Weeknotes: week 30/31

Coming to the crunch

Neil Lawrence
Jun 5 · 4 min read

A stressy and sleepless couple of weeks with lots going on inside and outside work. But also quite exciting. I just wish I could get the odd night where I wake up totally refreshed.

Man lying awake with his eyes wide open due to insomnia
Man lying awake with his eyes wide open due to insomnia
Well, apparently it doesn’t lead to an early death (image: Getty images)

New recruits

I also had to fit in helping out on interviews for our new Business Partner for Adult Services. A bit of self interest in this one for me as I’ll be working with this person in our role of keeping the Our Dorset website afloat and effective.

And after all my ranting over past weeks about our system for hiring temporary staff I was left eating my words after the same process, from advert to appointment, took just a week. This role is to help lift the load a bit for the team while we undertake pre-launch work on the new site, and post-work bedding in.

Migration migraine

The devs are hitting the Jira board with all they have, trying to get as much over the fence as they can as we head towards our first Go/No Go decision on a mini-content freeze. We’ve found that focusing on functional developments made us take our eyes off the bread-and-butter content checking and how well it’s shaping up. Some issues to resolve here.

We’re crossing fingers that our end of week release and delta migration will embed some nice new toys and clear up some of the anomalies we’ve found with our content.

Talking product

Checking Twitter, I now realise she and I first talked in 2017 about digital maturity — an unforgivably long time between chats! She also knows the Dorset team from her FutureGov days.

It was one of those conversations that just felt easy to have, covered so much ground and in which I learned so much. What figured prominently was the idea of peer communities (something I really value) so she and I started plotting to do something.

And it already feels like it’s started, with a batch of interesting people responding to her tweet.

To kick it off it looks like we’ll be hooking up with that LocalGov Drupal crowd as they’ve already been doing some heavy lifting around the concept of product and collaborative working.

Will Callaghan had already been in touch about me getting more involved in the project, which feels like it’s delivering so much more than just a common CMS for councils to use — a different way of working and thinking. The LocalGov Drupal Skill Sessions are a great initiative for sharing learning, the latest being on Sociocracy (read on).

Getting social

In short, it addresses the problem of how you make decisions in groups in a way that focuses on consent while keeping the governance just tight enough to ensure focused discussions. Worth watching Finn Lewis (Oxford’s very own Agile Collective) and Abi Handley (Outlandish) talk about their experiences in using it.

What jumped out for me was that this felt like a perfect fit for my team, where I’m always pushing to get decision making at the right level rather than perpetuate the Neil Lawrence Show. Ever since coming across the concept of servant leadership at my GDS Agile Training course back in Jan 2019 the idea of managers being the sole decision makers feels out of whack and inefficient.

We’re going to start talking about this approach next week to see if we agree (consent!) that it could work for our long-discussed idea of creating a Design Group to formalise and document design decisions on the CMS.

Meeting the Service Design team

It had to be done eventually. No longer could I avoid the excuse to actually see those pixels on the screen in person. And I wasn’t disappointed*.

Once again seeing people in 3D threw up things you weren’t quite expecting — Alex is far too handsome, Lee clearly lifts small buildings to work out and James has a training shoe obsession — but bellies soon ached with laughter (and bad food) and before I knew it I needed to catch the Wife Taxi home.

This then introduced something I wasn’t expecting — a goodbye hug. I’m just so out of practice, and so used to being cautious that I recoiled in horror (not the nicest way to react to a lovely gesture — sorry Helen Timms!). It brought home the idea that life is starting to get back to what we used to do without thinking. But this time I’m doing it with new colleagues and in the best county in the country.

(*Well, the extortionate prices at Dorchester Brewhouse didn’t help and table service meant scanning QR codes and using terrible web apps to order for that truly impersonal experience)

How long?

Digital Dorset

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