Weeknotes 08×07 :: Fragments

A dragonfly resting on a bus window

Naughty plug, but hey, we’re hiring for a data researcher!

Officially (by weeknotes law) I finished series 8 last week. I’m going to avoid assessing my serious aims from episode 1 like a cheeky bugger. Instead I’m trying out a new approach of jotting down a few random, disjointed fragments, Baudrillard style.

  • I’ve rewritten the whole damn tech strategy now, and re-formulated my initial aims and metrics into a set of parallel “phases”, each with their own timeline. Kim has also finished the marketing strategy for the year. I think maybe the key thing in writing it is not just to be a clear reference document, but to be useful to the person running the process, ie me for the document I’m writing. That’s essential, because it’s basically a user manual for myself. A standardised format just wouldn’t work. And if someone else took over, it would be best to rewrite it all again. Document structures need to match individual thought structures for maximum effect.

  • Heard about the passing of Hendrik Grothuis which was an unexpected and almost surreal thing to hear. I met Hendrik a few times, largely when I was younger and more… uncertain of myself, and he was someone who I always felt happy talking to, like he really knew his stuff but was so open and… warm? about it. It’s weird thinking back on that, and wondering about how influential certain people are on your life.

  • Andrew Sleigh on documentation, and the need to keep it frictionless. I’m still getting a lot of friction as part of my weeknotes flow – I like taking notes in the Diary app on my phone, which supports Markdown. And my self-hosted WordPress site supports Markdown and can then cross-post to Medium. But… Dunno, something. Maybe it’s the need to switch to a laptop for WordPress. Maybe it’s adding images is hard. Maybe it’s just the phone keyboard, give me a mechanical bash board any day. Or maybe it’s the need to summarise things into a week. Is an ongoing blog approach any better? Or just overkill for readers?

  • London on Thursday was really good, and I had trouble sleeping after it. I managed to understand the wider context about the Product Owner role I occupy currently, and why I’m frustrated about it. I’m not sure if it helps find a solution, but I like it when I get a better idea of the problem I’m facing

  • I also managed to pop into the Photographer’s Gallery near Oxford Circus and catch the amazing work of Tish Murtha documenting children and social deprivation in the 70s and 80s. Do go and see it if you can. I’m convinced photography has a massive, underestimated role to play in understanding our world. Data is great, but photography hits that emotional side of politics that we all deal in. If data visuals pull you in, documentary photography ducks you in, pummels you, and does a bloody dance around your body.

  • It was also great to meet up with a guy called Dan Barrett who is one of the world’s Heads of Search and Data, and has started weeknoting recently*. No, seriously though. I didn’t really know where the conversation would go, but we ended up comparing job notes and thoughts on democracy. It feels like we both had similar challenges, despite being in organisations of massively different size. It was also a great reminder that being a tech team lead isn’t about code, not in the slightest. But what is it then?

* weeknotes in-joke?

  • Relatedly, I started reading The Manager’s Path properly at last. The opening section of the book reminds us that tech leading is not about being a good coder, but a good leader, work/project manager, communicator, and systems thinker – how everything fits together, risks, and strengths. It’s more important to understand the people with in depth knowledge than to know the details of that knowledge itself. Change management. Curiosity. Confidence.

  • Relatedly, last week I also finished The Tao of Democracy by Tom Atlee. I’ve always tried to take something of a democratic, inclusive, consultative approach to my team. The book concluded with a quote from Lao Tzu which has also kept me inspired for many years: “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, We did it ourselves!”. I’ve been reassured by re-finding this – and have forgotten it at a conscious level for too long. As a result, I’ve been finding it difficult to demonstrate or explain the value of doing nothing, as a lead, and feeling like the team are getting credit for my doing nothing (which is all good, but doing nothing is a deliberate action in itself). If people feel the team are doing things themselves, then I think I’m following the path ok.

  • Friday afternoon – we’re re-establishing personal research time, so I started tidying up the spare office/table football room. OCSI now has a Memory Box.

In links

In photos

Dragonfly trapped on replacement bus

A dragonfly resting on a bus window

Till glitches

Till screen glitch at train station

Till screen glitch in bookshop

A marrow escape

Giant courgette, almost a marrow (and a curly carrot)

And an obligatory slice of London

Abstract photo of London pavement

Also published on Medium.