We’re out of the pre-election period which means I can probably get back to talking about work now, although I preferred the style of the last few weeks. Talking about topics I’d been thinking about in the week was good for me; not sure whether my usual readers found it useful though. It’s still useful to reflect on my working week but I’d like to be more open about it.

Good things

After spending an hour with our new Head of Policy & Strategy, Rachel, she’d managed to pull together our work and make sense of it. She really helped with the sense-making, actually, asking probing questions that caused us to explain something or develop our thinking a little more.

The next day we had a session on how product managers and policy & strategy folk can work better together. There’s a lot of overlap in the roles, which could cause problems depending on who is presenting work or constraints to Cabinet Office. But having the conversation and realising that was the value of the meeting, otherwise we may not have realised.

I went to a workshop about managing stress, put on by the programme team. It was decent and I got to learn some techniques for improving my mood. They suggest making incremental improvements, 1 per cent per day, which is quite agile.

The Christmas Show & Tell was great! I’m so proud of the Search team, who’ve been continuing work on improving search results as well as making design changes. They showed off a new tool which allows them to collect qualitative data on the relevance of search results, and those readings can be fed into the Learn to Rank algorithm. To be honest, I was jealous not to have been on that ride with them! Top crew. I miss them.

Federico explained the identity market to me. It was both fascinating and enlightening. Government could play a big part in making life online better, I reckon.

Learned things

We gave the Theory of Change workshop another try, instead focusing on a particular problem space rather than the high levels of a system. It went pretty well, but it would be good to nail it. Having clear boundaries on the scope of the problem space is possibly the winner. Also, the suggested running order on Nesta’s DIY Toolkit doesn’t match up to the method elsewhere, and I think we could revisit that. It helped us see the link between problems, solutions and outcomes in a massive system though.

On Friday I realised that I’ve approached the last couple months’ work from the wrong perspective. I’d been applying single-product processes to a wider, more complicated, systems-level problem. Some things have gone well, others haven’t. As soon as I realised this, I started crystallising some discoveries and alphas that need to happen, in sequence, to validate the ideas we’ve had. This sort of roadmapping is senior product stuff, taking a step back from team-level tasks to programme-wide projects.

On realising it, I instantly felt bad at having not been a good leader for the team. Though I know I’m not entirely to blame (circumstances are circumstances), I still don’t want that to happen again. I’ve learned things but the hard way.


A team planning session was painful, but I’m grateful to those who put the effort in.

The stress workshop came with a trigger warning but we ended up being triggered anyway.


Picking which battles to fight.