Friday 11 January 2013

That was the week that was

Someone asked me to try and explain why this week was so awesome, cos I'd said it would be impossible. So here is my try. Some of this is very vague as I'm working on a project that's in alpha and very not ready quite yet for the world to descend on it but I'll tell you as much as I can. Also bear in mind, other vaguenesses may be resulting, not from hiding things, but for reasons of respect, courtesy and privacy of others.

This week my brain has been doing this:

Image credit: SJPhotography, via Flickr
But it's not a thing about fireworks going off. It's also a thing about the venn diagrams that particular picture displays, and the colour themes running through it.

So what did it involve? Well there's a main project that now all the main protagnonists are finally physically in the same place is moving quite swiftly. This week I've learned a bit about project managing, discovered a magic tool that replicates the walls the dev teams use at GDS to sort their incoming and outgoing workloads but digitally cos we don't have a wall (I'll post about this over the weekend), and realised that as long as we chop the super massive huge thing down into teeny tiny little bits, anything is possible.

I'm really excited about it, because it's useful. It looks like duplication but it's not, it delivers some key points within the Civil Service Reform plan and it doesn't tick boxes. It creates them and then encourages people to throw all the boxes in a big pit and jump up and down on them. Love.

My colleague Chris, who will be referred to by first name only as ironically he does not wish to be above the parapet (and is our teams resident tech geek) is epic. I knew this before but this week I have discovered the sheer joy of watching someone wrestle with a bug, get help with the bug, take the help away and apply it and fix the bug. And then squee about it. Well not squee exactly, he doesn't do that but well...

So in amongst writing a tonne of documentation in a particular tone which welcomes people to the new project but doesn't scare them off either, and explains beta but really simply, and acquiring guinea pigs from all over the Civil Service (and potentially outside of it too, thanks @somazi @mattnavarrauk) to test and break things and generally see if this stuff will work, there was lots of other stuff. So this was the big firework. I told you it wasn't accidental.

Some of the smaller fireworks were thus:

Image credit: Kozu Moriya via Flickr

 The lovely team from DCLG who run the Really Useful days came and had a chat and I'm off to North Allerton to share some of the wrong and some of the right about open policy making and digital engagement. More importantly, recommendations for speakers were made. Good to have such an easy job on that side at the moment.

I caught up with everyone I'd not seen since before Xmas and gosh it was good to see everyone looking so very well. Lots of red cheeks and smiles. Lovely.

Teacamp last night was fab, @lesteph and @somazi spoke respectively about UK Gov Camp (for which major scheming is going on on the Google group, go see!) and a social media first aid kit. I am so excited for Gov Camp this year because there's already about 8 sessions I want to go to but I did inhale a little sharply at the idea of no post it notes. No post it notes??? Heresy! As ever with these things though, it was the chat with @hadleybeeman and @pubstrat which was really awesome. There's yet another blog post, I think, in what we discussed but it basically condenses to 'every time someone told you you were either extrovert or introvert, they lied to you' (well me, not necessarily you, I mean you might be nicely neatly boxed, I don't know).

We did some teamwork on goals and priorities for the next 30 days which has made us all focus more more on sprints and delivery.  This is ace, because though we've established stand ups don't work for us, we've sort of changed it around a bit and are having short team meetings and then retrospectives towards the end of the week to share successes and challenges. This has had the added bonus of workloads becoming much more visible and support being offered and help being given every which way within the team. It also resulted in some neat problem solving of a niggling but crunchy problem some of us have been wrestling with. This gave me much joy.

There was discussions on how scary pressing the submit button on a big blog is, some small training on basic blogging, some helping with making Twitter monitoring much easier via Tweetdeck and a big big Wordpress session for the rest of the team from @annkempster. The floor meeting was inspiring and awesome and so was @tomskitomski's internal presentation. @liammax said some things, specifically about the 'art of the possible' and external forces pushed crystallisation of social media use in work time to the fore, resulting in arriving at the conclusion that intent really does matter (probably another blog post in that as well, but not yet).

Board game geekery was resureccted and a venue found which will potentially eventually allow for expansion. Much walking and chatting was done and much drinking of coffee, either incidentally, or as a focus. Salt provided the best, naturally. @adewunmi sat and briefed me patiently on where open policy making was up to from a GDS perspective and in the process managed to explain all the things I didn't know or understand without me even needing to prompt with questions, leading me to believe she may be somewhat psychic and one wonders if that's not entirely accidental given the task ahead of her which is monumental but necessary.  As a by product of this we had a brilliant discussion about openness, and about personality traits which dictate comfort zones when it comes to levels of openness and why it comes naturally to some and not others. (Yes, yet another blog post).

@marilyneb was missed but plans where made to meet with @adewunmi and I have no doubt that that right there is going to be one of the highlights of next week or next. @alexschillemore was caught at the right time, or rather I was at my desk when she circled and in 5 minutes managed to leave me grinning with excitement at the amazing things which will be happening in her new role, but also surfacing something which needs resolving which I had dropped but now need to pick up again.

Somewhere in there I ate food and @fatbusinessman arrived to inspire thinking on how our team could be more agile (it was before the bit above about the 30 day priorities discussion but seemed to coincidence not be driven by) but also about teamwork, which was the subject of the previous post. How many are we on now? I've completely lost track. At least as many as there are fireworks exploding in the first picture, I think, unless I'm very much mistaken. Anyway, it was a fine discussion with someone who really really helps me think. And while I may have found an alternative to needing to think out loud (another blog post, but tying in to one of the ones already mentioned above) nothing really replaces the luxury of being allowed to unpick and unravel something verbally.

Finally, I need to say goodbye but not goodbye to someone. @geek_manager is leaving us and her blog explains why. In the floor meeting on Tuesday, @mtbracken alluded to the fact that Meri might be especially ace at allowing people to...flourish, shall we say. I hope I can say I am one of the people that Meri has spent time with, explaining, coaching, mentoring, guiding and oh, did I mention, being exceptionally patient with. The reason that this week has been so damn awesome is down to, in no small part, the work that Meri has put in with both myself and others. I alluded to something similar on Twitter a while ago about someones contribution not always necessarily being visible. A really rather lot of us are going to miss her terribly. Having said that, she's off to some pretty awesome pastures new whichever of the three million epic offers she currently has on the table she decides to take and I understand and respect someone who can decide that no, this is not right, and move on.

Go well lady. But I'm sure you'll still be beating us all stupid at board games ;O)

This week was a 4 day week. Next week looks even more bonkers. :O)

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