It’s firebreak week! Haven’t had a firebreak since January 2019, if you can believe it. (Check out S02E12 to see what I did then. And you can find out what a firebreak is on the GOV.UK blog.)

But what if firebreak never ended? What if teams were empowered to work on what they were passionate about all the time? Chuck that on the thoughtasbord and let’s snack on it…

Work stuff

After catching up on emails, I joined the firebreak kick-off. Though I missed the pitching last week, Xander had written up a pilot for asynchronous communication, which I’d suggested we could try out, so I got involved with that. It’s fairly simple: we’ll avoid using email, opt for more long-form communication where needed, and try a more flexible working pattern outside of core hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). We give it a go, have a retro, and see whether we want to stop or continue and iterate things. When we had a remote working week on the GOV.UK Search team, it was really helpful to trial it out before committing, to expose things that needed ironing out. And that’s agile working, right?

Most of my week will be spent getting ready for next quarter, probably, but I decided to work on updating GOV.UK Pay’s roadmap, and exploring options for making it more collaborative. There’s a good history of making roadmaps openly available at GDS – we inspired Bulb to make their roadmap open – but I’ve previously found it useful to involve users in prioritising items on a roadmap. Collaborating with users on your roadmap helps you figure out where your product sucks and where it matters. I’ll write a separate blog post on our findings.

I chatted with Faith Reynolds, the independent consumer representative for Open Banking, about how we can make things better for users. There’s been a huge push to make money out of Open Banking but it’s only right that we stick up for the users, encouraging the banks to make things usable, accessible and trustworthy.

In a product managers’ meeting, Pete said that we should proudly bring the Government as a Platform name back into being, and FUCKIN’ A. 🙌 It’s used in digital government circles, in academia, in all sorts of places except the programme names in GDS. So bun that, we’re bringing it back. (I’ve been using it on my Twitter and LinkedIn because it’s something I believe in.)

Based on John Cutler’s ideas on framing product opportunities as bets, creating value and flow over time, and doing the learning upfront (discovery, not constant delivery), I put together a Trello board to help us frame our product strategy. It’s a draft right now but the idea is to add our possible work on this board, categorise and label it, and have conversations about how we’d start realising some of the outcomes. It helps us think about what we need to do next to learn about an opportunity and frames big bets against small bets. The hope is that it will make strategy and roadmap planning easier. Let me know what you think.

There’s been loads of chatter on Twitter about this new functional standard that GDS has published. I don’t really know what it is or what it’s for, so I’m going to read the blog post about it. Simon raised a good point that the pile-on from the old guard was a bit snarky, so I’m hoping they’ll add more detailed responses as comments on the blog post. The Strategy team did say they would review feedback, after all.

The Reforge post in the reading list below is 🔥 by the way.

Not-work stuff

We’re heading back to London this weekend, so moods are up and down. Not just at the prospect of having to spend 6 hours in the car, but also because, well, we’ve grown to love it here. And though I do love where we are in New Cross, there have been numerous benefits to living here.

  • No commute
  • Not woken up by sirens, ever
  • Don’t need to wear earplugs at night
  • Mountains to walk in are right there! points
  • Some mornings I can smell the sea on the air

Not being close to friends has been a bummer, but like most other folk we’ve filled in that social gap with video calls and virtual pubs and tabletop RPGs. In a way, we’ve just been nudged towards things we could have been mostly doing anyway.

Can’t wait to get back and have a mix though. Good thing about lockdown: I’ve started buying records1 again. Mad to think that I would gladly spend £20 a week on records in 2007–10 but in recent years I’ve been like, ‘Hmm, is £2 on that digital single sensible?’ No more of that. Getting back into mixing and splashing out on music. Making more time to enjoy music without Spotify. Roll da bass!

I’ll actually be able to update my website too. Because I left my main machine at home I’ve been writing these weeknotes on a Google Doc, so expect a flurry of posts when I get back.

Reading

  1. OK, files off Bandcamp, but that’s fine. Not sure a vinyl habit is OK in the climate crisis?