Weekly Braindump #28

Comparing notes, Unconference tips and Owning the problem

Hello! Happy Friday. This appears to be a bumper braindump this week for which I apologise in advance for subjecting you all to it. Shall we begin?

I’ve been working on…

I spent some of Monday having a quick whizz around Facebook’s Workplace social enterprise thing. It’s pretty much what you expect. It reminds me a lot of what Facebook used to look like before all the cra.. I mean.. additional features were added for USER GROWTH. If the search function is even mildly decent, it’ll really give Yammer something to sweat about (assuming they’re not already sweating about being slowly subsumed into the rest of the office suite). One of the common moans I hear from Yammer users is ‘I can’t find anything’.

Tuesday morning I had a really good chat with Adam Fairbank from Sports Wales. Adam reached out to me after Dyfrig Williams had shared some of my work following the WAO webinar on Open Standards. We compared some notes regarding digital transformation and found quite a lot of common ground. I think it’s beneficial to regularly get outside your usual sphere of work and speak to others. It’s surprising how often the exact same situations are playing out in different organisations in different sectors. Having allies in other places to swap tactics with can be hugely conducive when you’re looking for options.

What else?

I also had a go at using some of Office 365’s features for collaboration. I have to say, compared to Google Drive + Docs I’m not yet massively enamoured. The browser version of Word regularly times out whilst I’m doing other stuff and there’s some weird sync issues between the cloud version of OneDrive and the folder on my laptop. I had similar problems with multiple users editing Excel — information not in a cell one minute, then I’m overwriting someone else’s data. Seeing SharePoint lurking under the surface also fills me with a deep sense of dread. Anyway, I need to tinker with it a little more to see if it’s just me or something I’m doing.

Wednesday morning began pondering low code platforms. In line with the digital transformation work we’re doing (user centred, faster, more iterative) I’ve been thinking about what that means for the systems we use. We’ve got a long and storied history of hitting major inertia because we can’t get vendors to apply changes expediently (if at all). If we’re really going to start thinking hard about iterating around user needs, we’re going to need something that is flexible enough to meet those needs and potentially can be done mostly in-house to avoid the pitfalls of developing far far away from the user. I had some excellent help from Twitter (the network delivers again!) and some really useful intel landed in my inbox later in the day. I’m probably going to pick up this thread in about two weeks once I’ve had a chance to clear the decks.

On Wednesday I also met up with colleagues to keep chipping away at the Turn Your Ship Around work book. This time we were discussing whether the organisation focuses on excellence or just avoiding mistakes. I could see that the book was trying to underline the point that just avoiding mistakes means you aim for achieving the bare minimum and nothing more, but it prompted a broader discussion about who qualifies what excellence is? Does that come from the top? Does internal excellence count for anything? Shouldn’t customers/users be the barometer of excellence? Had some interesting Twitter chats regarding this if you’re interested in delving deeper.

Thursday I had a meeting to talk through why [insert person or team] weren’t using [insert service or product]. I’d done some work the day before to list the various factors that I thought were inhibiting it really taking off. Amongst those were some bugs that didn’t get caught during my prototyping/testing efforts (need to be more rigorous next time to weed those out!), some yearning to go back to the old (high admin overhead) solution and variable digital skills. I think we can get to where we need to be with this, but it’s going to require some collective commitment to making it work. I was reminded of this post from Ben Holliday about owning the problem. If we can collectively decide to own the problem (rather than who owns the best solution) it will make life a whole lot easier and more productive.

Thursday afternoon I had a really constructive Skype chat with Esko Reinikainen & Ben Proctor (of The Satori Lab and also of Gov Camp Cymru) regarding unconference formats. I (and an ace team of fellow volunteers) run an unconference for anyone interested in housing called Housing Camp Cymru. I’d been thinking of ways we could make the process of attending and contributing more inclusive and less scary to people who might not be socially confident. I’d struck upon (well, outright stolen) this line of thought after reading Ben’s intriguing post on doing a Silent Gov Camp. I came away from the call with some brilliant pearls of wisdom that I’m going to send over to the Housing Camp team for further reflection. I think the most interesting revelation was that the pitch line (whilst terrifying on the face of it) really sets the tone and energy for the rest of the day. It cemented in my mind the importance of engineering the pitch line so that it’s a fun and safe experience, even for those who might not normally consider themselves as someone who would stand up and speak.

Friday was a short day as I had to dash home to do the school run. I had a really good catch up with my line manager which covered a lot of ground and touched upon our digital transformation efforts to date, how we might restructure the team to best tackle upcoming challenges and to what degree transparency helps with enabling people to think proactively (loads.. the answer is loads).

Phew!

I’ve been reading…

I’ve been listening to…

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