WW 03×04: It is happening again

Nuclear war and project admin. That’s how my week started. The swirls of power and closure wafting round my head. Term time and dictators. Strategy and strategy.

Sorted myself out on the train. Interesting to tie everything back to goals – series goals, week goals. Busy week ahead. Free coffee.

So I thought I’d sprinkle in a few links this week (or “splinkle”?), for gits and shiggles.

Link one is a selfish one. But one that introduces a thread this week. Last Sunday I wrote a piece on How Weeknotes can Save Your Life. I’m not really sure if it was an ironic title or not, TBH. But it did seem to go down well within the weeknotes community. And more importantly/ironically, got me actually writing more about my week than ever before. So much so that I don’t even know how to present it. Am I escaping the confines of my existing weeknotes structure and questioning my own routine?

We’ll see what happens as I write up and tidy up.

It was Monday. We all sat down, I warbled on a bit. I figure I should probably be better at the big company stuff – team cohesion, inspiration and all that. Monday’s a weird time – I’m recovering from the weekend, getting thoughts together for the week ahead, thinking about sprint, and all that. I’m probably just expecting too much from myself, but maybe it fits in with that “craft” thing I’ve started on about for this series. or maybe it’s the hardest thing to empathise about – what do team members want from their management? At that point in time? After all, everyone’s probably in the same, confused headspace I am, right?

Then I pulled the old giant sprint board into a precious position, and held our AUS update chat in this new “meeting space” plastered with marker-drawn arrows and fading progress demarcations. Boundaries surrounding boundaries. Never be afraid to re-factor physical space.

Then I touched in on my journey on bid-writing, which I still have a love-hate relationship with, but seem to be OK at. Took the company blurb that Kim had written and tidied it up to send. Nice to get in touch with Giuseppe with some business talking. Felt all professional, like.

Then I ended up wading into emails, lots of emails. Everything felt a bit wild and out of control. I haven’t even updated my email backlog stats in ages. Maybe I should. Maybe it’s the first step to knowing what state you’re in. (Friday Note: I didn’t.)

Luke was putting together a summary of the year behind us for a Board meeting on Wednesday, so dug through my old monthly round-ups. We done lots. It’s been probably one of the madder years of my life, and doesn’t feel like it’s over yet.

Then (FN: wow I was busy this day.) caught up with the devs on what we can do about our error logging, and then straight into our pre-sprint chat ahead of Thursday. Stefan was away, and I’m out Tuesday, so needed to set some initial priorities for others to discuss in my absence.

Link two: Warren Ellis on journals. Montaigne, via Brian Dillon, via Ellis:

What I write here is not my teaching, but my study; it is not a lesson for others, but for me. And yet it should not be held against me if I publish what I write.

It was Wednesday. We had a Board Meeting lined up, but a special one – sort of a review of where the company is at 6 months on from Tom leaving as CEO, except it got delayed so it was more of a 8 month review. Time inflation is cool like that. I have this written down in my notes from the train journey in:

“How much should one stare out of the window?”

Which is to ask: how much should one just sit and think? If I was clever I’d tie together the reflection in the window with the reflection on one’s own life. But that would be weird, so I won’t. But I do find thinking things through and reflecting-without-doing a very useful practice. Wu wei? But can you do “nothing” too much? Or is the problem a qualitative challenge of knowing when to do it and when to act?

Then we had a really good meeting and we got to have a think about the vision and direction of the company as a whole. I wanted to have that discussion at Board level because it acts as the yardstick by which I measure my own actions – and help others with theirs. Knowing we have buy in from the Board makes every day life just that so much easier. Maybe I should think about how we take it to the team.

Back at the office, my big focus for the week was to kick the Australian work we’ve been doing for the last few weeks out of the door. It’s not simple, and the deployment involves a lot of converting old data to new, so I’m trying to get into full on “completer/finisher” mode.

Long story short, we rolled it out and tried to get on with our lives. Booyah.

Link three: an awesome visual guide to being a Product Owner which I might try redrawing into my own separate notepad for reference if I can be bothered.

It was Thursday and Life was being interrupted with tales of bombs and having to dodge Twin Peaks spoilers.

I was pleased about releasing the new Australian code, so bought some muffins for the sprint meeting.

Then I did some checking and tidying on the Australian site. There are some aspects here that really only come to light when we’re dealing with that blue-moon release that needs to revise all of history, and it tends to get ignored or brushed over. I wonder how we could capture this for future similar work.

Then sprint planning, which was tense in places, but I think we navigated it well. Sprint meeting is an anxious time sometimes – nobody really likes the heavy mix of priorities and details. But it does force the conversation, and in a relatively short, intense time. Should probably write up an “it’s ok to…” article for the occasion.

Then AUS AUS AUS Complete Complete Finish. Sort of.

I got to read through the draft text for the bid I’d submitted draft text for, which felt like being an academic again. Mixed feelings.

Thursday evening I was a bit all over the place. I had some conflict bubbling around my brain, which usually means I lie awake for hours repeating what to say in my head so I don’t forget it. My post from earlier led me to want to use writing as a way to dig into my thoughts, and so a “Stream of reflection” happened. It was useful, and calmed me down a bit. Then I wanted to reflect a bit more, so I started going through my Season Aims and noting down some positive progress. I’ll admit that I have no idea what to do with this, or the effect it had. I’ll probably publish it separately in a few days, rather than overload this week’s (already lengthy) notes.

Link four: James’s month of blogging:

“Blogging is also a good way of processing the massive amount of information I take in. A few months back, I quoted Warren Ellis: “If we’re not doing something with the information we’re taking in, then we’re just pigs at the media trough.” These posts put this information into a larger structure. It also acts as a brake on the amount of information I take in, giving a way to see how relevant it is.”

It was Friday. We weary travelers dripped graciously into the end of the week. Raindrops hammered their song into the slats outside hard like the echo of hurricanes and earthquakes. At home, taps broke, sending us stumbling for the stopcock. The weather and the news weighed on the office, manifesting as a certain desire to escape.

Looking back, my plans were many, and fragmented. Lots of cruft which I’d hoped to not necessarily tidy up, but cleared from my head. As it was, it took me a while to tidy up some more bits of the Australian work from the day before. I really tried to stick to my “completer finisher” role to stop things lingering, but it’s a lot harder on some tasks than others, and bloody knackering after doing it for 3 days. (FN: There’s a lesson there.)

Still, my general plan of 1) INVESTIGATE 2) WEIGH UP OPTIONS 3) WRITE UP 4) DISCUSS worked well. Found a way forwards with Flo that meant I could park the work until the end of the day and get on with other stuff.

Alongside that, we had a slightly irritating conversation happening (or not happening) and it took a fair bit of energy to decide a route forwards. Not helped by everyone seeming to be absent, and also being in code mode. I wish there was a way to balance two tasks which are both urgent, but require completely different mindsets. If “craft” is about committing to a polished job, then multitasking is the opposite of it.

The grey rain crashed down into lunch. I returned to thinking through my strategy, objective and epic organisation for [Hive Pixie], wrote it up in Confluence to get some thoughts straight, and went through it with Alex which helped a lot. Made me realise that understanding (or defining) what you mean by an “Epic” is actually really important – too big, and it becomes just a category, a box without any attempt to sense “progress”. Too small and it becomes ignorable. I now have 1 short term strategy, with 3 objectives, each with 2 epics. It feels good.

(I also showed Alex the Epic reports I’d found in Jira. His response went “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, which is either very encouraging or a bit spooky.)

The Friday feeling evolved into talk of chicken houses and from there Baba Yaga and the Witcher.

Going through the [Hive Pixie] work had brought up a few questions, but the structure and Trello board meant it was really easy to talk through with the co-PO at HACT in the afternoon, so I think a big TICK for improving general cross-organisation coordination and understanding. Yesss. She also had some great ideas to take it further, including review dates and ways to start capturing user feedback in a useful way. I’m enjoying working with her and her new team.

I went back to the code at the end of the day, to hammer out some SQL to dig through our slightly gnarly data model. Ran it past Hon Mond and it seems legit, so hoping we can run it on Monday and deploy a move new feature on [Hive Pixie] – it’s been knocked about by holidays, other work, and complications for so long that it’ll be good to get it out before end of the sprint. Completer-finisher go-go-go.

Had a small beer, used the late money to buy crisps, played table football, washed up, went home. Can’t wait to try out our new tap.

Link: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals:

Professionals think in probabilities.


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How Weeknotes can Save Your Life

How Weeknotes can Save Your Life

Sam posted a nice little round up on the Why of Weeknotes which sums up a lot of my own experience, and is worth a read if you’re curious about starting up a diary*. In true 90s blogosphere style, I wanted to use my own weeknotes blog to add something to the discourse.

After weeknoting 16 weeks of my hectic, kid- and client-fuelled life, there are some basic guidelines I’ve set myself in order to be able to keep going:

  1. Quickly remembering what you did is essential – take notes, use a calendar, keep a done list. When you come to publishing, you don’t want to stumble at the first block.
  2. Don’t just find the time to write up weeknotes – find the right times. For me, that’s lunch, the commute home, and scraps of time at the weekend if needed. I find it too difficult to justify time at work, and have too much on outside work to spend huge blocks on my writing.
  3. Allow yourself time to experiment – part of the process is to decide what’s “useful” to you in the process, and simultaneously what you’re happy with publishing out to other, real life people (or “readers”). The first is the important one, but you’ll never shake yourself free of the others. Use each week’s notes as a chance to try out focuses, formats, styles, etc.

All of which is to say, weeknotes takes up valuable time, but shouldn’t take up more time than you find useful, and that gives you value back. If you’re methodically writing down what you did and hitting “Publish” and not really enjoying it, then you’re wasting your time. Do it differently, or stop.

Which is all to say one, extra big thing, which I think was missed in the original list. Weeknotes can play a big part in breaking down the border between work and life.

By thinking about work in non-work time, I find I take it more seriously from a personal, almost external perspective. It’s my own life reflecting on my professional life. For most people, the former is more important – why work if it’s not making you happy in general? Weeknotes are that 1:1 with yourself, and the braver you are in writing down what you feel, the more you’ll want to change what you do.

I suppose this is why it wouldn’t work (ho-ho) to write weeknotes at work – it would be a process filled with professional thoughts, and all the organisational structure and aims that pervade the (physical or virtual) workplace. To reflect properly, we have to be free of all that.

Freeing ourselves from the work-in-work-hours mentality is a big step. Questioning our work selves is scary, strange, and potentially very disruptive, both to ourselves and to the organisations we work for. It can also be therapeutic, positive, clarifying and insightful. Like my relationship with DIY, when it goes well it’s great, but when things are tough, it feels like the end of everything.

But then, if it wasn’t so emotional, then writing weeknotes wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun.

* I’ve never kept a diary. Do diary writers get similar benefits?

Workweek 03×03: Chase the Bubbles

Comings and Goings

This week has been a weird, short one. I skirted round the bank holiday and took Thursday off instead of Tuesday, but Tuesday afternoon was spent at the park on a company picnic. It’s been a while since we did something like this, so props to Emma for getting it organised and to everyone else for chipping in, and being so much fun. We even had some bubbles you could crawl inside (in theory) thanks to Luke.

insert bubble sort joke here haha

We’ve also got a bit of chop and change happening this week. New starter Joel joined us Tuesday morning to support on user support things, and in the afternoon I told everyone that Lawrence, one of our developers, will be moving on to new pastures at the end of the month. So a little revolution going on.

Overall, personal relationships aside, I think it’s something that’s beneficial to any company, and especially a company our size which is small enough to be insular, but big enough to be complicated. A good mix of general enthusiasm from fresh minds is always invigorating, and a new person is always a really good test of how all the processes and documentation you’ve brought in over the last year stand up against someone with no idea of the background.

So the theme this week has mostly been “team”, and it feels like about time too. The atmosphere has been good, with photos and videos being shared, pub trips planned, and some good work getting done (as a result?) It’s been such a short, stubby week that it’s hard to draw much else out really, but here’s a quick run down of what else I’ve done (writing it up may throw something out there), and how I’m doing against my goals for this series so far, which were:

  1. Get shared direction for the company
  2. Feel like head of the dev team
  3. Something about “craft” for my job/life?

Small goals, then…

someone get this dog out of the metaphorical way

I had a few things on my list to tidy or get on with generally, which bubbled through the week, and met on Tuesday with Stefan and Luke to work things out from a management perspective, which was useful now that we’re all back from holiday. Tuesday and Wednesday (embarrassingly, I forget what/when) I was clamping down and tidying up what’s left on our update to our Australian site.

A smallish but annoying and fairly fundamental thing has hit us in the side, and we’ve had to chase a different route. In retrospect, and after an email, this was probably the route we should have taken in the first place, but I’m not beating myself up – I’m not sure if it was my decision in the first place, and there’s certainly an opportunity to re-establish the route while getting some better structure in place around it, so all good. Just annoying that it came up right at the end of the work – I feel like I could have predicted it better, but was probably blinded by “Busy Optimism”.

Busy Optimism is responsible for a lot of IT problems in the world, and I do so hate to blight myself with it. Hoping things will turn out OK because you don’t have time to do it properly is … just a Really Bad Idea. Reallllly.

Anyway, the team are under a bit of pressure as a result, and with various holidays flying about still, there’s not much room to manoeuvre – my role at this point on it is more project admin than head of tech, and so I’ve been on communications and Jira issue closing to try to maintain clarity between everyone on what’s left.

Also helped out a bit with clearing up some sticky points in our report generation system. Managed to get a few minutes to investigate more thoroughly, confirming what other people have conjectured, and suggested a few routes forwards. Hopefully that gives us enough info to line the work up in future sprints fairly promptly and we can put this particular niggle to bed.

someone ain’t in bed, but that’s cool

Thursday I was totally off.

On Friday I had a decent day. Trello and Wunderlist made way for good old-fashioned post-its to get myself focused, and I spent the morning getting some text together for a bid. I’m not a big fan of bid-writing, but actually found I can knock some decent sentences together quickly, jot down some rough work streams and stick some arbitrary numbers on them pretty well. Maybe I should re-considermy relationship with bids and tenders? But then, this was an easy one and someone else is submitting it.

The afternoon was spent in Product Owner land for [Hive Pixie], and I had a nice time taking the actions from previous discussions, and deciding what our three IMMEDIATE strands of work for the product are. In my mind now, I have this structure that breaks thoughts down but connects them together:

  1. High level strategy: We want to do “THIS”. This is pretty vague but important.
  2. Three areas of focus, each with one Aim. This is slightly less vague, but forces some decisions.
  3. Each focus area can have one or two Objectives. I see these as realistic goals that you can set a timeline on, and work towards. In Jira-speak, each Objective could be an Epic. Personally, I set the timeline first (e.g. “in the next 6 months…”) for all objectives.
  4. Each Objective then has any number of actual tasks within it, in a priority order – these become tasks or stories which can be defined, prototyped, tried out, released, etc.

My structure didn’t quite work out this time though – the Objectives and the Focus Areas sort of merged into one. I only realised at the end of the day, after setting them up in Jira, and naming them after scotch whiskies. I might re-factor them next week – they’re probably fine for getting on with stuff, but a bit of me wants to find out of my extra structure can bring extra value or not.

I also got to tidy up our Trello board for the project to make it all pretty colours, and go through some of the older tasks in Jira to close them off. Alex has been doing the same on other projects, and it feels like there’s some good momentum to get ourselves a bit leaner here.

(For reference, the whiskies were Linkwood, Octomore, and Dufftown.)

5pm on Friday

So +1 for company direction, which this feels like a major piece of. Sadly I didn’t get round to doing the same with the dev team focuses, despite Writing It On A Post-It. I’ll carry the shame of that into next week…

Right, got a bunch of other stuff to write, so I’m going to publish this and get it into the new @webofweeknotes feed. Peace.

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Workweek 03×02: Killing momentums

Workweek 03×02: Killing momentums

A busy week, moving fast. Not ha time to write up notes, so I’m pulling this from memories. Fortunately the gods have smiled, the family is away, I have some time to think. Step one was to write everything in my notebook. Pen = flow. The tide of recollection, strung together with inky arrows.

Halfway through the week, I was feeling apprehensive about this bit. Theme of the week, though, turns out to be RITUAL. Habit. I don’t know where the line is between that and culture, but I know practice is an ally. The internet gives us so many ideas. Practicing a single idea, developing a concept, turning it into What You Do. That’s the hard bit. Everyone wants to sell you a new ritual these days.

This week, my #weeknotes are my ritual, although I only found this out yesterday (Thursday). I’ve been doing this long enough, often enough. I can do a whole week from scratch because of this – I just have to have two things on me: the confidence to get on with it, and the apathy to not get it perfect. Or vice versa. Either way, it’s a trend that keeps popping up this week. Habitual practice to ensure Progress in the face of Chaos.

The other trend running through the week is Australia. The whole country has changed where its invisible lines are, and all the abstract symbols that refer to each set of lines along with it. We’re in the middle of adjusting our abstract semiotics to match theirs, which is sort of what computers are great at, but is never easy for the human mind. Abstract representations of abstract representations, cutting through time and space. It’s enough to make you go mad.

That and I had a whole bunch of other trips to make. So I had my invisible project management outfit on from Monday morning and organised tasks into boxes and people into tasks, before setting off for my first trip.

Laura and James from HACT came down to chat about our vision for [Hive Pixie]. We’d met once before and chatted via phone, but it was the first time they’d visited our humble office. Home turf. Comfortable chat. I’m struck how important a bit of a regular shake-up is – [Hive Pixie] needed it, and right now it’s got a fresh set of heads, eyes and minds on it. Sometimes momentum on a project can be good. Here, I think the momentum was a bit of a weight. How can you tell “good” momentum from “bad” momentum? Or when do you make the decision to let things keep going as they are, and when do you decide to wipe the slate clean?

I think, as with a lot of things, there’s a good “gut instinct” here. People aren’t happy, ideas have been thrown about, solutions have been suggested, even tried out. But if there’s no real sense of satisfaction from all of that? Then something’s wrong. The momentum needs killing. This is usually pretty obvious if you’re paying attention. it’s just a confidence thing, that decision to kill the momentum. People have invested money, time and reputation – it’s a hard plug to pull. An awkward conversation: “that thing we’re doing, it’s just not working”. But it needs doing.

Fresh starts. In miniature.

Wednesday was spent in our meeting room. Another fairly fresh pair (for me, at least) visiting this time, Phil and Stuart from Brighton Uni about a social care bid. Another good session, and maybe I am getting the hang of this… whatever it is. Transmitting. Using this weird set of thoughts and processes and pipes and cultures that we employ at OCSI, to connect and translate what other people want to do into what we want to do. Business development as a medium. Networking not to connect people. but ideas.

Then more forward thinking, only from a technical perspective this time. I’ve been wanting to run a development team check-in for a while. Holidays have made it hard, but we managed it – I really didn’t want to cancel it among the ongoing Australian work, because momentum. And personal aim number two to keep me on track – feeling like head of a tech team.

The meeting felt a bit ad-hoc – I hadn’t had much time to prepare myself or anyone else. But again managed to draw on our tools and frameworks over the last year – brainstorm, post-its, dot voting, check. We had an hour or so, and didn’t go into too much detail, but I think it probably worked better because of that, and it’s probably OK to define a meeting that ends at a high-level – so long as you have a plan to turn it into low-level somehow afterwards. We got some team goals for the next 9 months ahead in place, and I’m looking forward to giving some weight to this, and working out what can be done and how to get it done.

The day ended with a meeting of a different kind. It was hard to get structure to it for various reasons, so I suppose the positive side was more around understanding the position of the person I was talking to. Sometimes the agenda goes a different way altogether, and you have to change your expectations on the fly. Ah well. Sometimes you can share your own thought structures. Other times, you just have to keep them to yourself.

By Thursday we were all starting to feel the burn a bit, so to speak. A few issues had come up on the path of the Australian work, and while we had been trying our hardest to circumnavigate them, it certainly wasn’t coming together as much as we’d hoped, especially with a few key people away on holiday. A fairly lean team went through tasks for the next two weeks, and we did our best despite the ups and downs of the work outside the room. This was a really good example of our Ritual playing out. We’d been busy, we were scattered, but we still managed to set contexts in advance, line up potential work to look at, and get some good discussion out. I think the reality will play out slightly differently, but we can only plan as best we can, and run on hope. To be honest, the team have done a fantastic job over the last two weeks. The bar was set really high. I made sure I said that out loud.

In among the grind and bug fixing, I had a lovely Annual Review with Hon Mond, one of our developers. He has a great sense of stoic efficiency about him. We also always go out for coffee for Annual Reviews, so good to get out of that damned meeting room for once. We’ve been through a lot of structure for ARs, and this time round I felt like it was something internal – not a guide to follow of a set of rules, but a script I could improvise around as I wanted to. The note in my notebook, underlined, says: WE HAVE LEARNT SO MUCH.

I ended up staying late, looking at some server issues with Hon Mond and Lawrence, back down in the grimy SQL machine. I’m surprised “improve our debugging” didn’t get more votes at the dev meeting, but maybe it’s something I can push through via other avenues. I dashed off, trying to calm my blood flow as I half-jogged to a tai chi lesson. I haven’t been for years and was excited about seeing my old teacher again. Then a seagull shat on me. I stopped to clean myself up, arrived five minutes late. Nobody there. I sat by myself for 10 minutes, listening to nothing. It was lovely.

On Friday the office was quiet – only five of us in. There was plenty going on, but it felt like the calm before the storm – we have a bank holiday next week, and both a new person starting and a company picnic on the Tuesday. I wanted to tidy up a lot of things from earlier in the week, but ended up spending the morning with Australia. I killed the momentum, made the decision not to send it into the real world yet. The universe wasn’t right. it’s good to take pressure off people if you can. it meant I had to jump between project tracking and SQL hacking again, which is something I find pretty tiring, but there you go.

At lunch, got some news which will play out over the next few weeks. Found some awesome old magazines for £1 each:

Managed to round up the week quite neatly after that though, with lots of filing and emails and aborted WordPress efforts and user setup. Onwards and onwards…

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Workweek 03×01: Craft Vader

Workweek 03×01

Back from holiday. A tent that survived the wind, and dinosaurs that didn’t survive a planetary collision. Flying a kite over an ice age forest. Board games until midnight. A miniature steam train to a nuclear power station. All just memories now.

So much to tidy up before you go away. But returning, something of a blank slate, a chance to pick and choose.


Back to headquarters, the weekly catchup takes on new heights when you’ve been away for a while – a reflection not on what you’ve been doing, but on how things have been when you leave a hole. Culture is what happens when you leave the room. We have a great culture, I think. How do you know though, if it’s what happens when you’re not there? Instinct? Or metrics? There’s a lot of talk of measurable success these days. But instinct still counts for what’s important.

No time to delve in too deeply though – I’m on a morning train to Worthing to catch up with a few people there. After so much physical travelling on holiday, it’s weird to get back to my ‘usual’ environment. Maybe a fresh train trip is in my blood at the moment. I’m hitting series 3 of these weeknotes, and the more I think about it, the more I want to run them as a travel journal instead of just as a work diary. I don’t need to list everything I see and do, just the interesting bits, the tourist parts, the things that make me think, that I want to remember. A scrapbook of insights yanked from navigating the workday tides. A soulful documentary, curated from the surprises that stream, steadily and naturally, from the fact that I work.

This will be series 3. A road trip. And I feel like I’m not even out the door yet, just planning the destination. One series, six episodes, a month and a half, end of September. Where will I be at the end of that?

Fortunately this isn’t an audience-grabbing blockbuster. I don’t need cliffhangers or celebrities (I think?) – I can lay out some script now, to try and stick to. Here’s what would be great to have happen by series end:

  1. We have direction for the company. Will this be feasible? Will it have buy-in from everyone? Will it be clear enough to be referenced and used practically? It’s something I’ve been trying to improve for over a year now – the last major attempt was last September, so the time feels right to address it properly again.
  2. I feel like the Head of the Tech Team again. My role has wandered since the start of the year and this has lost focus a bit. The team do an excellent job, but this is something I feel like is my forte, and where my experience lies. I can take on a mentoring role here, and feed directly in to what’s important to the company. I would like to spend more time back here again.
  3. I feel more… I’m not sure. Happier? Relaxed? Confident? There’s a way of life here, a Tao that I can’t describe yet. I’m not unhappy. I’m not super stressed. I just feel like I could be better at tying everything together a bit – whether that’s better ways of organising things, or better ways of coping with it, I’m not quite sure. I want to take my lead from great craftsmen – excellent techne, focused attention, calm performance, pride. Maybe “craft” is the right word here. And ideally, I’d like that to permeate into the rest of the company too.

There are other things I’d love, of course. Details, ambitions, projects, etc. But the above three feel like they underpin a lot of those. And they’re the things which affect me as a person. So I’m perhaps more likely to pay attention to them.

Anyway, here’s my stop.

I have a certain love for reception desks. The welcome that is so symbolic for everything else. The swift coming and going of meetings and handshakes and smiles. The security measures keeping track of personal signatures like a revolving for four celebrities. Like a train station concourse, or a temporary party.

Strange, calm anxiety after my meeting. I think it comes from it going quite well, and I’m still not used to just being able to talk about things on my own – like my expectations of myself are catching up with me. Less pressure due to the excuse of coming back from holiday? Or just… Am I getting used to just “saying stuff”? Is this what people mean by “imposter syndrome”? Anyway, it’s good to talk to people. This is the fun side of the hard work – actually making a difference and helping people to do what they want to do.


Full on project takeover mode, with flow diagrams and everything. Everyone is in the thick of updating our Australian work to use new administrative geographies brought in recently. Everyone is also in and out on holiday. There’s lots of activity and it’s a great team effort, so my main role is to make sure everything is being caught up front, and everyone knows what’s going on. Kind of the counterbalance to Alex as scrum master – a mini, on the ground project admin on hand to answer questions and keep the direction focused. The challenge is to do it without getting too sucked into the detail, and without going mad because everything else is happening. Same as usual then. Remind me I said that halfway through tomorrow.

I don’t really know how people do anything without flow diagrams though. Lines run my life. It’s frustrating how bad computers are at drawing lines, generally, given that we now live in a networked age.

I get to see some technical work that Lawrence has been doing in his personal time. I’m a bit afraid I find across a bit harsh – I’ve grown to see “research” from a business perspective, and sometimes I get scared by new things, I totally admit. It’s true though, sometimes the river runs too quickly and houses are unnecessarily swept away without thinking about the people in them. Happens all the time in the tech world.

But I’m reminded that there are good ways to foster progress and take new things and give them a better life, like moving the fire from kindling to the logs. We have a city building things here, with infrastructure that focuses on excellence of all sorts – technical, but also business value, shared communications, etc. Innovation is about that route to join up things to infrastructures, to allow a seed to grow up in the forest. That’s a good thing to try to do. Same aim. Just not as harsh.

I take a good, solid lunch break. This is part of the “craftsmanship” thing I’m aiming for. Browsing through the remaining emails from holiday though, I realise I still need this sense of craft when it comes to balancing projects, and relating to clients. There are not enough hours in the day.


A morning itinerary session. We continue to punch holes between everyone’s holidays, so today is the most opportune time to gather our collective conscious for the road ahead over the next two weeks. There’s an ambience to our sprint planning planning meeting (meta-planning? Context setting?) that I find comfortable and refreshing – if it’s allowed to happen. Today feels like drums beating at the city gates though, with external pressures bringing themselves into the room like uncomfortable guests.

Everyone talks about agendas and aims for meetings. What if ambience was a thing? Something about the culture of a particular meeting?

One thing I’ve struggled with over the last few years is technology – hugely ironically, as Head of Technology. I find it difficult to get the balance right between things being developed in a decentralised, ad hoc kind of way, and setting some sort of overall agenda that helps direct this. It seems everyone thinks they know how to do “tech”. Build it, release it, things will be better. But I don’t see the world that way any more. It feels like what we need isn’t a tech strategy, but an innovation strategy – something that addresses how development is fostered, but then also framed and integrated. In theory I could spend the rest of my life on that. Maybe I need to find others to discuss this with?

I have to change path after that. I have some American development work to attend to now that I’m back from afar. It’s just me on it, so it feels like a strange trip to a place I’ve visited before, but that is off the beaten path for us now.

I create a new git repo, plan out some tasks, read up on specs, and assemble code from across the years. It’s surprising, but it comes together quickly and I have a nice new code layer on top of our existing database, running in my local VM. Good to know I still have it…


Yawwwwwwn, missed out on two hours sleep last night. I’ll feel it later.

I’ve got a travelling companion today, as #son1 needs to be parentally supervised, and hey, he loves coming into work for some reason. (The A1 paper, I think.)

He seems happy to get in our morning catch up across most of the team to see what’s needed on our Australian work. We’ve got a fairly hard deadline and there are some risks and difficulties still around which I’m not very keen on. But three of us get stuck in, and we have a decent plan by 11 o’clock. #son1 is drawing a volcano.

Then a welcome change of scene and pace to have a 1:1 with Kim, which is always good. I’m reminded how far our (her, really) marketing work has come in the last year, and it’s pretty amazing (and a bit scary, when you’re not so used to knowing the subject matter as line manager).

#son1 is playing with bubbles when I get out. We go for lunch, and part ways when mum turns up.

In the afternoon, I return to my American work from the day before. It’s a bit of a slog this time – setting up new database tables, importing data, configuring my code – but the results are instantly accessible and so I’m satisfied with the progress.

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