Weeknotes 04/11/2018 – Week 9

A few more days in Wales to start the week. Went to Llanberis for the first time. Had a lovely walk to see Ceunant Mawr waterfall. The car journey back from Llanberis to Prestatyn via Betws-y-Coed was amazing. Low autumn sun setting over Snowdonia and casting shadows over stark plains and slate layers was breathtaking. More breathtaking on the classic Toboggan run at Llandudno. Also went to Rhos on sea. Ate some pretty decent food at The Station in Colwyn Bay (we went to the Pen Y Brin but it was too busy, on A Tuesday at 6pm for us to get in). New places and some old. A lovely few days.

Back to work for two days. We had a new homepage and a big navigation overhaul due to go live at 6am on Thursday morning. A senior developer was ill overnight so we could not proceed with the release…or so I thought. We decided to do it 10am instead. Our continuous delivery capabilities are getting better and better. Just switched it on. Nice little personal milestone.

Not everyone loves the new homepage though. I learnt a lot about senior stakeholder management and the emotional attachment to certain things. We move forward not backwards though.

I am also soon to be on the hunt for a service designer. Before the job advert goes public though I need to better define how design should be structured in the company. A sort of justification of this role that I think sits in product for now but should be a standalone function. Where should design report too? W ho should it align most closely with? What is the scope of design? Where do the designers want to live? etc. etc.

The trip to Wales meant I fell off the health wagon a little. Only a couple of runs and way too much booze and carbohydrates. Back on it Monday.

Finished the second Jackson Lamb book, Dead Lions. Very good with some wonderful lines and a genuinely obnoxious but lovable lead.

A train arrived, but Lamb remained on his bench. Not many people got off; not many got on. As it pulled away Lamb saw the attractive young woman glowering at him through a window and he farted quietly in response: a private victory, but satisfying.

Now reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. It is written in a short sentence kind of way and it took me a while to get into it. Nearly finished it now.

Weeknotes 28/10/2018 – Week 8

First week note written in a caravan and a different country.

The squad I am working with are building momentum and the first work should be in customers hands early next week. Really enjoying seeing people work together in a more focused way. Can’t wait to see what,we can get done over the next few months.

Very busy at the moment. Felt a bit swamped this week at work. I am having some problems getting things written down and explained. I wish I had more understanding of the concept of shared understanding. Struggling to stitch all the pieces together in my head and get them down or better yet some sort of coherent roadmap. But now I am on holiday. In a caravan. in another country.

Not much family stuff in these notes. I think I want them to be more work based as I try and work stuff out. On holiday though for some of the week. Today we went to see a Roman Helmet statue in Prestatyn, a walk by the sea in Rhos-on-Sea and then we went for a run along Prestatyn front with the boys on their scooters. It was a lovely, sunny freezing cold autumn day.

Getting back into the reading habit. Finished The Dry by Jane Harper. Nice page turning thriller about a triple murder in backwater Australia. Started and finished The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi. Second book in his Interdependency series. Very good but finished way too soon just like the first. Still looking forward to the third.

Just watched Funny Cow with Maxine Peak and a lovely soundtrack by Richard Hawley. Not the cheeriest for a file about a stand up comedian. It is the law for Northern films to be gritty and a bit depressing obviously. A bit like this note, albeit without the grit. More of that needed next week.

Weeknotes 21/10/2018 – Week 7

A very busy week at week. So many things going on at the moment, definitely too many. We have a little bit of a focus problem I think. We need to focus on fewer things. More focus, fewer things.

A symptom of doing too many things means I have too many meetings. 39 meetings last week. We have a little bit of meetings culture issue to go with the focus issue. Been trying to work out why that is and what we can do to fix things. I think there a multitude of reasons but one I am focusing on is true autonomy. People need to be safe/empowered/comfortable to make decisions. Might have to have a few meetings with people next week to try and sort that out.

My delivery squad finished its first sprint last week. I was dreading the retrospective a little as we had a very rocky start, mainly due to my vagueness over what we need to build and we did not have a beautiful clear set of requirements. The reason for that is that I want us to create the requirements together not me just come up with a perfect list of what to build. The retro went really well and the team has been brilliant in the first two weeks. Can’t wait for us to get real momentum and get some things in customers hands at the end of the next sprint.

There was one little highlight of the squad that stood out this week. We got some feedback on some new navigation structures we have built. I spoke with our tester how big a change it would be, he spotted something that would improve it too, then spoke the designer, sketched the changes, then we all spoke to the front end dev and he just said let’s do it. This all happened in about 15 minutes and for most people that might be the norm but it has not been the way we have worked in the past and it felt brilliant.

Outside of work I seem to have fallen into a pleasant book a week reading pace. I finished The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi which I thoroughly enjoyed. A tale of a series of planets linked by something called the Flow which allows travel and trade to happen between planets. Started reading The Dry by Jane Harper.

Watched Upgrade about a man whose wife is murdered and he is paralysed in the attack. He gets an upgrade from a reclusive tech mogul that turns him into part human, part AI, part awesome killing machine. Features a low rent Tom Hardy lookalike and is ridiculous throughout. I enjoyed it more than I should have.

I have been a good boy when it comes to exercise this week. For the first time since I started I have managed five exercise session on consecutive days. 6.30am, Monday to Friday. Three runs and two kettle bell sessions. I felt very smug about it. Then I read this article about an HSBC International Manager and realised I have a lot to live up too.

Weeknotes 14/10/2018 – Week 6

This week I managed a day working at home on Tuesday for the first time since early summer due to busyness in the business. I had even cleaned and tidied my desk in preparation. It was very productive and relaxing.

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Sunny autumn afternoon

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Mid way through Sprint 0 on our ‘Manage My Money’ project. Really enjoyed working closely with one of our designers this week…I prefer pictures over words as you know they paint a 1,000 of them. A prototype destroys a 1,000 meetings etc. The designs are driving understanding of what we want to change. There is a lot of detailed work required though to build the things we need. Lots of work this week on the wider requirements for the work. Need some practice on how to write good user stories and also define detailed technical requirements. Thankful we have smart designers, BAs and devs to help because I need it. I also need to pull my finger out on getting things written to define the product direction a little better but to help with getting more of a shared understanding across the company.

I am also trying to work out how to do more experimentation in delivery. Empower engineers / designers to have a crack at solving some problems / trying some new features without the full on corporate bureaucracy but being aware of the need for all the prioritised work to get worked on. Tricky balance but I would like to push it towards doing shorter things more quickly and seeing what happens. Getting stuff in front of customers quickly to try and solve problems but also show momentum. Hopefully next week we might get the first pieces of the project live.

Attempts to make user research a little easier to do regularly are progressing. We have to map out each process and step required to show we are doing everything by the book. Also need to get some new tools approved for use. A painful process but necessary and worthwhile. Still painful though.

Lots to learn and think about in this great list of Internet Era Ways of Working by Tom Loosemore. I hope he writes a long series of follow ups on how to get started with some of these because I need some help with these things too.

Outside of work I finished reading record of a spaceborn few by Becky Chambers. I have really enjoyed her travellers series. This one focused on those struggling with the travelling or having been travelling all their life and not knowing a planet based home. Very good. I also managed to rattle off a book inside a week which I have done very infrequently since the arrival of our children. I bolted through Slow Horses by Mick Herron. A splendid modern spy thriller set in 2010 London. With a splendid twat of a lead character in the rotund and grumpy shape of Jackson Lamb. I am going to have to get hold of the others in this series. Proper page turner.

Talking of slow animals I managed to run just under 7k on Thursday. Only six weeks until I have to run 10k. Hoping to start running to work at the start of November which is 8k and thankfully realtively downhill. Get some miles in my legs then onto some hills by the end of the month. Enjoying the challenge but not enjoying the leg and back pain the day after when I try to get out of chairs.

We are finishing off our dining room which is very sparse since the completion of an extension in December last year. We have finally saved a few quid to tidy it up. We bought some stools for our breakfast bar. They were too dark so my wife went and bought a detail sander. Not too dark anymore. Looking much better now after being oiled. The dining table might be getting sanded next. Still a bit of a big white cube of a room and I am a frustrated interior designer who is uncertain what to do with it and also how to agree with what my beautiful wife wants to do with it. Design is all about direction and compromise I guess. Work and home life have many parallels.

Weeknotes 06/10/2018 – Week 5

Five weeks in and this is still not feeling too natural. A well timed reminder on my phone on a Sunday evening reminds me to publish them. I occasionally jot notes throughout the week but it is not quite free flowing fully formed habit yet. The structure also feels a little forced. Some stuff about personal life and then some stuff about work. This week I am going to mix it up a bit. I will talk about work first. One day I hope my weeknotes are as natural and funny as Alice Bartlett’s Weaknotes. They never will be, obviously.

This week was a tough one at work.

Got a few things live (an update to our FAQ which tidied lots up and added search, also updated our pricing section which is used in four areas of the site) that had been hanging around a while at the back of a long queue of other work. First designs and front end builds from some of our relatively new staff and I am very pleased they are in the wild and to see how people use them. One of them is already showing a lot of promise.

I managed to miss a couple of things though (Left something in that compliance did not like/get to see before it went live, and we broke some URLs to the FAQs) and we had to do a couple of last minute fixes which really annoyed me. I blame myself quite strongly when things like this go wrong but the act of putting things live has to be the priority.

It has taken a while to get those things live as we have a lot of things on that are not so customer facing (Rackspace – AWS Migration for example). More good customer facing features to come over the next few months as we get into the momentum of getting things built and live in far shorter cycles (I hope).

The two things that went live have not been tested with users which is obviously bad. I am trying to get a far more user centric thing going on but it is taking time. I am struggling with getting research being simple to carry out and that is holding things back a lot. We have some challenging compliance and data issues to resolve and I am the worlds most impatient man when it comes to bureaucracy and policies and governance, annoying words that all mean you have to write hundreds more words.

I am pretty sure we are over complicating things (huge bias/lack of knowledge sirens blaring here) so I sought help from Twitter/Real Life. I got some lovely advice from the folks at Paper and Leisa and Ross and Dean. They all think we are over complicating things too but they may have been biased by my biased view. Next week I will try and work on a process that means we can easily and repeatedly test with users in a fast enough way to be compatible with sprint pace.

In more pleasing news I finally got a squad together on a project to revamp a large part of the way U Account works. The majority of the team are new to agile and we are working it out as we go…that’s basically what agile is though yeah? It has been great working through a few things in a small autonomous group. I am trying to find the right balance of encouraging others to contribute and collaborate (although still a lot of looking to me to tell people what to do) and telling people what to do.

This list passed me buy in one of my Internet feeds and made me grin/grimace in light of so much of what I said in the last few paragraphs.

Awkward switch to my empty/repetitive personal life. Finished watching Killing Eve. It is as god as everyone says. Struggling to find a new TV show now though, any tips? Watched first episode of 28 days later Series 2. We watched series one pretty much when it came out in 2015. We could not remember a thing about it and my Wife said we used to drink a lot back then while watching TV. Old age and boozing at home mean my memory is getting ever worse.

Managed a couple more runs, with a couple of (very) little hills added in. I have signed up for the Percy Pud 10k on the 2nd of December so need to keep at it. Being very strict with food intake and going to try and go booze free from 29th of September to 20th of October i.e. dates when I have events that cannot by alcohol free. Seeing some results after almost four weeks. Managed to get into some smaller waist jeans like a winner. Slimmer of the week award on Monday at weigh in surely (I am not in weight watchers just ‘competing’ against my wife)

Made a flying visit to the Wirral on Saturday for my Sister-in-laws 40th. Went to Hickories in West Kirby for some spare ribs, washed down with a glass of water. Party time.