Steve Messer

The Request for Help

Weeknotes S07E01

Writing weeknotes help me reflect on my practice as a product manager. Right now, I’m feeling a need for mentorship. Though I know the theory well and have kept plates spinning successfully in the past, it’d be dishonest (and harmful to me and my teams, in the long-run) not to admit I need a little help. How does one find a mentor?

I’ve been grateful for help from seasoned professionals before, so I’ll be reaching out for their help, but if you happen to read my weeknotes and would be willing to help out, please do drop me a line. And a huge thank-you in advance!

Good things

Rob came back as lead product manager. Within 24 hours he’d already made some cracking recommendations and made good observations. I’m really pleased he’s back, his measured, well-structured approach has been missing.

The team is excited to experiment! We’re probably going to use experiments -> proofs-of-concept -> MVP as an approach to begin with, using the honesty of retrospectives as a point to pivot our practice.

The first GOV.UK product managers’ weekly community get-together was very interesting, I’m glad Laura suggested and facilitated it. As a product manager is often a lone wolf, we looked at times we’ve needed support and how we might better support each other. We were pleased to see a blog post on the exact same subject pop up a couple days’ later from our colleagues in Department for Education!

Chatted with Ganesh about how our teams can work together this quarter. There’s lots of ways for each team to bounce off each other, learning and exploring in unison. I’ve missed working alongside him, so it’ll be good.

Also, Antonia came back, hooray! She kindly offered to take Licensing back from me, so we worked through some things with GOV.UK Pay’s Katie.

Learned things

Learning lots about engaging with executive teams, policy & strategy colleagues, and how we package up work for ministers and other senior government bods. I contributed to an expression of interest for a new collaborative working fund and presented to a finance committee on the vision for GOV.UK.

After asking, Jen was kind enough to provide some good feedback: I’m calm, collected and explain things well, but did lean on GDS-speak once or twice which we need to be careful about as an organisation.

Difficulties

I’ve been feeling quite out-of-touch with my practice of late, perhaps based on the fact I’m working on a gnarly opportunity space with little experience in laying down and managing experimental approaches. As mentioned in the weeknotes before Christmas, I’d been using a single-product mindset which meant we fell down a little. Losing momentum can also be the downfall of a team, especially when the push and pull forces of management and leadership aren’t flowing freely.

I need to work a little more on my soft skills and I’m going to lean on mentors and coaches more.

Achievements

I think I managed to sum up some of our work into a blog post. A few more tweaks (thanks Angus) and it should be there.

Kicking off the ‘GOV.UK as a service’ work – looking at the purposes, people, processes and perceptions of our platform – went pretty well!

Collecting and reviewing evidence for a whole problem happened.

People have been kind about the Boring Magic post. Thank you. Stickers coming soon. (It’s also syndicated on Medium.)

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