Week 10 of 2020 brings merge conflicts with teams, multipack reunion, joys of education, Kevin Cunningham, On The Side growth, Intelligence, This Country and Sex Education.


We’ve had fun with the teams recently, trying to find some standardised approaches to delivery that work across a range of Scrum, Kanban and “Scrumban” approaches. The natural choice would be to focus on throughput (number of items completed) and cycle time (how long it takes to start and complete an item) but one of the biggest challenges in our teams is planning across them so we’ve encouraged story points (sometimes known as “Planning Poker” where teams come to a consensus of how relatively complex a piece of work is in Fibonacci numbers) with two week iterations. Most teams were welcomE to the suggestions (naturally with a little friction) but this week we’ll be going through the metrics to plan for next sprint.

With a large project in-flight with six teams, I’ve also looked to centralise the team demos into a single condensed point, for multiple outcomes:

  1. Create a safe environment to share and praise each other on their achievements in a wider group. There can be some duplication of work or isolated pockets of knowledge we want to reduce so this should reduce that challenge.
  2. Our stakeholders only need to find time for one session. These people are often busy so struggle to make all demos. Having one session to attend should improve this.
  3. Improve social culture. Some teams are great at lunching together but there’s not much cross-team socialising. I’ve arranged demos for 11am Friday morning which nicely takes us to lunch time.


This week, I caught up with the “old guard” of The Multipack after years of failing to reunite in the Midlands. We realised recently that (coincidentally) many of us are working in or around Westminster. After a quick Twitter group DM thread, we set the date and location for a much-needed catch up over beer and pizza. It was wonderful to see everyone, especially learning all about how GDS / DoE / DoJ do agile ways of working from Matt and Paul. We’ll definitely be doing it again in a few months time so, if you’re reading this and would like to join, let us know.

On the point of education, I attended The Boy’s parents evening at school this week. He’s doing a brilliant job, all teachers were full of praise with his ability, delivery and enthusiasm. I was, however, perplexed by the new GCSE Computer Science course. Content seems adequate, covering a good range of theory and practical coding (in Python). However, the assessment threw me. There is no coursework contributing towards final grades, just two 2-hour exams which one consists of handwriting code on paper. I’m not sure who and why this was considered but it certainly doesn’t reflect the real world of tech for me.

Fitness has definitely taken a turn for the worse recently through a combination of timing and conditions. I’m struggling to fit in training in the evenings now and lunch-time efforts were squandered by constant damp rain and rising fears of coronavirus around London.


Make Life Work continues this week with Kevin Cunningham’s episode. It was wonderful to talk to Kevin about the education system, the joy of learning and how he switched from teaching through agency work to freelance web development. Analytics suggest it’s engaged well already but that might also be to increased marketing for the podcast.

I wanted to continue the video series about why and how I make the podcast but struggled to find time amongst reduced commuting time (working remotely two days). Looking at the introduction video again, I realised it didn’t give much to go on so maybe another part will help.

We also introduced a few new members to On The Side last week; Jay George (who I know quite well), Simon Hearne and Charlotte H (who heard about it through Make Life Work). It’s lovely to see organic growth in the community like that but also with occasional relevant tweets that seem to engage.


I’ve not explored much new tech this past week, mainly continued to flex my muscles in Ferrite for producing the podcast. I accidentally discovered a neat little UX for splitting tracks with a single swipe down gesture which definitely improved my productivity. I’d love it if I could work out how to quick remove blocks though as that generally takes 4 touches which I could simplify with a single key stroke or gesture.

I have been wondering about how I could stream Disney Plus and Apple TV+ content to the family TV this week. The obvious choice is an Apple TV device but, before splashing out £150 on a new one, I’m looking at alternative options like Lightning-HDMI adapters for iPhone/iPad or any second-hand devices (I’m all for recycling devices if they work).


Intelligence on Sky with David Schwimmer is a fun series, based around GCHQ and Schwander seconded in from the NSA. The differences between the UK and US are emphasised by very funny to watch – but it does throw me with Ross swearing so much.

This Country on BBC iPlayer recently returned for a third series. We love this comedy show as it’s scarily close to home with the lifestyle of youths living in a rural village. The script is brilliant though, huge kudos to brother and sister Daisy and Charlie.

Sex Education on Netflix came to an end (for us at least – binge-series has broken that pattern!). Whilst watching teenagers talk about sex is quite awkward as a middle-aged bloke, I do appreciate the content for youngsters to learn from plus the characters and acting is brilliant. Will it continue? Probably but I don’t think it needs to.