Weeknotes S9 Ep13

Go! Team

[Gif] A woman stands on the prongs (is that what they’re called?) of a forklift truck and does a little dance (wait, are they called forks?!) while a man drives it in a circle, the caption reads “When you and your team are jiving”

Nonotes

Last week I had a break from weeknotes. There are probably a few reasons for that:

  1. It’s much more difficult to do anything extra at the moment. There is not enough time for all the work and all the parenting and all the things, so weeknotes have fallen off the list[1]
  2. I got to the end of last week fairly uncertain about what I was doing with work, how I was having an impact, and whether the things I was doing were adding up. Thankfully, working with the people I do meant I could open up about that this week and they have been lovely — so I’m feeling loads better.
  3. Add to that the fact that the team are working on COVID-19 response, so I have some trepidation about working too much in the open because of the nature of the things we are doing and trying to achieve. The last thing I would want would be to miss-explain something or suggest something that could confuse the very important messages going out right now (yes I know literally 10 people read this blog but who knows #myinfluence).
[Gif] A man in a pink suit and tie who is definitely one of the guys of Silicon Valley but I can’t remember his name says “People care what I think, I have a prestigious blog, sir.”

Similarly, the hard work is going on all over; on the front line, in the supermarkets, in government — across all disciplines. Who would I be to talk about how important everything in my work world is? There is so much important work happening.

I see all of the hard work digital government is doing to bring new services to life as quickly as possible. Being user-centred in a bafflingly fast paced and changeable environment. They’re doing an immense job.

The service I manage is for public sector leaders, an important group (who do need support in their own way), but not millions of the general public, and not “vulnerable” [1] people, or those from communities who really need our help right now.

That said, I’m also not looking to belittle our work here, the people we support are the people who are working to co-ordinate things on the ground, so we are supporting a team of people doing important work too. So it’s all important in it’s own way and anything anyone does still one small part of a very important and big machine in central government.

I’m lucky that I feel like I’m making a small difference, and I believe that all small differences add up to something.

Lockdown week 4

I’ve now been at home for 4 weeks (but I didn’t travel into work much in the two weeks before that either). I don’t know if I’m getting used to it, or if the work is becoming clearer but I have definitely felt the weeks go by more quickly.

That said, I am still having high and low days. Thankfully the team in the NLC are taking time to discuss things like the Kubler-Ross change curve and are encouraging people to talk about where we think we are and where the team are more generally. It’s been good to see such openness and dedication to making things better.

The Kubler-Ross change curve

We’re also doing what a lot of other teams are at the moment; getting to grips with remote working. I’d been taking for granted how easy this was because I’m used to it and more confident with the tools. I see now that that was a bit arrogant of me. It’s so important to remember, and be sensitive to how other people are adjusting to this whole thing.

On Thursday the team at Convivio ran a retro for our Liaison team, and I thought it was a great example of how a new collaboration tool (Miro) can be introduced sensitively, with time, thought and gentle coaching. People responded well, the retro brought out a lot of insight, and it was good to see it all coming together.

At the end of the retro the team did a thank you board which I went into and looked at afterwards, I took a screenshot of the whole thing but as that includes info about other people and work I thought it best to just share “my” bit which made me cry a little when I read it.

A screenshot from the liaison team retro in Miro. Thank you board.

Reading this week:

Before I go too much further I should share my reading list on trello: https://trello.com/b/BBJ726mr/progress-bookmarks

A screenshot of my Trello reading list

Obviously there’s a lot of COVID-19 stuff on there because pretty much every editorial is referencing it at the moment, but I’m trying to read outside of my usual sphere and find information about how it is affecting different people around the world or with different experiences to mine. I could be doing better at this, but finding things also takes time and energy — I am trying.

If I could recommend anything to read this week it would be this article:

https://www.vulture.com/2020/02/spread-of-corporate-speak.html

I love reading articulations about how weird language is, but this is excellently written, well-paced, interesting and funny too (and I’m not recommending any COVID-19 reading because I don’t know who you are or where you are emotionally as you read this, and I read some tough things this week, so you may not want to do that, and that’s up to you, I hope you’re ok x).

Parental guilt

One of the things I’ve been struggling with is the ability to “be present” for my little boy. I’ve been starting work at 8am, working through ‘till lunch (a family lunch with the three of us). I’m supposed to be spending the afternoon with him, but various calls and things have been happening and he has been watching more TV than I would care to admit.

Morgan, Prateek and I have devised a new way of working though that I hope will ease this a bit, and both Prateek I can take the afternoon to really spend time with the little men in our lives (and play garden cricket).

[Gif] Two stick men play cricket. The bat-stickman bats a 6.

Teamwork

One of the things I’ve been enjoying over the past week has been working with Morgan and Prateek and developing our shared understanding and ways of working. [Warning: incoming metaphor.]

You know how when you’re in an aeroplane and you’re taking off and while you’re ascending it feels like you’re going really fast, and then you always have that bit when you level out where your brain goes “oh shit, we’re slowing down, that means we’re going to crash and we’re all going to die” but actually you’re just evening out your altitude? I think this metaphor is straining at the edges a bit, but it explains a little why last week I wasn’t sure what I had achieved.

[Gif] a cartoon aeroplane flies across a yellow sky.

Being joined by Morgan and Prateek has been excellent, but when they joined what I think I felt was a decrease in my acceleration. I was worried I was going to fall out of the sky, but it was nothing, just an even-ing out of my speed. Probably to a more manageable speed anyway.

[Metaphor ends]

I’ve really enjoyed working out how we are going to work together, and I’m lucky that we have previous experience of it through One Team Gov so there is some mutual understanding and trust already. But we’ve never worked together, the things we did previously were in our own time, self-selected, proactively-driven… which is different? Is it? Maybe.

We talked about how we could make this work as a team, but I personally couldn’t resolve in my head having any kind of governance or anything too rigid because trust I already have with the two of them. Plus, even if it wasn’t them I’m not sure I would be at all interested in “being in charge” because I don’t think that’s how you get things done.

That said, I’m finding my way in “defaulting to autonomy” while also considering other people’s skills, experience, workload and homeload. There are some areas where I have more experience and I need to prompt and coach without being overbearing, and there are some areas where I need to shut up and listen. I’m trying to be extra conscious of my interactions, make sure I’m being clear and fair, and to think about any burden I’m inadvertently placing on people.

I hope I’m doing a good job at being a good team member. I want us to be partners delivering great stuff together.

Anyway, we’ve got some objectives, some commitments and a trello board to keep us on the same page.

A picture of the Digital Team trello board. This is two pictures of trello boards in one blog post which means I probably need to up my gif game…

We commit to…

  • working in the open by default.
  • copying any information held in closed channels (e.g. emails) into open channels such as slack so that we can all see what is happening.
  • trusting one another to make sensible decisions.
  • acknowledging that working at pace means sometimes people can feel “left behind” and making time to explain things to each other as needed.
  • not being afraid to flag when we need to make a decision as a group.
  • using this board to support our own and others health and mental health.
[Gif] Fraiser says “Making a commitment to another human being”

These will grow and change over time as we all make suggestions and change how we work, and that’s a good thing I think. I was reflecting on how we so rarely commit to people how we will act, and I hope this helps to set us up well. If you’re reading this and you have a suggestion of somewhere else that does this well, or something we could add then please get in touch I would love to hear more.


Anyway, that’s probably enough. Have a lovely bank holiday weekend if you’re able to have one. Enjoy your gardens and your allotted daily exercise. Have a little think and a drink (if that’s your thing) and send thanks and thoughts to the people who are working their asses off for us right now xxx


[1] Yes I know I’m writing this now which seems to contradict this. I am now on mummy duty in the afternoons but after playing outside in the paddling pool little man is resting with a film.

[2] I am not on board with this terminology but it is the terminology being used at the moment. As someone who knows plenty of “vulnerable” people who are uncomfortable about being othered or at the suggestion that they are somehow less important or (even *shudder* expendable) as a result of other conditions. This isn’t ok. It’s also not ok to give people a label. They are people, they might be vulnerable people or more at risk people or people that we need to take more care to protect. But always, always people.

https://www.vulture.com/2020/02/spread-of-corporate-speak.html

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