in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #117 — Golden

The endless pre-summer continues, with barely any let-up in the cloud and rain. Our lawn is now so long that the grass blades have literally gone to seed, and anyone who drops something out there is in serious danger of never seeing it again.

It was another busy week. At the start I had been feeling like I had lost my mojo and was feeling a little melancholy, but my zest came back as the days went by. The weekend was very strange in that we spent most of it socialising, in stark contrast to the past year and a half. Although I wasn’t used to it, getting together with friends and family was just like riding a bike. It was so lovely to see people. I am not sure I want to go back to cramming everything into the two days though; I went to bed on Sunday having not finished all of the personal jobs and getting nowhere near finishing these weeknotes. There’s a healthy balance somewhere.

Meeting up with people felt like a step back to normality. But on Sunday evening a text message and email landed to say that our eldest is a close contact at school with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. He now has to self-isolate for 10 days. There’s a lot to be grateful for — his own tests are negative and we’re all fine, and I am grateful that my wife and I have had a vaccine — but it felt like a cruel end to the weekend. I do wonder how long this stop/start will go on for.

This was a week in which I:

  • Finalised the Beijing IT infrastructure journey presentation and submitted it to the committee where it will be presented.
  • Met with our Internal Audit department to discuss the scope of a potential audit later in the year, and agreed an approach to preparing for it.
  • Spent more time in many meetings about the big group-wide programme. The work is so vast and spans so many areas that it is often difficult to navigate or understand at what level the conversation is taking place. I have enough material to start to craft our approach to the work for our part of the organisation and now just need to prioritise the time to create a draft.
  • Had too many meeting clashes. Lots of meetings now get recorded and at one point on Thursday I seemed to be constantly one meeting behind and watched everything on catch-up throughout the day.
  • Coordinated a detailed analysis on the different communication paths open to staff in the organisation, and the status of each one from a monitoring and compliance perspective. I had to summarise this information into a single slide over the weekend. As George Michael might didn’t quite sing, you’ve ‘got to get down to get up’.
  • Published an article about our weekly ‘wins’ sessions on our business unit-wide Teams channel. Later in the week I made the mental connection between Teams channel posts and blog posts — they are effectively the same thing.
  • Discussed with a colleague in HR how we could go about moving highly confidential data from one place to another in a safe and secure way, and evidence that access to the data wasn’t misused.
  • Spent time walking through another of the team’s Kanban boards, helping to get them to a start line for managing their work.
  • Took some colleagues through my ‘random coffee pair generator’ with a view to them using it for their own team. In doing so, I realised quite how complicated it is and how proficient you need to be in Excel to make it work. There is always so much value in walking through a process to see it through someone else’s eyes.
  • Had my own random coffee with a close member of the team. It was lovely to talk about non-work things for a bit.
  • Pondered how our organisation has grown into two schools of meeting culture, those that keep their cameras on and those that only put them on when talking, if at all. Keeping the camera off always makes me think that the attendees are doing something else. We have a written team rule of “cameras on if you can” and I think that is probably the right approach.
  • Wondered why more people don’t take the time to reject or cancel the meetings in their diary when they know they will be on holiday. It avoids people turning up to meetings that don’t (can’t?) exist, and is cathartic!
  • Attended our school Full Governing Board meeting. I’ve now come to the end of my second four-year term as a governor, and signed up to continue in the role for a while longer. We have a healthy pipeline of governors now, but it takes at least 6–9 months for a new governor to become effective, and even longer to think about stepping into a Chair or Vice-Chair role. Hopefully over the coming year or two more people will get additional experience of different roles.
  • Agreed with our school Full Governing Board that the majority of our meetings will be run remotely via Teams, with one or two held at the school each year. We are much more effective online, and are able to start and finish broadly on time, every time. As a school in the commuter belt around London we no longer need to deal with people messaging that they will be late because the trains are invariably messed up. Everyone agreed that we will avoid the ‘hybrid’ model of some people in the room and some remote, which is the worst of all worlds.
  • Loved meeting my wife’s parents to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. We had booked a garden tent at Cowley Manor with the idea of spending the day in the garden, but the weather had other plans. The hotel asked us if we minded moving to a private room instead, which turned out to be an incredible free upgrade. It was so lovely to spend time with them again and flick through their wonderful wedding photos. My wife has an amazing talent for organising special events and she outdid herself once again.

  • Had to do a school and work pick-up and drop-off for the second week in a row in order to take my eldest boy to the orthodontist.
  • Read and admired Troy Hunt’s account of how he ‘optimised his life to make his job redundant’. I know blog posts like this never paint a full, rounded picture, but it is good to get some insights into ideals to aspire to.
  • Appreciated the work of our handyman as he spent three days installing new internal doors in our house. We never loved the cheap ones we put in when we moved here; when the handles started falling off we had to prioritise getting them changed. I could barely lift a single one of them so I’m not quite sure how he did it, but we’re really pleased with the results.
  • Enjoyed the F1 Monaco GP despite the racing being a yawn-fest. I am sure the races were more exciting and had some overtaking even just a few years ago. It’s interesting how one result can turn the tables on the championship. I can’t wait for Baku.

Next week: More of the same at work, and taking my bike for a service ahead of the big rides in a couple of months’ time.

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