S2 ep12 series finale*

image of snorlax the pokemon lying down

What did I realise this week?

That working in agile delivery has given me much greater facilitation skills than I used to have. This week I facilitated or helped facilitate several open conversations – ones where we’re exploring where our HackIT manifesto is driving our approach and behaviours, and ones where we’re not all in agreement about ‘what next’ and need to find a way to get to the next most important thing. The success of these conversations though, is as much about the willingness of colleagues to work openly, listen and debate.

workshop participants on the HackIT manifesto
mid workshop on HackIT manifesto

What did I deliver something on?

We looked at our procurement forward plan this week – we’re trying to think ahead across the teams so that we give ourselves the time and space to use how and when we buy things as a lever for change. That’s not always possible – sometimes we’re simply replacing one thing with another, but where there are opportunities we want to be in the best position possible to take advantage of them.

There was good feedback on how we present the data – what’s useful, what isn’t, and what we could improve.

What am I proud of this week?

I missed it but last week Matthew ran a session with the team on what we’ve achieved in the last quarter. It’s great to take time to do this before we set our sights on what’s next – it’s all too easy to do that, and not spend time together reflecting on what we’ve done.

On Wednesday I went to my sons’ graduation – I am so proud of how hard he’s worked, the energy and commitment he’s put into the work and his outside interests.

What did I get wrong this week?

I messed up this week – I promised to do something and then totally forgot about it. Luckily I was rescued by Steve who stepped in to deliver a last minute session on procurement, following user research we’ve taken part in with Cabinet Office**.

What am I thinking about this week?

How we can iterate our planning and delivery so that we have smoother, faster flow. It’s not easy, and as we grow we’re going to need more consistency in how we do things. Consistency not constraint – I really value the creativity and innovation that comes from trusting the team to deliver their work in a way that works for them.

We’ve just completed a short discovery into devops with Digi2al which has given us a series of testable hypotheses, greater insight and some key principles to start from – all of which will help us with smooth, fast delivery.

What I read this week:

This was useful from Gathercontent on content patterns and why they are important to help users navigate their way through a service successfully.

James Abley wrote a great piece about moving MOJ’s legacy tech.

The ICT Commissioning playbook – we’ve given the team some insight via user research, and I’m thinking about how we might use it as a standard by which we assess our success at buying things.

*holiday beckons so seems like a good time to end a series, six months into the year

**in return, as grateful thanks, I will provide cake

I’m disappearing on holiday!

User stories not requirements will give us better outcomes – discuss

I pitched a session at #procurementunconference19 boldly titled ‘User stories not requirements will give us better outcomes’

I wanted to find out if other people had experiences to share about how we move away from long lists of requirements, developed in silos, then given to suppliers – to a more collaborative, outcome focused way of doing things. 

At HackIT we use the digital marketplace where we can, and make wide use of CCS frameworks. I used a recent example of a procurement for ‘printing as a service’ where we’ve tried hard to give the suppliers space to tell us what they think the solution might be for us, rather than specifying every detail in advance. 

The discussion around the table was incredibly useful – a host of examples of where people are trying new things, facing challenges and being bold with their approaches.

Here’s the top 5 things I wrote down during the discussion:

Too often we’re trying to buy something where we’ve got uncertainty – and instead of trying to make it more certain (by locking down requirements) we need a way of embracing the uncertainty and using it to get better outcomes overall. Otherwise we risk buying the wrong thing.

Procurement works best when you have the right people working together at the right time, who understand the problem you’re trying to solve. This means having product groups and multi-disciplinary teams in place, and break down professional silos where documents are passed from team to team.

Can we use experiments to understand the problem – and if so, how do we make experiments as small as possible? The smaller they are the less risk you have, which means you can fail faster. For example – we’ve added in a 6 month pilot of our new ‘printing as a service’ solution, but could we have made this smaller and more iterative? How can we involve suppliers and users during our experiments?

Can we use KPIs that measure delivery against culture and approach where we might usually only use outputs (eg availability), and if we could do this what would our measures be and would it drive innovation and engagement?

There was an example of teams using story points or dev points as an agreed deliverable in a statement of work – and of teams planning in advance to create iterative statements of work in collaboration with suppliers, rather than fixing an overall statement of work at the start.

Notes from #procurement unconference19, Session 1 – Bear

S2 ep11 Easy tiger

sculpture of a tiger made from foil wrappers photo courtesy of @hughpearman, from the RA summer exhibition. Easy Tiger by sculptor David Mach
photo courtesy of @hughpearman, from the RA summer exhibition. Easy Tiger by sculptor David Mach, made from foil wrappers*

A full on week this week, it was London Tech Week, and we were hosting several fringe events. Huge thanks to the teams who delivered these — awesome work!

What did I do to challenge myself this week?

I spoke in public to possibly the biggest group of people so far. And on home turf in front of people I know (which somehow makes it harder). It went well – I got across what I wanted to say, relaxed enough to go off script and anecdotal, and had brilliant conversations with people afterwards as a result.

tweet from future gov with a photo of me

I also noticed this useful thread from some ace people with advice and reflections on public speaking:

What did I deliver something on this week?

We held the first LOTI (London Office of Technology and Innovation) event post the LOTI launch event on Monday . This was a workshop with other London boroughs from LOTI to discuss how we might extend digital apprentices amongst LOTI members to 100 by 2020. Hackney’s got an ambitious and successful apprenticeship programme, which HackIT’s digital apprenticeships are a part of, and it was great to be able to share our story of successes and challenges. Micah, Nana, Erdem and Darrell started us off by talking about how they’ve made their apprenticeships a success, and Mal focussed on a line managers’ perspective.

a photo of four of our apprentices presenting to a room of colleagues
Starting us off with their reflections on how they’re making their apprenticeships a success

The team ran a recruitment event on Wednesday evening with over 50 people who came along to meet us, and find out more about working at HackIT. Then on Thursday Matthew ran a supplier event, which was a really good conversation with SMEs who haven’t worked with us, or maybe once so far. It was useful to hear feedback on working with us, have a chat about service standard assessments and why we value them (and why suppliers should too).

And on Friday I was lucky enough to be a lead assessor on our prototype (alpha) phase project for Hackney Spacebank. The team had prepared really well, and it was brilliant to have two great external assessors, Guilia and Kate, involved to give us challenge and learn from their experience. They were both really impressed by what they heard and saw – and I know that meant a lot to the team. This is the second assessment in the past couple of weeks – we’ll publish them on the HackIT website later this month.

What did I learn this week?

I learnt loads from other speakers on Monday’s Futuregov event including Vim and Matt, Richard McLean wrote this ace blog post on work – why it doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) crazy. There’s loads of good ideas in here, some of which I’d like to try, things I’m guilty of**, and some things that I’m already doing, and which I know are effective.

And lastly it was fab to see a new blog post from Dan, thoughtful and considered (as always). Data is fundamental to the services we create, and so often the ‘computer magic’ bit can’t be done easily because the data just isn’t good enough.

*I also have the foil flattening and object creating habit, but not on this scale.

**Yet another bright idea, when we (I) am already fully committed.

S2 Ep10 sunshine powered delivery

Pikachu eating lunch in the sunshine
Pikachu eating lunch in the sunshine

After a gloriously sunny weekend I’d recouped my energy and it lasted me through (all) the rainy days during the week. I’m sticking with this new format for now, but tweaking the headings a bit to see if they can make me reflect better.

What did I hear this week?

I had lunch with David in the sunshine at my favourite cafe, discussing all sorts of things, including his ideas for a short training session on retros, and thinking about how we approach our database layer.

Followed by coffee in the sunshine* with Roo, ahead of the DevOps discovery workshop on culture and ways of working. This was a chance to catch up and think about our overall approach, and hear some reflections on what it feels like working with HackIT as a new supplier.

And at the end of the week I caught up with Louise Cato for a rapid, wide ranging chat about weeknotes, running, delivery, culture, leadership and so much more in between. It was great to see her – and to hear that she’s coming along to #bureaucracyhack.

Where did my energy go this week?

Matthew and I delivered our agile training course to a new (4th cohort) this week. The slides are here if you want to look at/use them. I’m currently collating the material into one shared drive that we can make open to anyone who wants to use it.

It’s 3 very early starts and delivering useful training is always tiring – but it was so worth it.

The participants end with a show and tell: what they’ve done, what they’ve learnt and what they’ll do next:

my tweet during the show and tell by the agile training participants

Some of my nervous energy went on worrying about both boys taking exams this week, one had a week of finals, and one has A-levels. Stressful for them both, and I was aware all week that it was on my mind.

What did I deliver this week?

I finally made time to finish or progress some things that have been on ‘the list’ for a while.

I wrote a brief for next week’s London Office of Technology and Innovation digital apprenticeship event that we’re hosting, and planned out how we’ll run it in more detail.

I worked on a paper for our senior leadership team about the future of mobile telephony at Hackney – and how we might do things differently.

Our printer tender went out – this has been a lot of work by the contracts team and our procurement colleagues, so it’s really nice to see that it’s gone live.

I finished off some slides for a lightening talk at Monday’s FutureGov event which they’re running in Hackney – Matthew gave me valuable help and advice, including asking twitter to help with the title:

My personal fave didn’t win, but I like option 1 too

What have I thought about this week?

my Hackney rainbow lanyard

I’ve been thinking about the importance of inclusive and diverse teams – and how it benefits everybody to have diversity of voice, opinion and experience.

We’ve got an event running next week which Nic and the team are doing a fab job of organising. We’re hosting a recruitment evening for people interested in coming to work with us.

I saw this from Snook, aimed at the design sector initially – I liked the bit about asking all candidates for feedback on the process and learning from it: http://inclusivedesignrecruitment.co.uk/5/

I’ve also been thinking about innovation – and the differing views on what’s needed to be innovative, deliver innovation, build a culture of innovation. This via Rachel Murphy, was a great video about about situational awareness being key:

What have I read this week?

I really liked this via Jennifer Pahlka:

top tips for leading (IT) change, possibly any change really

and not so much reading but watching from afar** I was so pleased to see the success of the @oneteamgov wellbeing camp in Leeds.

great 30 sec video!

*there’s a theme here, things in the sunshine. Including a swim on Monday morning. Summer is definitely my season.

**slightly jealously, I couldn’t go because of the agile training, but colleagues went so I loved vicariously through them and twitter.

S2 Ep9 what have I. . .?

a picture of a box of Violet Crumbles, Australian crunchies
A package of violet crumbles*

. . .tried this week?

I’m trying a new weeknotes style to see if it inspires me/works well (and because change is good. )

. . . noticed this week?

It’s been a very short week for me this week, just 3 days. Two of them were days on the move, with meetings in various places. But the meetings days felt manageable because on Friday I knew I had the space to think and do.

We’ve had some really good conversations this week about things we’re trying to improve – open, engaged and useful.

been proud of this week?

HackIT has been listed in apolitical’s new government learning directory, as a team teaching others the skills needed for the future. It’s a great recognition of how, by working in the open, we’re sharing our knowledge and learning with others.

I’m really proud of the manage arrears beta team – they’ve now used Gov.notify to send their first 1000 letters, saving us both time and money.

We’ve got three people going to the @OneTeamGov #wellbeing camp next week – it’s great to see people from our teams engaging across government.

It’s also been brilliant watching all the project weeknotes being published on our HackIT blog over the past few weeks – working in the open

. . . learnt this week?

My map of the year, drawn out in conversation with my coach

I had a great coaching session this week, where I mapped out what I was proud of in my first year in Hackney*, what skills I’ve used and developed, and what the overarching themes might be. It was a really useful exercise – guided by Sarah who is very very good at not letting me off the hook. As a result I’ve got something I can use to frame my thinking about the coming year.

Jane Fallon from the West Mids combined authority spent the day with us this week – we learnt loads from her on how OPG have built a product management community and developed people into the role. Having visitors from other orgs is always a brilliant way to learn more about how other people are thinking about similar problems.

Steve and Karim came up with a good solution to our procurement challenge – one that gets us the outcome we’re looking for but simplifies things for us. They’ve worked really hard to finalise the documentation and we’re all hopeful we can publish the tender next week.

. . . read this week?

Rose wrote a great blog post about hiring – framing another problem for #bureaucracyhack to tackle.

Nour signposted to this great Harvard Business Review article on the importance of teams

*my brother sent over some treats in a little care package. Somebody on twitter suggested that they were ‘just’ crunchies. They are not. Nor do they taste of violets.

**towards the end of June I’ll have been at Hackney a year. A year! It’s been the most brilliant year.

S2 Ep8 code and decoding

It’s been a funny week – lots of great things, but also lots of frustrations, and a slight sense of overwhelm at times (see ‘What I learnt this week?’.)

yellow irises by a pond
Hampstead Heath ponds on my run this week

7 (mostly great) things that happened:

1.Monday started strong with a workshop with the contracts and procurement team – thinking about our goals for the next quarter, and what we’re going to do to help us reach them. We’d done a lot of the planning a couple of weeks ago, so it was good to recap and revisit our thinking.

2. We had our second conversation around the project wall – we’ve decided it’d be useful to have a sense of size of each project. So we’re going to use t-shirt sizing to give us a visual guide* – we need to decided what we’re sizing though. Is it spend? Budget? The value we think will be delivered by doing the work? What we choose will drive the conversation in a particular direction, and I don’t think there’s one ‘right’ answer. Also the people stickers arrived this week and look great, so we can start using them to think about who we need to recruit and who can work on which project.

3. I spent some of Wednesday trying to find a form of words in our tender specification for printers that our procurement colleagues are happy with whilst still making it easy for our suppliers to make their best bids that meet our user needs. We still haven’t managed to finalise this, but I’m sure we will early next week.

4. I voted with my younger son. It was his first election, and I was super proud that a) he was really pleased to be able to vote and b) he’d really thought about how he wanted to vote and why.

5. Nic and I spent some time planning our HackIT recruitment event – it’s on 12 June from 4-6pm. There’s an eventbrite link to sign up, so we know who’s coming and roughly what time, an opportunity to meet the teams and find out more about why you’d want to come and work with us.**

6. On Friday I met some of the #bureaucracyhack organisers at the venue so that we could have a look round and plan out the day itself in more detail. I feel reassured now that I’m not the only one who’s seen the venue, and that the space will work for us on the day.

7. Later on Friday I’d volunteered to help at the verification count for the election. This is to check that the number of ballot papers in each box matches the presiding officers tally, ready for the actual vote count on Sunday. It was really interesting to be part of the process and see it first hand.

What I learnt this week:

I’ve had a few four day weeks recently (bank holidays plus a couple of extra days off). Having not been very well during February and March I’d deliberately built in some long weekends during April and May. What I didn’t do though was adjust my expectation of how much I could do during that time. Note to self: try not to have to learn this again.

I felt slightly overwhelmed by ‘the list’ of things to do this week, but what I have definitely learnt is that, if you tell people this is so, and you work with awesome, supportive colleagues you will get a) emergency chocolate b) offers of help and c) support and understanding. Thankyou all of you.

What I read this week:

Now, this is something I’ve been pondering for a while. Is knitting code? Having started a new project with my mum recently I’ve been thinking about the links between programming and knitting, the logical repeating patterns that only work if they are followed exactly. This article was really interesting and takes it to a whole new level, and also uses the word ‘floofy’ in a scientific context.

Knitting is coding

I liked this from Tom Loosemore on culture:

Tom Loosemore on culture

And also this from @mitsmr via @helenbevan:

Principles for creating the culture you need

*this involves ordering some more stickers, which can only be a good thing

**there are so many reasons why you might, come along on the 12th and find out!

S2 Ep7 setting up for success

So, what are some things that happened this week*?

London Fields Lido in the early morning sunshine
The lido in the sunshine, beautiful

Getting together around the wall

a picture of post it notes on a wall, listing the key questions. what do you need from others?, what's worrying you most? what could go from good to great? what's most important? and what do you know least about?
Questions we’re asking ourselves

I’ve organised 3 experiments this month in front of our emergent portfolio wall. I’m curious to see if having a regular conversation with the right people, asking the right questions of ourselves using the wall as a prompt will help us create smoother, faster delivery. Matthew suggested some questions we could ask ourselves, which we’re trying out and iterating as we go. I’ve also ordered some ‘people’ stickers so we can see where we need people and skills on a project (this idea came from Giulia at Cancer Research).

Learning from others

Alice Carter presenting in front of a screen
Alice Carter from MOJ

Alice Carter from Ministry of Justice (MOJ) came in to talk to us about her and her teams work with young offenders and user centred policy design. It was a great talk – the team are working in a different way with policy teams, putting the user and their needs at the forefront, and designing experiments to deliver value early. It was really interesting to hear about the insight the team got from their observations and conversations with young offenders, and a reminder of what an impact open and engaged leadership makes to effecting change.

Setting ourselves up for success (part 1)

Budgets and finance tracking is one of those things that isn’t always top of the to do list. In a lot of places I’ve worked it’s been that thing you dread because there’ll be lots of untangling to do. Rob and I spent 2 days this week taking a step back from the detail and creating a visual finance picture that we’ve put up on the wall. This helped us identify where we need to put our focus as a team, and to create a set of hypotheses about where we can a) improve our financial management processes – focussing on the knowledge we need as a team b) invest so that we improve our ICT service and c) invest so that we deliver improvements for residents.

Setting ourselves up for success (part 2)

We’re very close to publishing our specification for on demand printing across the council. I was really keen to hit a (self imposed) deadline this week, but Stephen reminded me that the few extra days we need to take will enable us to make sure we’ve made it as clear and easy as possible for suppliers to submit good bids and the advice we got from our procurement colleagues will make it easier for us to assess those bids fairly and transparently.

What I read this week:

Soraya wrote a great blog post about our use of gov.notify and the benefits it’s bringing the teams we’re working with.

Reflections from Gary Dunn in North Lincolnshire on the recent gov.pay discovery funded by MHCLG digital fund, which also included a link to a blog post from Barnsley about their self built income management system. It was great to see our earlier user research used in the discovery, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the outcomes of the alpha.

I really liked this twitter thread sparked by Janet Hughes talking about change (and who doesn’t love a good triangle?).

Janet Hughes: pace, agreement or comprehensive coverage. pick 2 and proceed accordingly

What I’ve learnt this week – it’s ok to let go

This week I made the decision to let go of something that’s been part of my life for 16 years, ever since my eldest started school. I’ve been a school governor and then chair – I’ve learnt loads, and found it really rewarding as well**. But it’s time to let go, and use my spare time on something else for a while. 

*apart from the swim, which as you can see from the picture, was a beautiful start to the day. I’m now 17 swims in towards a goal of 52 in a year.

**I’d be happy to talk to anyone thinking about being a school governor (it’s apparently the biggest volunteer group in the country), schools are always looking for skilled professionals to work with them, it’s immensely rewarding, and the local authority provides training.