Weeknote #9 — Minimum viable kettle

This has come around super-quick for me, partly because I didn’t get much of a weekend the last time around. I got my weeknotes out late and then slipped straight into Monday with a huge to-do list. I seem to spend a lot of time thinking “I can’t believe it’s Friday already”; this is great in that I am loving what I am doing but bad in that I wish I had more than 168 hours to do it all in.

This was week two of five for our software rollout in London. Initially, things continued in the same smooth manner as last week and by the time Tuesday morning’s Steering Committee meeting came around I still had a good, confident story to tell. The meeting went well; the time I had spent at the weekend creating illustrations like the one below to explain various concepts really paid off. It can always be better, though; we need to look for more opportunities for the Committee to make decisions and really steer the programme, but I think this is a factor of where we are with the work right now.

On Tuesday afternoon, almost straight after the Committee meeting, things took a turn for the worse, with some of our users reporting all kinds of issues, particularly around speed and responsiveness of the software on a specific platform. It’s a real measure of the team in terms of how they step up when we get multiple problems arriving and we did well; we were organised, calm and gave the users as much attention as possible. It’s a bit like a bad experience in a restaurant where the management team have an opportunity to put things right as much as they can through how they respond. Our daily wash-up meeting was a little more involved than usual as we got our head around the entire landscape of where we are and agreed what to do next. I found myself stuck on a late train home, writing a note to all of our users and taking responsibility for any issues, frustrations and loss of productivity they had.

Wednesday was better but there were still a few niggles. We weren’t completely stuck and could continue with a lot of our work, but we were cautious to avoid adding load to the environment where we had seen the issues on Tuesday. Later in the week we have found a lot of circumstantial evidence that could have led to our problems but it is incredibly difficult to draw a straight line between a cause and the effects. Deciding on how to move forward feels a bit like trial by jury where we are trying to work out whether we can explain problems ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ as opposed to positively proving that two things are linked. This makes me very uncomfortable but given the way we work and the infrastructure environment we work in, we have to accept that we probably can’t get down to a lower level of detail. Overall, we’re still on track but will need to decide on details on how we move forward while we have imperfect information.

Meanwhile, I have been continuing to try to spend my time laying down the runway for the next projects in the hopper. Vendor discussions are reaching a level of maturity which hopefully means we can decide on a partner soon and we are busy planning visits to the firm’s other international offices to upgrade their systems. I am far, far from being on top of email and have been conscious about what I have committed to; this week I have found myself working late at night to reply to someone where I said I would get back to them that day, which has meant I have been trying to avoid making this type of commitment where possible.

As work has been so busy, we are half a month in and haven’t done our monthly home YNAB budget yet, possibly the longest we’ve left it in four years. We’re flying by the seat of our pants a bit but there isn’t much major spending going on this month so I’m hoping our income will cover our outgoings. One to catch up with this weekend.

My wife made an executive decision to treat ourselves to a new kettle, which seems like an extravagance as our old one was still working after only a year or so of service. The problem was that the rounded spout of the old Russell Hobbs one meant that it was utterly abysmal at pouring, which is quite an important feature for a kettle. The 1980s-style Breville which we’ve replaced it with is almost sniper-rifle-esque in comparison and it has been a joy to use.

The two evenings of governor meetings went well this week, although as the clock approached 10pm on Monday I felt as though I had to rush everyone along in order to get out of there. As hard as I feel I work, it’s always sobering to check in with Headteachers across the town who seem to be in a permanent state of evening and weekend working. Not good.

On the media side, other than continuing with podcasts on my commute and a few pages of Johnny Herbert’s biography before I turn my light out, nothing really grabbed me. I did have a puzzled look on my face when a Medium post turned up from Tim Berners-Lee about the web being under threat. Am I missing something?

Next week: More of the same; focusing on our rollout, trying to find chunks of time to keep laying the runway, and a few key governor meetings. Plus the a welcome return of Album Club!

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