Weeknote 28.02.22

It seems ridiculous that I struggle to remember what I do when I reflect back on my week. And yet I do struggle. A terrible memory may be a contributing factor, but I also want to believe that it’s the nature of my job, too. My job as Service Owner at MoJ involves a lot of time spent doing lots of small discreet tasks that rarely add up to anything that significant – they have my attention for 30 or 60 mins, sometimes my partial attention as I try to complete work in parallel to talking. Then, gone. It can be a challenge to remember what a meeting is for, and why I’m there, as I bump from one to the next. So trying to couple these events together for the purpose of a weeknote narrative is hard. They’d make more sense as (really dull) tweets or instagram posts. Maybe that’s what I’ll try next week – aggregating moments from the week and see if there’s a thread.

So my week as a partially remembered list of things looks like this:

  • Benefits realisation feels fundamental to any goal but the amount of effort that goes into actually thinking about this is far outweighed by any actual benefit realised. Fact. OK, probably not, but it seems like it this week. Also, saving time and better data quality are not benefits to realise, they’re the things that could help you realise some value.
  • A meeting IRL with the management team and in Sheffield, the low light of which was discovering we have over 16 boards in our organisational area. That’s a lot of attention to manage, or avoid managing so you can get stuff done.
  • Engaging with GDS expert services to try and help deliver technical dev capability on a team. Didn’t know this support existed. Odd. Happy!
  • Engaging with a bunch of performance analysts to ask them to come and talk about their work, to try and help our teams understand that role and how we could benefit from using it. Baffles me how we don’t bake performance measures into everything we do and make it simpler and easier for all users to see *how* our services are doing. From my time at the Co-op it’s the single most powerful thing you can do to engage stakeholders in the development of a service.


  • Building regs require us to use Intumescent paint, which is paint that protects steel from extreme heat in the event of a fire, giving (hopefully) time to escape. Yet, the only proof of you using this paint for building regs seems to be a note you bought the paint. Any why protect the steel and not the wood when the entire floor is wood up 3 stories?
  • My chronic achilles pain is back. And I realise I take an almost obsessive interest in other peoples’ injuries, as this pain has been such a big part if my existence for the last 2 years. I offer up unsolicited and probably unhelpful advice on anything bad happening from the waist down; hips, knees, calfs and most especially achilles and feet. These two wonderful books are all I have to bolster my ‘expert’ claims. Call me if you have a niggle.
  • Octopus energy have told me that the two year fixed term price on our contract is ending and that the new tariff options will mean our household bill rising from just under £2,600 a year to over £6,889 a 265% increase! Gas rises from 2.89p per kWh to 9.65p per kWh, and Electricity from 16.51p per kWh to 35.14p per kWh. I’m still processing this but I do know that it is this kind of extreme change that will wake me into doing something radical with our energy consumption – insulating the hella out of the place, and looking at alternative energy (I think this may be a positive spin on what could just be an example of shock doctrine!)
  • I bought 7 pairs of shoes to try on because I didn’t want to have to travel to Manchester or, in fact anywhere, to have to try them. Unduly interested in the model around retail and returns. In Germany, apparently, there are far far more returns than in the UK and retailers and suppliers build this into their business models (fast, clear, hassle free process). I feel close to the German shopper.

Categorised as weeknote

Weeknote 25.02.22

This last week was marked by the first meeting of all the Folksy team IRL since 2019. The team have grown to four full-time and two part-time staff and this week most of them met up to discuss objectives, priorities and a product strategy. I joined them for the day on Wednesday to facilitate a discussion on ‘jobs to be done’, to help determine the key jobs people hire Folksy for, and where we compare against competitors for meeting key needs.

I love doing this kind of design research and product strategy, and I’ve missed it. Organisational strategy in GOV is often woolly and opaque, and product strategy is whatever gets you to simpler, clearer, faster (rather than market and surplus).

So, this week was energising! We have a strategy for growth based on user retention, and doubling down on quality and improved delivery times (and clarity on when an order will be delivered) 💥

Other things of note this week:

  • Mitigation to cyber security threats. So many unknowns around this and the advice is often very patronising – so I spent a chunk of time looking into what the mitigations are. Things like pen tests give a false sense of risk when you have a rapidly changing suite of products, and evolving Dev Ops and teams.
  • A few wobbles at work with regard to how to do transformation in gov led to me re-watching and sharing this presentation by Tom Loosemore at Code of America. Eight years on and the ambition and drive of those early GDS pioneers still seems so relevant and he’s right; it’s not complicated, it’s just hard.
  • Abisola is trying to figure out the strategy for GDS. Lots of rumblings about the path GDS is taking in light of the recent procurement of Deloitte to build an app.

Ended the week with a beautiful walk over Abney. Needed the sunnies!

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Weeknote 18.02.22

A week mostly spent trying to figure out how to stop teams needing to use arcane processes (support, data protection and information assurance things) that are from a different IT based era. And also working out how to define our spend in relation to ‘capital’ (capital, resource) that I found oddly engaging (rules, assumptions etc). Also met some people from one of the product teams I’m responsible for IRL which felt far more exciting than it had any right to, especially as I spent most of the day in meetings via a screen.

I’ve not done any training in years. At least nothing formal. But Nick recommended a course on product psychology which I’ve just started and which taps into my love of human behaviour and making things people need (or that do jobs that are useful). Interesting how the designers of the course have employed their own thinking to keep you focused, and committed. One of the more dubious uses of our desire for commitment and consistency (video) is a story from a friend who’s partner was on a streak of using Duolingo every day for 19 days. On the 20th day they forgot to do their language course and – feeling dismayed – opted to pay for their streak to continue! A-mazing 😎 More on Duolingo and use of psychology in product design.

We’ve tanked out our cellar during lockdown joining a swathe of other bored middle class families in making more of the space we have (when it was actually already enough but anyway). It’s been a long slog and that’s just as an interested observer.

One issue we’re now trying to fix is the heating in the house which went awry when the cellar zone was added and more rads plumbed in to a plastic veins passing hot water. We lost heating from a bunch of radiators and it’s been a complex job trying to figure out why, especially now the walls are plastered and the plastic piping hidden.

So this last week I’ve learnt about heating: pressure, pumps, balancing and some praying and hoping. There is undoubtedly some bad design work in the way the system has been reconfigured but with a new pump, and some ongoing balancing the previously lukewarm radiators are now (mostly) hotting up. Win! In trying to fix this heating my head was turned by the prospect of smart thermostats that will make things better. Trying to make this very dumb heating system smarter feels a bit like ‘lipstick on legacy’ that I spend my working hours avoiding. However, I haven’t really bought it for any smarts, rather I’ve bought it because I just wanted a thermostat that was easier to use.

Lastly, I’m reading Russell’s book on how to communicate effectively, Everything I Know About Life I Learned from Powerpoint. As I try to figure out why GOV management communicate by writing papers, which few people read, and how to persuade them that fewer words (and even fewer lines on spreadsheets), it feels like very wise and therapy. Reminds me a lot of Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage, only funnier, pithier.

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Weeknote 11.02.22

The management team at Probation Digital decided to embrace OKRs this last few weeks as a means to bridge the gap between some log term goals and sprint goals. Super pleased we’ve decided to do this after promoting the idea last year. So this week I’ve been reading some of the books and blog posts from previous attempts at this, and also some more from Neil. Rather than the format Christina Wodtke advocates (more of a qualitative objective to get teams fired up and enthusiastic) we’ve gone with an hypothesis based approach, which Gav (one of the Delivery Managers at MoJ) has used before and taken from the book Super, Safer, Happier (though there’s not a heap load in the book about OKRs, it is a fantastic resource for doing agile in large organisations).

Conscious that we want teams’ to own these, and want to find a format that works for us, this week has mainly been about drafting things and learning what feels right, and why.

One of the things that’s helped me to figure out where to focus is the Eisenhower Matrix – which Wodtke mentions:

source: todoist

The stuff that is important and urgent is the *stuff you’ll do anyway* whereas important and non-urgent are things ought to lead you closer to your goals. I see that a lot at work; adding questions to a risk assessment, providing a route to a different type of referral or case r etc. help operational work to be done, but won’t transform it. So OKRs can help us look up and focus on the non-urgent but probably more transformative work.

A far more trivial thing that I’m excited about is to write and sketch more, of which this is a first attempt, and I’m trying paperlike on the iPad to see if that makes it feels more natural. Seems to divide opinion.


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