Weeknotes S01 Ep02

All of this is a bit overwhelming!

Thank you to everyone who got in contact, tweeted or responded in some other way to my weeknotes last week. I hadn’t expected so much of a response — especially to my very first attempt. So thanks for spurring me on and confirming that I’m on the right track.

Also shout out to Louise Cato who started her weeknote after reading mine (plus it’s really great). There’s a nice ripple effect happening, big up the weeknoters!

Adventure time dance party

The downside of lots of people reading my last weeknote is that I do feel some distinct pressure to “keep up the good work”.

As such, I’m setting myself some boundaries so I don’t get burn-out. I’ll aim for 10 episodes in S01. But will review after 6 to see how I feel about the whole thing. Now, that’s taken some of the pressure off. Ahhhhhh.

On Monday I attended the Civil Service Shadow Board. It’s made up of a single representative from each of the central Government departments, and we get the opportunity to see the papers which will be presented to the Permanent Secretaries at the Civil Service Board (CSB).

It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and find out about other departments (invaluable for me as a relative newbie to the Civil Service). It also means that we can give an “on the ground” viewpoint on the papers and also attend the CSB. I always find this help me to get a better perspective of the work I’m doing and how it meets the wider aims of the organisation.

When I got back I did some emails and then headed into what (I hope) will become regular Business Partner catchups. I work with two other BPs, Joe and Wendell, we’ve all known for a while that we have quite distinct specialisms that have pulled us in different directions. It was good to talk about the role again, put the world to rights, and also talk about what we are working on.

I find testing some of the ideas I’ve been thinking about with them really helps me to crystalise my thoughts. For example, this session really confirmed for me how much our role is about “expert consultancy” and what that really means.

You have to really know your subject (in my case user research, agile, GDS service standards, controls and assurances) in order to be able to find a navigable path through it for a stakeholder. That path is almost never straightforward. Especially hard when a stakeholder is already some way down their own path and you need to pull them back…

It necessarily has to take into consideration that stakeholder’s needs but also what you know will produce the best results (or is compulsory, though with the GDS service standard I would argue that these are the same thing).

Its a long path sometimes to getting there, it means getting people to buy-in, and it’s a constant weigh up between best practice and pragmatism.

Massive rewards when it works well. And the odd crushing frustration when it doesn’t. And sometimes, for a variety of reasons, it just doesn’t.

You also have to repeat yourself *A LOT* and not get frustrated about it. I guess that means you have to be pretty resilient too.

A dancing parrot.

Anyway, later in the day I had a meeting with Romina to talk about some roadmaps we are doing, then a meeting with a stakeholder. Despite all of the above when I got home on Monday night I didn’t feel like I had been very productive. I hadn’t spent very long at my desk. But in retrospect it was a good, deep thinking day.

On Tuesday morning I had a call first thing with a new requirement to get to the bottom of. Then an all staff event to attend (actually as an aside, at this all-staff our COO, and 4 Deputy Directors were sat on stage, all women, that made me happy).

I worked on an awards submission, joined a conference call, scoffed some crisps, a doughnut and a diet coke for “lunch” and joined a planning meeting for the Cabinet Office ABLE network.

We talked about how the network has gained some reputation through recent work we have done, which has meant that we’ve seen lots more requests for user research participants coming in from GDS (and further afield).

I’m hoping I’ll be able to present to the network and get people excited about the reasons for doing research (and accessibility testing) and create a framework for managing that offering, potentially as a sub-group of users who are engaged who also just happen to use assistive technologies or have a disability. This will be *exceptionally cool* if we can make it work and I will be very happy. I spoke to Luke about it who said that if it got off the ground we could potentially pass it to our User Researcher Atique to manage – I think that’s an fab idea.

Then I rushed out of the door and onto a train bound for Bristol.

Tuesday night in Brizzle was a really good opportunity to catch up with Wendy, Luke and Romina and do some out-of-work bonding.

I’m lucky that I work with people who I can call friends as much as colleagues. Though with all the talking and laughing I did manage to lose my voice…


So Wednesday was spent at M Shed Bristol on the docks, and it was lovely (despite the rain).

The event was hosted by Defra and it was good to get an insight into some of the work they do because as a department I can’t say I know them incredibly well. Previously these events had been well attended but it’s wasn’t busy — possibly everyone was saving themselves for the big One Team Gov event in London on Thursday.

Either way, there were several breakout sessions and I attended one about Open Data, another about the impacts of Brexit and finally a session by Holly Ellis about the DDaT profession; the work GDS is doing around capability building.

I enjoyed that one the most and it triggered the most thoughts and discussion (though probably ill-advised with lack of voice) about the functional digital offering within government, how it all might work in practice.

I spent Wednesday evening having drinks and dinner with my two good friends who live in Bristol. I’ve realised that there is a surmountable psychological barrier which has prevented me from visiting more regularly. I’m definitely going to rectify that because I miss them and I love Bristol.

On Thursday I took the train back to London wishing I was at One Team Government and reading every and all tweets about what was going on. Olivia was there and promised to do a readout for me which she actually shared in real time — I liked this a lot. Collaborative working FTW.

I got to the office. Scoffed some lunch and then pretty much headed straight out to another event being hosted by another team in my department. Lots of discussions, federation, interoperability, algorithms, machine learning interesting stuff. I’m now on the train home where I plan to be in bed by 8pm. Phew!


Some of the thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head this week.

  1. Generosity as a key leadership trait. I’ve been thinking how important generosity is and what a difference it makes if you want to be a really inspirational leader. Kit Collingwood-Richardson offered me a book on sketchnoting completely unsolicited after she saw a tweet I posted, other people I really respect have been really willing to meet up, have coffee and have been generous with their time and expertise. Generosity for me is about three things: being generous with time, being generous with praise, being generous about people (giving the benefit of the doubt, trusting, and choosing to see the best). I’ve started regularly saying to myself “Be generous” and it’s helping a lot.
  2. Because we care. I’ve found myself running towards things I really care about at work, whether they form part of my day job or not. We do it because we care deeply and want to improve, we are here and we want to do more. As this tweet from Kit Collingwood-Richardson exemplifies:

3. Confidence. Again, in the context of applying for a leadership scheme at work this year. Last year I was given advice about showing humility, I’ve been told similar before and I get that, but it also slightly jarred with me. But I’ve just found and read this blog by Clare Moriarty (Permanent Secretary of Defra) which began to make a lot of sense to me.

Unpacking ‘confident’ – and finding inclusion. By Clare Moriarty

So yes. My pitch is somewhat clearer now. I am confident — it’s just that my confidence doesn’t look like yours. And thats good.

Deal with it.

(In other news , Clare Moriarty might have just become my hero).

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