in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #123 — Cognitive dissonance

I spent the first half of this week in a bit of a daze, with the tiredness from last week lingering on into this one. The weekend had made no difference. At one point I felt so run down that I did my first ever COVID-19 lateral flow test to see if that was an underlying cause of feeling so ‘out of it’; fortunately it was negative.

A big contributing factor could be the very weird period we seem to be going through right now. I’ve been struggling with the cognitive dissonance of it all. It’s bizarre to have calls with worried colleagues in Johannesburg who are having an awful, frightening and tragic time with their current COVID infection wave, to watching Euro 2020 matches on TV with full stadiums, to talking to our Headteacher about closing year-group bubbles because of infections, to hearing the UK government saying that we have to end our restrictions in the next few weeks. It feels bizarre to be stuck between seemingly having been through the worst of the pandemic with the infection figures clearly showing another wave. Ros Taylor did an excellent job on The Bunker podcast of articulating the unfairness of the school situation — we aren’t yet prepared to vaccinate our children in the UK, but we keep closing school bubbles and sending them home whenever someone tests positive. Surely we have to do something to keep them in school? The secondary school my sons attend have unilaterally decided that the children need to go back to wearing masks and my youngest one has told me that he’s in favour of it.

I was very grateful to have the members of the WB-40 Signal group to lend an ear (or eye?) this week as I got all of this off my chest and tried to make sense of how I was feeling. I’m so pleased to have found such a supportive (and regularly amusing) network.

This was a week in which I:

  • Caught up with a close colleague and friend who has been out of the office for the past nine months with a serious illness. Trying to summarise everything that had happened at work in the past nine months without overwhelming him wasn’t easy. It was so lovely to chat with him and I can’t wait for him to be back with us.
  • Spent time updating our architecture documentation with our current thinking for our technology stack. It was broadly correct, but the document hadn’t been touched in 18 months and needed a bit of a refresh. I also created a couple of overview slides to explain the major change between what we’re doing now and the approach that we had started out with in 2019. I’m not a technical architect so I was a little outside my comfort zone, but part of the joy of working in such a small team is that I get to do such a broad range of things.
  • Refactored our change roadmap by areas of focus as opposed to the sub-teams responsible for each change. It gives us a more collaborative view in that the whole team is responsible for achieving the deliveries, and is interesting in terms of the areas that have the most focus right now.
  • Completed a set of slides for one of our smaller offices, showing the IT infrastructure technology journey over the past four years. I’ll be presenting these at the local governance meeting for that country on Monday.
  • Met with my boss and a colleague on the large group programme to try and refine our thinking and approach to the work in our space. We have lots of good thinking and ideas but are letting it cook for a little while longer.
  • Attended a kick-off session for upgrading our meeting room equipment in another of our smaller offices. We are still gathering information and costs before we present the proposal to the local CEO.
  • Discussed the plan to roll out new information protection technology to our part of the organisation in the coming months. It’s a small change but has a significant impact on everyone’s day-to-day workflow, so we have been trying to balance the friction it will deliberately cause with the risks that we are minimising.
  • Met for a ‘pre-interview’ with a potential candidate for a technical role in our team.
  • Along with the rest of the company, started to experiment with ‘step-back Wednesdays’ where we have no planned internal meetings. I was concerned that it would mean the other four days would be a collection of diary car crashes, but people seem to be taking the opportunity to prune back the overall number of meetings or schedule them to occur less frequently. We’re trying it out for three months. I’m betting it will stick.
  • Attended a Gartner meeting on the same topic and heard about what similar changes had worked at other companies, and why.
  • Had a ‘random coffee’ catch-up with one of our business heads in London. It was really interesting to get his perspectives on returning to the office, particularly on the impact physical presence can have in landing deals.
  • Resigned myself to the fact that I am not going to change the wider company culture of having cameras off in meetings. I spent one meeting as the only person out of sixty attendees that had their camera on throughout. I know everyone has video meeting fatigue but there’s something about not being visible that irks me — I get much more value out of seeing everyone’s expressions and physically putting their hands up when they have something to say.
  • Tried out my new cycling shoes and adjusted the cleats to where I think they are most comfortable. Once they’re in a good place, replacing the cleats is easy as you just draw a template around the old ones, but starting afresh is a bit more involved. They are much more comfortable than the old pair I had been using for years.
  • Started to turn my attention to weather watching for next Saturday when I will make my first attempt at a long Audax ride. I’m excited to give it a go. I’ve taken Friday off so that I can get some rest ahead of the event.
  • Had a short road ride with my eldest son this week as he wasn’t feeling too great. He legitimately beat me up Bison Hill though. I am very proud of him!
  • Bought a Unifi G3 Instant camera with the intention of installing it outside of my office. It is an incredible piece of kit for the €25 price, with excellent picture quality in both light and dark conditions. You need to have a Unifi Protect system running to begin with, but it is a ‘no brainer’ simple add-on for that price.
  • Enjoyed watching as many of the Euro 2020 football matches as I can. It’s strange watching England now — I really want them to succeed, but nowhere near as much as I did when I was a young boy lying on the floor in front of Italia ‘90 on the TV. In some ways, it’s nice to not have any expectations.
  • Had a lovely family morning out at Topgolf. Learned that I really didn’t miss my vocation by not becoming a golfer.

Next week: A four-day week, with a ‘step-back Wednesday’ in the middle of it. Continued plugging away at the backlog of documents I need to review or produce. Turning my attention back to my school governor role with some evening meetings and preparation for our last Full Governing Board meeting of the year the week after.

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