Week Two – Don’t call it a comeback (but if I’m honest…)

Second week of the new era. This week I returned to work – as an independent consultant initially as I continue to get my other ducks in a row (namely duck one – the jobs website and duck two – the training academy). 

I’ve landed on an interesting and slightly unusual project looking into identifying whether there is a path to wider adoption for the Open Referral standard by Local Authorities and – if so – what are the best bets for the Department for Levelling Up’s Local Digital team to invest in / support.

The goal is to go beyond anecdotal evidence and actually generate some evidence/data informed models that can back our recommendations.

The involvement of Mike in the work means we are really plugged in to the Open Referral (OR) community – and it is nice to see some familiar faces and organisations (been ages since I was involved in something Open Data Institute adjacent but it feels like a natural fit.) The slightly more complex aspect is identifying people who chose NOT to engage with Open Referral when the opportunity presented itself. Mainly I suspect this means Local Authority teams who have launched Directories in the last couple of years that aren’t OR compliant. So if that is you – or you know someone/where who did that – please, please get in touch.

I’m only doing two to two and a half days a week on it – but I’m not doing anything else really substantive at the moment so I’m thinking about it a lot more!

The slightly odd thing is I am doing it as part of a TPXImpact supplied team – despite all the history and some recent issues that contributed to my problems at DBT (though that was not their fault at all). The reality is though that they came to me with a near perfect package of work given my current user needs The time commitment, length of the contract, it being outside IR35 and the actual project all ticked a lot of boxes. I actually accepted a lower day rate than I was initially seeking as the rest was such a neat fit.

Plus to be honest I still have a lot of friends working there and while my new status feels odd (and not just to me) it does feel comfortable.

That said I did get stuck in the toilets in the new London office because as a lowly associate I don’t have a pass. I had to wait until someone else used the loo – and it was not a busy day in the office!

Thursday I gave a talk about Roadmaps and Missions to the Scottish Digital Academy community. Around 130 people tuned in to listen to an updated version of something I gave internally at DBT a couple of months ago. The talk was a very personal run through what I think the role of product managers is, how roadmaps and missions support that and why I prefer principles to process. I ended up talking too much so there wasn’t any time to get to the 41(!) questions that were raised on the Slido – so my mission this weekend is working through them all – I suspect I’ll just blog it all.

My thoughts on the whole roadmapping thing were very influenced by a group of people earlier in my career and I decided to explicitly give them a shout out in this talk – I’ve been thinking a bit about the need to be better at giving credit recently so this was the first step in that.

Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of the new Banksy exhibit in London thanks to my friend Zak and his Mister Museums super powers. It was a cool occasion with lots of very cool and glamorous looking folks (plus me) as well as free drinks. The actual collection is a bit of a let down though – barely any original works, a lot of photos of photos, errors in the descriptions plus while there were some nice items in the shop there was a great deal of…well I won’t be unkind but I’ll just say it was clearly aimed at tourists and it was clearly ‘unauthorised’ by the man himself.

That said I bought two t-shirts and it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours (the Cut&Run exhibition in Glasgow was a cut above though – even with Covid!).

Dan Hon has made a welcome return to newslettering and in his latest he has this wonderful section where he digs into his thoughts on what Jared Spool calls hands work and brains work as he tries to define his value as a consultant better. Now this is obviously of interest to me as I start down the consultancy path proper – and I definitely recognise what Dan is saying. I am – I think – most effective in the role of advisor and facilitator leaning into that brains work but there is a much clearer path to that hands work. Though I do wonder whether actually I’m often more valuable for hearts work. My presence is seen as reassuring, I improve things like learning and development, wellbeing and confidence in teams. I help land messages and visions (if I believe in them). Hearts work? Hands, brains and hearts.

This morning I went and saw the new movie – The Creator. It is a wonderful piece of sci-fi (though it does lose its way a little in the final act) and looks stunning throughout. It is smart, well acted and action packed – it is also a much more fun take on AI than anything you’ll read at the moment.

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