House covered in snow

Weeknotes: Snowed under

tobiogunsina Product management, weeknotes Leave a Comment

To be snowed under…to have so much work that you have problems dealing with it all. 

Snowed under…Someone used that phrase to describe the state of our team this week and for some reason I’ve been using it since like someone who just added a new phrase to their vocabulary but with the deadline for meeting the accessibility regulations so close, we were really snowed under. 

What do you do when you are snowed under? Ask for help, reduce scope where possible and manage expectations. That’s what we did. 

What went well

Last week, we reviewed the problems with language attributes and found the different reasons why language attributes are missing or incorrect on some pages. This week, I ran a session with the team walking through the problems and considering what we could do to fix them. 

For problems that need technical fixes – we concluded that It’s unlikely we will be able to fix them before the deadline. The short term fixes needed require skills we don’t have within the team since all our developers are front end engineers and also quite busy.  Long term fixes require some thinking about GOV.UK’s language strategy. 

We asked for help from the platform health team who look after the health and operations of GOV.UK so they are now picking up some of that work as priority. With best efforts, hopefully we make some progress before the deadline. 

For problems that need to be fixed by the publishers – Instead of waiting till our content designers could find time to write the guidance, I worked with the GOV.UK guidance team to improve the guidance on publishing non-english content and we should be able to tell publishers to review the problems we found and fix them next week. In both cases, the pressure of the team was reduced. 

The GOV.UK audit is now complete, thanks to Anika, our accessibility specialist! She found some new problems at the tail end of the audit that we simply do not have the capacity to address at this late stage. 

We shared an update with the senior management team about our confidence level, outlining all the things we don’t think will be fixed in time, the impact of those problems and other risks/issues. This helped to manage expectations and we worked with the management team to figure out if there was anything else that could help.

Last week, we started sending departments reports of where some of their accessibility issues are and asking them to fix it. This week we sent some more. We got a lot of questions and it became clear that we needed some help answering them all. 

Thankfully, we were able to get some dedicated support and content design help to focus on answering questions. I also had to do some coordinating and provide a blanket response to address some of the key concerns that departments had about the reason why we are telling them so late, scope and what to do with some document types. 

I spent the rest of the time having conversations with several disciplines and accessibility specialists to make sure we have enough context and information on the cards for the next 2 weeks which takes us to the deadline. 

My goal was to get to the point where we are not actively exploring any problems but have identified what we can get done in time and what we’ll simply add to the accessibility statement and explore after the deadline. I think we almost got there with 1 or 2 exceptions so that’s good. I also tried to make sure accessibility issues that are being resolved by independent teams were moving along. 

We were snowed under but I think we handled it well.

What could have been better

My delivery manager and I are unavoidably off next week. This isn’t ideal and I think it increased the pressure on us this week. We’ve been talking about it for a while though and have made sure the team has everything they need. The team is mostly self organising so it’s fine. We’ve also arranged for delivery and product management help should they need it. 

In other news

Jen, head of GOV.UK did an interesting talk about her career progression which I enjoyed and found inspiring. I really wanted to attend because she was a product manager and I am fascinated by her career over the past few years. 

She said a lot that resonated with me. She talked about the importance of developing resilience before you need it, having mentors, knowing nobody will develop your career apart from you, investing in the relationship with the people you work with, always reading/learning broadly and building your network so you always have options. That one hour was very well spent. 

I will be spending next week as an instructional associate on the General Assembly Product Management course. I spent some personal time this week onboarding and learning more about delivering online courses effectively. I’m so excited!