Weeknote 29th July – a gentle return

Hello again. Yes, it’s another attempt at getting weeknotes going once more. There’s so much going on in my brain at the moment that everything feels far too trivial/early to write up, or is so vast I’m never going to finish it (that blog post about roadmaps). So it’s been a few weeks, accidentally.

The big work-related thing this week was probably going to Marty Cagan’s “Transformed” workshop. I’ve written up my takeaways from that as their own blogpost. Absolutely tons to think about there.

I also ran week three of the Mind the Product “Product Leadership” course, with Stephen Culligan as my co-trainer. Only one more to go, and then we start it all again in November. Oh, which you can sign up for, if you’d like me to help you! (I’m also teaching “Communications and Alignment” virtually on September 6th-7th and in-person in October the day before the MTP conference).

This week I’ve been doing some really fulfilling work with the product teams in one of our directorates, just helping them with the storytelling and value propositions in their roadmaps. It’s been so interesting hearing about the problems they’re trying to solve, and the feature ideas they’ve got, but also fascinating to see how hard it is to not get lost in the team-level detail when telling the story more widely. I’ve been gently asking “and why” repeatedly, and often finding the real reason for doing something is mentioned in an almost throwaway fashion – some enormous piece of value that’s being unlocked or preserved, or a huge risk being mitigated. Often in the tens of millions of pounds. But to the teams that’s just become so normal that they forget to communicate it upwards – so it’s been wonderfully rewarding helping them with that.

My role at GDS was originally supposed to involve creating a shared roadmap and product strategy, but it turns out things aren’t quite set up in a way that makes this particularly easy. I’m hoping that this kind of activity might be a way to start shaping a little more of that – because it’s the sort of thing that gives the other necessary work around L&D/recruitment etc a sense of purpose.

One other thing I’m taking the reins on over the next few weeks is starting to reshape the cross-government Product Management capability framework. There are a few small bugfixes I’ve got going in ASAP for associate product managers, and I’m hoping to publish some draft guidance about how we assess capability levels that span grades (I often refer to this as “‘Expert’ is never ‘done'”) more widely pretty shortly. But the big bit of work is making this framework reflect how the craft of Product Management has evolved since it was first created. There’s very little about experiments, or different types of discovery, or strategic user research, or assumptions testing. Hopefully we can get a draft together by late September that can be sent out for feedback across government, and which can give some teams a little more permission to do the right thing. I’ve got a vast group of contributors, and I’m borrowing from some great prior work done by Jon Foreman and Scott Colfer, so hopefully that timeframe won’t break me.

Real life

With MTP Training in the air, there’s not been a ton of time for other things, but…

Went to see “Dear England” at the National Theatre with Daisy. That’s the set before kickoff in the picture above, but there’s a fabulous gallery on the NT’s own page. Joseph Fiennes was just brilliant as Gareth Southgate, and Gina McKee was as wonderful as ever – playing the psychologist he brings in and then pushes away. I’m not a massive football fan, but I absolutely loved it and bawled my eyes out at various points. Behind the main characters, there’s a wonderful transition journey for Harry Kane, and even Jordan Pickford changes from this wiry ball of aggression into someone much wiser. It’s open for a little longer, and much recommended. It might have too much commercial music in it to ever make it onto NT At Home or NT Live, but let’s see.

‘Barbie’ was bloody brilliant. I can’t wait to see it again. A deeper and richer film than I’d imagined, and while the plot isn’t *vast* there’s a lot to be got from it. This is a movie that can do stupid dog-poo jokes in one moment, then pivot to a vast Wes-Anderson-style formal piece a moment later. And it’s a film that talks about invisible privilege in the patriarchy, through the medium of an allegedly perfect matriarchy. Bravo Greta and Margot!

Music-wise: this week saw the release of the new Georgia and Carly Rae Jepsen albums. Neither was quite as amazing as I’d hoped. Georgia feels like she’s got a bit swamped by the Vampire Weekend bloke’s production, and it just sounds like any other female singer-songwriter rather than distinctively her. CRJ’s is the traditional “and all the other bits” album to accompany the magnificent “The Loneliest Time”. There are some great tracks on “The Loveliest Time” but definitely not quite up with its predecessor.

Of course, I’ve not been posting for a while, so there are also amazing records like Alison Goldfrapp’s “The Love Invention” and Matthew Herbert’s “The Horse” and Jake Shears’ “Last Man Dancing” still in heavy rotation.

And we said goodbye to Sinead O’Connor. Still trying to get my head around that.

I’ve not written a ton of music of my own, but I’m still settling into the piano keys more confidently, and re-learning some old pieces through the lens of my new left-hand technique. I’m also starting to do a bit of DIY modular stuff – bought a Music Thing Turing Machine to make for myself, and the Voltages expander. Hopefully that’ll also help me work out why the one I bought off eBay is playing up? But yes, a lot of remembering how to solder over the next week.

Previous Weeks

I’ve been busy and a bit ill, but a few other highlights:

  • Managed to get under 24 minutes at Parkrun. Never thought that would be a thing.
  • Went to see “Accidental Death of an Anarchist” again – really really good, and it still fills the bigger venue.
  • Likewise “Guys and Dolls” at the Bridge Theatre. Truly spectacular bit of immersive theatre. Can’t wait to go and see it again but stand in the pit this time!


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