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Weeknote: Mental Exhaustion, Accessibility Conference, Roadmap Conversations

tobiogunsina Product management, weeknotes Leave a Comment

Hi, I hope you have been well. The last 2 weeks have been a slightly weird one for me but I thought I’d write a weeknote anyway. 

I’m mentally exhausted or it seems like it. I feel particularly tired, physically and mentally. I’m triggered by the smallest thing, have very low motivation, low emotional resilience and I just feel generally stressed and overwhelmed. I’ve now booked some time off in the last week of March so hopefully, that helps. 

There was a lot in the news over the last 2 weeks. Sarah Everard was kidnapped and murdered while walking home. A lot of women have faced similar tragedies and it’s all a sad reminder of how unsafe women are. It’s scary and it’s hard to know what to say or do. 

Here are some things that happened over the last 2 weeks

5 things that happened

One – Conversations about roadmaps and recommendations

I spent a lot of time having conversations with leads and senior management about the roadmap for accessibility and Publishing workflow. I think those conversations generally went well. 

For accessibility, we shared our roadmap for the next year, which included some of the strategies to keep GOV.UK accessible that we thought we could own. For example: Incorporating some automated accessibility checks in our deployment pipeline, consolidating accessibility resources so they are easier to find, improving how the public could inform us of an accessibility problem and how the public should request alternative document formats, Improving the publishing workflow to prevent or flag issues, promoting events and ways of working to improve our accessibility culture

We also shared recommendations, things we think are important but cannot be owned by our team like providing training, including people with access needs in research, formalising accessibility champions etc. The recommendations were also well received. They were very keen for us to expand on exactly how these things can be embedded properly at several points in our processes so we’ll look into that. 

We are going to consider the recommendations again and see if we can present what’s needed with more specific options and actions. I’m pleased with the senior management engagement we are getting though especially from our new deputy directors, who have also shared some brilliant ideas. Work on that should continue next week. Onwards!

For publishing workflow, the roadmap was also well received. There isn’t a team yet for this work though so it’s a bit tricky. I find that I get slightly frustrated talking about publishing workflow and restarting work on Content Publisher now. While I believe people understand the value of this work, I’m exhausted from constantly championing it. It looks like there is light at the end of that tunnel though so that’s good. 

We’ve been talking to the GOV.UK research lead about our roadmap and our need for a user researcher in our team to test some of the patterns we’ve recently changed and also for some of the upcoming work on our roadmap. She understands what we need now so hopefully, we have a user researcher soon. There’s a lot of conversation happening in general about people needed. 

Two – Broad approaches to structured Content

After sharing our thoughts on structured content, we’ve been thinking about our next steps, we’ve been theming the ideas we’ve had for approaching the different challenges into broad groups. Our plan to expand on them in a bit more detail to cover their benefits and risks. We’ll also cover the challenges or use case that each approach will help with and some examples of (a) experimenting at a small scale with an approach (b) Doing something more sophisticated at a bigger scale

Building on the small scale experiment, we’ll then consider how it maps on to our current publishing workflow i.e what do we need to do to experiment with that approach and how might it scale? 

This is hopefully the output we’ll share with others to get their thoughts and to consider when exploring specific use cases because it will determine if their plans are feasible. 

Kevin, the developer in our small group has written down the details of each broad approach so far and we’ll be talking to people about them over the next few weeks. 

Three – Accessibility conference and talks

I went to lots of accessibility talks over the last 2 weeks, here’s a summary of my favourites. 

At the services week, Folks from BBC accessibility team gave a really good talk about building an accessibility culture and how it was done at BBC, it was interesting that Alistair Duggin, former head of Accessibility at GDS was the first BBC accessibility champion. Key takeaways are to focus on building capability, finding people who are interested and building a community with a flexible structure. 

I also attended Axe-Con which is a digital accessibility conference organised by Deque. There were lots of interesting talks about how to achieve organisational success with accessibility. I think my favourite was a design talk “Approach accessibility as a customer experience Imperative: It starts with design” by Gina Bhawalkar. She talked about how compliance only helps you create effective experiences and how you have to go beyond compliance to create experiences that are easy and make people feel good

She shared a lot of practical tips to help 

  • Examine your solution through more lenses
  • Embed accessibility into your design system
  • Integrating accessibility into your established processes

I also really enjoyed Haben Girba’s talk about how “Difference drives innovation and disability inclusion benefits all of us” which really encourages you to consider how you look at the world. 

There were lots of brilliant talks and the common thread is don’t create experiences that disable people, consider accessibility from the start, go beyond compliance, integrate into your processes, get buy-in and build capability. It feels like they all align with our roadmap and recommendations so that’s good.

Four: Coaching course and the GROW model 

I attended a short “coaching for managers” course where we learnt about non-directive ways of working with people to help them tap into their own capability. 

We focused on the GROW (Goals, Reality, Obstacles/Options and Way forward) model and had the opportunity to practice. I quite enjoyed it and learnt that it is quite hard to be non-directive when coaching people but that will get better with practice.

Coaching is something I want to get better at and just knowing the right techniques help me to be more self-aware and practice. 

Five: Updated accessibility statement and personal show and tells

We updated the GOV.UK accessibility statement to remove some of the accessibility issues we’ve fixed since the deadline and it feels good to be able to do that. 

As one of our ways of supporting each other and bonding, our team also had a personal show and tell, where anyone can just talk about something they care about. Rosie told us about her wormery. This is something that is alien to me so it was fascinating to learn about. 

Other things I’ve been thinking, talking and reading about

  • I talked to one of the department head of content about some of the gaps they’ve identified with publishing which was helpful for some of our structured information conversions
  • I also attended the presentation and dissemination committee quarterly meeting to give a GDS update on accessibility and publishing. I learnt about some interesting new cross-government initiatives that the statistics community is considering. 
  • Axe-Con, the digital accessibility conference has a lot of great talks 
  • Why we sleep, the new science of sleep and dreams is a book I’ve been reading since January, I’ve also struggled to finish it but also struggled to let it go because I really wanted to learn more about the subject. I decided to read a summary of the book instead. I’m done and I feel free to move on but happy with what I’ve learnt. It’s amazing how sleep is so critical for every aspect of our lives and how a lack of sleep can literally shorten your life. I’ll definitely be sleeping more
  • My PM circle met this weekend and we had lots of great conversations about psychological safety in teams, some of our frustrations at work,  our recent learning efforts and progress towards our personal goals this quarter.

What I’m looking forward to next week

It’s time for “end of year” performance review so next week will be lots of giving/getting feedback and performance conversations. I’m also looking forward to refining the recommendations and looking at our processes more closely to determine where we can embed accessibility practices