May

This year I’ve been 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 I’m back again.

1. Working with people in different functions

Last month, I shared my frustration at parallel work happening within our oganisation and the consequent waste and risk of duplication. But this month, we’ve stopped/merged two pieces of work that were happening in parallel to a project I’m doing, in order to combine and align efforts. Feels like real progress. And, as well as removing the risk of duplication, I can also already feel the improvement in the quality of our project as people with other perspectives and experiences join our team from different areas of the business.

2. What went well?

  • User research for an internal service

I’m on a project exploring a new internal enabling service to support product teams. Before designing anything, we wanted to start with user needs — researching and understanding what our users need. We spoke to 12 internal teams. Everyone in the project team got involved in doing the interviews, and we shared notes and videos from each one. We got some great feedback, insights, and learnings, which we discussed as a team, and with our exec sponsors, and it has been invaluable to start that way.

A sign saying: “Start with user needs”
A sign saying: “Start with user needs”

3. What (else) went well?

  • Re-discovering the power of portfolio management and prioritisation

I love the concept of using ‘even over statements’ to articulate priorities when decisions/choices/trade offs have to be made, as they always do in strategy work. (The concept is described here and here.) I keep meaning to try this concept, and I have so far failed to do so. However, I was reminded of the concept when someone at work said to me:

It’s easy not to say no to something in isolation.

This statement made me stop and think. When we judge projects or products in isolation, we sometimes see that they’re progressing and so back them to carry on. But when capacity is limited (like in a portfolio) and you can’t pursue every good idea, then you have to ask whether you want to continue doing X, even over doing Y. And that need to prioritise can lead to different decisions than when you look at X in isolation and Y in isolation. Sometimes you decide to stop something that’s really good because there’s something else that’s even better and you can’t do both at the same time.

4. What did you learn?

  • Trust the team — don’t hold on to problems, people step up and help.
  • Trust the team — people can self-organise.
  • I am comfortable operating with/in a high degree of ambiguity, and some people want a higher degree of clarity than I sometimes give.

5. Who inspired you?

  • Christina Wodtke

I’m a big fan of Christina’s writing on OKRs. Her book Radical Focus is always where I recommend anyone starts when wanting to learn about this goal-setting methodology. She is still as great as ever on this subject and makes me laugh.

But until more recently, I wasn’t familiar with her writing on high-performing teams. But then I discovered her book The Team That Managed Itself.

Like Radical Focus, the book is in two parts, a story and some theory. Last year, I read 99% of the story part before life got in the way and I stopped. I hadn’t been taken my the story (my opinion was perhaps influenced by me also reading Proust at the same time). But early in May, I picked the book up again . And it’s got really good (practical) stuff in it to help improve team working.

(Incidentally, if decision-making is your thing, I liked the clear explanation I read in May of the integrative decision making process, but you’d need to use it with people happy to be constrained by a v formal process.)

Christina Wodtke’s book The Team tha Managed Itself
Christina Wodtke’s book The Team tha Managed Itself

Jill is a brain scientist who has a massive stroke when she was 37. After an eight-year recovery, she gave a famous and fantastic TED talk about her experience, which I watched last year. In May I watched an interview she did with Anat Baniel, a Feldenkrais practitioner, talking about her new book on the brain.

Jill Blte Taylor’s book ‘Whole Brain Living’
Jill Blte Taylor’s book ‘Whole Brain Living’

6. What would you have liked to do more of?

  • I joined the ‘team working’ strand of our ‘Future of work’ program at work, and I’d have liked to spend more time working on the program. I think I’ll be able do that from now on.

7. What was hard?

  • Since I joined Elsevier 3 years ago, I’ve found it hard to get a decent internal comms strategy and plan up and running in my bit of the organisation. However, we’ve got a new head of internal comms, and I’ve had a couple of really positive calls with her and from June we’re going to start working together on this.

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

  • I listened to Sam Harris talking about free will, and he pretty much convinced me that it doesn’t exist. His thought experiment (at 21 minutes) where he tries to prove this by simply asking you to “think of a movie” was mind-blowing.

9. What was fun?

  • Dancing in the woods with a big fire for Beltane
  • Doing a chocolate-tasting session with my team at work
  • My 1st Watsu session
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson scores s goal with a header
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson scores s goal with a header

10. What did you enjoy?

  • Weekends away in Birmingham and Thornham
  • Walks along the North Norfolk coast
  • Brancaster beach
  • Being in groups of friends again
  • Watching a talk on Proust
  • Time together with my brother and parents — the first time the four of us have been together for a couple of years
  • Seeing a snake on a walk near our house, and a sparrowhawk visiting our garden
  • Hearing a cuckoo
  • Hawthorn blossom
A picture of hawthorn blossom
A picture of hawthorn blossom
https://twitter.com/ATaleofJourneys/status/1395006652722593793

11. Other stuff that happened

  • Everyone at our company had a Wellness day off in May. This was a great way for the business to say thank you after all the craziness that’s been going on and remind us to prioritise looking after ourselves.
  • There’s some really interesting things been happening at work on coaching and on feedback.

12. What are you looking forward to in June?

  • Going camping for a weekend
  • Having a holiday

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