Thursday, 16 April 2020

After three weeks

Three weeks of lockdown complete. Last week we were trying to bring some sense of order out of the maelstrom. This week, it has been pleasing to see some success. We definitely have clearer lines of communication, and we have far fewer conflicting priorities and while this week has still been rough, it has lost the frantic and desperate edge. I’m taking that as a success.

The work this week has been about reaching out and having a clearer voice in the narrative. I’ve written before about the problems with prioritisation. After analysis, it seems our key problem is that of our four workstreams (feature development, technical debt, bugfixes, onboarding) only one is being discussed upstream. Predictably, this is feature development. Then it reaches the operational team and the other three streams are brought in and prioritised with insufficient visibility and it looks like we are delivering slowly, which is totally unfair.

This week I had enough clear air to write out exactly where this work is coming from and the impact of it being prioritised (or not). It’s a first step, but we are slowly working towards a world where the impact and consequences of prioritisation decisions are being felt by the people who are making them, not by the poor folk downstream who have to implement them. Still work in progress, but I feel hopeful.

I’d like to push this a lot further. Rather than constant demands, I’d like us to be making clear statements of intent for our delivery (ie a roadmap) and then we can very clearly articulate the problems caused by changes in priority. It is, of course, fine for other areas to have different priorities and to roll things out their schedule but often, if these groups are upstream in the project it means their priorities are de-facto our priorities as we have to react. By having a voice in the narrative we can make clear the impact of their decisions on the delivery of the whole service.

The next step for this is for there to be a clear project roadmap, which will start to map dependencies on any given change, make it less likely we’ll get ambushed by a connected group doing something unexpected, and enable us to plan rather than just react.

I’m using the word "clear" a lot. It’s almost like "how do I bring clarity?" is the key underlying question here.

Anyway, work isn’t going away and more on this next week no doubt. How am I doing? It’s Easter weekend - a four day bank holiday - and I’ve had a really hard time relaxing. I know there are people working over the weekend while I’m having a rest, and I know everyone is doing a different job so it’s not comparable. I’m also aware that I’ve been feeling physical symptoms of stress and anxiety (shortness of breath, tightness in the chest making eating difficult - it’s a barrel of laughs) which has been an interesting and new experience. I know I’ve more than done my part, including working through other weekends and a ridiculous number of hours in-week. Despite all this I feel very guilty at having been resting this weekend when others have been working.

This post is from a series of shorter posts, written roughly once a week while the country is on lockdown to capture my feelings and reactions as we go. They are all tagged with coronavirus.

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