Weeknote #13 — An everlasting gobstopper

What a great week. It started on Sunday with another all-day session to get the Steering Committee pack put together ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. Again, it’s not great that I couldn’t get it done the week before, but I took advantage of Mrs D and the boys heading to her parents’ house for a few days from Sunday morning. The day was helped massively by having a couple of the team over from my client’s office and breaking up the work with the brilliant Bahrain GP in the afternoon. I got to bed after midnight and still had a whole additional day’s work to do on the pack but we managed to crystallise our thinking and convey it pretty well. When I took a step back and looked at what we had created I couldn’t help but think of the Heath Robinson-style machine in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which makes a lot of noise and produces a tiny thing at the end, but the work to get there is just as important as what we ended up with. Only 20 working days until we’re doing it again.

The week has been tough at times; my delivery of the pack in the meeting wasn’t as impactful as I would have liked. I took full advantage of being home alone through working most evenings. Tuesday saw us have an impromptu four-hour desktop videoconference to get some high-level planning in place against a sudden deadline, but the work was worthwhile and we’re really getting set up for what’s to come. Having a ‘fire drill’ was tough but useful; putting constraints in place on a programme really focuses the mind and gets things moving.

There is so much happening on the programme over the next month. As well as consolidating our software roll-out in London we’ll be going live in another country, planning to visit one more in May and another two in April, kicking off a user education stream, starting a future-state planning initiative with a vendor and getting the main programme streams up and running. There’s so much prep to do but it feels like it’s doable. The end results are going to be great. I was actually sad for 5pm on Friday to roll around as I could have quite happily gone for another few hours of getting things in place and off my list. I’m very, very lucky to be doing a job that I love right now.

I popped into a business department’s management workshop to talk about Microsoft Planner and ended up telling them all about Kanban. They are going to try it out and it will be great to see whether it works for them for their operational processes and project work that they are doing.

There has been a buzz in the team this week about Getting Things Done and it has been a good reminder to me to try and practice it more. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to hoist myself completely onto the wagon. I’ve always mixing up the capturing, processing and doing steps and have never taken the time to do a proper weekly review, even though I know this is precisely where it all comes together. I dusted off a pack on GTD that I created years ago and sent this around to the team — the screenshots may look a bit out-of-date, the links may have rotted a little but the essence is exactly the same.

After a couple of fallow weeks, there have been a few media things that have peaked my interest:

  • Track Changes had a great episode on Postlight opening a new office in Beiruit, Lebanon. The story of what they thought they would open (a lower-cost location to get more stuff done at a cheaper rate) and what they actually ended up putting in place (great team members that are the equals of the team in New York that aren’t that low cost at all), and the reasons why, are fascinating.
  • WB40 proved that the ranty ones are the best. Great topic of the digitisation of car parks and the flaws in what’s been done, and what hasn’t been done, so far. When you deal with an app such as Ringgo or JustPark you don’t need to fund the infrastructure of paper tickets and ticket machines etc. but invariably it costs you around 30p more than using cash, probably because the services are a bolt-on and the old infra hasn’t gone anywhere. I love the phrase ‘digital washing’. Digital parking could be so much more, e.g. having the apps tell you where the car parking spaces are or having dynamic pricing. This is a bit of a sore point given the shenanigans in our town over the proposed multi-storey car park; based on how I’ve seen town and county councils work I don’t think there is much joined-up thinking. We had proposed ideas for a bit more digitisation in the signage around the town to say where the spaces are but it got very short shrift with the town council who were largely hell bent on getting on with their vanity project.
  • The first episode of Hi-Phi Nation is brilliant, asking questions about why vast sums of money are invested and spent executing the wishes of long dead people even when those desires no longer make sense for people living today. I love things that make me see things from a different angle or pose questions that I’ve never even considered.
  • Tried not to be too smug about having given up drinking when I read about the latest research into what it does to your health. I’m 41 and I plan to be around for as long as I can; there’s too much to do and enjoy to head towards leaving the planet early.

The risks for a 40-year-old of drinking over the recommended daily limit were comparable to smoking, said one leading scientist. “Above two units a day, the death rates steadily climb,” said David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge.

“The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years’ lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life. This works out at about an hour per day. So it’s as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette.

Finally, on a whim, I took my first Ofo bike ride to get from the office to the station on Friday night. The bike was just sitting there, all yellow and tempting, and it only took me five minutes or so to download the app and get set up. Having bikes that you can park anywhere is a great step forward — using a TfL bike always feels like a massive gamble that there will be a space to dock it when you get to the other end. The ride cost me nothing which I assume is an introductory offer. The bike itself was a little rattly and not quite as comfortable as a TfL one, but it was fine. I’ll definitely give them another go in the future.

Next week: Prep for travel, a visit from the user education team to get the most out of our new platform, a big push on our vendor selection, school governor data training, and getting as much in place as I possible for the next phases of the programme.

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