Weeknotes #39–40 — March

It’s much harder to jot down weeknotes that look back over a fortnight as opposed to a single week. As ever, there’s a lot that’s been going on.

At work we are moving firmly away from the budgeting process and pushing hard on making progress with our plan. We’re getting challenges and looks of disbelief from all sides in terms of what we are pushing to do over the next six months or so. I really welcome this. There are a lot of experts with much more experience than me in the things that we are trying to do. We have been trying to channel the feedback into more detailed conversations to try and surface assumptions and issues we haven’t thought about. At the moment, I am still sitting with a plan that is ‘aggressive but possible’ — no ‘showstoppers’ have revealed themselves yet — so it is going to take some skill and a lot of hard work to make it happen.

The team are working under the ‘principle of mission’ in terms of knowing what the end date is for their workstreams and having to plan how they will meet it. Some will be able to do this better than others, so there will need be room for assistance with this, but we don’t have time for a full bottom-up plan which is unlikely to reflect reality anyway. The devil is in the detail, but the detail needs to come from the people doing the work. One of the hardest things is going to be dealing with over-optimism on the part of our stream leads who may only realise when it is too late that we are out of time. I’ve seldom met someone who doesn’t do this, including myself. Breaking down the work with them locally and stepping through each plan that shows ‘who will do what by when’ will help. At a programme level I will need to continually spend time surveying the landscape and looking at where best to get involved to remove obstacles and reduce risk, and keep iterating on this until we’re done.

Last weekend I spent three hours with our incoming Chair of Governors, immersing ourselves in some of the detail of the job and agreeing a few immediate actions between us. She is going to be great in the role. It somehow doesn’t yet quite feel real that I have stepped down to being Vice-Chair, perhaps because there is still such a backlog of items to get through.

I met up with for a coffee and a chat with a prospective new governor who responded to my request at the ‘meet the teacher’ evening at the start of term. The role sells itself and it’s lovely to talk about it with someone who wants to join the team — once they have been in contact it’s rare that they decide they don’t want to participate.

At home, the biggest event for us was the People’s Vote march on Saturday. I’d spent some time talking to my two boys about it and explaining why I was planning to go. I felt strongly enough about the issue to prioritise being there. Our family discussed it all week — I tried very hard not to deliberately persuade them to my point of view and for them to make up their own minds about what to do. They were very keen, so we gathered together some materials and got up early on Saturday morning to make signs. Both of the boys came up with their own ideas for their placards, and I made my own too.

The march itself was brilliant, but hard work. It was one of those unusual days in London where people notice and talk to each other instead of being lost in their own worlds of phones, headphones and newspapers. The group of friends we went with assembled at Marble Arch just before midday and we then quickly found ourselves stuck with the heaving throng for an hour and a half or so. The boys did really well to keep patient in the crowd once the novelty of seeing so many sweary signs had worn off. As we shuffled forward and the day wore on, people started to leave our group to find food or get to whatever they had planned to do in the evening. I said goodbye to some friends at Trafalgar Square some three hours into the walk and then made my way alone past Downing Street and into Westminster. The speeches had long since finished but it felt good to have completed the route. I was so pleased to have been there and stood with so many other like-minded people. I don’t know if it will do anything to stop Brexit but I am glad that I can say I didn’t leave it to everyone else to fix.

Winter running has kicked off with the first Chiltern Cross Country League race of the 2018–19 season in Oxford. This year our youngest boy is competing for the first time in the U11 group and our eldest has moved up to the U13 group. We were very proud of them both, coming 42nd and 14th respectively. Neither of them left anything on the table and my eldest ran the whole race with an injury he picked up at the start. Next stop is Milton Keynes on 10 November.

My vinyl obsession continues unabated. Following the People’s Vote march I wandered into Soho to see what record shops I could find. Sounds of the Universe and Reckless Records are within a stone’s throw of each other and are both wonderful, filled with new and used records respectively. I particularly loved how the items in Reckless are carefully graded and that the staff actively encouraged me to look at the vinyl before I made I purchase. I managed to pick up a brand new copy of Zero 7’s Simple Things and a vintage copy of Seal’s debut album. Playing Seal was a bit of a shock as the album is substantially different to the one I grew up loving on CD — it turns out that there are actually two completely different versions of the album. We’re not talking 1960s-style ‘slightly different mix between mono and stereo’ differences. Some of the tracks are completely different. I’ll need to give it a few more plays to work out which one I like best; the version I know is so deeply ingrained in my brain it will be difficult to dislodge.

Next week: Flushing out as much of each of our programme workstreams as I can with the team and getting our architectural high-level designs completed and signed off. Some new faces in the office, and a half day midweek to attend the annual Standards Visit at school.

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