Weeknotes 20 – week 1, being new, being welcomed

Early morning at the Hackney Service Centre

Well, here I am at Hackney. It’s been a brilliant first week — primarily because my new colleagues have been so welcoming and friendly.

Five things that happened this week (thanks to Dan Barrett for this format)

  1. I went to what may be the best induction I’ve ever had. A morning spent covering all the basics in an engaging and super helpful way. It finished with a walk around some of the local sights in the borough with a senior manager (who take it in turns to volunteer for this). Pride in the borough, in working for the local authority and in what people are doing shone through. I met 4 new social pedagogues* from across Europe who were also joining that day, a new housing manager, and someone from children’s services.

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2. I met lots of new colleagues in ICT who made me feel very welcome, including Rob Miller with a thoughtful induction to the role and the teams, the service desk with an efficient and helpful set up, the delivery team to discuss an idea for a workshop, the Hackney Works apprenticeship team, and many many more. We’re recruiting 18 apprentices into the team which is really exciting.

3. I was invited to an informal shared lunch in London Fields, which was awesome, and great way to meet new colleagues.

4. I went to a show and tell at a neighbourhood office — that was brilliant because I got to see a bit more of Hackney, meet lots of housing managers at once, and learn more about the project, all in one go.

Queensbridge neighbourhood office

5. We had a quarterly management team meeting which was incredibly helpful in helping me understand the big picture of what’s next for HackIT — and my role in that. Thanks Matthew Cain Rob Miller and Henry for a really useful day.

What I read this week

As you might imagine — a lot of things. I thought I’d share this one, simple is good.

it’s really quite simple which (from my experience) tends to help. There again some folk like to be bombarded with really complicated stuff that they don’t really understand because they hope that their lack of comprehension will mean that the thing that they are looking at is magic. Such magic things don’t exist.

Digital Architecture revisited

I’ve also just started reading The Art of Business Value, by Mark Schwartz. I really liked A seat at the table so am looking forward to this.

*I had to look this up as I didn’t know what it was, it’s fascinating.

Weeknotes 19: Saying goodbye. Reflections on what I’ve learnt.

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My last weeknotes from Acas. I’m really excited to be starting my new role next week — working with Rob Miller Matthew Cain and the rest of the Hackney team.

At the end of this final week I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt, what I’ll miss, and write some important thank yous.

What I’ll miss (and thankyous)

People

I’ve been really lucky to work with so many great people at Acas. I’m not going to list them all — they know who they are. But a couple of group mentions. Firstly the comms team — you are a creative, lively, funny and hardworking bunch of people. Thank you all.

And of course the digital innovation team. Thank you — you are awesome to work with, and I’m so proud of everything we’ve done together.

Yesterday the first digital advice content on beta.acas.org.uk went into public beta. A brilliant feeling — and the culmination a lot of hard work by all of us in the team.

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Also this week we raised over £100 for Bromley by Bow Community Centre by holding a cake sale — beautifully conceived of, organised and named by Philippa. Thanks Philippa — and to everyone who baked for it. We’ve been volunteering with them for the past few months – I’ve loved doing this and it’s been a valuable reminders of what digital exclusion means.

Cate’s off, It’s Bake off. Nicely played Philippa.

I also want to say a huge thankyou to the wider digital community — for all the help, support, encouragement you’ve given me (and the team) over the last year, and to our Transform, Methods and Digi2al colleagues who’ve come in and helped us deliver, working alongside us as #oneteam, and sharing your knowledge and experience with us. Thankyou.

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Place*

I’ll miss walking through Regents Park on the way to work. It takes me an extra 15mins to get off a stop early and I didn’t do it enough (I was too often in a hurry). When I did it was a peaceful, thoughtful start and/or/end to the day.

So a learning point for me: making time for this sort of thing makes me more productive in the long run. So I should do it.

What have I learnt?

(note: none of the following is a new discovery but it is some of my key learnings)

Be bold. Thank you Janet Hughes you and others in the digital community inspired me to do all sorts of new things at Acas.

Change takes bravery, energy and resilience. And I am brave, energetic and resilient. See Helen Bevan and One Team Gov for so much inspiration on this.

Start small, stay focussed and show the thing. If you’re stretched too thinly, pulled in too many directions, you won’t be as effective.

Working in the open works. See Matt Jukes for great wisdom on this.

Yoga works for me. I need to make time for it regularly.

and lastly:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

This, from Norm Kerth (and referenced recently in Ellie Craven’s excellent weeknotes) is really hard to live up to. Things that are worth living up to often are. I try, but I don’t always manage it. I’m going to try harder.

Playlist

Sam Villis often includes great playlists in her weeknotes — so inspired by her I thought I’d include a song I heard again recently which I love, and which inspires me.

*Things I will not miss

I will not miss the confused heating/AC system in the office. Not at all. But I will miss the views from the 22nd floor.

I will also not miss the lifts breaking.

Broken lift.

Weeknotes 18: to-do lists, the return of the lamuts, Janet’s list

My to do list is getting shorter. Well, my Acas one is. It’s a weird feeling. The more general life admin to do list obviously remains about the same, a constant, just slightly more than feels doable, and ever replenishing. My Hackney ‘things to think about when I start’ list is getting longer, and that’s exciting. 3 weeks to go . . .

Tuesday

I spent most of the day sifting initial bids from suppliers for our most recent digital marketplace opportunity — we had a really good range of bids in. This is great — and it included companies we haven’t had bids from before, which is also good.

Wednesday

The team had sprint planning — powered by Crosstown donuts. I forgot to take a photo before all the donuts went . . .

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The focus of this sprint is — what remains for us to do before we make the first content public? It’s oh so tempting to try and make everything perfect beforehand, but we’re trying to focus on good enough.

In the afternoon I moderated my scores on the bids with Curtis and Noel, and our ace procurement manager Cedric. I’m always conscious that behind the words on the bids are teams of people who’ve worked hard to provide us with the information we’ve asked for — and that some of them will be disappointed to be sifted out. We have a shortlist of 5 — and I’m looking forward to seeing them all in a couple of weeks.

Thursday

We had a show and tell — and co opted the lovely Sam Villis to test the beta content. People came, the room was full, but they were quiet, and not many questions. I can’t work out if it’s because people aren’t sure what to ask, if it’s the way we’re running the sessions, or it’s the room set up. So we’re going to try the next one in our new team space to see if it works differently that way.

The snack vision was sticks — carrot, kit kats, chocolate fingers, breadsticks, you get the gist.

Later on I interviewed over at BEIS — helping a different team find a new Product Manager. Afterwards instead of heading back to the office I took myself off to a cafe to work quietly on some admin I’d been putting off.

Friday

In the morning I had a coffee with Philippa who’d been off for a few days. I’d been working on lots of things that it was good to catch up on, check my thinking, and plan out how we’ll move things forwards together.

The afternoon was spent writing up end of year reviews — I have done them ALL now which is brilliant* and is one of the reasons why my to do list is getting shorter.

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Saturday

I don’t normally write about weekends — but this weekend I finally caught up with the fabulous Janet Oganah. And heard all about Janet’s List— I’m so pleased to see how it’s going so well, and in awe of Janet and her drive and determination. We miss her at Acas . . .

What did I read this week?

I finally finished A seat at the table by Mark Schwarz, it’s taken ages not because I wasn’t enjoying it – I was – but because I was trying to read it on my commute, instead of looking at twitter and emails and medium and etc. I didn’t do very well.

Anyway – it was very good. It’s given me lots of food for thought, ideas and pointers for further reading.

The best thing a manager can do is to help the team do what it knows how to do by removing impediments. Tell the team what you need, let them do their work, and ask them how you can help.

I’ve got a copy of his other book The Art of Business Value — think that’s my next read.

I read this via Sam Villis

and this from Jocelyn Goldfein on culture which was interesting.

You have a powerful incentive at your fingertips: praise, criticism, and story-telling. Wield them thoughtfully and you can be a culture carrier who transmits and strengthens company values.

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