Weeknote – 12th Nov 2023

As ever, getting my excuses in early, and the weeknote in late. It’s going to be another short one.

Covid is still hanging on, sadly. Oxygen levels are fine, but I still get pretty tired very quickly – and a bit breathless going up too many stairs. Managed nearly a full work week this time, which is huge progress. I’d originally aimed to finish at lunchtime on Friday, but a few things dragged on – as they do – and so it was only a ‘get away early’.

I made it into the office on Wednesday, which was quite a exhausting thing to do, but a) the Heads of Profession gang had a team planning session, b) I’d got a much-postponed chat with a Product person at DfE in the diary at the end of the day, c) I hoped it might be a way of kickstarting a few sluggish bits of my brain. I think I might have been a bit right on the last one, but there’s still a long way to go. On the upside, it meant I was lucky enough to be in Aldgate when I got the call to say that the legendary Liz Sarginson happened to be in her favourite haunt ‘The Bell’, just up the road. She’s doing well, and hopefully she’ll get the all-clear from her next set of tests. Watch out world!

It’s a testament to my affection for these two people that I’m including this picture even though I look awful.

It was a delight to see her, as ever, even if my own light feebleness meant I wasn’t able to hang around for as long as I’d have liked. But I’m looking forward to the next one.

I started the next round of Product Leadership training for MtP, with new partner-in-crime Cris Valerio. She’s been at Uber, Instacart, IDEO and all sorts, and brought new things out of the material that I’d not spotted in there before. Just as the participants did. Week one is always slightly uneven, because it’s about creating a baseline understanding, and the social bonds that we’ll use to shape the next three weeks, but it went pretty well I think. Back into the fray again on Tuesday.

Other than that, there was a lot of recruitment stuff, mixed with frantic planning for the forthcoming ‘Learning Day’ at GDS. I’d been too ill to pick up the latter, but obviously the clock hadn’t stopped ticking. I’ve got someone coming in to help our APMs/PMs/SPMs think about planning and roadmapping, and some slightly-more-coaching sessions for our Leads and Heads. Thanks to Natalie Baron for tons of logistics while I was off, and to DD colleagues current and previous for being so generous with their time to help our G6 folk. Phil Hornby of “Talking Roadmaps” has also been a brick for taking so much of government procurement on trust. I hope neither of us regret it!

Had a quick run through of Randy Silver’s forthcoming chat for the GDS Speaker Series – I think it’s going to be funny and inspiring. A bit different from Matt Edgar’s recent excellent talk, but complementary I think.

I’m looking forward to being one of the table co-hosts at the Government Transformation Summit in just under a fortnight. It’s looking like great chance to talk to colleagues here and overseas about doing things better. I’m probably leading discussion about improving Transformation Strategies, which is something close to my heart, but there are a bunch of topics I can also cover and I’m leaving it in the hands of the organisers. Registrations are still open, so if you want to be part of chats about everything from service design to data to personalisation to people, do feel free to sign up – it’ll be lovely to see you. (There’ll be beautiful promotional images for this up on LinkedIn soon…but for some reason the widgets that create them are just not working on my account at the moment.)

That’s enough work stuff. What else has been going on?

  • It’s winter. That means putting the garden furniture away. And every year I forget that the dining table is almost exactly the same width as the gap between our house and the neighbour’s. So I should get it the right way round before I go into the narrow bit. Anyway, I only got one hand on the brickwork, and I’m sure it’ll grow back.
  • Had a really good piano lesson. Quite slow and deep. Tackling two pieces from Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” at the moment, and Seb caught me doing quite a lot of things right. We also spent a bit of time unpacking some of the twiddly-twiddly rhythms of a Bach Sarabande that I didn’t have the brain for two weeks ago. On the back of that, I’ve been reading the two part inventions silently to myself just to practice parsing various quaver/semiquaver/demisemiquaver groupings. Which is more fun than it sounds, honestly.
  • Went to see the Taylor Swift Eras film again – this time with Vicky. Wasn’t quite as weepy as last time, thankfully.
  • That led, in turn, to a lovely evening down in the studio together, listening to records, drinking champagne and toasting the first anniversary of her mum’s funeral. Sharing memories, that sort of thing.
  • Lovely big walk through the woods this morning, with coffee at the end.
  • Some new trail shoes arrived, but I’m still not quite up to running with them. Maybe a very gentle parkrun this Saturday?
  • And – of course – the new Baby Queen album came out on Friday. A truly worthy successor to ‘The Yearbook’ which was pretty much my soundtrack to 2022. There’s a nice profile of her on the BBC News site, if you’ve not come across her before. A sort of very-messed-up Taylor Swift, with a lot more grit. I absolutely love loads of the tracks – the impeccable production, the brilliant wordplay and rhyme schemes, the scathing attitude and irony. Current favourite is “kid genius”, which even has snark about people not using punctuation or upper case. Plus of course, she’s rinsing the ‘Heartstopper’ connections with some really beautiful Alice Oseman artwork on the special edition. Her London gig is on Wednesday. Daisy’s going to be with me again, and I can’t wait.
Go Bella!

That’ll do for now. Have a good week ahead, everyone.

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