Weeknotes S3e02


Monday [London]

Had my first official visit to Defra HQ — Noble House in London and met the team face to face for the first time. Starting to feel like a part of something and Noble House is an interesting place — it is a bit like the TARDIS with a seemingly small facade that opens up into a never ending maze of staircases and corridors upon entry.

Attended a meeting to discuss events plan for improving the awareness of our work across Defra — preaching the digital gospel and all that. I still blame Grace for the fact I can get quite excited and involved in events — I remember my initial JISC days where I went to great lengths to avoid them!

Then the team had a discussion about the digital delivery lifecycle/pipeline and how agile fits with programme management fits with the discovery process. This was interesting as there are layers to consider that usually fall outside my realm — it was a helpful, early insight in to some of the complexities the organisation and the ‘digital transformation’ programme faces.


We went for a team drink after work which was nice — I refrained from indulging — it is early days! Then had the glamour stay in the Vauxhall Travelodge where I was almost sick in hotel due to an appalling smell — won’t be staying there again!

Tuesday [London]

Involved in team retrospective and planning although had to pop out to meet our CDO — Sally. Got a much clearer idea of my initial priorities — which includes getting involved in a pretty high profile project to do with ‘livestock information’ (which I am frantically reading up on!). I had an interesting conversation with somebody working on the project (or is it a programme) which somewhat left me scratching my head as to where I’ll fit in but I’m sure all will become clear.

I also have responsibility on an interim basis to act as Head of Profession for Product Owners (or something) and need to get the Defra-wide Product Owner community of practice up and running amongst other things like helping with hiring for roles when needed and thinking about training requirements.

I’m also — as usual — going to be involved a bit in some procurement stuff I think.

Wednesday [Bristol]

A banner day. I have a security pass! So coming and going will get a little less onerous now. I also have a phone number (however no phone on todays hot desk.)

I’m also sitting somewhere new — amongst one of the agile teams here in Bristol — it is just comforting to here the buzz of a team working on a product in the background to be honest — though what they think about me as an interloper I do not know!

A lot of this morning was about starting to sow the seeds for the product community of practice. So emails galore. I’ve signed up to a couple of cross government mailing lists for service managers and products owners, re-engaged with the digital gov Slack, connected with the DWP team who are planning a Product Owner event for gov, published a Yammer post and emailed everyone who Emily I had previously identified as a Product Owner.

It was also nice to chat to Phil — a veteran from the ONS Alpha and beyond who is now working at the Environment Agency as a user researcher — I’ll be popping up to visit his team sometime next week to get a feel for what is happening here.

I’ve also been reading a couple of page turners — Cattle identification, registration and movement and Animal identification, movement and tracing regulations. It is an entirely new world for me to gain at least some passing familiarity — not to mention all the new TLAs I need to add to the cognitive translator asap!

Thursday [London]

The majority of Thursday revolved around learning more about the Livestock Information work. This involved a fair bit of reading — without much time initially so will be revisiting that later and a couple of meetings to discuss the history of this specific piece of work and its involvement with the digital transformation agenda. I also got to meet the Programme Director for a brief introduction and chat. He filled me in on some of the wider, organisational context. It is an interesting piece of work with some real opportunities to make a difference for users and the organisation but easy it ain’t. I’m looking forward to getting involved but not without a certain amount of trepidation in the mix!

On the practical side I decided I couldn’t keep operating on my own hardware any longer so with some much appreciated help I ordered a corporate laptop (which will be some kind of Windows Thinkpad I believe — I’ve had worse!). I’m also thinking it might be a good idea to see whether I can get a smart-ish phone for access to email and calendars on the go as I’m clearly going to be a bit more ‘mobile’ than I expected. This is likely to be a Crackberry I fear.

Friday [Bristol]

Back in Bristol today as a meeting has been moved until Monday. As experienced last week another fantastic sausage sarnie — going to be a regular Friday occurrence I think! The office is quiet but not quite as Mary Celeste-y as last week.

Started working on gathering my thoughts for a bit of work outlining my experience and the benefits of the Digital Marketplace Outcomes and Specialists framework (which everybody here calls DOS which confuses me every time!). Procurement is another one of those things that seems to follow me from role to role — how the hell did that happen.

Had an interesting call about Product Owner training (and maybe mentoring/coaching) and our involvement with the (soon to be GDS) Digital Academy. It is going to be interesting to see if a consistent approach to the Product Owner emerges across government via the Academy as it is pretty inconsistent in my experience — the syllabus look good though so fingers crossed.

Also had a lovely chat with one of the EA product owners who I had been emailing without realising she was sat right behind me (literally 3 feet away!). Peril of being the new boy and not knowing anybody!

It is strange that this is only my ninth day here — on one hand it feels like I should be much more up to speed already as it is digital transformation in government after all and that is my game. However I’m having to come to terms with the fact the rules are slightly different and the players have changed a bit. Like moving from League to Union!

I feel a little bit lacking in control at the moment but I think that is a side effect of the fact I have had so much control of my working life the last couple of years and I realise I have to establish myself here (and get a handle on a working pattern that makes sense for me and the team that doesn’t = moving to London!)

After a bit of a wobbly moment yesterday I’m feeling pretty good about things today — there is a lot to do and some of it is genuinely ‘crunchy’ but that is what makes life interesting after all.

Plus Bristol is beautiful today.