in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #199 — Shallow snow, deep work

An eventful and productive week. On Sunday night the snow came down and we woke up on Monday to a few inches of snow. School were quick to text us that they were open and that they were expecting pupils to attend; our children were not impressed. I cleared and gritted a path down our driveway as well as the steps to our neighbour’s house, but experience now tells me that I’ll have to grit the pavement and road directly outside our house in future.

This week’s trains into London were already going to be problematic due to more scheduled strike action, so I resigned myself to a full week of working from home. For the first time in months, I found myself with two consecutive days with almost completely free of meetings, with hours of time to lose myself in some deep work. I made the most of it. It was so satisfying to create something that has been building up in my mind for most of the year.

Temperatures have swung from -7°C to 9°C in 24 hours and the snow has largely been washed away. We really do get a lot of weather here in the UK.

This was a week in which I:

  • Fleshed out a slide deck to frame our digital literacy initiative. I need to write more about this in a separate post, as I think it will be a central component to what we do in the future. The magical Internet led me to making contact with Blaneth McSharry at the University of Galway, one of the authors of the excellent All Aboard tube map of digital skills for higher education. The map has helped me to organise my thoughts into these categories, albeit with different content under each one. I really appreciate Blaneth sending me the graphic in a modifiable format that I can potentially remix. I feel as though I’m now in a place to share what I’ve done with the wider team and get some feedback.
  • Finalised the contract for a trial of software that will allow our staff to broadcast their planned daily working locations to their colleagues. The concept is super simple and the application is very pretty. Almost everyone in our department is now on-board and I’ve already had my first conversation along the lines of “Oh, I see you’ll be in the office on Monday so I’ll try and come in too.” I demoed the system to two other departments and enabled them also. There’s an obvious potential downside in that people may start asking negative questions about other peoples’ working patterns. We’ll have to be clever about how to present and promote the concept to the wider organisation.
  • Completed the cybersecurity review for our chosen password management vendor and met with our sales representative. I now have purchase orders in place for three of our four locations and hope to get the final one in place on Monday, ready to send them all back to our reseller. I am so excited to be getting close to rolling this out across the organisation; it has been on my backlog for many years.
  • Continued a discussion with a colleague in another department about work management tools. Gave him a demo of Planview AgilePlace, which is central to our work.
  • Demoed and explored a feature of AgilePlace that allows you to set up programme increments and sprints. We may be able to use this in our future product development work.
  • Spoke to a colleague in the Enterprise Architecture team for help in logging a historical product decision that pre-dates the setup of our own Architecture Governance Authority.
  • Took part in our annual review of our Microsoft licensing requirements.
  • Attended a Meetup on the topic of scaling agile outside of software development. Before the pandemic, when I used to go to something like this in person, there was an opportunity to meet some interesting people afterwards even if the main event wasn’t that great. This mingling is almost impossible on a virtual call, so if the presentation isn’t very good then there is little incentive to stay.
  • Signed up as a paid user of Milanote after getting a recommendation from a friend and watching a couple of introductory videos. I’m wondering if this will help my blogging workflow; currently I have a list of ‘ideas’ in Ulysses but don’t spent time looking through them. Perhaps having them in a more visual format, adding references and links as I go, will help with getting more things to ‘done’.

  • Interviewed a prospective school governor who has recently moved to the town. We’ve been adding governors at a steady rate recently which is giving me some optimism for the future. It’s wonderful that people want to volunteer, offering their time, experience and expertise for free.
  • Joined a National Governance Association webinar on the topic of Financial oversight in challenging times. It’s a pretty bleak picture. I really feel that there is nobody talking about the impact of the pandemic on school finances. There are so many children in schools who are now presenting with additional needs that have to have support from more staff. The vast majority of this is completely unfunded. Even if a specific child has managed to get an education, health and care (EHC) plan, the amount of additional money that is given to support that child falls way below the level required to hire an additional member of staff such as a one-to-one teaching assistant. The government recently announced additional funding for schools, but it will only take us back to 2010 levels of funding per child in real terms, with no additional funding for all of these additional needs.

Next week: Last day in the office and the last three working days of 2022. Finishing off the Christmas shopping and wrapping things up for the year.

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