Weeknotes S0203: Welcome back!

I haven’t written weeknotes in a few months. If I’m honest, I just haven’t had the energy at the end of a week to do so for them. Maybe I should stop calling them weeknotes.

But this week was different and I did feel like writing! It’s been busy, but in a good way. I was tired in the run up to Christmas, and I was tired the first week back in January (4 day week didn’t help here!) But I’ve felt a lot more energetic this week.

A lot of talking (to other councils)

Wow. I’ve had so much engagement with other councils this week. From one-off chats, our show and tell, social media, and the first local gov intranet meet up. It’s been great to hear about the work other councils are doing, and I will admit to being pretty proud of some of the stuff that we’ve done at Essex. It definitely gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when we get positive feedback from people.

People being super helpful

Last week I asked at OneTeam Gov Local about how I and we digital folks could be more empathetic towards others in the council that we work with. I was starting to get quite worried about a divide between us and others in the council. I got some amazing advice from people with way more experience than me.

And then this week, I had loads of conversations with people outside the digital team. They were great – we got loads of useful input on the work we’re doing, people were amazingly helpful and nobody once tried to block what we’re doing. There are challenges to think about, yes – but we’re at a stage in the work where we can bring that feedback in. I’m not going to say that this resulted from any magical change in my behaviour, but I do think I’m getting better at my approach to these conversations. But most of the credit goes to the amazing people across the council that we’ve spoken to. They’re the ones that have made this easy.

Where does this leave product management?

Product management is a weird thing. It’s inherently hard to put boundaries around. And I don’t tend to try putting lots of boundaries round it. I think product managers should do whatever needs to be done to make a product a successful, if someone else in the team isn’t better placed to do it. Sort of like someone scurrying round an uneven wall, with some Polyfilla, filling in little gaps here and there.

Having said that, I think that by focusing on some of the above, I’ve neglected some of the ‘core’ product managey stuff this week. I’ve not done a great job of developing and communicating a wider vision for what we’re doing. This is okay for now, but it’s something I’ll need to work on. My product managing has been less “grand vision” and more little nudges/guidance to people to help us get there. Part of this is also about working out how I work with a team that’s fairly newly come together – I’ve got to work out which things I do and don’t do.

I do need to recognise, though, that I have a tendency to check off as many of the little things as I can. I get that satisfaction from getting those little things done and sometimes neglect the bigger things. It’s also worth saying that it can be hard to carve out time for focused work on those things. Maybe I should try more pair working.

I often struggle not to be involved in things, but I’ve done well by not getting involved in:

  • Conversations that I don’t need to be in. Loads of these going on, and in the past I’d have tended to tag along. I’ve been better at staying out of these and doing other things.
  • Anything vaguely technical. Thanks to having great developers on the team (missing in previous discovery/alpha work), I’ve not got involved (except, again, making the occasional comment here or there). This is good for freeing up time to work on other things, and definitely good for the quality of the technical work 😆

So there you go! Plenty of things to work on next week, but this was a Good Week for sure.