Things I started

Gelling with the team and people around me was a big focus this week. This started with a Set Up for Success workshop at the start of the week, involving my immediate team, our leads and our programme manager. Rather than being a team values workshop talking about ourselves as individuals and operating principles for the team, we covered the work we needed to produce, who took responsibility for different deliverables and who was relying on us for all that. I think these workshops really help with getting a team started on the right foot, but we were pressed for time on a lot of sections, we’ll need to put time in the calendar to have fuller conversations together.

I put in time for a vision workshop, so that we can discuss the vision of our service as a team. Another foundational workshop that you can’t miss out on.

On Thursday I met up with Debbie who has been looking after the buddying scheme for the cross-government product manager community since I left GDS. Back when I started it, we had 4 active pairs of people meeting regularly, but now there’s 20 to 30 new people signing up every 3 months! It’s so good that people from across the community, across government, are talking to each other. There’s heaps of opportunity to hear about different ways of doing things, to learn from folks outside your organisation. I said I’d get involved again. Me and Debbie are going to poll the community on how we might make the scheme better.

On Friday we had a show & tell, which I lead for the first time. It’s good to get my face out there, so that everyone knows they can come to me as our lead PM starts handing his role on the team over to me.

Things I shuffled along

This week I continued in my role as Information Sponge, meeting with folks across the Data Services directorate and furthering my understanding of how teams and people work together to achieve our goals.

I had a lot of chats with a lot of people. Think I said it last week but there are many moving parts to this service. Next week will be all about deepening those relationships and learning more about how my colleagues’ teams work to deliver value to users.

A few people have told me not to rush, to take my time and let everything soak in. It’s good advice but hard to follow, as I’d really like to pull my weight and help out. But, to be honest, getting to observe the personalities at play for another week or so will be beneficial.

Our lead PM is off next week so I’m all alone, presenting our team’s work at the programme check-in. So I’ll be pulling some weight, at least.

Started pulling together some development objectives with our lead PM. Small things, that I can get on with during my first 6 weeks, that’ll give me focus and increase the chances of a successful handover.

Some puzzles

Getting a new model of working set in place, with everyone pulling in the same direction, with similar methods, seems hard. A brand new unit with air cover can forge ahead with its own methods, but trying to introduce new methods to an existing culture…well, you’ve got to do it carefully. But assertively? But without people feeling like it’s happening to them. Simply put: we were very privileged at GDS to be able to use product management and user-centred design to deliver value, almost without question.

Other things

I didn’t go in to the office this week, which I was indifferent about, but one of our user researchers bumped into another PM and it did cause one of those serendipitous moments. It’s probably a good idea for me to go in regularly while I’m new, to increase the chance that those serendipitous moments will happen.

Started using iA Writer to write this. Many reviews say how fantastic it is, but I found it to be similar to other writing apps. Then I found where the features were hidden! The paragraph focus mode is useful for how I write weeknotes, and the style checking is decent – didn’t realise how many times I say the word ’so’! (iA Writer could benefit from a lightweight product tour for first-time users, perhaps.)

We adopted some rescue kittens back in March. There have been ups and downs, as you might expect. The girl cat got sick and had to be put down, and the boy cat was timid for many months. Over the last 8 weeks he has warmed up enormously, going from never being near us to becoming addicted to chin-scritches. Last night he curled up next to me on the sofa, a huge victory!

Have you eaten somewhere delicious in London that isn’t in Zones 1 or 2? I’d very much like to hear about it. Add tasty places to the tasty places Google Sheet. We’ve already got places in south-east, north-west and east London on it!


I didn’t read any articles or blog posts this week.