S0305: Through the fire(break)

Prototypes! Conferences! Maps! Oh my!

Loads of things happened this week, and they’re big, so let’s get cracking

The firebreak project

I’d like to write a One Team Gov blog about this experience. It was very interesting and I really enjoyed it, but I’m not sure that’s an entirely good reason to do it. All the same, there might be some lessons to share.

The short version is that a friend and colleague asked me to help out, I spent four days with their team, and in that time we built a prototype product with a workflow that crossed different user journeys.

I’m still shaking from presenting it to senior people over Youtube, because we’ve got competing networks and silos. It worked, thank goodness, and feedback has been really good. I’m pleased to turn it over and get started on my new project on Monday.


I like mapping. I think it’s a genuinely transformative tool. I mapped out the Secret Project on the way home from Map Camp and showed it to someone who’s never seen one before. They got it at once, but they are very clever. I’m excited to share it more widely and see if other people get it too.

However: Map Camp itself was very heavy on the chalk and talk⁰. There was almost no opportunity to ask questions or discuss, and very little practical opportunity to try out what we were learning. Maybe that’s a function of it being highly context specific, but all the same by the fourth speaker my butt was asleep.

Static: a visual representation of how my butt felt

James Findlay and Janet Hughes represented for government, and Janet’s talk in particular was really incredible. I also got to chat to former colleague Chris, who’s been doing phenomenally cool things.

Secret project (that will hopefully become less secret really soon, but let’s be honest I’ve got expectations to manage and I really don’t want to fart this up)

Not SECRET in the Civil Service sense, but secret in the ‘let’s not talk too much about this until we’re sure it’s going to happen,’ but: I’m writing strategy documents! I’m making maps! I’ve written too much oh god it’s just reams and reams of paper, a tsunami of word vomit flooding out of my laptop and splashing onto the floor…

I don’t know how to do this, so I’m going to get my policy colleague to repay my firebreak favour and help me write in a way that’s not, y’know. Like this.

More updates as I think it’s appropriate to include them.

It was October 3rd:

Mean girls remains the most important satire of the tendency of revolutionaries to become dictators since Animal Farm, do not @-me thank you

I’m through to the interview stage of the Future Leaders Scheme!

endless screaming as I try to prepare for an interview and convince them I’m not a potato

I’m really excited about this. It’s a bit of a vote of confidence in me and my potential. It’s also the first time I’ve ever actually felt that I agree with this assessment.

Yeah, self-doubt. I have a lot of it.

I have breezed through almost everything I’ve ever done with absolutely zero interest in being particularly good at it, and therefore no idea whether I have potential. This, though, is something else. I think my firebreak work has had a massive impact on this: I’ve had a whole week of positive reinforcement and I feel positively reinforced. I am quite good at this thing that I do. I am also really, really aware of how much better I could be and I care about getting better.

It’s exhilarating.

⁰ Not everyone knows this phrase, so: a chalk and talk is a lecture given by a professorial type in which one sits and tries to listen as they monologue. You watch a bee and by some auditory alchemy the voice transmutes into the sound of the bee, until it’s just a single droning hum that’s slowly filling your head, filling it until it’s heavy, until it’s so heavy it starts to sink onto the desk that feels cool and firm and somehow right, and then you blink, and everyone’s packing up and somehow an hour has passed.¹

¹ Look, it’s a very specific phrase, alright?

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