Weeknotes 08×01: Recovering the satellites

Hello, welcome back. Its officially mid June, and only a week away from the bright height of summer. Yang is dancing on the tips of budding fruit, and whirlpools of tiny, invisible storms silently cover all of our dreams.

It’s series 8!

Extended leave

I intended to take a week off after series 7 ended, but it’s been two weeks. I spent the first week pushing on a big migration for our Australian work – the end of May deadline was sort of internal and abitrary, but a deadline was essential. We hit a few borks in the last couple of days, and decided to push it another day rather than make tired mistakes after 5pm. Internal deadlines are nice like that.

The second week I was mostly absolootly shattered. A combination of franticness in May coming to a sudden halt, hay fever, and maybe something going round left me out for the count and falling asleep 2 or 3 times in the middle of the day. (Usually it’s just the once 😉 It wasn’t fun, and some combination of tiredness and deadlines got me thinking a lot about life, the universe and everything. More than I normally think about it.

3 things this week

1. Opening up

It’s a week later now, and the crash has kicked a few things into action. I had a good chat with Luke, which ties in nicely with my previous promise-to-myself to ask for 1-1s more. As mentioned before, I think lack of feedback hits me hard, and a lot of what I’m doing feels like it’s “for me” in a way. (It’s not, but it’s just harder to get constructive feedback at more senior levels, I think.) So the chat got a lot of stuff out of my head, and the day after I was much more able to come up with practical actions I can get behind.

I’ve written down a lot – suggestions, my own values, thoughts on where things might be in a year, even some frustrations. I feel like I’m orienting myself a lot, or perhaps “having a mid-life crisis” as some have suggested… 😉 Or maybe, like Dan, it’s just a time when change is needed.

2. Tech strategy

I promised myself I’d block some time in to refresh our tech roadmap in June, after the craziness of May. This is sort of the third time I’ve had a go at this, although looking back a couple of years, the first stab was so bad (ambitious and unstructured) that I’m not sure if it counts.

I spent a very nice day on Monday, at a standing desk away from the screen, with lots of bits of paper. A separate room would have been a bonus but the screen is the main thing. Memory is the biggest, most important sense when thinking through strategy, not your eyes.

I’d planned to plan out a few projects in the day, but that turned out quite ambitious too – I got a decent chunk of just the tech strategy done, which makes me think that 2 to 3 days is really about the right time to get a 6 month plan together. A whole week might even be good, and (if you can link strategy to backlog planning effectively) would save vast amounts of decision-making overhead going forwards.

(Oh god, when I write it down, it sounds obvious. But it’s often really hard to make time for decent planning. Should I just block a week into my calendar every 6 months?)

The strategy needs more work to prioritise things, but it has key aims, sets out context and risk/impact, and has a few metrics – I’m particularly keen on having some “down to earth”, emotional metrics for the team, inspired by this WTFs-per-minute cartoon. Measuring WTFs feels like a good indicator of team confusion. I also want to try measuring “TIBS” (This Is BullShit Boring Stuff) as an indicator for repetitive, unnecessary work.

3. Meeting up

It was a lovely sunny day on Friday, with a fairly quiet office. We’d signed off some work on a report which I’d been trying to get done for months, so I was in a good mood to meet up with Steph Gray in the afternoon. This was a nice culmination of thing 1 and thing 2 above, and was a great chance to just chat through what we’re both doing, in our efforts to bring together tech and team building. I also had a quote from Steph pinned to my weeknotes template last series, which has kept me guided through a lot of these notes.

In truth, it was probably the first time I’ve had this sort of chat with anyone, which is probably something I’ve been subconsciously picking up in when looking for a mentor this year. But “mentorship” can be a bit of a tricky one. Really, the most useful thing is just time to chat with someone in the same position – through this time, it’s nice to realise that actually we’re all trying to work this out as we go, and that perhaps nobody really has all the answers. Just lots of good books, and experience.

So mentorship is one thing. But it’s going to be easier to simply make the time and find the people to compare notes with. Exmosis in action.

Aims this series

I haven’t done this in a while, but now seems like a good time to think through what I want to achieve in the next six weeks. The important stuff for me now is:

  • Re-establish my own goals, and be more open about it. Does “open” imply “pushy” though?
  • Set the course of work and of the team for the next six months so that I don’t have to think about it.
  • Get out of the office and go and talk to people.

Culturewatch

Reading

Writing

Pondwatch

  • Everything is alive. There were seven ducklings, although I’ve only seen three recently. There were two new moorhen chicks, but I’ve only seen one recently. There is some sort of large fish causing a few ripples. I don’t know if all of this is related. Also, little rats, a whole family of them. Is this cute or not?

Also published on Medium.