Writing these weeknotes on Friday but shan’t be able to publish until early next week. Maybe I should move the hosting back to GitHub Pages. Although who am I kidding? Instead I’ll do the complicated, toilful thing and set up something I need to maintain.
What did I get up to this (last) week?
- Wrote a short description of what we do and where we’re going for GOV.UK Design System job adverts
- Caught up with a product manager who worked at MOJ but recently joined GDS
- Said hello to a new team member
- Shuffled along some issues on GitHub
- Prepared a volunteers’ guide for Design System Day
- Published a code of conduct
- Wrote and sent off follow-up questions for the service assessment from last week
- Gathered willing participants for updating the product management learning list
- Met with Ethan to go through the questions for our fireside talk
- Published the programme of speakers and sessions for Design System Day 2023
- Went to a great product community session with Randy Silver
- Other stuff I didn’t make a note of
This week I completed 25 tasks, although there’s a few I didn’t note down. Only 8 unplanned tasks this week. That means most of my time was spent on planned tasks. That matches up with my achievement rate of 87.5% this week – I achieved 7 out of 8 weekly goals!
A few weeks ago I set my goals for the month, and I added to that list over the month, so I set 12 goals in total. I achieved 6 of those goals, an achievement rate of 50%, and I progressed 3 goals. So a lot of the work I did this month contributed to the goals I had set for the projects I’m working on. Nice.
There were 3 goals I didn’t start but, to be fair, I descoped those based on a roadmap change. So I’m happy with not getting those done.
Pretty sure I’m working on the right things. Unplanned work always crops up for product managers, but there was less of it last week. So I’m still spending the majority of my time on things that move the needle. Pretty happy with the achievement rate of monthly goals too. The high priority stuff got done.
Might calculate how much time I spend on TeamOps, curious to know whether it’s a big portion of time.
Design System Day 2023
Everything’s starting to slot in to place with this now. It has been planned in detail and that’s paying off, all the major priority tasks have been done. We’ve got to do some training on Hopin for the second day of the conference, but that’ll chime nicely with a test run of the plan for both days.
It’s always the same with running events. Everything seems manic and stressful in the run up, but the planning always pays off. I’ve been reminding the team that we’ve got the major stuff done so the conference is almost already a confirmed success. It’s still worth reserving a little energy for adapting to last-minute changes on the day though.
I’m trying not to get too busy on other things so I can be a backstop for any big-effort tasks, but it’s all going well so far.
Agile governance and communications
At the product community session, I asked Randy a question about tactics for agile governance and communication as organisations scale. Show & tells and blogging filled this purpose at GDS in the early days, but 10 years later things haven’t really changed.
If anything, the blogging has dried up compared to the early proliferation of many posts per week. There’s internal weeknotes but these are bullet points that don’t capture the context or detail of our deep work. And senior management and leadership is too busy to come to show & tells, they’re pulled in so many directions keeping the organisation going.
Randy’s answer was to ask what I needed from those people and to find out what works. It shifts the onus on to the product manager to create the environment in which governance and communication can happen. While I think that’s a fair shift to expect working inside a growing organisation, I do think the responsibility is shared: between product people, senior management teams and leadership. We’re all time-poor, let’s meet in the middle.
Having said that, what do I really need? What clarity can I create?
In a way, I have a layered internal communication strategy right now. A fortnightly show & tell for intra-team alignment and feedback; a fortnightly check-in with senior management, for reporting progress and highlighting key developments; and a weekly broadcast weeknote with top-level headlines (awareness-generating and hopefully conversation-starting). If you want to know more from the weeknote or a check-in, there’s a series of show & tells I can link you to – or those can be reformulated into a single narrative. But only the team get the stories, everyone else gets highlights.
Is that all they need or want? Maybe that’s OK.
My next contract
Someone reached out with a dream job this week, but I couldn’t take it because it starts in November and my time with the GOV.UK Design System doesn’t finish until February. Such a shame!
It was pitched just right though: building a value proposition through experimentation and user development, validating and invalidating hypotheses. The intermingling of R&D, experience design, business models and potential.
There’s other work I’d like to do but please do send over any more like that.
This got me thinking about how to advertise myself and what work I’m capable of doing. Although I’ve been in product management roles for nearly a decade, my skills are more diverse than that.
Indeed, the skillset most people have is more diverse than their current role, but it’s easy to get pigeonholed. There’s quite a few people on my team who are good at content design, for example, but often we default to asking the content designer to do all content work. That creates bottlenecks. So we should think about skills, not roles.
And that’s how it might be best to advertise myself. Talk about the skills I have, the skills I’m best at or hired for, and which skills I’ve used on the wide range of projects I’ve worked on.
I’m taking it easy, using one of the 80/20 maintenance plans to maintain fitness. My volume and mileage is right down and it’s nice to have a rest.
A few people have messaged about doing races together after I did the marathon, which has been really nice. I’ve been running alone for 3 years but would love to run with other people. Next weekend I’m doing a half-marathon with my best mate from home, and before the year is out Kuba wants to run a trail race, so I’ll run one with him.
In February I’m going to run the marathon course again, which will be a totally different experience in the depths of winter as opposed to the highs of summer. Means I’ve got to start marathon training again next week, but that’s good: my volume has decreased but the amount I’m eating hasn’t, which means my waistline has grown!
- Seachdain nota aon, 4 mins
- Weeknotes 374
- Use standups to spark collaboration (instead of wasting your time), 5 mins
- 10 Questions to Ask at Show & Tell
- Am I doing it right? A check up for agile teams, 11 mins
- Writing by Numbers
- Does your company have dynamic or static alignment?, 3 mins
- The invisible problem, 18 mins
- Taking the next step in my career: building a company of one, 4 mins
- The climate crisis is not, in fact, a mystery or a riddle we haven’t yet solved due to insufficiently robust data sets. We know what it would take, but it’s not a quick fix – it’s a paradigm shift. Waiting for machines to spit out a more palatable and/or profitable answer is not a cure for this crisis, it’s one more symptom of it.
- ‘It felt futile’: young Britons swap career-driven lives for family and fun, 6 mins
- Product for the People: D’You Know What I Mean?
- The Raspberry Pi 5 is finally here
- Want to reduce harmful design? Make good design easy., 4 mins
- Old wards and new against fake humans, 4 mins
- NEUROBLAST: Cyberdelia – Simulacra and Simulation, 4 mins
- MyPowerbank hacks London’s Santander bikes so homeless people can charge their phones, 3 mins
- How do you recover passkeys if you lose all your devices?
- Passkeys: all the news and updates around passwordless sign-on, 15 mins
- “Computer says guilty” – an introduction to the evidential presumption that computers are operating correctly, 5 mins
- Responsible interaction design, 11 mins
Got comments? Contact me, let’s talk.
You need time for big thinking: in service assessments and strategy work. That’s the subject for today.
Roles & responsibilities, a product development model, Human Interface Guidelines, open source, maintenance and communities.
We’re in a liminal zone, a headspace between two periods but only present physically in one. It’s a headtrip to operate that way.