Weeknotes 08×04: Tumbleweed strategy

A boat on a pond
From the Flickr stream

Woo. Arg. Woo. Arg. What a week. And it was only a three-dayer too. I feel like I’m six different people. All of them need beer. It’s funny, we don’t celebrate the times that we learn the most. We celebrate releases and deadlines and things leaving our field of vision forever, but the other times that we put everything in and find ourselves challenged? Water under the bridge, mate. A personal memory, lost in time.

ONE. This week was a sprint week, which meant the usual lining up of work, and a few hours to go through it and decide what to get done. Not easy when everyone’s off at times over the next month – time, especially shared time is a precious commodity during the summer holidays. I’m surprised businesses don’t just shut down fully, like a cafe.

Still, the most important thing is to keep reminding people of the fact that there will shortly be no people to remind.

Tumbleweeds on a dusty road

Next sprint meeting

Personally I can’t believe #son1 is finishing up Key Stage 1 today. WHERE HAS MY LIFE GONE? Oh right, databases and whisky. Fair do.

TWO. This lack-of-people-for-the-next-month combined with a push-to-get-actual-strategies-together in time for September (our financial year start – get you, synchronicity) has meant we need to review and decide our KEY OBJECTIVES right about a month ago. Sadly, that means now, but with less time. The scene running through my head this week is the bit in Space Balls where the priest wants to get the heroes married, but they keep getting interrupted. “Right, we’re gonna do the short, SHORT version. Do you? Great. Do you? Great. You’ve got a strategy. Kiss!”

(Note – don’t kiss your colleagues at this point in real life. Makes for spurious headlines and bad lawsuits.)

Fellow management team member Kim has been great at pushing this forwards, and is well on the case with getting a structured, meaningful output. Somehow I’ve managed to take on the task of arranging and agreeing our shared aims for the year, probably because I’ve had a go at it before and failed, but nobody else knows how to do it either???

So the short, SHORT version has had to be compiled on the fly, with some rather reactive planning sessions and some hesitant moments. Which is actually pretty knackering, it turns out.

One of our challenges is that, as a four-headed management team, we need a way to decide how to make a decision – I really felt the lack of a single startegy owner here, and spent a lot of time working out what was effectively a stakeholder input process. In my head, there are three potential approaches to getting a shared vision when no-one is really in charge:

  • Assign one person to decide it. But how do you choose how to assign the person?
  • Gather input, prioritise democratically, and keep everything ‘strictly algorithmic’. But deciding a fair algorithm is hard!
  • Gather input, but use it to form a summary and proposal, as a ‘playback’ or mirror of what it sounds like the input says. Kind of a curation/suggestion process.

I started off with #2, but after a couple of days off, I realised I’d already applied the third approach as part of the tech strategy plan a few months ago, and that we didn’t have the time to come up with complicated democratic process. So I wrote up a “suggested” strategy, but as a summary of what had been discussed so far (as much as I could keep my own biases out). This was then presented, or ‘played back’ to the team, being sure to ask:

  • Is this a fair summary of what we discussed? followed by
  • What changes would you make?, and finally
  • Does this give you enough to get on with our agreed next steps, or what you would like to do?

This, for me, gets a good coverage of 1) agreed, common ground (I was keen to keep it only to common goals at this point too), 2) opportunity for further, iterative feedback, and 3) a practical focus.

I hope this is a gif from highlander

“COMMON GROUND, HIGHLANDER!”

By writing this up as a weeknote, I’m reminded that the other value here is that there are people out there I can discuss this stuff with, and that’s also invaluable.

THREE. I went to my first meeting for a Steering Group! One way or another, I’d been put in touch with a local charity looking to run a short term project to look at local charities (whoa, meta). We had a really good chat last week, and I was pleased and/or impressed that I could say some useful and helpful things. It was great to get out of the office a bit again, and the conversation tied nicely into various bits of work that we do or have done.

FOUR. All of which has left me feeling a bit all over the place. I’m reminded of how many different roles I play and how much context switching I do, and I still don’t know if that’s healthy, or necessary, or fun, or what. A bit of me wishes life was simpler, but that’s where things are at – line managing and directoring and parenting and still my own code from years back is running.

Anyway, I sort of just want to sit down and drink a beer and play a game and watch a film and do the crossword. I think maybe that’s just my mind, perhaps. This, that and the other.

Going to get some gifs and close the keyboard. Oh hey wait, those gifs are tiny! Oh well, have a good week!


Also published on Medium.