Weeknotes #6 — Trying to see it all

Here we are again already! On Friday I watched the links to weeknotes pour out of Medium and the WB40 podcast WhatsApp channel, looking on in awe at everyone else being done and dusted with them by 5pm. Weeknotes have ended up dominating my Friday evenings and I’m not sure how sustainable that is.

As much as I love the kids being active and involved in their football and running clubs, it was a rare treat to find ourselves sport free last weekend, giving me the opportunity to go on a nice longish bike ride. It was an icy start so I waited until the temperature came up to burn it off and ended up riding through lunchtime into the early afternoon, interesting to me in terms of how little energy I had. The weather was beautiful and it was a great feeling to get home with a half-century under my belt.

Mat has persuaded me to buy Forza Motorsport 6 for our Xbox so that I can join him and a couple of our close friends in the odd evening of online gaming. They have played each other online for years but this is new to me. My kids and I spent a couple of hours on Sunday getting to grips with it and running a couple of head-to-head races; they whipped my butt, which doesn’t bode well. It’s great fun, but for the past 20 years or so whenever I come away from a gaming session I can never seem to shake a feeling of regret — a guilt that I could have been doing something more productive with my time. I’ve deleted games from my phone because they have been too addictive. I’m not sure whether this guilt is a character flaw in that I don’t relax enough or something that benefits me as I actually do spend my time better elsewhere.

It’s been a really interesting week at work. I love being around the people at my client’s organisation and there is so much potential to make a difference to the business; the only limits are our ideas, bandwidth and ability to focus on the right things. We added a whole bunch of items to the ideas pile this week and need to do what we can to make sure they don’t end up mainly in the graveyard of good intentions. There are lots of dots being drawn between company strategy at head office level, how division my client works in fits into this and what it means to them, what Technology can bring to the table and how my programme needs to both respond and provide input into this. The biggest challenges at the moment are being able to ‘see it all’ and have a process for prioritising the things that get worked on. I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I have read around Wardley Maps (for an awareness of where we are), How to Measure Anything (to give us a common baseline upon which to judge the things we could do) and ‘Cost of Delay divided by duration’ (to prioritise the organisational backlog). It feels like one of those things that would benefit enormously from working out loud, writing and blogging it out, as we find out how to bring these things together. I hope I can carve out more time to move this along.

Does anyone use CD3 for their own personal to-do list, or is that complete overkill? For your to-do list, is it sufficient to work out next actions and then just work through things using context and intuition? I stumbled across Scribe’s weeknotes at just the right time; it’s very comforting to know that other people are grappling with the same things (“There are only two hard things in Management: priorities and scheduling”) and hearing their perspective on it.

I’ve previously talked here about working out loud. It struck me this week that my client, the Head of Technology, does this himself in his own way. His process isn’t to write a blog post and wait for written feedback but instead he presents his ideas to a broad range of stakeholders up and down the firm, does a great deal of sketching on whiteboards/iPad screens/pieces of paper, takes the feedback of the person he is talking to and incorporates it into the next iteration of his model of the world. There’s a lot of energy in the room when he’s around and it’s great to be involved in those discussions, working things out as we go.

The multitude of vendor meetings this week has proved to be good in this respect too; talking through our problems and getting their perspective is another form of working out loud and refining our self-awareness. I’ve been through the same background information a dozen times now and feel that I have a good grip on what we need. I’m trying to steer our potential partners away from just delivering to a spec that we give them and instead want them to tell us about how we should be doing things differently and why, based on their expertise and what they have seen work in similar situations. In one of my meetings I chanced upon Richard Davies from the Leading Edge Forum and it was interesting to talk to him about Simon Wardley and Matt Ballantine, both of whom I’ve been talking to in varying degrees over the past year or so and who work with the LEF in some capacity. Small world.

The very same Matt has been smashing the ball out of the park with his recent blog posts on the (lost) art of (conscious) decision making and the goal of getting IT out of the way as much as possible. The second article got me thinking about the conversations on my programme about whether we even really need a WAN or company-provisioned devices in our target state, and sparked a great chat with the WB40-ers about how much they had been able to achieve down this road.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking to people in the team about how switching to Office 365 and Office 2016 on the desktop is not going to suddenly, magically, fix all of the IT issues that people have. I think in our minds we have built up the new tools to be a something of a panacea but actually in the history of my experience of technology there are always defects, pitfalls and problems. This episode of the Track Changes podcast came along to my ears at the right time; from 24 mins 3 seconds in:

Paul: There’s this website — the guy doesn’t update it anymore — it was a blog, the URL is prog21.dadgum.com
Rich: That’s a good URL.
Paul: It rolls off the tongue. But he wrote about a week of bugs, and he just documented all the bugs that he experienced using software for a week. And it was a fairly long inventory and I was like “Oh boy, that guy has bad luck”. And I started to do it myself and I’m like “Oh my god, everything I use is garbage!” and I just work around it. Like my email flies all over the place and I can’t close that window if I want to.
Rich: We get good at navigating that stuff though, that’s the thing.
Paul: You think something’s going to open, it doesn’t, and you go back and do the three things and it opens up. Yeah, we’re all really used to it.
Rich: We get good at bad habits.
Paul: It’s terrible, I mean…our software is still exceptionally buggy like it used to be in the 80’s…we just have all gotten like “eh, well”…It’ll be fine. Everything kind of got better in that like you don’t lose work anymore, everybody fixed that part. So like, things save to the server, they save to the disk.
Rich: Always.
Paul: So you tend not to lose like a half-day of work, so you don’t have this like “I hate computers, everything’s bad.” It’s more this low-grade, like, incompetence. I just want to be very aware of it because we make software.

Somehow, given the knowledge that the software will always be buggy, I still need people to feel that what we are giving them is great. Office 365 is a real step forward in so many respects — using proper Office clients on iOS is amazing — but we do need to calibrate ourselves to still expect a degree of problems, because when has it ever been flawless?

This week we had a visit from the person who is leading the company’s work on blockchain; she held an informal meeting in the corner of the room for anyone interested in learning a bit about what the firm is doing and about 30-40 people turned up. I’m skeptical about how much the technology is a solution to the world’s problems but it was cool for there to be a bit of a buzz in the office with lots of staff from different departments all gathered around and asking questions.

On Wednesday I attended a very meaty inter-school governance meeting. A three hour session in the evening is tough enough after a day of corporate work let alone for the Headteachers that have had a long day at school. I have so much respect for the work they do; it’s a proper job in every sense. It feels great to be involved in what we’re doing and I do feel like my presence at the meetings is adding value. I’ve been reflecting on how the more I feel like this about something, the less it seems like ‘work’. In our own Governing Board we need to look at how we get parents involved from further down the school and build a pipeline of future leaders; despite our best efforts we are still missing those one or two elusive people who are professional, understand what a strategic role entails and do not have a commitment to full-time job, that would be ideal candidates to line up as future Chairs.

I don’t seem to have read much this week although I have been gathering a lot of documents in Evernote on some key work topics to consume over the next week or two. The stories that struck me were:

Finally, I randomly stumbled across this little tune a few days back and it has been burrowing itself into my brain since then. The album isn’t half bad either.

Next week: Very big week on our programme, getting ready to continue our software rollout the week after. Lots of governance to do and technical work to line up so that we hit the ground running and make the end-user experience as great as it can be.

Antisocial

In the Indieweb spirit of owning and hosting all of my stuff on my own website I’ve uploaded a copy of my Twitter archive here. You can now go and view, and search, all of my 30,000-odd random thoughts from the past decade or so without leaving this website.

I’ve had a feeling for a while that I haven’t been using Twitter as much as I used to a couple of years back. The ‘index graph’ that comes as part of the download package seemed to confirm this, but what was stark for me was exactly how long ago I really was a ‘heavy’ user. Things seem to tail off after 2011, a couple of years after I started.

(This fits with the general pattern of me getting older and thinking that ‘most things’ happened a couple of years ago whereas actually they took place much further back. “Oh, Ronnie Barker died a few years ago.” Yes, 13 years ago.)

I thought it would be interesting to take the monthly statistical data (it’s in a .js file in the Twitter download) and see exactly how much my usage had declined by plotting it in a proper chart. Here’s where I got a second shock. If you follow the trend line from mid-2010 this is pretty much the exact point where my usage bisects zero:

I have such fond memories. Back in the day I made some lovely friends, had interesting discussions about all kinds of topics, organised Tweetups, and generally had a great time. I even had good conversations aboutwork — Twitter and it’s wonderful hive mind had utility. But it became exhausting. Fear of missing out meant that I didn’t unfollow people unless there was really no value in what someone had to say. I gave up on trying to keep up with my main timeline and switched to using lists, one for the Technology folk I was interested in following closely and another (private) one for my friends, family and anyone else I didn’t want to miss. I also had the odd one here and there for when something was blowing up in the financial markets or Formula 1 and I wanted an up-to-date commentary. But even that was too much. I don’t know how much of it was a change in me or a change in the place itself, but I can’t find the energy for it anymore.

I still add people to my follow list quite liberally, as I know I’m not actually going to read their tweets. These days my Twitter feed is used as input for Nuzzel which notifies me when articles get shared by more than five people in my timeline.

Life seems a lot healthier with longer form content of blogging, reading and more considered discussions. The time I used to spend reading my timeline is now instead spent in the Kindle app or going through blog posts in Feedbin/Reeder.

There are still lots of people I admire who seem to get a lot of value out of Twitter and still be productive and do great work, but I don’t feel like I can be one of them in any meaningful way.

Weeknote #5 — Winning and collaborating

I’d better start the weeknote by acknowledging the achievement of this marvellous young man:

Last weekend he ran his final race of the season in the Chiltern Cross Country League, won it, and became the overall winner for his age group. Well done fella, it was a fantastic effort and we’re all very proud of you. (Love that boy.)

We actually managed to spend quite a bit of last weekend together as a family, which was fab. After a life-refocusing chat with a friend the week before I made a conscious effort to spend time with everyone. Mrs D and I watched Lion on Saturday night which almost destroyed me, and we followed it up with a Sunday night family viewing of Empire of the Sun which finished me off completely. Being emotionally drained as I went to bed led into me being woken by the Monday morning alarm, promptly falling asleep again and waking for a second time in a panic half an hour later. Rushing around in order to make it to my first meeting of the day was not a great start to the week.

Work

Once it got going, the week turned out to be a very good one. We’ve moved forward on a significant number of issues on our programme, resolving some technical problems (typically to discover that there are more lurking further down the line, but it was ever thus) and I am starting to see a path towards how we can finally get our software rollout going again. One of our particular issues looked more specific and complex than it was, but somehow it revealed itself to me from a different angle and I realised that it exists today, on its own, whether we carry on with our programme or not. (A case of being too close to the detail.) We’ve re-framed it and presented it back to the wider team; it does need dealing with but hopefully not as part of the work we’ve set out to do.

One of our key team members was on holiday for half term this week and we missed him more and more as the week went on. There are still just too many little items we need to solve before I can sit back and be confident the rollout team can fly in (literally) and hit the ground running with our users.

It was a week where I wished I had my favourite poster to hand to put up in the office. With people being out I’ve had to get into the detail of some of the problems and I was again humbled by the depth of IT infrastructure and what I don’t know. ADMX files were the final new discovery of the week.

We’ve been learning a lot from the issues we’ve found. The problems have been framing our thinking about how we need to set ourselves up for the future as we make changes.

I had a minor wobble one evening this week when I started pondering my personal workflow again. I managed to pull myself back from it before I got too deep as after all these years I know there isn’t much to be gained from tinkering. As I mentioned some weeks back I still have tasks and to-dos in too many places and I was thinking about how I can improve. I’ve recently switched from Workflowy to Dynalist as they have taken the simple outline concept and run with it. The outline is a great way to be able to ‘see all of the things’ and zoom in but I haven’t quite committed to it yet as the be-all and end-all; I still have too many date-based reminders in Remember The Milk which I don’t want to mess with right now.

On the WB40 WhatsApp channel Matt Ballantine triggered a good discussion from his post on ‘decomposing collaboration’, looking at the types of tools people use. On the podcast he also noted people really want ‘bring your own software’ and not just ‘bring your own device’ — they want to use the tools they are comfortable with and proficient at. I see a specific case of this problem when working across different teams; we can focus around a kanban board, or project plan, or list of things to do, but I then need to take the things I need to do from those places and work them into my own tools, alongside all of the other tasks from other aspects of my life. As soon as you have to update the status of something in more than one place, it’s too much of an overhead.

On Tuesday night I attended a dinner with a cross-section of staff from my client’s office, hosted by a couple of the senior managers. The food was amazing and the format was very good, with everyone giving a lengthy introduction to their background and experience followed by an informal discussion amongst all of the dozen or so attendees. It was a great way to break down the barriers between the strangers that sit together in a crowded room every day and I can already see the impact. This was followed by an ‘all-hands’ breakfast with the Group CEO the next morning. They management team are really putting in great effort to foster a friendly, collaborative atmosphere in the company. The events and conversations got me thinking about how the barriers can be further broken down. It’s a long road to move to ‘working out loud’ as part of the culture — people need to get comfortable with not having a fully-baked message before they put it out there — and the work I am doing has a big part to play in providing the technology to enable it.

Next week we’ll be putting an internal-facing blog live and I’m looking forward to the team using it for all sorts of posts. Hopefully after many years of trying internal blogging in different roles this one will gain some traction and we can lead by example in a small way.

Other stuff

Taking my 8-year-old to football training on freezing cold, wet Saturday mornings is made much less of a bind by the chats I have with another one of the dads there. He’s an anaesthetist and I’m fascinated by the work he does and his take on things, so much of which seems to have similarities to the stuff I have picked up elsewhere. We end up covering so many topics in the course of the hour and my mind is buzzing for the rest of the day. This week we tackled:

  • How journaling and reflective practice is used by medical professionals (relating that to ‘working out loud’ and weeknoting)
  • Circumstances and chains of events that can lead to something going wrong in a medical operation which isn’t necessarily solely the fault of the person who makes the critical error (which reminded me of the ‘Japanese train crash’ episode of the brilliant Causality podcast)
  • Analogue vs digital devices in anaesthetics, and relating this to conversations I’ve had with pilots about Boeing yokes vs Airbus side sticks and analogue vs digital feedback
  • NHS funding, economic incentives up and down the value chain, how you end up with a cost/benefit calculation for new forms of treatment and putting a price on someone’s life and limbs
  • How much latitude someone in a hospital gets to read some research and then just decide to start doing a thing (e.g. if there was evidence that just blowing gently in someone’s ear for an hour would aid their recovery, could you just start doing it?)

It’s a shame there’s no football training this week.

I managed to get on my bike but only did 1h of a 1.5h turbo programme as I didn’t have the legs, or the will, to continue. I’m hoping that I can actually get out this weekend for a long-ish ride, only my second of the year.

Football refereeing went okay but I’m not enjoying it as much as I used to. I’m really not that great at it and seem to need to completely rely on the linespeople to flag for offside. I understand the rule but I don’t seem to have the capacity (or haven’t practiced it enough) to watch out for it whilst thinking about everything else that is going on in the game. If it wasn’t for the flags I would probably have called zero offsides in the match. We lost the game but the boys played really well, which seems to be the story of our season.

Media

The kids and I finished off Star Trek: Discovery, which generally improved as the weeks went by. It’s wasn’t the Star Trek that I know and love — I didn’t feel empathy for the characters anywhere near as much as I did in the original series or Next Generation — but it was entertaining. I was disappointed a few episodes in when they started dropping f-bombs and the rating switched from 12 to 15; it was completely unnecessary and out of character with everything that had gone before (no pun intended). On the plus side the show had some good central gay characters and it was great that my boys got to see this represented as being just as ‘normal’ as any other kind of relationship.

After watching Lion I immediately reached for the book and finished it off in a couple of days. I thoroughly recommend it, whether you have seen the film or not. An extraordinary story and the best advert for Google Earth that there could be.

A thoughtful and widely-shared article about the future of technology got me thinking back to Bill Joy’s article from April 2000 yet again.

If you run a public-facing website and pull in lots of code from other places you really need to be running a content security policy and make sure you are getting automatic reports from your users. If I understand Troy Hunt correctly, this would have prevented UK and US Government websites from being “Infected by [a] Cryptocurrency Miner”.

It’s nice to have something that can get under the hood of what we mean by a ‘Digital Transformation’ as this is so many things to so many people. A common language and set of definitions is a great place to start.

The Spotify Mellow Beats playlist has accompanied me throughout the week. Great to work to and plenty to explore.

Next week

Programme team back up to full capacity, time to squish those last remaining issues and get the detailed plan running for our rollout, all whilst looking ahead one or two months down the line and making sure we’re ready for what’s next. Lots of reading ahead of another big midweek school governor meeting.

Weeknote #4 — NDAs

Exhausted. This week has felt like a constant race against time with deadlines to hit — some this week, lots more in the coming few weeks — and the need to keep so many streams of work moving forward. Friday particularly felt like I’ve spent all of my time going from conversation to conversation, picking up new actions and not having much chance to regroup, take stock and start getting them done.

I’m currently talking to no less than nine vendors about various aspects of the programme I am running, with at least two more being lined up for an initial chat. Getting to the point where I can even talk in detail about the business with one of them is a slog:

  1. Agree we want to take the discussion further
  2. Fill out an non-disclosure agreement (NDA) template and send it to the vendor for them to put on their letterhead and send back to you
  3. Deal with any queries between the vendor and your legal department (and occasionally get given the vendor’s NDA form which results in further back-and-forth)
  4. Receive the signed PDF
  5. Get the legal department to countersign the PDF
  6. Send the final version of the document back to the vendor, encrypted in a zip file along with the materials you wanted to talk about in the first place
  7. Dig out the mobile number of your vendor contact and send them the password for the zip file

Multiply this by the number of vendors involved and it’s been difficult to sit back, relax and say I’m done with work for the day unless I’m sure that the ball isn’t in my court with any of these.

The work itself is as fun as ever and it’s great to be running a programme that is dealing with the entire IT stack. I’ve been in discussions about architecture, networking, cyber security/IT risk and data loss prevention, virtualisation, desktop hardware, end-user problem diagnosis, helpdesk escalation channels, internal communications and marketing and the end user experience. And that’s just this week.

We’ve been experimenting with using BlueJeans as a desktop videoconferencing tool and it has blown me away compared to my experience of Skype for Business. The video quality is incredible, it has nice little features like ‘hold space bar to talk’ (making me feel like I’m messing with a CB radio) and the screen-sharing works great. Our daily team meeting was a little bit Brady Bunch at first but we soon got used to it.

Taking a step back, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about what ’my thing’ is — joining the dots, making connections between different people and pieces of information etc., which is… a little nebulous to say the least. I brand myself as a Programme Manager and that’s the role I’m currently undertaking for my client, but it would be great to get to the bottom of whether dot-joining really is a thing in its own right and how I could move to doing more of it. I think Jen Dary’s appearance on the Track Changes podcast I listened to last week is still sinking in:

Jen: … led me to a little café on Court Street where I made a very long list of every job I’ve ever had, both volunteer and pay. And I wrote next to each job my favorite thing about it, using, like, a little phrase with a verb, so maybe my work on a farm was like teaching kids how to shear a sheep, right? … And you know, the reason that I say that is because there may be people listening to this who have no idea what their next step is, and what they think their next step is is a title, and that is bullshit. I will just tell you that. People say titles and they mean lots of different things by them. … And so the three most popular verbs on that list were “leading,” “connecting,” and “writing.” So I thought, cool. If I stay at arc, I need to push for a role in which that is my focus. If I go to another company, I need to look for a role in which that is my focus.

Rich: So you broke it down.

Jen: Yeah.

Rich: You’re not looking for “senior vice president — ”

Jen: Exactly.

Rich: Of blah blah blah.

Jen: I’m looking for verbs. What the hell do I wanna spend my billable hours doing?

(I love the way that all of the Track Changes podcasts have transcripts. Classy.)

School governing has taken a back-seat this week and I have a bit of catching up to do. I had to miss a check-in meeting with all of the Headteachers and Chairs of Governors in our town on Thursday morning which never feels good. Some of our governors are collaborating with a teacher on a staff survey which has a great set of questions compared to previous years; hopefully it’ll give us a great insight into how the staff feel about the school.

Had a ‘real life’-focusing conversation with a friend who turns 50 next week. Like me, he also has two boys and his whole family are effectively 10 years down the road from where we are now. When we met at work eight years ago I remember him telling me his worries about not spending enough time hanging out with his kids — not being ‘too busy’ to kick a football around with them at the weekend — and today he told me that he thinks he addressed it just in time. My boys are at great ages, 10 and 8, and I know I need to prioritise my time with them before their childhood slips through my fingers and they’re off doing their own thing.

The eldest boy ran the Hertfordshire Primary Cross Country race and won it (yay!) which means we’ll be off to the national final in Loughborough on 24 March. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the race but I heard it was an exciting one. He’s got his final Chiltern League race tomorrow morning and is in with a great chance of winning the league overall. Fingers crossed!

Kids football last weekend was completely freezing, but at least the sun was shining. I’m reffing the U11 match this weekend, which is great midwinter job as you get to run around a lot. I haven’t done it in quite a while so am a little nervous; the introduction of the offside rule from this age group has made a difficult job a lot harder.

Media

All my Dan Carlin Christmases came early. No sooner had I finished a six-hour dose of Hardcore History on the Celtic Holocaust, along comes not only a 4.5-hour episode on the history of watching other people’s pain for entertainment, but also a new second podcast feed of ‘addendum’ material. Dan says that listeners don’t want these short, quirkier shows in the main feed but I’ve always liked them — they are what Hardcore History was in the early days. Good work.

Michael Lopp has a great post about being a leader, taking on too many things and the consequences of not being able to keep up with your commitments.

This interview with Quincy Jones doesn’t pull many punches. There must be something about being at the sunset of your life where you have less of a reason not to say what you really think. The Remainiacs podcast recently said the same thing about Ken Clarke after his speech in the House of Commons. He’s the current ‘Father of the House’ (the person with the longest continuous service in the Commons) and it must be refreshing to be able to talk with such radical candour.

Troy Hunt talked about responses to his view about whether coders should take a ‘Hippocratic oath’:

I’ve thought about this topic often since reading After The Gold Rush by Steve McConnell which argued for turning software development into a ’true profession’. With technology seeping into pretty much everything it’s amazing that you still can (and people do) hire a developer after just an interview or two and then let them loose on all your code. I have always thought that we haven’t had enough major disasters yet for a single code of conduct or set of standard professional certifications to emerge, but Troy has a point in that many people now work on the code we run and it’s therefore hard to hold individuals to account. RBS were famously fined for a major systems failure that impacted their customers but there are a lot of contributing factors to what went wrong; other than the fine and (I assume) internal disciplinary procedures there has been no wide-scale change to the way we do things.

On the subject of accountability, Rich Ziade noted on What We Chat About When We Chat About Chat that our audio virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and ‘OK Google’ (is that what it’s called?) will never get to the point where they’ll give you true advice as none of the companies would want to take on the liability if things went wrong. I’d never thought of that.

Reading-wise, I finished up Mark Webber’s autobiography (when times are busy it’s nice to have an easy-reading book like this to turn to) and have continued with the excellent IT Infrastructure Architecture by Sjaak Laan, which reminds me of the enjoyment I used to get in reading about computer internals from 1980s computer magazines as a boy.

Finally

Congratulations to Paul Downey on his new role. The outpouring of love and respect in the replies this tweet are amazing, and better than any CV:

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Played this at a dinner party last night. A simply fantastic game, a bit like SpaceTeam but with much more depth and difficulty. You play the part of someone who is presented with a time bomb that you have to defuse by solving a number of puzzles on the device. Other (real life) friends in the room can’t see the bomb but instead have a giant manual of instructions that they can refer to. The puzzles are a real challenge and you gradually learn how to become competent at each type. This video gives a good idea of how it works. (Note that they absolutely nail it here and the game actually starts off a whole lot easier than this.)

You can play on a laptop but we used a Google Daydream headset along with their Pixel phone; my first experience of ‘proper’ virtual reality. It was incredible and extremely addictive — I really wanted to explore the environment and wander around the room the game put us in. It was weird to see the controller in my hand in the game itself (it would move and rotate exactly mirroring what I was doing with it in real life) as well as the swivel chair I was ‘virtually’ sitting on moving as I rotated my body around. When I took the headset off I felt very disoriented and I can see why they don’t want children under the age of 13 using them.

Weeknote #3

I feel like I’ve worn myself out this week. Monday turned to Friday in a flash, and here we are at the weekend already.

On Sunday morning, Sleep Cycle informed me that I had just experienced my best night’s rest in years and I certainly felt good for it.

I’ve been out every night this week to attend two very different school governor meetings, dinner out with an old friend, a visit to the O2 to watch my 10-year old in the Young Voices choir and then rounding it off with Album Club #84. It’s weeks like these where I remember why I decided to give up drinking as I don’t think I could easily handle being even more tired than I ended up on Friday.

I worked from home on Monday in order to squeeze more things into the day. My potential lie-in was sacrificed by being up at my usual time, replacing the morning commute with an hour on the turbo trainer. My wife’s genius idea of setting things up the night before was brilliant as I didn’t then need to faff about for 20 minutes or so in the morning, one less barrier to actually doing the exercise. I couldn’t believe how good and sharp it made me feel for the rest of the day. I’d managed to get on the turbo last weekend as well and it felt great to be back on the bike.

We managed to finish Monday night’s Full Governing Board meeting in just over two hours, about a third shorter than our last one. We always push to get the agenda and materials out a week before but typically there is the odd late paper which we need to deal with; this time we almost nailed it and it helped a great deal, taking most of the papers as read and just dealing with questions. A couple of weeks ago I attended a governance meeting chaired by someone else who did a great job of keeping everything to time; this made me really conscious of my role to keep our meeting moving along. It’s a very tricky balance to be struck between spending time on an important point and moving onto the next thing. Our Clerk sent out a really good note to the Board prior to the meeting to try and get people to hone in their responsibilities of reading the materials and bringing along good, challenging questions. Our new governors are doing a great job of this already and have a great eye for detail.

One of the problems with the role of school governor is making sure you get into (and then stay in) a rhythm of things. For example, you can spend a dedicated couple of hours looking at and learning about how to interpret school data. You’ll get it and be able to ask good, challenging questions and identify strengths and weaknesses. But if you don’t look at it again for a few months it is very difficult to recall that knowledge easily. Our Full Governing Board meetings take place six times a year which sometimes feels too little to force this rhythm and knowledge retention. More meetings is typically not the answer — we have to balance it with the availability of our Board volunteers and school staff who are always at the back end of an extremely long and busy day.

A couple of times this month I have looked at a list of my governance actions and not been able to remember whether I had completed them or not. It’s made me realise how much I rely on my ‘external brain’ of notes, emails etc. and don’t retain things in my head.

I’ve had a good focused week of work but the amount of stuff coming in has exceeded the amount of stuff going out. (Which has always been my puzzle with GTD’s assumption that you can continually manage to triage everything coming into your inbox and still have time for everything else; when and how do you look at your system and realise you need a more structural change?)

It was great to have a session with fellow weeknoter and WB40 podcast listener Dave Floyd on the challenges of Office 365 migration. On the surface things seem simple but there is significant complexity underneath. This week’s podcast episode was on the topic of Working Out Loud — including creating weeknotes like this one —and as always is well worth a listen. I was reminded that I had read John Stepper’s book of the same name last year and hadn’t yet got around to writing up my thoughts. Stepper seems to have read every management book out there and makes liberal use of references to lots of other material. For some reason the approach of ‘targeting’ people you want to develop a relationship with didn’t sit well with me and seemed a bit contrived, even if there wasn’t much emphasis on it; I always thought working out loud should be a little serendipitous and altruistic. But I’m probably wrong.

With the work stacking up this week I have been very conscious of getting into random office chats and knowing that although some of the conversations aren’t directly moving things forward, they are building relationships and sowing seeds for the future. I hope the other person doesn’t notice me being conscious of it.

A lesson (re-)learned from this week is that as much as I want to plough forward with things I need to ensure I bring everyone along with me, particularly where those things sit under their remit from day-to-day.

Had a lovely couple of email exchanges with two people I used to work with, one who has just been through a redundancy process and is making the most of the opportunities this has given her and another who really focused me on my values and how I think about myself.

Media

Books

I finished reading Radical Technologies by Adam Greenfield. It succinctly breaks down the topics of smartphones, the Internet of Things, augmented reality, digital fabrication, cryptocurrency, blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence, along with their societal impact and paints a number of different visions of the future. It’s very good. I’ll need to write up my thoughts on it separately but I’m sure I can’t do a better job than the most-liked Goodreads reviews of the book.

Articles and blog posts

Podcasts

Been making a concerted effort to catch up with the wonderful Track Changes (a 40+ episode backlog), as well as FT Alphachat and FT’s Big Read.

Gina Trapani’s discussion on todo.txt was fascinating and made me realise that you just need to be happy with whatever system you’ve got for getting tasks done.

Jen Dary’s conversation about her career path was inspiring and is a great listen.

TV

Mrs D and I started watching Black Mirror. Compelling viewing, but the complete opposite of life-affirming, satisfying TV and it doesn’t make us want to plunge straight into the next episode. It doesn’t make me feel quite as empty is when we went to see The Piano Teacher at the cinema (horrendous, not recommended) but it’s definitely someway down that track.

This week’s earworm

I caught a bit of the BBC Four documentary on The Story of Aussie Rock and ever since then I can’t get the Easybeats’ Friday On My Mind out of my head. I’ve always loved it but seeing them throw themselves into it live adds a big spark.

Next week

Need to pick up the pieces from this week across both work and school and get all of the to-dos in one place, a job for this weekend if I can squeeze it in.

There’s a danger of me becoming a bottleneck to moving things along at work but I’ll have to balance being ‘head down’ on moving the work along with getting ‘PowerPoint-prepared’ for at least three governance committees over the next two weeks. There are so many open loops at the moment. I’m expecting to get a raft of things back from different vendors which will need to be read, compared, discussed and actioned. I’m also still trying to get a single consistent view of the whole programme that the team can look at every day.

There could be some late evenings ahead.

Weeknote #2

Work stuff

A very productive week. Something has clicked this year where the programme I am running feels possible, as opposed to last year where I felt like we were climbing an impossible mountain. We are starting to get some of the big boulders slowly moving around our architecture and medium term programme delivery plans; hopefully they will accelerate and start rolling after a continued, concerted push.

Lots of reminders this week that I am surrounded by an embarrassment of riches in terms of people that could potentially help me with my work, both inside and outside of the client’s firm, and I need to develop the muscle memory of remembering to talk to them on a regular basis. Got a couple of great leads from the WB40 podcast WhatsApp channel on some vendors to talk to and the whole channel is turning out to be interesting, amusing and productive. (Having said that, it was the cause of me leaving and losing my umbrella on the train as my mind was too distracted by the chat.)

Found Joanne C Klein’s excellent Office 365 blog and have lined up a few articles to read, such as how adoption never ends (a theme I have been talking about a lot with my client) and a look at Compliance Manager for GDPR.

The scale of GDPR and data privacy was brought home to me when I looked at a data extract which showed ‘person A’ logging in for a remote session from ‘person B’s computer at home late at night, and what inference could be drawn from it.

Learned that security configuration in a Microsoft estate could not be more complex if it tried, and that getting specialist help is a must.

Really interested in the free course from Troy Hunt on creating a security-centric culture.

Been thinking that I don’t know enough about formal governance structures from a legal perspective. Will need to search around for a primer. Subcommittees seem to have some kind of official/legal bearing both at work and within the context of a school; some groups have formal minutes and others just have notes. Need to look for a ‘governance primer’ somewhere so that I’m sure of my facts.

Successfully experimented with LogMeIn Rescue to walk a user in New York through the setup of a couple of the Office 365 apps on his iPhone and it worked really well. iOS screen recording output can easily be diverted to an app in real time and you can talk the user through what to do. Will need to look at whether this is a good option to turn into a production solution at my client’s firm.

Bought some great stainless steel cups to take to work so that I stop using the plastic throwaway ones for water. I was already well in the habit of taking a coffee mug to work each day and bringing it back home for a trip to the dishwasher, so it’s been simple to add this to the routine.

Other stuff

Great night out last Saturday with some close friends for a delicious home-cooked dinner. Impressed to learn that one of them used to work for Ceefax; brought back fond memories of favourite pages, blocky art and my BBC Micro Morley Teletext Adapter (£100 from Watford Electronics!) that could download software from the service.

Helped my 10-year old with finding images for a poster for school. Tried explaining that you usually can’t just take images from anywhere for your own use and introduced him to Creative Commons. Don’t think I did a good job of it. Wondering if copyright and fair use is a secondary school topic these days? Seems like an important thing to know.

Signed up to the USD 2/month service from micro.blog to intelligently syndicate my blog feed to Twitter and pleased with how it’s working. Nice to support such a lovely concept in a little way and get something back from it.

Not a great week on the fitness front. Kids’ football was cancelled due to waterlogged pitches which meant no refereeing or linesman duties, and I now haven’t been on my bike in two weeks. Walking to and from work has been hampered by rain. A priority for the week ahead.

Reading and listening

Empathised with how MacSparky got back from his holiday and had to spend a few weeks ‘digging out‘ to get himself back on track.

Learned from a friend how someone would approach harvesting credit card details from websites. Made me think about Report URI and how any corporate website owners should be making good use of it.

Reflected on how to write a blog post. I’ve never printed out a hard copy to proof-read one of mine, but I have asked my wife to read drafts of the ones that were really important to me.

Loved thinking about the ‘near enemies‘ of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equinamity. A blog post I will need to re-read and reflect on more than once.

Ripped though an excellent six-hour podcast of The Celtic Holocaust. I’ve listened to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History since episode one and it was a gateway to the amazing Common Sense — probably my favourite podcast of all — which is sadly on an extended hiatus.

Troy Hunt’s workflow for dealing with a data breach discovery is excellent in its transparent and thoughtful approach. His writing and weekly podcast fascinate me and I envy how much he gets done.

WB40 was its usual interesting and informative self. Got me thinking about how presenting a photo of hand-drawn information in a slide deck implies that the work is a draft, work-in-progress and invites discussion and debate in a way that a polished picture doesn’t. Natalia Talkowska‘s Doodle-le-do sounds fun.

Remainiacs tackles Brexit with far more candour and humour than the BBC’s Brexitcast (yes, possibly just for those remainers like me). With their guest Matthew Parris this week they make some important points about how UKIP served a purpose of draining the most extreme parts of the Conservative party how the purple party’s subsidence could be even worse than having them around.

Thought about how much we talk about giving our children space to play, be bored or think but the societal rules about parents letting their children being out and about alone have changed so much. (An old article, but I think of it often.)

After hearing it a couple of weeks back for the first time since childhood I have not been able to get this 1985 German electro-pop earworm out of my head:

And the award for the most sobering tweet of the week:

Finally

It was interesting to me just how motivational ‘working out loud’ was to the work I did this week. Knowing I was going to have to report back here was enough for me to really focus on the key things I had to move forward.

Next week

Two evenings of school governor meetings, plenty of pre-reading to get done beforehand; membership changes to manage and responsibilities to juggle.

Need to keep the momentum going at work and get those boulders rolling.

Paid my VAT bill as soon as my accountant told me how much was due, now I’ve got a letter from HMRC with a request to explain why I sent them the money. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be efficient.