February

Last month, I experimented with writing some notes reflecting on January.
I quite enjoyed writing them, and they didn’t take too long to write.

I also found the process helpful in getting me to think about and to articulate and record things that otherwise I wouldn’t have.

So I’m going to try it again.

1. Who or what inspired you?

  • Daft Punk

As @wulfmunkey said when Daft Punk announced their breakup:

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.*

I was inspired to have a great time digging around the internet, checking out some of their shows and videos I’d not seen before, and also digging around my memory and running over times when their music has inspired me or moved me.

Watching Janet’s inspirational talk about applying digital to everything (shared here by Stefan Czerniawski) reminded me about Chris’s fab triangle about the implementation of change, which inspired me to go off and write a throw-away post on triangles, constraints an decisions, riffing on how people can over complicate the most simple and elegant (visual) expressions of a thought.

2. What did you learn?

  • Woodpeckers peck not just to drill for insects, but also to communicate with one another. They have no call but peck instead [1]
A gif of someone whose mind is blown
A gif of someone whose mind is blown

3. Who did you work with in a different profession/team within your organisation?

  • I met two people doing similar roles as me in different functions/business units, and there’s the potential for us to do much more cross-functional collaboration in future
  • I enjoyed working with colleagues from different functions — customer discovery, strategy and UX — on product innovation

4. Who did you work with/talk to outside your organisation/sector?

I’ve continued with the #100 people challenge. It is helping me to reach out and meet people I’ve never met before, to get back in touch with people with whom I’ve fallen out of contact, and to maintain more regular contact with friends.

This month it was the spur for me to get back in touch with someone who coached me for a couple of years, back in 2012–14. I wanted to let him know how much his coaching helped me and continues to influence me. I still use ideas and questions that he shared with me, including in my own coaching. It was lovely to see him again.

I joined two online meet ups: Agile in the Ether and Product it the ether. Both were stimulating and a rich source of ideas, and the write ups are full of recommended links for further reading.

I had two more ‘random coffee’ meet ups through the ‘agile in the ether’ community. This continues to be way outside my comfort zone, but I enjoyed them both. Coincidentally, one of the people I met only lives 8 miles from where I live, so there’s the potential for us to have a real life follow up. I also felt the serendipitous benefit of this way of meeting up for a random chat with someone you don’t know but with whom you share something in common (eg because you both belong to the same community): I followed up one of the reading threads Neil recommended, and it was a really helpful article which was perfectly timed for something I’m working on, so I shared it with a group of colleagues.

A pen sketch by Neil on he and I on zoom together for our random coffee
A pen sketch by Neil on he and I on zoom together for our random coffee
Sketch by Neil Younger of our random coffee chat (we’d normally take a screengrab to share on the Agile In The Ether slack, but we were too busy nattering and forgot)

5. What went well?

A small group of us quickly pulled together some information one aspect of our product portfolio, presenting in one place data that hadn’t previously been looked at together.

This task made me reflect on the forcing function of a (quick) deadline. It was a piece of work that could have taken much longer to complete, and I’d discussed with a colleague how we could avoid that by breaking the work up into a series of small chunks and delivering it iteratively over time (agile like, innit?). However, us being told that we had to deliver something covering the whole scope quickly totally changed our approach, and the focus of a short deadline made a massive deadline, and we totally exceeded my expectations.

It was a real example of what I’d been thinking about in relation to triangles, constraints an decisions.

6. What left you wanting more?

  • Discussing product leadership with our ‘product guild’ (a community of practice), triggered by what I learnt by reading Marty Cagan’s Empoweredthis is a topic that I want to keep on exploring at work, and it’s a great group of people who want to share knowledge and work across siloes.

7. When did you make a personal impact that improved something?

  • I ran an OKR workshop for a cross-functional group of managers, which they said would help them when they set their OKRs for next quarter
  • Following some serious data analysis and discussion, I feel our plan to improve engagement in my department is shaping up well, and we’ve got a number of concrete actions planned in March in response to staff feedback

8. What did you do that helped someone else?

I worked with a couple of HR colleagues to help shape the engagement action plan for one of the other departments in Elsevier and got some very nice feedback from the head of that department about the difference I had made, both in terms of where they will focus and how he thinks about the subject

9. What made you proud?

10. What did you experiment with?

Giles Turnbull’s post on bad first drafts has helped me share my early thinking on a couple of things at work: How to write bad first drafts — Ways of working (wow.how)

To my mind the concept applies to much more than writing.

I sometimes want to do go deep on a subject — I go off and do my research and want to be 110% on top of it before I share my work. I can also be relatively introverted with my thoughts, keeping them to myself and thinking things through for myself before I share them.

I know I can sometimes follow this tendency, so I’m making more of an effort to work in the open, and experimenting with sharing incomplete ideas and drafts of things I’m working on (which I’m trying to do by linking it to another one of Giles’s mantras, from the Government Digital Service: ‘show the thing’).

11. What was fun?

  • Watching Jeeves and Wooster: I used to watch this comedy series starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie with my family when I was a boy, now we’ve been watching it together as a family with our children and laughing lots
  • Revisiting James Bond films: I have memories of watching Bond films with my Dad, and now I’m watching them with our children — so far we’ve watched: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Goldfinger, Living Daylights and The Spy Who Loved Me — four films, with four different actors playing Bond
  • Playing cards for the first time in a long time

12. What did you enjoy?

  • Feeling the warmth of the morning sunshine streaming through the window onto my face
  • Watching steam rise up off our shed in the morning sun after a night of heavy rain
  • First, the snowdrops coming up, then daffodils, then crocuses and the buds on trees:
A picture of lots of different colourful buds on trees
Source = https://twitter.com/LeifBersweden/status/1364994609995276292?s=20
  • Seeing a heron up close
  • Seeing a hare for the first time this year
  • Reading Mary Oliver’s essays Upstream (Mary Oliver is a poet, and this is a collection of her essays, so — picking up a theme from last month — this is another recent example of me again me flirting around the edges of poetry. And, following Giles Brandreth’s book Dancing by the Light of the Moon helping me to realise last month how many bits of poetry I’ve got knocking around somewhere in my memory, I’ve now put together a list of 58 poems that are the source of those fragments.)

13. What are you looking forward to in March?

  • Lockdown beginning to end, and the end of the ‘stay at home’ rule
  • Carving a spoon — I’ve just pruned some branches off an apple tree in our garden, so after a conversation with Dan Barrett last month, when I realised that there’s nothing stopping me getting back into this hobby, I now really don’t have any excuses…

* This quote (often attributed to Dr Seuss) reminds me of the poem ‘If I should go before the rest of you’ by Joyce Grenfell — one of the ones on my list of 58:

If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower, nor inscribe stone,
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must, Parting is hell,
But Life goes on, So sing as well.

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