Weeknotes s01e06

13–19 February 2017

I was going to subtitle this busy busy busy but then I read Jukesie’s weeknotes and thought… nah.

L-to-R: Brooke presenting at Show and Tell; The Andrew Motion poem that welcomes visitors to Sheffield; Prepping for a story mapping workshop.

Monday Brooke and I mainly finished off writing up the GP findings I wrote about last week. We held a playback session for the team and narrowed down what our “MVP” is for March delivery. Tuesday was sprint changeover day. Brooke and I did a cut down version of Monday’s playback at Show and Tell, which got several bits of really positive unsolicited feedback from the wider stakeholder group who attend. There are so many teams involved in show and tell now that we only got 5 mins, but as ever being forced to edit our ideas down to just the most important insights paid off when it came to engaging busy senior managers.

There was a bit of discussion at retro about how the number of teams now involved in show and tell means it’s evolved into a showcase rather than the original intent of the Scrum ceremony. Showcasing our progress and ways of working to as wide an audience as possible is really important, but turning show and tell into a showcase has some dangers, not least the situation I’ve seen other teams fall into where prep for show and tell takes a day or more out of each sprint. We also agreed we need to make time for the Agile practice of demoing our “working software”, especially the more tech heavy stuff that doesn’t make such a good shiny demo for stakeholders.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday I took time out from NHS Digital to prep for other things I have coming up, including a couple of conferences and a story mapping workshop I’m running next week for a different client up in Newcastle. I also hoped to make a start on an outline for the book I’ve been approached about writing.

I didn’t make as much progress as I wanted to to be honest. I let NHS Digital stuff intrude into Wednesday before finally turning off email and shutting down Slack so I couldn’t “just keep checking in”. And I got approached about a possible interim Head of Design role which meant part of Thursday was lost to rapidly updating my CV and filling in their skills questionnaire. And then I gave a short talk at a BCS Young Professionals careers event in Sheffield on Thursday, which despite my plan of not doing slides still needed some prep.

Nonetheless I managed to get prepped for Monday’s workshop, sort out the Head of Design application, and put together a summary of my forthcoming talk for the programme for UX in the City, Manchester in May. It’s a new talk about digital strategy and the discovery process. It’s a good opportunity to get down my experiences and insights from the strategic work I’ve done over the last few years.

I also had a bumper blogging week, publishing not just last week’s week notes and this week’s week notes but also a tidied up version of my Careers in IT / advice for students talk. The week notes thing must be working because I’d never have pushed out something so rough before. I’d have ended up trying to write some definitive autobiography or Ultimate Advice for Every Young Designer Everywhere. And probably as a result never publishing anything at all.

Elsewhere

Andy has cracked open the Arduino kit we won at a NASA SpaceApps hack day a year or two back and built a nifty midi-controllor out of it – an early prototype for making a silent foot switch he can use to control recording software while playing.

After a few iterations of that he’s now moved on to making a hardware a controller for the wifi light bulbs we bought the other week. Hopefully he’ll blog a bit about how he’s putting this stuff together.

Watching him piece together these working concepts – starting with “can I connect it to the wifi?”, then “can I send any kind of signal over wifi?”, then “can I turn an LED on and off over wifi?” – it’s easy to see how an incremental development of working software is getting us closer to “turn the smart lights in the living room on and off” even if it can’t do that yet. The idea of delivering working software in the smallest possible increments is of course one of Agile’s fundamental tenets. And this is how that works when you’re coding. But the process of design is rather different. It doesn’t break down into small units of working software / value in the same way. Design is iterative. It’s often better to rough out the whole and then slowly fill in the details. I think of it as a process of gradually bringing the design into focus as it moves from low to high fidelity. It’s just as agile, but it tackles the system in quite a different way to how you’d tackle it in code. I’m pondering whether and how this contributes to the difficulty some teams experience integrating UX and design into Agile. Set out like that it certainly seems like you’re going to get a clash of culture, ways of working and understanding of what “value” means in terms of sprint progress, that will lead to trouble if the differences between how the disciplines tackle problems at an early stage aren’t understood.

Metrics

Blog posts published: 3 (!). Year to date: 5.
I thought I’d start keeping track of my blogging progress, as “blogging more” was the original aim of doing these weeknotes. I’m considering a target of 50 posts this year, which feels at once totally doable and an awful lot.

Country miles walked: zero. We had planned to do a long walk we scoped out when we were at Ladybower the other week, but we’re both nursing colds and not up to an 8+ miler.

Meditation: nope, not so much.

Reading/listening/watching: we finished The Strain season 2 and have switched to Madam Secretary, which is basically a fluffy-bunny version of The West Wing if The West Wing was more about Abbey and the Bartlet daughters and less about the staff. Season 3 is starting on Sky next week, so we’re re-watching season 2 in prep for that. Both seasons 1 and 2 are available on download if a bit of idealised US politics where everyone is wise and good, or at least doing their best, sounds like just the kind of escapist fantasy you need right now.