2010 - that feels a lot longer than ten years ago. I was not long back from Singapore, still adjusting to non-expat life, fighting the ever-worsening commute from Kent up to London, juggling childcare duties with wanting to be out drinking. My twenties had just gone and responsibility had hit in a big way. At home with a 3 year old and at work as I took on more and more running of the whole SharePoint farm for a 30k seat investment bank that was the only company I’d ever worked for. One of the things I was learning more and more about was how to run things in an agile way effectively and my favourite things that have come from almost twenty years of the Agile Manifesto (http://agilemanifesto.org/) is:
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
What better way to reflect on my decade and come up with some plans for 2020.
How I run the retrospective
As an overall process, I like to run retrospectives by:
- Capturing feedback
- What went well
- What went badly
- What should I do more of
- What should I do less of
- Identify key topics and match captured notes
- Create tasks for 3-5 of the key topics
This lets you look at the past but also use those items to plan for the future too.
Usually, I would use post-it notes on a wall with a group of people but as this was all about me, I decided to try a more technical and environmentally friendly approach. I like post-it notes for the concise nature of what is captured and ease of moving things around so I wanted something like that. I liked the ability to have handwriting rather than the more formal text as well.
This time, I decided to use Microsoft Whiteboard for this as you can have your own notes and also your own Note Grid (currently in preview) which you can use to group the notes.
Starting with the notes, I spent 30 mins thinking back over the last ten years. I scribbled thoughts as they came along so some were high level, some were very specific, some are obvious to all and some won't make sense unless you know me well. The important thing is to capture that stream of conciousness and to be honest with yourself.
Identifying key topics
To determine the topics is much more of an art than a science. Look across each of the feedback sections and aim for areas of commonality. For my feedback, there were some obvious topics like Homelife and Learning in there but then I went a little more creative with Quality not Quantity. Quite a few of the feedback items were about doing too much and so I wanted to look in to how I could get more quality. I also noticed quite a few things about travel and grouped this with conferences. After a few more tweaks, I had my groupings.
I'll delve deeper in to each area.
Quality not quantity
It was interesting here that I found no things that had gone well! Not sure that this is strictly true as one of the benefits is that I have a very broad understanding of topics. However, this is balanced by the fact that I take on too many different things and have too many unfinished products. I also have a tendency to read lots of different things (articles, tweets, books, blogs) but in a quick way rather than choosing my quality topics and spending time on them. Similarly, I watch TV in the background without concentrating fully and end up only half doing whatever I am usually doing on the laptop. These are all areas that I can do more on, focusing on two or three things in a day rather than picking up too much. Also, keeping a routine and consistency, especially with the blog and sharing content - picking up key stories rather than a scattergun approach.
Productivity and planning
Similar to the previous topic, I tend to deviate and not focus. While I always aim to plan what I work on, I will also drift on to topics that interest me instead or areas that I feel work well for me at the time. Sometimes I am in the mood to do some dev, sometimes to create a PowerPoint, other times it's blog writing. I work best when I fix to this but that's not always the work that needs doing.
Volunteering and open source
It feels great that I have contributed one thing back to the PnP programme but it is nowhere near enough. I have had various aims of incorporating some of the projects I've done back in to one of the programs but now would like to look at what others need doing instead and work on that. I'm happy that my blog has had a good gradual uptake although I do need to focus on this more to get consistent content. Meanwhile, the community is an amazing aspect to Office 365 and I would like to look at how I can better help rather than being a net taker from the community.
Outside of the Microsoft world, I am also a Cub leader and love the work I do there. Being able to see the children develop while having fun is a real balance to the day job, the chance to get outside more and enjoy real life. Having said that, my aim for this year is to help teach coding to the Cubs and get together something that others can use as well. Building a new generation that understand the tech is very important to me, giving the opportunities for those to thrive who love getting fingers to keyboards and giving more experience to those who haven't seen it.
Looking back over ten years, there has been a huge change on this side. I was still getting used to being back in the UK and we didn't know many people nearby. Since then, we have moved in to a slightly bigger house and have some amazing friends locally. We've added two more kids and two more cats to the family (sadly losing one cat who came over from Singapore) and my son earned a place at one of the best schools in the areas. My personal highlight of the decade though was putting on my own festival for my wife and I's 40th birthday back in May. Around 150 people, three different bands, 5 different zones, crafting, games, decorations and our own festival logo.
What hasn't been so great is that the friends I so missed when in Singapore still feel as far away now we're in the UK. We just don't make enough time to travel and see them as much as we'd like. I also need to get better at making mental space when things are busy at work as juggling that, three kids and a cub pack can too easily get on top of me.
Learning has always been key to me, always important to keep on top of the latest news and be trying new things out, not just reading them. Over this decade, I have very much become cloud first and make use of a wide range of Azure items. What I haven't done though is convert that in to an actual qualification and so one big focus for 2020 will be to put that in place.
Travel and conferences
Luck has been with me this decade as I have been able to attend several big conferences and not just in the UK with Vienna and Prague for ESPC. I haven't yet hit one of the really big US Microsoft conferences but there's still time and I have enjoyed many of the UK smaller ones like Future Decoded and the Ignite World Tour. Seeing people speaking there has inspired me to speak at user groups in the past year and the conversations with those have been great - definitely an area I want to continue into the 2020s.
This has given me a chance to travel a little and changing from being on the client side to the consultant side has allowed me to see even more of the UK, from Falmouth up to Newark so far. Previous roles have taken me to New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo among others but I haven't seen as much in my own time as I'd like. As the children grow up, this is something I would like to do even more and hopefully use the SP Saturdays to do this too.
Worklife and management
Looking back at some of my achievements since 2010, I can't help feeling proud and a little smug here - sorry. The SharePoint Farm for over 30,000 users was a pleasure to manage and the stories of how it was being used in ways I never imagined (usually a good thing...) really drove my love of SharePoint being an enabler. As the cloud world kicked in and I moved to consultancy, I saw even more of what people could achieve with the tools that were there.
Having said that, I am certainly not where I thought I would be. I imagined being at the Director level for a Financial Services company, leading a large team and I am in a very different place to that. I am though, happier and less stressed and enjoying a lot more being able to help people in many different places, with the chance to help at charities too. Something I have also dreamed of is winning the lottery and putting in place a consultancy to offer low cost help with being more collaborative and productive in a modern age. Having had the chance to do that to some degree, it has only strengthened that dream.
Turning a retrospective to actions
After that reflective look back, it's important to look forward to and so I am now the lucky owner of a Planner board with tasks for several of those key topics. Let's see in twelve months how they are all looking!