Stiffkey saltmarsh is a vast muddy creek on the Norfolk coast, exposed as the tide retreats to the North Sea. It’s a haven for wildlife, a lovely little spot. Where the marsh meets a sand bank, you dip below sea level and the horizon is above your head, waves crashing against the beach. Anxiety is in the air, like sea spray. The tide could come rushing in at any moment, cutting you off from the land, leaving you stranded amid the foaming torment.

This week felt a little like being on that beach. Except when you check the tide tables, you know that, realistically, you’re not going to be drowned if you leave in the next 40 minutes. So there’s time to enjoy the place and move on to other things.

And we can always come back another time.

Work stuff

I learned a lot about getting buy-in this week: from immediate stakeholders, from your team, maybe even from myself. We presented stakeholder risks to our senior management team, talked about capitalising on opportunities, and tried to get our strategies across. But I don’t think I’d done enough work on communicating those previously, and our delivery manager rightly said that now might not be the best time after all.

Trying to commit to strategy work, beyond the product–market fit of card payments, is really tough when we’re all waiting the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review. It’s frustrating, and I found myself in the square of despair1. Despite having a proven model for creating public value, we genuinely don’t know whether we’ll be funded going forward. We have to wait and see. And so we may miss out on opportunities.

But like being on that beach, I suppose we can come back and revisit things. User needs don’t drift away on the tide.

Shout-out to our delivery manager, head of product, head of delivery and head of technology this week: you’ve all been fab.

And some fun stuff happened this week, it wasn’t all so intense!

  • I presented GOV.UK Pay to the government of Bermuda
  • We chatted to the Local Digital Reducing Invalid Planning Applications crew
  • I presented a lightning talk at the all-staff huddle
  • We had a retro for the Introduction to Product Management course
  • We reviewed the accessibility audit from the Digital Accessibility Centre, and
  • We thought about the implications of centralised contracts

That was a lot to fit into four days!

Things on my mind

  • Culture and cohesion: establishing and maintaining spirit and the capacity of an organisation to reach its goals through leadership2
  • Pioneers, settlers and town planners
  • Mentorship in the UK public sector product community
  • Working in the open and the Civil Service Code

If any of those interest you, send me a message on Twitter or x-gov Slack.

Not-work stuff

Continued reading The Value of Everything which, as suspected, has set my mind racing on a few things. Really good book. My Economics A-level came flooding back, I think I’d like to go over my workbooks again (pretty sure I kept them) to revisit some of the concepts.

Isn’t packing awful? I hate moving house.

Read lots this week, probably because I got trial subscriptions to The Times and the Financial Times. I prefer the latter.

I’ve taken a week off the exercise to give my knees and shoulders a rest. Can’t wait to finish Couch to 5K next week, and it’s such a great public service. Well done to Public Health England and the BBC for taking that beginners’ running programme and making it distributable and digestible.

Is the second wave here? Cases are rising and there’s more people moving through online triage. The localised outbreaks are starting to join up with places nearby too.

Bookmarks

  1. Read the piece on moving beyond the rhetoric of transformation above, it’ll explain all. 

  2. I’ve been thinking about this since January and written two blog posts on the subject, neither of which I’ve published yet. Reading about the Cuban Revolution was oddly related, and then organisation-wide events at work brought it all to the fore again.