This year I’ve started writing reflective notes at the end of each month.
I’ve found writing them helpful in getting me to think about, articulate and record things that otherwise I wouldn’t have, and hopefully it’s also helping me to learn.

So here I am again.

1. What did you fail with?

  • I failed to move a project forward like I’d been wanting and planning to do

I’d been lining up my ducks for a couple of months to get ready to kick off the project, and then I failed to get final sign off.

It was a good lesson for me in two things.

First, I hadn’t tackled/tested my riskiest assumption early, and that led to wasted time and effort. Looking back, I knew my highest risk (a likely impediment) and rather addressing that issue, I tried to go around it, and it — rightly — got exposed by some good coaching questions from my boss.

Second, it helped me to realise that I had been trying to push forward the initiative. I’ve now shifted to looking at where there is capacity and demand in the organisation to pull on the initiative. This approach will also have the advantage of being able to start small, whilst still thinking big, so we can iterate and adapt as we go/learn.

I should probably get on and read Jonathan Smart’s book that I’ve got on my desk, as this is a principle he talks about.

One of the principles in Jonathan Smart’s book is “Pull Work, Don’t Push It”
One of the principles in Jonathan Smart’s book is “Pull Work, Don’t Push It”

2. What went well?

  • My return to working full time

I worked full-time for the whole of April and, through a combination of bank holidays and annual leave, last week was my first full 5-day working week for 8 months (since my mini stroke last August and subsequent stroke). Work has been amazing in supporting my phased return.

3. What did you find frustrating?

  • Seeing two bits of our organisation working in parallel on the same problem

I can understand why it’s happening, and each group is trying to work quickly, but the risk I see (and have discussed with a colleague) is that the two solutions won’t join up and neither will be fully implemented as they won’t have the buy-in/commitment from the other part of the org. I’d rather join up and go slower in order to produce something that we can better operationalise and that sticks. It’s a real example of the choices and decisions we have to make in how we solve problems.

4. Who inspired you?

  • Marty Cagan, who was a guest at our RELX product forum

I’m a big fan of the ways of working that Marty and his SVPG partners advocate for designing technology products. It wasn’t that at this event he said lots that I hadn’t heard him say before, but it was great to hear him reiterate some of his key lessons for product people. I really appreciated his clarity of thought, his mastery of the subject matter, and — most of all — his passion and strength of belief/conviction in what he says.

A Twitter thread of Marty’s dropping science
A Twitter thread of Marty’s dropping science

5. What did you do that helped someone else achieve something?

  • Adding value by listening

One morning, I spent an hour listening to a colleague. After 45 minutes I was becoming slightly twitchy. This was an unscheduled call, and I had a bunch of other things I needed to do.

But I stopped twitching as I realised that being a thought partner for someone is a valuable role — listening, asking questions, helping them to articulate and clarify their thoughts. The value is for them.

6. The sign of a good meeting

I was told that a former trustee of Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination (the arts and well-being charity whose board of trustees I chair) used to offer this as a sign of a good meeting:

“You want people to leave with a pebble in their shoe”

That is, you want people to leave with something to think about. This idea reminded me of something an old boss of mine used to say about meetings:

“You want people to leave with something to do. If you want people to engage, you need to give them a role”

7. What did you learn about the Meaning of Life?

From Tim Ferris in A Velocity of Being:

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself”

A picture of two tweets with quotes from Joseph Campbell and Wendell Berry
A picture of two tweets with quotes from Joseph Campbell and Wendell Berry

Oh, and in other news, I learnt that we don’t have free will.

8. What (else) did you learn?

  • Organisational dynamics

Mark Dalgarno ran a great session for the ‘agile in the ether’ community introducing this model for organisational design developed by The Adjacent, which they describe on their blog. I could immediately see how I could use the model (also explained in this introductory video and accompanying slides) for an agile approach to organisational/culture change which is kind of my bag (you can see how Ocado did this in their technology organisation in this video).

Shu-Ha-Ri describes how people learn techniques or acquire skills in stages. Thinking about what stage people are at in their development/competence has helped me understand the need to tailor my support to where they are. I was previously failing to appreciate and take account of this need, which led to me providing support at an inappropriate level for their level of understanding.

9. What made you proud?

Well, it was nice to be told by David Prewitt that I’d written “one of the most useful blog posts on any subject” that he’d ever seen. (He was talking about my reading list on OKRs.) Reminded me that if you like something you read on the internet, it’s nice to tell the author.

10. What was fun?

  • Going to the pub for the first time in a long time
  • Celebrating my birthday with friends
  • Kayaking
A photo of a friend and me kayaking together on my birthday
A photo of a friend and me kayaking together on my birthday

11. What did you enjoy?

  • Seeing my parents for the first time in 16 months
  • Seeing a nuthatch and a tree creeper
  • Watching Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — a great film
A picture of the poster for the film ‘3 Billboards’
A picture of the poster for the film ‘3 Billboards’
  • Getting up for the dawn chorus — something I first did last year, and that I now hope I do at least once every year
  • My weekly walking meetings
My tweet with a picture of the river Cam at Grantchester
My tweet with a picture of the river Cam at Grantchester

12. What are you looking forward to in May?

Senior Director @ElsevierConnect doing product strategy implementation & performance. Mainly writing about getting from A to B, & digital stuff. Personal acc’t.