in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #92 — I’ve Got My Mojo Working

This felt like a really pivotal week. By Friday afternoon I was exhausted, but I didn’t want the week to end as my creative juices were flowing. The central focus was once again picking up and thinking about how we will manage work across our global team in 2021 and beyond.

Most of our wider organisation uses the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), with self-sufficient agile ‘feature teams’ of 6–8 people, rolling up into larger constructs. This doesn’t work for us out of the box as (a) we are 15–20 people who do everything, from the helpdesk, to choosing and managing hardware, to network management, telephony management and managing our Microsoft 365 configurations, and (b) we don’t actually do that much pure development work. We could try and split the team down into three agile teams, but it’s hard to do when the required skillset of each team is so diverse.

My mission is to put a little bit of structure into the work so that we focus our efforts on less things, finish more things, and start to have some more predictability over what we will deliver in the near-term.

For the first time in three or four years, I don’t have any milestones that I have committed to and have a little bit of space to do this thinking instead of focusing on getting work out of the door myself.

This week I:

  • Got alerted to a production issue late on Sunday afternoon, and didn’t get to bed until after 2am on Monday when we were finally happy that it had been resolved. I always hate the feeling at the start of a major incident where we are not sure what the problem is or whether it will be fixable — I have to consciously stop my mind from catastrophising and to focus on the facts. It’s so important to take things slow and steady when things are broken and to piece together a simple plan of action to get them working again. I was in awe of my colleagues in Johannesburg who were two hours ahead of me and didn’t complain once, despite needing to get up and look after their families the next day.
  • Met with the brilliant Stuart Mann to talk through the work planning and management problem that I’m trying to solve. We actually met a year ago but events overtook me during the past year, so not much has really changed. It’s great to have someone so experienced and knowledgeable in the organisation, and I’m determined to keep the dialogue open as I work things out.
  • Took our CIO through a sample of our project backlog so that we are on the same page with what we have left to do from the major programme we’ve been running for the past few years.
  • Spent time thinking about roadmaps and how to put them together for our work. I’ve picked up a copy of Product Roadmaps Relaunched and ploughed through half of it over the weekend, as well as watching a few videos of presentations given by the authors. (I really do need to remember that YouTube videos saved to Instapaper are a great alternative to whatever happens to be on TV.) As always, there is no recipe or secret sauce, but there are loads of great points on how to approach the problem, such as ensuring that the focus is on outcomes instead of outputs, that the work has been prioritised well, and that it is clearly of value to the customer.

  • Learned that wireless access points really don’t like being squirrelled away in ceiling voids and would prefer to be on show. Obvious in retrospect.
  • Started to run a small team meeting with my two direct reports, in place of the 1:1 meetings that we used to have. We should have done this ages ago — it feels great to work out ideas together and to get aligned as a team.
  • Spent time with business colleagues to continue to map our ‘as is’ client processes, with a view to looking at where the key pain points are.
  • Had the pleasure of meeting with Tom Arbuthnot to discuss tools for reviewing and diagnosing all manner of problems with Microsoft Teams meetings. His monthly podcast is excellent, and it was great to be able to get some time with him to go deeper on some of the topics.
  • Reviewed and agreed our regular backup and restore testing process.
  • Trained a colleague in Beijing on LeanKit and how we use it within the team.
  • Interviewed candidates for the local Infrastructure and Operations manager/helpdesk role in our Beijing office.
  • Attended our monthly IT governance review for our Dubai office.
  • Along with four colleagues, won an award at work for ‘connectivity and collaboration’ during the past year. It was a bit overwhelming to be nominated and selected amongst such an excellent group of people. It’s a fantastic company to work for, and provides an environment where anyone can have an idea that will be listened to, with space and support being given to put the idea into action.
  • Reviewed the aggregated feedback from our annual employee survey.
  • Enjoyed another lovely ‘random coffee’ with a colleague, someone who grew up in Mauritius and South Africa and is now living in London. At this time of year, with the weather as bleak as it has been, I had to resist the overwhelming desire to ask “why?”
  • Watched in horror as Romain Grosjean crashed on the first lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix. It’s been many years since I’ve been concerned about a driver in an accident. Seeing the car explode in a ball of flame had all of us watching with our hands to our mouths. I’m so grateful that he seems to only have minor injuries.
  • Continued my journey through the short films of Buster Keaton, this time with the titillatingly-titled His Wedding Night (1917). This is one that is gladly tucked away in the historical dustbin, with casual racism and an odious Fatty Arbuckle drugging a woman with chloroform in order to steal a kiss while she is unconscious. How hiliarious.

Next week: Joining my boys for a day off, and using the rest of the short week — when I am not in meetings — to try and complete a paper prototype of our ‘new ways of working’.

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