This is going to be my last weeknote for a while because I’ll be going off on holiday on Thursday! Yes, FINALLY! I’m off with the family to Cornwall for just over a week, and then easing my little one into his first few weeks in school (please send me your best wishes with this one).
I cannot wait for a holiday because (as I may have mentioned several times throughout this series) I haven’t taken any time off since February (when I had a couple of days between roles) and I’m terrible at resting on my compressed day.
So a massive rest is called for, necessary, overdue. I am tired and I ache and I feel old and, well, lets just hope it doesn’t rain all week eh?
This has been a long series for me because I usually do 10ish episodes — that gives me enough space for a break and change the structure on a fairly regular basis — I like that a lot. This series is now at 14 episodes, which has come around quickly and feels comfortable, but also, at the moment, enough.
I’ve been noticing recently just how overwhelmed I have been feeling with social media since One Team Gov Global, which involved a lot of Twitter, What’s App and much more. Right now, I can’t find the energy to respond to things or to fully get back into it. I need some space, so I’m hoping that the holiday will also provide that so I can get my energy back again.
I’m really craving jigsaw puzzles, Lego, or some other straightforwardly mundane thing that I can do which might reset my brain.
Overarching feeling of the week
Two WFH days which were good, I spent Tuesday at home finishing the sub that I mentioned in last week’s notes and submitted this to the board. But this particular case is a bit difficult and needs more work, so I’m still plugging away to try and get this off before I go on leave. I’ve really appreciated all the help I’ve had from my team though — they have quietly rallied round and that’s been an excellent experience.
I’m approaching six months in this role and I’m thinking a lot about that. Evaluating things. This has maybe made me a bit introspective at times and I feel bad that this might have had an effect on some of my colleagues.
I’m trying not to beat myself up over that, but I know that this kind of thing can really affect a team and that makes me feel bad. It’s difficult to remain positive all the time though, it takes energy, and I’m running dangerously low on that at the moment.
I found out this week that I got through the first round of the Future Leaders Scheme, so that gave me a pick-up on Wednesday .
I also found out that fellow weeknoter Jonathan, and my teammates Steve and Hannah made it through which is really great. I’m hoping that I get through with a cohort of awesome friends – so I’m keeping fingers crossed for us all.
An arbitrary number of things that happened…
ONE. Sub-mission, Part deux. As above, I’m still working on this but it’s been an interesting learning experience because I shared the work in progress google doc with my team. Seeing the comments come in and how people do things slightly differently was enlightening.
I wish the team would share their subs more often as they are writing them. I might just start sharing mine because #workingintheopen
This sub did bring about a slight crisis of confidence this week when I had a meeting along with another of the STAs . I suddenly found myself second guessing the advice I was giving. It was fine, but this process has been a bit of a brain bender.
Two. Mentoring, meeting and moving around . I met with Hannah my mentee this week which I always really enjoy. Mentoring is weird in that I sometimes feel like I’m learning more than the person I’m supposed to be mentoring, it’s an odd dynamic, but I like to help and be helpful. Hannah is awesome, pragmatic, and sensible about what she wants to achieve. She’s going to be my boss one day, probably.
I found out that someone else I know is applying for their first Deputy Director role and they are totally brilliant, as is the role, so I’ve also got fingers crossed for them.
There seem to be a lot of interesting roles being advertised at the moment (maybe because recess?) and as a result a few people I know are considering their next moves which is interesting, exciting etc etc.
I saw this role and had a full conversation with my husband about moving to Somerset. He still refuses, but the role looks interesting so I’m plugging it here:
Along with Martha, I saw Atique from my old team for the first time in ages to catch up this week. It was really nice and I found out more about the department he is working with, which is interesting. He has recently found out he’s going to be a dad and that is excellent news #yaybabies
Three. The Breakfast Club. Or rather One Team Gov breakfast club. I didn’t manage to go last week so it was good to attend this week. Steve, from my team was there, and there were also some new faces and interesting discussions…
I tried to get my sketchnoting mojo back (and failed, this notebook has lined pages and it is SO irritating)
I really enjoyed the conversation about how to deal with negativity in intranet blog comments. How to deal with pervasive voices who don’t have a singular interest but who like to comment across the board. How to bring about new voices or opinions. We discussed whether the first person to speak sets the tone. There was disagreement on this but from experience I would say that I think that’s often the case (see also: meetings, and this tends to disproportionally affect certain people, women, black and minority ethnic people , younger people).
I have a theory that this kind of behaviour happens when intranets just aren’t working and people don’t feel like they are for them. I’ve seen intranets used as broadcast channels for senior leadership, which lead to no comments. If you have an intranet like that and then you blog something very different, is that outside of people’s sphere of experience, and does that lead to strange behaviours?
I wonder if there’s something about how people perceive ownership of their internal spaces to communicate, and I wonder if loud voices are just a symptom of people trying to take ownership, trying to be heard and make change happen. My hypothesis is that a diverse range of voices (of blogs) might help people to feel more ownership of these spaces.
We also talked about how to build a data and digital network in government, because it started to turn into a conversation about hierarchical versus networked (decentralised) power. James Reeve said something to the effect of “when collaboration happens power dissipates” which struck a chord.
Four. Ink spots. I’ve been thinking a lot about ink spots again this week and I think it’s been weighing on my mind a little.
Free Agents: We learned about this from Canada. Agency within the civil service that deploys people where they’re needed. I’ve been pondering Dan Barrett’s thought on this: “is there an inherent sadness built in to this model?
I think Dan is right, that there is an inherent sadness in some aspects of digital transformation work and we’ve previously spoken a little about it. I think, at times, there is definitely some loneliness baked in there.
Where does that come from? Jenny’s response is in consultation, but I think it’s more than that. It’s about being from neither place, or between places, working for one while mostly working with another. It is work that sometimes, in the name of change, seems to pit small groups of people, or even single people, against whole organisations. That can make it feel intensely personal.
So when I write about ink spots, does that seem sad? It feels a bit defeatist as I read it back now. To say I’ll try and change the colour a little, should I be trying for a lot? Should I be aiming higher, or is a little bit ok?
I hope I haven’t narrowed my aspirations this far without realising.
In other news…
So I’m sure other people will mention it too but David Pearson passed away. I’m having all sorts of feelings about this because I only met David for the first time a few weeks ago at #OneTeamGovGlobal. He seemed lovely, and enthusiastic, even though we only shared a few words. I in no way really knew him, but I’m glad I met him.
I felt the news ripple through my friendship group and network, and it was horrible to see how people who really knew him were feeling. So my thoughts are with everyone, and thank you to David for documenting our world with your brilliant photographs, including this awesome one of kim and I.
I finished listening to Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, it was really great. Some of the bits I enjoyed the most were about having panic attacks in supermarkets (I absolutely hate supermarkets so I can sympathise with this) the book talks about modern life as a kind of bombardment.
Supermarkets are a bombardment, they are incredibly unnatural, brightly lit and with way more choice than most people can handle, bright packaging and advertising screams out from the shelves.
There was also a section about sleep, and time. How the definition of time has forwarded capitalism which in turn has put increasing pressure on us as humans. But sleep is the one thing that can’t be monetised. We can’t watch adverts in our sleep.
Then, I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 about how streaming services have changed writing for TV drama (different lengths of programmes, no set time of day for viewing, binge watching, ability to write deeper characters) but also maybe its a bit rubbish for writers in terms of trying innovative new stuff because Netflix want 10 or more episodes when something might be better suited to, or more interesting done over 3, 4, or 6).
Anyway, did you know that Reed Hastings (Netflix founder) says that the enemy of Netflix isn’t another streaming channel, or a TV channel, or YouTube or Amazon… it’s sleep.
Don’t believe me, read more here:
Imagine that as a strategy. Keep people awake, on their devices, plugged in, consuming. Binge TV as capitalist apparatus. This thought slightly terrifies me.
I really loved Dyfrig’s blog:
Please support Ben the Illustrator to raise some money for his dad’s funeral:
This link will not load in, so I’m stealing this picture to show you why (sorry Ben)
And finally here’s my playlist for this week. I’ve been really really enjoying some guitar wig-outs, satisfying bleeps and bloops and a Krautrock drum. The Feathers track by Andrew Wetherall is an absolute revelation, and I was really enjoying the Snapped Ankles record until the other half pointed out to me that it sounds EXACTLY like Suicide.
On a side note, Insecure Men are my newest favourite band because they wear bad suits and the singer looks like he might be a full-time sofa-surfer, but in a kinda good, early Jarvis Cocker kind of way, which is totally my bag.
 This week’s sub-head was originally going to be Welfare Bread, because of a song that I’ve included in the playlist this week, but then I saw this amazing tweet by Terence Eden’s excellent Open Benches and I fell a little but in love with Rakastuneille which means ‘for those who have fallen in love’ in Finnish. I’m wondering how many other weeknotes this appears in this week…
 This reminds me that I was going to share my personal statement but didn’t. Too late to share now? Would it be useful for anyone or just a exercise in talking about myself some more?
 This is satisfyingly alliterative.
 Senior Technology Advisor — that’s my job.
 Two Hannahs in this post, confusing eh?
 I don’t really like this phrase and I thought about this for a long time before deciding how to put this in. I would like something better, an acknowledgement that this is a very overarching (and dehumanising?) term. I never use BAME without saying people too, but it doesn’t feel like enough. If you have thoughts on this please let me know. I want to try and get this closer to being right.
 I am certain that I am misquoting.