Weeknotes S01 Ep07

The one where I took no notes.

My notebook has no weeknote notes in it.

My first “typical” week in a while, in that it was a full week [1] in the office. There has been a lot going on; work handed over because Olivia is leaving, and a significantly smaller DAT team because people are on leave.

Ally, who was due to finish up on the 4th August, has actually spent the week in her new role already — I believe that’s how it goes when you join a private office.

The Specials — Ghost Town

Summer is a strange mixture for us. Existing work slows down with everyone being on holiday, while lots of new work crops up as people try to get things done while parliament is in recess. So there’s been a fair amount of new work to get to grips with this week.

Monday was the closing day for applications to the Future Leaders Scheme. Applications are reliant on completing a number of psychometric tests, and even though I got them some weeks ago, I really procrastinated this year and left them until the last minute.

I think it’s partly because last year I completed them and got through to the next stage; and, to state the obvious, psychometric tests are hard(!) so I slightly resent having to do them again.

I managed to find enough “quiet time” to complete the management styles test at the weekend. But this meant that I had numerical, verbal and logical reasoning tests still to complete on Monday.

Last year the tests were set up so the whole examination was timed; this year we had a set amount of time for each question, this adds a lot more pressure.

I’m terrible at maths and so numerical reasoning is always my weakest, but I’m not sure I performed well in the verbal reasoning test (usually my strongest). That’s because I didn’t manage to get a couple of answers submitted before the clock ticked over. If I don’t get through to the next stage on that basis I’ll be really annoyed at myself.

On top of all that, the logical reasoning test (new this year) was incredibly difficult. My colleagues Chris and Alastair seemed to be in agreement that the sole purpose of this test was to deter people from applying. Cynical, but I get where they’re coming from.

Dog at a computer “I have no idea what I’m doing”

Anyway, I managed to get those done and submitted so now I just have to wait and see. If I’m successful I’ll need to start working on my competency examples and interview technique…. I will obviously keep you posted on that.

Following the conversation with Stefan I spoke about in Ep06 I got started on a new document which I’m calling my “Opportunities and Outcomes view”. This has been designed to get a portfolio view of the work I’m currently managing, and go some way to categorising the work that is coming into the team. It’s also helping to show the number of plates that I have spinning at any one time (I’m currently working on almost 20 open opportunities of varying types).

Plate spinning

It is helping me to collect data about my work that will help me to talk more easily about my influence and reach. But more importantly, it will help me make some of the intangible elements of my work, more tangible.

I have a column for “savings or wins” where I can record how much money I’ve been able to save by stopping bad stuff from happening (or by finding an alternative), as well as recording the “intangible” wins that I need to remember and celebrate.

So far in there are things like:

“Using a free solution will save the team £19,000 per year in license costs”

“Team better understand spend controls processes.”

“Team committed to undertaking user research.”

It’s been a really good exercise and I hope that the other Business Partners will pick it up too.

You may remember that in EP04 I spoke about something I was working on where I had managed to get a team to replace their (out of policy) licensed app with the free platform, Slack. Well in that same conversation with Stefan it became clear to me that this is the perfect microcosm and the best story I have about “leading without delivering”.

Also, on Monday afternoon that stakeholder got back to me with some really lovely feedback (amended/shortened here so I can publish it):

“I think you have made a really positive difference to us being able to move forward with a fit for purpose, on policy digital solution […] providing some much needed momentum, clarity and a voice of reason in a really confusing and at times, frustrating context! Being new to the Civil Service, I found it really tricky to navigate through the processes […] and often felt like I was receiving conflicting advice from a wide range of contacts. You were able to cut through this, partner with us to understand our challenges and come up with a proactive solution within weeks, challenging us positively where necessary to ensure that we have a solution that puts the user first!”

Wait, whose trumpet is that you’re blowing Sam?

I missed the Disability Action Group (DAG) on Monday due to a number of distractions caused by something new I’m doing but can’t really speak about. I think the DAG is really important and I’m disappointed that I missed it.

On Tuesday I was mostly working on the thing mentioned above which I can’t go into. But Joe and I also had a hangout with a stakeholder about an access database they are currently using. We think we can prototype a solution quickly using Jira, which will be great.

On Tuesday night I met Tom who works at GDS. Tom got in touch after my shout out on Twitter about looking for a mentor (more of which soon).

We had a beer and talked about why we don’t apply design thinking to our careers, and how we might. It was interesting.

On Wednesday morning was OneTeamGov breakfast club, lots of talk about microactions, lots of interesting stories. We talked a lot about making sure that Civil Servants have the right tools for the job, and how some Civil Servants can’t access Twitter or Medium — shocking.

Olivia was back in the office so there was some catching up to do. I did a lot of emails and a lot of sorting and organising.

In the afternoon I went to a talk about Anxiety and Depression, hosted by the HMRC Mental Health Network. It featured three speakers including Rupert McNeil, Chief People Officer, speaking about his experiences. The room was packed and I had to stand. It was good to see/hear senior leadership speaking so honestly on such an important topic. You can read more about Rupert’s experiences here.

That evening we had leaving drinks for Olivia and it was good fun because most of our team were there.

On Thursday morning I got coffee with Jess who works at ACAS. Jess was on the same Product Owner training with the Digital Academy that I attended back in April, which you can read about here. Our course was brilliant because the cohort got on so well and it’s great that we are still in touch and supporting each other. Jess is kicking off Alpha soon and I can’t wait to see what her team produces.


As for the rest of Thursday, I had another “emerging story” situation not dissimilar to Ep01 and I spent a lot of time and energy trying to get to the bottom of that.

And that’s it. Week over. See you next week!

[1] My “full week” is 4 days because I am part-time.

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