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.
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:
- The massive fraud at the Punjab National Bank that was caused in part by an out-of-date version of Finacle, the core Banking system (hat tip to the FT Banking Weekly podcast)
- How badly polluting it is to burn wood on your stove or fire, and that burning wood in open fires in UK cities has actually been banned since 1956!
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.