A decent week! I feel like I’m crawling out of the mire of the past few months which, though it had both ups and downs, has been really bloody tough. It was also comforting to hear from a colleague that product managers more experienced than myself would have struggled with what we were asked to do. So that’s given me a renewed optimism.

Good things

Dan and I had a long overdue coffee at the Barbican, which was a nice spot for a rainy Monday. Kudos to Dan for picking there. We chatted about food, music, digital public services, data, data standards, machine learning, and other assorted good things.

We presented at the GOV.UK Show & Tell, the first of the year, about what we’re up to currently. It felt like this was the first time we’ve had anything comprehensive to put forward, as so much of our work over the past few months has been thinking rather than doing. But people seemed interested in the work and it came as a comfort to put it out in the open. (I’d love to do the same on here but I am held back somewhat by the comms grid and controlling of narrative.)

Leanne, Head of Product, also presented GOV.UK’s future strategy to the other product managers and designers on the programme. This is not just good but great because my team (and the programme team) have been working on it for a while, but no one else had yet seen the detail. And you know what? It landed well, I think. There were plenty of useful, insightful comments but that’s the beauty of sharing it. It’s also nice to know that things we’ve imagineered or repackaged make sense to our peers. So now we can get on with doing it.

The first check-in of the year with the programme team went really well, they’re bought into our mission’s goals.

Learned things

Talking about our work with the rest of the GOV.UK-as-a-service team (mapping out what we do now, so we can decide how to support things in future) was hugely cathartic. We realised we’ve been acting as a mini agency team, adding flesh to Jen’s vision, which has been an honour but has also been hard. Really hard. So hooray for catharsis.

Not-work things

  • Barker’s Utility is ‘a musical approach to a whole spectrum of utilitarian and transhumanist ideas’ or, as we normals might say, a good album.
  • Purple sprouting broccoli is back at the food market, and it’s delicious steamed and coated in anchovy & yoghurt dressing, flaked almonds and Parmesan, FYI.
  • Fennel, celeriac and orange zest soup is velvety and perfect for Monday evenings.

Difficulties

There’s a new Chief Digital Information Officer in town who assembled many people to comment on and iterate their vision. Though it’s good to be open and collaborative, a lot of people are worried about how this new function will affect their jobs. Some brave colleagues questioned why there’s no one representing user-centred design on the senior leadership team, and that’s important. Really important.

I felt really low on Wednesday. But I sorted it out by confiding in a colleague, who was very helpful. Thank you!

Achievements

Rob, who’s come back to GOV.UK as a lead product manager, assembled a few product managers with overlapping missions and went through the future strategy to pull out the riskiest assumptions. Not only a good idea, it also encouraged the other PMs to align all of our missions on testing those assumptions. Which means there’s less weight resting on our team’s shoulders now. Thank you, Rob!

I applied to use some of my learning & development budget on a course about human-centered and business-focused strategy, which was approved, and I’m very excited about it! Expecting to learn lots of techniques that would have been useful over the past couple of months.

My post about blogging and working in the open got some traction, so thank you, people! And I was honoured that Matt Edgar mentioned it in his post about delivering digital services. His phrase of looking after the water and creating the culture for a ‘virtuous circle of productivity’ prompted me to start writing another post, which I’ll hopefully get out next week.

Michael’s RFC for adding metadata about attachments to content items was approved! This makes things better for the National Archives, as covered in the RFC’s comments. Never forget: the Web is beautiful, use its power for good.

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