Weeknote #20 — Say No Go

It felt good to have taken Monday off (along with the rest of the UK) to get some things done around the house and not worried about work. However, the long weekend translated to me firing on what felt like only three of the four cylinders the next day. It’s very difficult to be ‘off the ball’ at work when you’re in a leadership role. Many years ago in my career I might have a day where I didn’t feel like talking to too many people and could just get my head down to do some solo work; this is impossible now.

I found a fantastic feature in Outlook that I had never known about which allows the use of logical OR in search folders. I use search folders all the time; this feature is a game-changer for me in being able to keep up with all of the most important stuff in my email. In broad terms, I’ve given up for now with trying to read everything that comes in and am instead focusing on emails where I am in the ‘to’ field. Anything where I am ‘cc’ed’ is being generally ignored at my desk; I may pick these up later on my commute using Outlook on iOS which doesn’t have the search folder feature. I stayed up late on Monday night trying to get on top of the most important emails and it was amazing how quickly this setup helped me to get through them.

It was lovely to have someone randomly speak to me about being a programme manager and telling me (with tongue somewhat in cheek) “that’s what I want to do when I grow up.” They’ve asked for a coffee and a chat which of course I’m very happy to do. It stopped me dead in my tracks and reminded me of where I am in my career. It’s easy to forget what my current role would have looked like to a much younger version of me.

Unfortunately we had to call a ‘no-go’ for our rollout in Asia as the technical work is not ready. Our current provider is going through some resourcing challenges which means that we are stuck with a ‘best efforts’ approach to getting things fixed. It isn’t great that we have to delay our plans and is made more difficult by the fact that we don’t have a clear timeline to be back on track; until we know what the issues are we can’t make a sensible estimate of how long they will take to fix. We’ve now got (another) weekly meeting in the diary with the management team in Asia to report on our progress and revisions to the plan.

My programme isn’t the only one happening at the firm, and not the only thing that’s making demands of our incumbent infrastructure provider. In order to help both them and us, we’re going to have to pull together a single prioritised backlog of items for them to work through. It’ll be interesting to see how we can make the prioritisation work and how quickly we will get to the point of making a call on which of two things is more important to the firm.

We have lots of work to do on processes, and not just those for our future end-state. With the small amount of change we’ve implemented so far we have already broken a few things and highlighted problems that were already there. Previously, when users moved between countries, they had no expectations of keeping their data, their email address etc.. It’s now much less clear about whether they can keep these things and if so, who has to do what to make that happen. The volume of these types of issues is low enough right now that we don’t need to drop everything to fix it, but it does need to be prioritised sooner rather than later.

The next few weeks will see quite a bit of change in the makeup of the programme team. We had the first of a number of new team members join us this week and it will ramp up in a couple of weeks. At the start of the year my puzzle to solve was trying to get the programme delivering through multiple streams at the same time and it finally feels that we are starting to see this bear fruit. There are plenty of adventures ahead. We have more vendors to talk to over the next couple of weeks with at least two workshops in the next few days alone which will hopefully kick off more work in parallel. I still have lots to do myself to contribute to the effort aside from overseeing it all; my focus is going to be in trying to find time to plan the work between the streams on the programme as well as with the other projects with which we have dependencies.

A friend of mine had to leave work suddenly in the middle of last week as their child was feeling ill at school. Things escalated quickly and they ended up spending a few nights in hospital to recover. Thankfully they are fine, but it was a bit scary for a time and of course makes you think about how quickly events can change in your day, or even your life. Three years ago I ended up in hospital with pneumonia while we were on a family holiday; it wasn’t fun but it could’ve been a lot worse. In our house our unspoken philosophy seems to be that unless you have a fever or are puking up, you’re going to work/school and getting on with it. There’s very little sympathy and low tolerance for disrupting the things we have all committed to do. I think that it is so much harder for the partner who spends more time with the children; even if you feel rotten you are still expected to do all of the things that you usually do for those that are dependent on you.

I’ve managed to spend quite a bit of time with the kids over the past few weekends. Our little guy was at a sleepover last Sunday so the remaining three of us watched Les Miserables, which the eldest boy loved. I’d never seen/read it in any form and it was interesting in how clearly it showed itself as a stage play that had been translated to film. In the theatre you are expected to use your imagination, whereas film is a lot more literal. It felt a little strange to have the big budget film effects alongside props and sets that could have appeared on a stage, such as the ridiculously inadequate barricade in the street. Still, it was something very different and by the end we were all really enjoying it. I couldn’t help but think about the film of Macbeth with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench which I watched at school, with sets so sparse but rendered completey unecessary by how utterly engrossing the performances were.

My bike has been serviced and I managed to get out on a 60mi ride on Saturday. My eldest boy had a 1,500m British Milers Club run in Milton Keynes so I made my way there by bike in time for the run and came back again straight after while my wife took the boys in the car. It felt great to be in the saddle again. Incorporating a ride into a thing we’re doing anyway is a very good way to get the miles in and I’m going to try and take every opportunity I can to do it.

This weekend we’ve had to spend a lot of time getting everything out of our lounge ready for it to be decorated for the first time in 13 years. It’s only when you clear out a room that you realise how much stuff there is in it; one of Berkhamsted’s charity shops are soon to be in for a bumper haul of books and DVDs. Also, I’ve learned that untangling the web of wires and dust clumps behind the TV is a job I don’t want to do any more frequently than every 13 years.

Next week: A beautiful new lounge! School governor meeting time again (with plenty of reading beforehand), and trying to get on top of the meetings we have between now and the end of term. More of the same at work with trying to battle for time to get the planning done, both for the immediate future — workshops this week and next — as well as the road further ahead.

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