in Weeknotes

Weeknotes #257 — Offsite

An extremely busy week. Three of my colleagues on our management team came over from Johannesburg, so I went into London every day in order to maximise our time together. (Being with them on a Teams call with me at home and them in our London office would have felt so wrong.) Every time I head into the office for five days in a row I wonder how I used to do it week in, week out. I’m knackered.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent offsite at Etc. Venues Monument, right next to where the Great Fire of London started in Pudding Lane. I’d been beavering away on the agenda for the past few weeks and it came together well. Everyone seemed to get a lot out of the two days. It was wonderful to have all of us together in the same room, away from the distractions of the office. The venue was perfect; not too expensive, well-equipped and with lovely food throughout the day.

At the end of the week we fed back to the whole department, giving everyone an overview of the ‘hard landscape’ of the year ahead, with the work we have to get done across our property/facilities portfolio taking priority over everything else.

I still feel that I’m working on a ‘just in time’ basis, looking ahead to what the next immediate deadline is and getting the work done for that. It’s hectic.

This was a week in which I:

  • Had a revelation as we prepared for our offsite meeting, realising that there are two types of work that we do. The first is ‘don’t ask me what I want, tell me what I need’ which covers the core IT infrastructure, meeting room technology etc. The second is ‘ask me what I need’ which sits more in the digital product development space. The approach to each type of work is different.
  • Met with our meeting room technology vendor, to review the setup of two of our key internal rooms and see if there are any simple improvements we can make. They introduced us to Grid View, which we’ve now enabled in both of the rooms. It has completely transformed the experience for remote participants, with zoomed-in tiles for each of the groups of people in the room.
  • Had a workshop with our meeting room design vendor, reviewing the new office space that we are moving into in one of our cities and talking about what kind of technology might work there.
  • Had a briefing on Sustainable IT at our offsite meeting, with an expert researcher in the field. I learned so much in 90 minutes, but realise how much more there is to know.
  • Enjoyed a recap of the strategy of our part of the organisation from our business manager at our offsite event.
  • Took some colleagues up to see another part of our building which we may want to use while some major works are undertaken in our main office later in the year.
  • Had the monthly project meeting with our sister company on the planned office renovations.
  • Joined the weekly project meeting for opening a new office in a new country.
  • Met with our main technology partner to discuss the big projects that we need to complete this year, so that they are able to come back with a proposal for how they might tackle the work.
  • Had an in-person meeting with our Microsoft licence vendor and discussed other services they offer beyond what we use them for today.
  • Gave my presentation on Large Language Models and Generative AI to our team of Corporate Finance analysts in Johannesburg.
  • Provided some content for an in-house version of the Thoughtworks Technology Radar that we’re trying as an experiment.
  • Met my product development leadership team for a weekly check-in.
  • Bumped into an old friend from university at the offsite venue, someone that I haven’t seen in over a decade.
  • Wondered how I suddenly became the parent of a son old enough to go to a work Christmas party. I feel like I was his age a moment ago.
  • Had a wonderful dinner at Manicomio City, celebrating a colleague’s birthday and another colleague’s imminent retirement. The table was set up perfectly for the ten of us to all be able to hear each other and the food was exceptional.
  • Enjoyed a team drink at the rooftop bar at Coq D’Argent. The heaters and sheepskins kept us cosy despite the cold.
  • Heard Portishead’s Dummy for the first time in decades at the WB-40 album club. I admire the album more than I love it, which is maybe why I’ve never gone back to it since the time it was released. It’s quite a downbeat record and it’s not often that I want to feel quite like that.
  • Enjoyed a lovely dinner with my wife, her fellow running club coaches and their spouses at someone’s house. It was a good way to unwind after a very busy week.
  • Ran the line at my eldest son’s football match.
  • Was pleased to see my Bookcrossing stickers and labels drop through the post. I’ve got a lot of books lined up to release. It rarely happens, but there’s nothing quite like the fun of hearing from a book I released years ago.

Media

Podcasts

Video

Audio

  • Ben Thompson’s Stratechery interview with Netflix Co-CEO Greg Peters was excellent. I loved the point that Peters made that building institutional capability is only something that you build over time once you’ve hired great people. He also gave some great insight keeping things disciplined and strategic:

Ben Thompson: To our point about the operational stuff, what is fun for me about Netflix is it feels like a deeply strategic company.

Greg Peters: I think of it as that for sure, and Reed [Hastings, Netflix Executive Chairman, Co-Founder and ex-CEO] really instilled that value in that sense that you want to be very considerate about what you go do, you want to only go do the things that really will lead to a gigantic revenue and profit pool. We have this thing we call the lemonade stand in front of the gold mine, which is don’t get distracted building lemonade stands in front of the gold mine — you want to find the gold mines and that’s what you really want to work on. So that discipline, that focus, I think is important.

The other one that really I take away with me is probably the under-recognized benefits of being extremely disciplined about having top talent in all your positions and this goes a little bit back to that strategic mindset versus what it looks like in practical operations, and having great people everywhere just means you can get tons of stuff done.

Web

Next week: Saying goodbye to my nan.

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