Weeknotes S04E01

Settling down

I’m back from holiday and picked up something gross on the way back. Planes are close-quarters disease spreaders and, frankly, if you so much as sneeze in the queue to board you should be forced to fly with the luggage.

This week has been a process of feeling, and it’s like having one of my senses removed. If you’re joining this season and don’t feel like catching up on previous seasons then:

  1. I feel you; I’ve seen the first five episodes of Game of Thrones but I’m still probably going to watch the last series[mfn]Yes, the US-ians call them seasons, but damnit half the crew is British and I shall call them series[/mfn][mfn]Although to be fair seasons, which belong to a series, is a neater hierarchy than what we have. I think our equivalent of the US term ‘series’ is ‘box set'[/mfn]
  2. Welcome! I’m usually a developer but for the next 12 weeks I’m working on people things

I’ve been tasked with some interesting high-level objectives: I’m still getting them into an order that I’m happy with but they’re mostly there. I’m doing some work to iterate some processes and policies we have around our junior software developer offer: it’s worked well so far, but that’s generally a good time to take stock and see what can be changed to improve how it’s running.
This is categorically not a technology problem, but a soft-skills, strategy, high-level, thinking-5-years-in-the-future kind of mission. Any changes I suggest or implement will have an impact on the key capabilities of my organisation way down the line, and it feels complex and brain-achey and worryingly easy to get wrong.
Because it’s not a technology problem I can’t do what I’d normally do, which is:

  1. write down all the ways it could go wrong
  2. write down a few of the ways it could go right
  3. write some code
  4. see how much of 1 and 2 go green
  5. go back to 3 until everything works

There’s not a lot of scope for do-overs; for re-running a test with fresh inputs magically generated from scratch. This has made me suddenly hyper cautious, and in a clear subconscious sign that coding is my comfort zone I’m writing a lot of documentation. Still, everyone loves reading loads, right?

I had a really valuable retro with two people regarding a procurement exercise we ran before I went on holiday. I’ve got a few actions to pass back to the Digital Marketplace team, but more valuable than that was the sense of honestly reviewing things that didn’t go well. There were a few, but they all mostly linked back to a single root cause: not having enough time. We hadn’t realised how long the exercise would take, and I think part of that might be because the guidance was written with experienced users taking part in research. That’s the end-state for most users, and is likely also the majority of the users – but our little edge case of inexperienced newbies meant things took longer than expected. As time ran out in meetings we found the pressure translated to some really unpleasant behaviours. Taking some time away from it to reflect on what happened and then coming back was so valuable, as was the attitude we brought.
All of this sounds super smug and self-satisfied, but fuck it: people acting in a mature, blameless way to improve a process for the future; treating each others feelings as valid; and being curious about what went wrong rather than accusatory is powerful and empowering. So I’m okay being smug about it.

There is a small movement in the house-purchase-process: my solicitor wants me to close my Help to Buy ISA, which means I’ll be exchanging in the next 12 months! At least!

Alternatively – and having just counted this, I’m shaky-nervous – if current predictions hold true I’ll be moving in before the end of June, which means I could be moving in the next 6-10 weeks.

That seems horrifyingly soon. How long does it take to pack up your life? When should I start organising people with vans? Take a long, wistful look around a flat that’s housed me since I arrived in London fully four years ago as a graduate with nothing but a cat and a degree in French studies?

Woof. I’ve given myself the anxieties. I’m going to go for a lie down. This has been a weird one, no doubt about it, and I’m grateful for you sticking with it. Better structure next week.

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