Weeknotes s01e02

I took some time off this week so my activity and achievement is a bit sparse.

I’ve decided to take a break from baking for the office so that I can reflect and work out how to return to it with something new. As an international cake-thought leader with a record of over 100 cakes in 2 years I think I’ve earned the right to take a pause.

This week I’ve also been reflecting on the topic of “doing things properly”. It’s a bit of a mess of thoughts, but it starts with trying to avoid two bad outcomes at either end of a spectrum:

  1. A rush to deliver a shiny thing on time at any cost, particularly without considering how sustainable it is. This might be a situation where a third-party is brought in to help, which could be expensive if managed badly.
  2. Taking too long to deliver anything of worth through a misguided belief that you’re being really thorough. “I spent 3 months mapping the ‘as-is’ process” would be the kind of thing you might hear in this scenario.

Initially I thought that I wanted to balance between these two extremes [1], but then I changed my mind.

Both of these bad outcomes would happen in an environment that wasn’t agile. They result from an absence of trust.

In the first one, an absence of trust means that people don’t feel able to fail, in this case fail to meet a deadline. In the second one, an absence of trust means that people don’t feel able to fail, and therefore over-analyse the situation to the extent that nothing gets done (or that the end result is both heinously late and also terrible).

I have experienced (and been responsible for) both of these bad outcomes in my work. This led me to a second train of thought: I know enough to recognise I haven’t “done it properly” in the past. How can I put this into practice without losing my mind?

Depending on who you ask, I am either old, middle-aged, or entering middle-age. Despite having two-thirds of my working life ahead of me, nobody would say that I was young anymore.

I feel myself becoming more opinionated, and less tolerant. “I am hell of experienced, won’t you just do as I suggest please?”. The problems here are

  1. I might be wrong
  2. I need to be open to being challenged and learning from anybody
  3. If I don’t let people make mistakes I’m not fostering that all-important culture of trust
  4. If I can’t accept that sometimes people will make mistakes I’ve already made then I will become an insufferably bitter curmudgeon. There’s two-thirds of my working life ahead of me and I don’t need a stomach ulcer or similar

I’d really appreciate any thoughts.

I was also thinking about changing my spirit animal from a camel to something else and I came across this picture of a surfing goat [2] which totally encapsulates the life I want to live.

NEW SPIRIT ANIMAL

Week in brief

On Monday there was travel chaos and I was late in to see some visitors from the Scottish Parliament. I still got a good chunk of time to talk to them about Data and Search with Robert and Samu.

The rest of the day I did correspondence and post-interview paperwork.

I also encouraged Michael to publish his blog post, because it is great. I’d like to think that this is something good managers do.

Tuesday. On the way in to the office I saw Penny who asked me about my project to gather data about my meetings in order to make my work better. We agreed to share notes [3]. Penny had thought to ask meeting attendees whether it had been helpful to have her there. To me this was a great idea. As one of the most senior leaders in my place of work it could help Penny to maximise the value of her limited, in-demand time.

I did a first session of pair writing with Louise from the content team. I wanted to try this as a way to make progress on a data strategy. Aidan helped. It was seriously great.

I did some work on corporate management information dashboards.

DASHBOARDS

On Wednesday I had to miss Data Day (my team’s planning day) for the first time. We’ve done it fortnightly for the last 30+ weeks. I wanted them to do it without me and of course everything was fine. Thankfully talking to Robert dragged me out of the slow, steady march to redundancy in my head. The team got through a big agenda in the usual way and this tells me that we’ve established a format and a culture that works.

I met with Tori (Director of Transformation) to talk about corporate management information dashboards

DASHBOARDS

It was a good discussion and I felt 100% supported in what I’m going to do. This meeting prompted me to think about the “doing things properly” question.

We had Emma’s entire Directorate meeting, of which my team is part. The format is evolving, and improving. The best part was hearing presentations from a wide variety of people and disciplines at various grades about what they’ve been working on. The various user research work was especially interesting.

We’d split interviews for my Data Analyst role over two weeks to accommodate somebody’s holiday, but they dropped out at late notice. Your loss, [Candidate 5].

Thursday

I did some work on corporate management information dashboards

DASHBOARDS

I had some one to one meetings.

There was Emma’s team meeting. I wish we did this every week rather than fortnightly. Carrie, Jamie, Jeanette and Matt are defintely the most capable (and stylish) group of people I’ve ever worked with. We put the world to rights and stuff.

Friday

I did some work on corporate management information dashboards

DASHBOARDS

I had a good telephone conversation with Rebecca, our Director of Portfolio [4] about these corporate management information dashboards. It was the most constructive discussion I’d had about it all week. I find that repeating my plans out loud to as many people as possible helps me to iteratively improve them and make them more convincing. Rebecca also gave me clear information about commitments that had been made in my absence, useful background, and the promise of people to help in the team I’m putting together.

I did some career coaching.

I worked with Emma and Jamie on improving the roadmap for a new website for Parliament. This was a good session, I felt I contributed something useful.

I finally finished the the post-interview paperwork for the two Automation Developer and Data Analyst roles in my team. The Data Analyst was an especially tough choice, but Robert really helped me to make a decision.

#MeetingWatch

It’s only the second week of gathering data about my meetings so it’s too early to draw any conclusions. As expected, it’s a thrilling roller-coaster ride.

THRILLS FOR DAYS

I do have a hashtag (thanks Marged). I made a second version of the data capture sheet which is an improvement, and will make some further changes next week.

I was struck by how few meetings I rated as ‘red’ (meaning that they made me feel bad). Not what I’d expected.

All the data is here.

[1] I had a stick-figure illustration in mind, but decided it would be redundant because no point on this spectrum represents a good outcome

[2] BY ACCIDENT. I was not searching for ‘what is the best spirit animal’

[3] Penny wrote a blog post about this but I can’t find it and as Head of Data and Search I’m concerned that’s my fault

[4] I am guessing Rebecca’s job title. I wanted to say ‘Programmes and Projects’ but I’m 95% sure that’s not the case any more

Head of Data Science at Citizens Advice. These are my personal thoughts on work.