’t even be recreated easily.

Rites

“Assign bug to self”

Tuesday

Did some GDPR stuff and had Alex’s Annual Review. Alex has been here 3 years now, and great to see him progress from a Junior Developer to a Developer and Scrum master in that time. It’s amazing to think you get to help someone develop over that time frame – and that you get to see the alignment between personality and application develop.

I’m quite taoist in my influences – in the I Ching, the 4th hexagram, youth and folly (or youthful development, in terms of progressive change) speaks of water springing out, and it filling up the holes.

Development of a junior staff member can do similar things – there is a lot of enthusiasm, and it’s good to put all that into something, to help people find out what it means to apply it, to get the experience across all their enthusiasm fairly quickly. After that, they have a better chance of finding out what they enjoy or not, and picking their own path for themself.

turrrrtle

The TMNT were basically line managers, but with weapons.

Note to self: Get weapons.

Wednesday

Day off.

Thursday

The monthly email around the shared offices about Washing Up came round… This time it was angrier, more desperate. Every month, we’re reminded to wash up after ourselves (we do) but every month, all it takes is a few people – 4? 5? – to leave dishes, and for the same frustration to continue.

Why am I noting this down? Because we, as a company have similar issues, but far less reminders. The challenge is the same, but the approach is different – we don’t expect everyone to wash their own mugs, rather expect everyone to chip in and wash what they can, as needed, and to be ok asking others to do it when needed.

Something I remember from the old cypherpunk list was a fair disdain for any “solution” which expected or relied on everyone to do the same thing. “If only everyone did x” – the punk defence is that it rapidly leads to a centrally-disseminated enforcement structure in order to keep everyone in line. There is absolutely no resilience in a structure which requires 100% compliance by all members all the time. It is a fragile system at best and a despotic one at worst.

A more resilient structure builds in give-and-take, and the chance for one member of the group to support others, in exchange for a reflective form of support in return. “I will wash up remnants if others do.” Or, alternatively, “if I wash up, hopefully others will wash up more than their share too”.

It is this group perspective that, I think, separates out leaders from the traditional middle- or micro-manager stereotype. A starting point that expects anything shared to be dealt with in a shared way.

So basically I decided to do a bit of extra washing up if I need to, and people can f off if they don’t like it – Random Altruism makes me happy.

Snow white

Tra la laaaaaa

Also got a bit riled in sprint planning. In general, our process for breaking stories down into manageable chunks is… Reasonable. But there are times, usually when people are busy delivering other things, that the process breaks down instead of the stories. Lots of writing is not the same as shared understanding. But sometimes there is also not a shared understanding about what Shared Understanding is either. I admit I struggle with this situation – it’s hard to see how to make time to address this meta understanding.

Anyway, spent the afternoon getting ready for GDPR stuff still, then went out to an open evening at Fabrica gallery in support of, well, art, and got to some drinking/networking/odd life drawing…

Friday

Happy GDPR day! First full Friday in the office for a few months, which I actually really enjoy. There’s just the right mix of quiet and convivial, with very few meetings going on because a bunch of people are out. It was great to see some of the team (not the usual devs/me) getting the A2 paper out to discuss databases too – spatial thought is so important when it comes to understanding links between abstract entities. I don’t know why.

Got our GDPR stuff out the door, and then had to carry on looking at security policies for a separate project. This week I’d copied our policies from Google Docs into GitHub, and from there into various WordPress installs. The ultimate aim is to make tracking updates between everything easier, but it feels like a bit of a jump into a technical solution, and it remains to be seen if it becomes something that only I do.

What else? A beer, some playing with Amazon Web services, and a few emails. Next week is another deadline, to launch a new beta site migrated to new infrastructure, so no rest for the wicked.

Still, four days off now. Have a good few weeks!

Culture

Reading

  • Small book “A Call for Revolution” by the Dalai Lama. Picked up in Foyle’s in London as I was checking out, but just the right book for me at the moment. READ IT. I think would like to get some of his other similar work too now.

Pondwatch

  • A few teenagers have turned up to help out on the community pond, which is nice to see. I’m not sure if they’re more help or hindrance, but it feels important. Took some photos as part of my ongoing documentation project for it.

Also published on Medium.