Despite best intentions, going away on business means that to some degree everything else gets put on hold. This week I got back to work in my usual locations with tons to catch up on. Although there is barely any jet lag to speak of when travelling between Johannesburg and London, my flight landed at the eye-rubbing time of 4:30am, leaving me a little shell-shocked all weekend. I carried this through to the week, drifting into pre-sleep while trying to get some work done in the evenings. Every time I snapped out of it I could feel my heart racing, which was a little disconcerting. The week was fun but full on.
This was a week in which I:
- Joined some dots between a planned piece of work that will help us to improve how we manage our unstructured data, and issues we have around client onboarding. I spent Monday evening getting everything out of my head and into a draft document that spells out the opportunity, as well as all of the assumptions that I am making. It feels like we are onto something.
- Met with colleagues to discuss the unstructured data management initiative and how we intend to move it forward.
- Along with my peers, fed back key takeaways from the IT strategy offsite to our entire team. It’s fascinating how we can all be in the same room and yet come away with such different highlights and perspectives. People see and hear everything through their own filters.
- Encountered some teething issues with the Teams chat channel that I set up for last week’s offsite participants. I’m not giving up, and am thinking about how to keep nudging it until it takes off. The most valuable community that I participate in is the Signal group that was set up for listeners to the WB-40 podcast; the group can have 300–400 messages posted on a particularly busy day. I keep it muted and catch up when I can. I know that not everyone is ready to see the value of a group chat (despite many people in the world talking about the need for ‘water cooler moments’ in the office), but I am convinced that we are better off with it than without it.
- Set up a Team in Microsoft Teams for the people that want to use dedicated topic-focused channels for their discussions.
- Collaborated with a colleague on the new format of our delivery roadmap, to be presented to the department next week.
- Reviewed the first pass of individual and collective scoring of an RFP that we are currently running.
- Read through Microsoft’s root cause analysis report for the cloud services outage that we experienced last week. Met with colleagues to discuss and agree additional things that we need to put in place for when this kind of outage happens.
- Had a follow-up session with a colleague in a sister department to talk about delivery tools such as Jira and AgilePlace.
- Ran our weekly Learning Hour meeting, showing our team how to get more out of searching in Microsoft 365. We had a fascinating discussion which jumped from searching for information to publishing it, and what barriers people may have to putting themselves out there.
- Agreed to try out a Lean Coffee format for a future Learning Hour session.
- Set up and sent out a survey for our proposed ‘location broadcasting’ tool. In order for us to push it, we are going to need it be convinced that it will solve more problems than it creates with its transparency.
- Had our monthly call with the Head of Operational Risk to discuss key initiatives and operational risk issues in our department.
- Took part in our department’s monthly risk review meeting.
- Met with our laptop manufacturer to get an overview of their latest products and their plans for this year.
- Met with a colleague in our team who I haven’t spoken to since before Christmas. We finally have everyone back together after the holiday.
- Said goodbye to our team member in São Paulo as part of the formal office close-down.
- Had a call with our account manager at a vendor where they told me that they are moving on. The discussion was refreshingly honest, and is useful input into some work we have planned for this year.
- Watched a webinar from Ivar Jacobson on Organising Around Value, the first of three in the series. It was good to see Brian Tucker again; he has an excellent delivery style which he now manages to make work in an online environment. The webinar was quite high-level. I am hoping that we get into a lot more detail in the next two sessions.
- Tuned into an internal all-company town hall event held in the gigantic atrium of our head office in Johannesburg. Alongside speeches and chats with senior leaders of the company, we got to see Mango Groove perform some songs. I’d never heard of them before; apparently they are a South African staple that everyone knows there. Our firm certainly knows how to hold an event — the production was amazing.
- Watched in wonder at the dishes people brought to the office on Monday for a multi-cultural buffet. Although they looked and smelled amazing, I avoided them as I wasn’t sure which dishes were completely vegetarian and which had been cooked with animal stocks and sauces I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by asking.
- Heard someone senior comment again how you can’t build a culture and relationships when you’re working remotely. I stand by my view that you absolutely can, although it would help if people put their cameras on. Put your cameras on, people!
- Attended the monthly virtual Architecture Community of Practice meeting. Banged the drum for people to put their cameras on in the meeting.
- Had a lovely ‘random coffee’ with one of our lawyers, who joined the firm relatively recently.
- Assembled the agenda for our school Finance, Premises and Personnel Committee and then chaired the meeting. It was the first with our interim headteacher and felt very productive.
- Attended an online school finance briefing run by HFL Education.
- Caught up with a Modern Governor online briefing about the strike action by the National Education Union. I am completely in support of the strike. In my ten years of working as as a school governor, I’ve seen the demands on school staff increase dramatically, with nowhere near the pay increases that they should get for such important roles. Coincidentally, this week’s episode of the Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast is an interview with Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU. She comes across as very reasonable and level-headed in terms of what she would like to happen.
- Sent off for a new passport. I have my fingers crossed that a new one gets to me sooner than the 10 week estimate.
- Enjoyed the first Saturday cycling club ride for many weeks. It’s been cold and rainy since Christmas which has stopped me going out, and sometimes has cancelled the ride altogether. It was so good to be back with everyone.
- Had a fabulously fun evening at Mat’s birthday party, singing karaoke songs long into the night.
Next week: Attempting to squeeze the work into gaps in the diary again.
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