I spoke today at the Eduserv Symposium 2013, giving an overview of DevOps to the largely public sector audience. I’ve uploaded my slide deck to Slideshare: DevOps in the Wild and they’re also embedded below.
The further reading links I suggested are:
The original DevOpsGuys post about anti-patterns:
Niek Bartholomeus’ excellent presentation about introducing devops to a more traditional environment:
The DevOps section of GDS’ Digital Service Manual:
Anna Kennedy put together a brilliant list of resources after DevOpsDays:
DevOps Weekly newsletter: http://devopsweekly.com/
You might also be interested in Gene Kim’s The Phoenix Project, a novel about DevOps.
Tonight I spoke at the London Content Strategy Meetup, an excellent group sharing best practice in the content strategy & development arena. I really enjoyed hearing about Age UK’s research & understanding of older people (or “people in later life”) from Rob and then Chris‘ fascinating approach to figuring out a content strategy for building advocacy for mental health de-stigmatisation amongst young people.
I was quite nervous about talking about agile to this audience, particularly since I’ve only really gotten good exposure to content strategy, design and management in my year at GDS. But they were a lovely friendly bunch and I’m really grateful to Sarah Richards & Graham Francis for suggesting me to the organisers.
Essentially I subtitled my talk “a magical mystery tour of Meri being an idiot” and talked through the various lessons I’d learnt about how agile is actually a pretty brilliant approach for content development.
The book I recommend at the end is an absolutely BRILLIANT summary/primer/refresher on Scrum — I heartily recommend you buy at least a copy for yourself and possibly one for everyone you know who needs more agile in their life. You can get it at Amazon or on Kindle (I promise you the Kindle version will be the best 77p you ever spend. Seriously.).
Faced with plenty of long haul flights and long train journeys whilst on my current sabbatical, my iPhone, iPad and mifi were all annoyingly short-lived in terms of battery life. I was delighted to discover the PowerGen Mobile Juice Pack, which is my favourite gadget purchase so far of 2013.
What is it?
A battery pack that you can charge other devices from. It has a micro-USB lead built in and two USB ports — one juiced appropriately for charging an iPad, the other normal mobile phone type devices.
How Does it Fare?
I’ve been very impressed with it. It will fully recharge my iPad, iPhone and Kindle on just one charge — and if I use it mainly for phone and Kindle it will do them each about 4 or 5 times before it needs to be plugged in itself. When I’ve just used it for my iPhone, I’ve managed to get up to 9 recharges out of it.
It weighs a little more than my iPhone, but slips easily into a bag or pocket — I generally just leave it in there and only take it out to charge it every week or two. To charge it up from completely empty to full takes a few hours, but the LEDs keep you apprised of progress and happily it charges off a micro-USB cable rather than bringing another custom cable into your life.
At the moment it’s still just £25 on Amazon — seriously good value. Being able to recharge wherever, whenever has been a great productivity boost, and after some friends were impressed with it today I thought it might be worth sharing
One of the best bits of career advice I ever received was from one of my first Directors, who said she actively decided each year whether to recommit to the role and the company. I’ve done the same ever since — evaluating whether it’s the right job and organisation each year and either actively signing up for another year, or choosing to make a change. As a way of ensuring your own engagement in what you’re doing, it’s an effective tactic. Working at GDS has been a very exciting journey and a team that I adore, but I came to the conclusion back in November that staying was not the right career move for me and so gave early notice that I’d be leaving.
Though looking after the Delivery team (70 civil servants and an additional 70 contractors at times) was very rewarding (they are a group of vibrant & brilliant people), I missed being directly involved in products & programmes & strategy work a bit too much. I love managing people and improving processes to make workplaces a better place to be (and I think doing those things right is an incredibly important thing for any organisation), but found that doing PURELY that felt like the wrong balance – I’m a leader of technology organisations, not an HR specialist after all. I’m eagerly anticipating getting my teeth back into projects & programmes, operations & strategy again, in addition to growing a world class team.
Those who know me won’t be surprised to hear that I also found the opacity & pace of the Civil Service something of a culture shock, coming from a very efficiency- and delivery-focused corporate background. Frankly, I know many of my old colleagues at P&G are amazed I lasted this long I will say that I think things are changing and getting better, but the starting point is so fundamentally different that I admire the progress that has been made all the more.
So what next?
I’m in the lucky position of having rather a lot of holiday saved up, so I’m taking a six month sabbatical – both to travel and to write another book (didn’t know about the first one? Here it is: The Principles of Project Management, also on Kindle and available from Amazon). I’ll be visiting Austin, San Francisco, Amsterdam, various cities in the UK (home in Newcastle for a bit, London and likely Brighton) and then spending a month in Portugal, after which I’ll be going home to South Africa for a while too as my cousin is getting married.
If you’re in one of those cities, we should hang out! Drop me an email / DM and I’ll let you know when I’ll be in town (or the details are on Dopplr if we’re connected there). During this sabbatical time I also have some limited availability for short engagement work – so if you’d like to work with me, let me know.
I’ll announce what comes after that in due time. I have to say I’ve been impressed at how flexible the organisations I’m talking with have been willing to be – it’s been a very pleasant surprise to see companies ranging in size willing to accommodate time off to travel before starting a new role.
With the new year upon us, take some opportunity to do some tidying. Clearing up some mental garbage, if you will. Those little niggling things that aren’t quite big enough to keep you up at night, but chitter at the edge of your consciousness.
Here are five things you can do to quiet that chittering and to have an altogether tidier start to the new year.
1. Sort out your passwords
Solutions like Lastpass (cloud solution, premium account gives you mobile apps) or 1Password (cloud and device-only options) or KeePass (open source, device-only) are all worth looking at. It depends on your own tinfoil hat comfort level which will suit you best, but certainly anything that helps you have more unique passwords can only help!
2. Pull together all your insurance documents
Home insurance. Car insurance. Bike insurance. Travel insurance. Pet insurance.
Do you know where all those documents are right now?
Go find them, put them all in one well-marked folder. It’s a simple thing, but you’ll be surprised how satisfying it is to know exactly where your important documents are when you need them. And when you don’t.
3. Put your passport somewhere safe AND memorable
You know what an awesome place to stash your passport is? In a click-lock box like one of these.
It’s harder to lose than anything flat, can’t accidentally get trapped between paperwork or folders, and can be stashed somewhere REALLY memorable. Like in the cupboard behind the tea bags, or in your underwear drawer, or behind a much-watched DVD boxset. You’ve probably got either all of West Wing or Buffy or Battlestar Galactica up there, right?
4. Sort your backups out
If you don’t already have an automated, incremental backup solution sorted, then spend a little time to pick one and sort it out. I favour Crashplan personally, but there are a plethora of options — some to the cloud, some to another computer in your network or to an attached external hard drive (CrashPlan can do all of these).
Also don’t forget to occasionally back up everything in your Dropbox or similar!
5. Be nice to your future self
Remember the half hour lost untangling Xmas lights? Or ferreting out decorations? Finding your menorah? Be nice to yourself, 11.5 months from now. Pack your winter festival stuff away sensibly, in a big box that a present arrived in, or something. Stash it so all you have to do next year is find ONE BOX. Next year you will be Proper Grateful.
Simple things, seemingly not that important, but try it. I think you’ll find the small sense of relief is palpable.
This was first published on the Cabinet Office website.
After speaking at AgileTeaCamp, I thought I would share how people management has evolved in the GDS Delivery Team.
What you get for free with agile
Agile product teams are self-managing. With the users’ needs in mind, the product manager defines what needs to be done and the team itself decides how to achieve it. This is instantly a more motivating approach. You’re trusting people to design the best solution to meet the need, rather than handing down a ‘solved problem’ to be implemented. You’re also making the most of the smart, talented people you’ve worked so hard to find.
The approach we’ve taken at GDS is to create high-performing multi-disciplinary teams. These teams consist of designers, developers, user researchers, content designers, technical architects, delivery managers, product managers and experts in customer insight, web operations and product analytics. These people all work together to build digital products and services. Managers are no longer expected to tell people what to do and how to do it.
So what do the people managers do and do we still need them?
How the role of ‘manager’ has evolved
The role of the manager now focuses on:
- looking after people (what used to be called ‘pastoral care’)
- matching people to challenging, engaging work (ie understanding what someone’s skills and interests are and then matching them to an appropriate team and opportunity)
- personal development and training (discussing with folks whether they want to deepen their specialism or widen their skill set, and helping them plan how to make that happen)
- career guidance (coaching, mentoring and helping people find out what the opportunities are)
Communities of practice
Most of our managers are specialists in their own right and they’re extraordinarily good at what they do. They act as head of the specialism and they line manage the specialists in their area. They arrange training and regular meet-ups, and they create opportunities for work to be shared across the different product teams.
At GDS, these communities are at various stages of maturity. One of the best examples is our design team. Ben Terrett, head of design, holds regular ‘design crits’ in which designers share their work and receive feedback from other designers. The design team visit relevant exhibitions and attend design-related events.
The advantage of this approach is that most people can learn from their line manager, who is a specialist in their field. People also have the opportunity to work with colleagues with different skills and viewpoints. This diverse mix generates excellent solutions to challenging problems.
We will of course continue to evolve our approach. We’re eager to hear about other people’s experiences of agile and their views on how traditional people management is changing. What needs to be preserved and what is no longer necessary?
A couple of weeks back I attended the final Women in Technology event (founder & MD Maggie Berry has decided to move on to an exciting new challenge; it continues as a LinkedIn group so keep an eye on that for future events).
The event was interesting, but I found a lot of the quite corporate and masculine language off-putting. That reaction was evident in some of the other attendees too; it doesn’t (generally) sit well with women to be given advice that they hear as “use others to get ahead”. Now, I don’t REALLY think that’s what the speakers were trying to get across, but sometimes style can injure substance in unintended ways.
The Q&A at the end was excellent, the panel including Aimie Chapple (MD Accenture UKI) and Jacky Wright (VP at Microsoft) who along with the speakers had amusingly diverse answers to the questions posed by the audience.
Most Interesting Insights
- Having a career sponsor corresponds with career & trajectory satisfaction
- Currently, men in senior leadership are 50% more likely to have a sponsor than women at the same level
- Sponsors pick you: work hard, don’t limit who you talk to and don’t reject it when someone helps or advocates for you (See also Performance, Image & Exposure*)
- A sponsor isn’t the same as a mentor, role model, boss — they’re someone who can be of help to your career in a specific way (opportunities, advocacy, championing, defending)
- Ideally you want a portfolio of sponsors — not everybody does which is why you sometimes see a senior leader leave a place and a bunch of folks follow like trailing ducklings…
- All the women on the panel had at some point not even realised that someone was sponsoring them!
- Sometimes if you don’t tell your own story, others will jump in — but they may tell it in a way you’re not comfortable with
The single most useful thing I heard? A sponsor probably won’t be a role model. This is where most women struggle, IMHO. We assume our sponsors will be women and more specifically women we will look up to. Once you accept that you can be sponsored by anyone who thinks you’re talented, then the probability of it happening increases significantly. And realistically, while there are still so few women in senior leadership positions, finding a female role model who can also sponsor you is fairly unlikely!
I have also posted my full notes of the career sponsorship event if you’re interested in the blow-by-blow.
* Which can basically be summarised as: people are going to have opinions about you and expecting everyone else to come look at the detail of your actual work before forming an opinion ignores the reality of human nature … and is a kinda arrogant, no?