Weeknotes 27: reading, listening, doing


I had a great conversation with Liz about KPIs, measurement, data and ROI. We’re both working on related bits of how we demonstrate value so it was great to put our heads together and share our thoughts.

Martin Chaney from Greater London Authority came to spend some time with us at Hackney — so I took him along to our new shout out project standup. Dennis is trying out a new way of surfacing blockers, discussing dependancies and collaborating between projects — this was our first try and it worked pretty well. I think it’s partly what Catherine Howe means when she talks about the deliberative layer of governance — looking at issues and decisions that are wider than one team.

Later on I went to the housing transformation steering group — a useful introduction to key stakeholders I hadn’t had a chance to meet yet, and insight into the challenges faced in housing (as someone new to local government I’m continuing to learn a lot every week about all the services).


I continued my user research by finding another victim (sorry, participant ;-), this time from one of the application support teams. It was really good to get their perspective on governance, process and change management. Richard then helped me affinity sort what I’ve done so far:

Affinity sorting

Apprentices — Esmay and her team ran an excellent managers session for line managers of apprentices which I went along to — really well thought out and delivered. As a result our master trello board for inducting our apprentices is developing nicely.


Swim #4 of 8. Getting better at this — and the pool is warm even if the air temperature has dropped somewhat.

Then a great show and tell from FutureGov on the work they’re doing with our temporary accommodation team, to see how we can develop a digital service to better support residents and the staff that serve them. The team have done some really good work in the first two weeks. And Stuart Mackenzie remembered my desire for this badge (thank you!)

I am a militant optimist and now I have the badge too

Convivio came in to talk to us about the complex work they’ve done with Cabinet Office looking at how to index, publish and reuse research across government. We’re trying to solve a similar problem in Hackney re: user research so it was great to share insights, approaches and possible solutions.


I worked from home which gave me the chance to look at the great work Stephen’s been doing around contract management and procurement. He’s (almost) as new as I am at Hackney and he’s done a brilliant job of pulling together the information we need, engaging with internal users, and the thinking about what we want to focus on.

I tried dialling into an end of discovery show and tell, which sort of worked. It’s never as good as actually being in the room. Luckily Niall, Amy and the team had done a good set of slides to support the conversation which made it easier to engage with.


Gavin Beckett and I caught up on all things local government, what MCHLG* is doing and the local digital declaration, and local gov camp (it’s my first one in September).

I also had my first Let’s Network Hackney meet up — with Larissa who works on the Pause programme — Hackney was the first local authority to run this programme, and we had a really good conversation about what it does and how it works. Let’s Network Hackney is an online matching app that connects staff to each other so that they can learn about what other teams are doing at Hackney.

What I read this week

I read a lot this week. More than normal because I’m researching and thinking about a few different things at the moment. And because I’m trying out using my commute to read rather than do admin tasks.

I’m reading Tobias Mayer’s book The People’s Scrum. It’s a collection of essays which works well on the train to dip in and out of.

Rob Miller shared this great piece from Catherine Howe on full stack decision making which I referenced earlier. I liked this line:

for most people it’s better to have a well made decision you don’t agree with than no decision at all

This from Beatrice Karol Burks and Jonathan Flowers (part of 3 part series) is great:


And this was interesting reading:

I constantly hear people saying that if they use this new technology, they’ll get better forms. But you won’t, not until you’ve worked out good questions, why you’re asking those questions and what you’re going to do with the answers. Changing technology will never solve the problem of asking a bad question.


Right — the Bank holiday awaits. More next week.


*Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Weeknotes 26: user research is a team sport

This week I’ve given myself time to think about a couple of areas I’m working on — governance as a service, and KPIs. They’re both big topics, and I need to read and learn more before coming up with proposals. I guess I’m in a little discovery phase on each. Following Richard McLean‘s advice I’ve been conducting some user research with colleagues on governance, to establish what different user needs we have.

On Monday it was Richard, our lead user researcher’s turn to be my participant — useful not only for the insight on governance, but great feedback on how I could improve my questioning techniques. Later on I tried my new improved questions out on Nic and Dennis — getting their views as delivery managers on what they need from governance. I’ve got a couple more sessions planned next week with colleagues from our application support team. I’m planning to write the results up as a separate blog post once I’ve finished

Also on Monday I welcomed Joanne Moore on her first day — she’s started as our new lead service designer (and already written her first #weeknotes)



Began with the dentist (1) but got rapidly better. Stephen, Jackie, Karim and I got together to map out the current process for paper procurement. We mapped out the current user journey, pain points and ate cake whilst we worked. At the end of session we’d identified some key questions to answer, and have got some ideas and hypotheses to test with users.


Early morning swim #3 of 8. Remarkably quieter in the pool this week as the sunshine disappears . . .and a really enjoyable swim. This could become a habit.

I had a useful conversation with Simon, Nic and Matt about the product roadmap for the manage a repair project which reminded me about this blog post I’d spotted last week via twitter

View at Medium.com

Dennis and Soraya gave a brilliant show and tell on the income collection project which we’re working on with Made Tech— really exciting use of gov.notify and seeing our APIs in the cloud. There was engaging discussion about data, content design, and process improvement afterwards from a wide range of people who’d come to the show and tell to learn more about the project.


A day full of meetings on Thursday — all interesting, and I learnt loads, met lots of new people including a visit down to Southwark to learn more about the work that Doniya and Cameron are doing at the Greater London Authority on digital skills and apprenticeships. Also it rained which was good (2).


I worked from home — a break from meetings and a chance to work on draft KPIs. Lydia from Rainmaker Solutions did some remote user research with me on the pipeline prototype which was really interesting. It was great to be a participant – and to spend time really thinking about the prototype and how it’s progressing.

Things I read/watched this week

This from Citizens Advice on content that works hard for the user is excellent.

I watched this video from Mark Schwartz about business value

and last but not least our new lead front end dev Riccardo gave a talk at a dev meet up a couple of weeks ago on the 5 W’s of atomic design:

What I struggled with this week

(1) the dentist. I have a lovely dentist but I still really don’t like going. Other than that though, it’s been a really good week.

(2) I wouldn’t normally say this but in the spirit of every cloud has a silver lining etc, I did get to wear my nice new raincoat.

Weeknotes 25 – managing my time, gaining more knowledge

This was my grandma’s Beach hut, now my aunts. It’s brilliant.


Was a day off — spent at the beach with extended family in the sunshine. Glorious.


I spent Tuesday afternoon out on tenancy visits with Sahena, one of our housing officers. She very kindly let me tag along whilst she visited two of her tenants on one of the estates she manages. I learnt loads from the afternoon — not just about the processes she follows, the paperwork that’s involved but also about the estate we went to, how different services link up, and how users view our services.


At the lido for an early morning swim #2 of 8. I’m hoping I can make this part of my normal routine for the next few weeks.

I met David from the consultation team to learn more about how our ICT survey works and get advice from him on this year’s approach. I’ve spent time this week reading up on previous surveys, talking to colleagues and thinking about the new questions we want to ask this year.

Learning and development was a focus of the afternoon — Matthew Cain, Jasmeen and I had a great conversation about how we might grow and develop our emerging product manager community, I posted a summary of our HackIT learning and development strategy on the HackIT Google+ community along with a new learning tag which we’re going to try using to capture and share our learning across the teams. Later on I met Rory, Luke and Craig from Made Tech to talk about how they approach building capability in their dev apprentices. It was a really useful conversation — and we’ve agreed to get our apprentices together in the autumn to learn from each other.


Richard and the user research team led the weekly ICT standup this week – with a great talk about the work they’re doing and the tools/techniques the team are producing to share with us.

Richard presenting about how we’re testing the language people use and understand

We had a first show and tell for the pipeline project from Rainmaker Solutions, they’re starting to sketch out what the developed design might look like so that it meets the user needs we’ve identified so far. There were loads of great questions from colleagues which was ace and made for an engaging discussion. I’m really looking forward to seeing this project develop over the next few weeks.

Lydia from Rainmaker

The afternoon was filled with conversations with awesome ladies — firstly Sam Villis who writes great weeknotes, thinks amazingly about problem solving and is helping me think about how we might get local authority people more engaged with One Team Gov. Then Rebecca Kemp who is well, brilliant. It was great to catch up with her on our respective new jobs, how we might collaborate, and where we can support each other.

Finally in the evening Philippa Newis, Rebecca Scott and Cheryl for a quiet (1) drink and a catch up.


I started my day early at City Hall talking to a delegation from local government from Shenzhen about HackIT and the work we’re doing at Hackney to build services, so good people want to use them. A really interesting meeting – I learnt more about the Smart City London plan from Stephen Lorimer, and about customer payments from Mike at TFL. Great questions from the delegation and then an opportunity to take photos from the balcony:

The marvellous view from City Hall

Working from home in the afternoon enabled me to pull together a draft set of questions for the 2018 ICT survey, and catch up on outstanding admin tasks.


What I read this week

This from Kit Collingwood was ace, brilliantly written, and I’ve been reflecting on my own habits as a result.

View at Medium.com

My colleague Rahma Mohamed has started writing weeknotes — check them out.

This from Ian Ansell on we are citizens advice was really thoughtful piece about data, why its useful and why we need to be careful when we collect it.

View at Medium.com

Lastly — I look forward to reading Dan Barrett’s weeknotes every week — and the season finale s02e17 were excellent, thoughtful, honest and amusing all at once. Thanks Dan.

What I’m struggling with this week

Diary management. My diary management was awful this week, which meant I missed more than one meeting, was late to others, and had to rearrange some things last minute. There’s no excuse(2) and I’m grateful that colleagues were so forgiving. So — some micro actions I’m going to take that I know will help are:

  • Check what’s happening for the week on the previous Friday, and plan accordingly
  • Get into the habit of checking what’s already happening before and after a meeting invite before accepting said invite (google shows this on the right hand side which is brilliant)
  • Block out travel time between events
  • Make sure I know where I’m going . . .
  • Stop thinking that I can ‘fit it in’ (2)

(1) quite quiet.

(2) if there was an excuse it would be that I’m getting used to the new diary and email at work but I don’t think that’s a very good excuse, so I’m not using it.

(2) this will make Michelle Bayley chuckle wryly . . .

Weeknotes 24 – listening to teams


After a week away it was great to be back, and feel slightly less new. I caught up with what I’d missed whilst I was away, had a useful chat about how we’re approaching our thinking about benefits modelling, and a catch up with Stephen on his work around contracts and procurement. Esmay had sent through data on our apprentice applications whilst I was away — we’ve had a really good response to the recruitment campaign. Next steps is to shortlist and interview during August.


Matthew and I had a brilliant session with team members looking ahead to the next 6 months and generating ideas for projects/areas of work that we think we could be exploring with our colleagues in services. It was really useful for me to learn more about each service and the challenges we’re tackling.(1)

Rashmi organised an impressive food event and surprise baby shower — extremely delicious and an opportunity to chat to people I hadn’t met before.

so much yummy food . . .


I started my day with a swim at London Fields lido – a beautiful start to the day. My challenge to myself is — can I make time to do this once a week for the next 8 weeks?

We had our regular management team meeting where we discussed how we’re approaching development in the team — how do we change the conversation and focus from being about training courses (they’re important but not the whole picture) and widen it out so that we’re talking about development and learning in lots of ways.

London Fields on a sunny, but early, morning

This week I’ve been to several show and tells — all different in style and all interesting — today was with adult social care and FutureGov. It was a great example of a team that’s worked together to imagine a redesigned service for users.

Stuart from @futuregov in action


The next show and tell was for the Hackney Welcome project with Rainmaker Solutions — they’ve been looking at how we might make it easier for new residents to access the services they need easily. They shared some really interesting user research insight and data they’ve generated.

Next I went to a show and tell from Fatima about the work that she and her team do to support the Universal Housing system, and what the challenges are in the future. Each week there’s a quick briefing for someone/a team to share progress across the work they’re doing — a really good way to share learning and engage in what other teams are doing.

I also caught up with Christina Hammond-Aziz — we’re both in new roles and it was great to catch up on what’s happened since we last met, and talk about areas of mutual passion and interest. We’re both really interested in how we might support girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to have opportunities to experience tech roles so we’re going to put our heads together to see what we can do . . .

Unfortunately I then got stuck on the central line which was both deeply unpleasant (I think Dante wrote about this?) and meant it took over an hour and a half to get home . . .



Was a focus on the apprentice applications – looking over the shortlisted candidates and making sure we’re ready for interviews in August. I had a great conversation with colleagues about how we will manage the induction of apprentices when they arrive – we’re using a trello board to collaborate on how we will do this and generate ideas together.

What I read last week

I didn’t write weeknotes last week as I was away on holiday (2) but I did read some good books including Modern Gods by Nick Laird, and also these beauties arrived. Thankyou Doteveryone!

Women invent the future anthology

Rob Miller published our three month update to board on HackIT as part of our committment to working in the open. And Lindsay blogged about building an MVP and the importance of retros . . .

This from Gary at the apprenticeship service was really useful thinking about building digital capability

View at Medium.com

And finally this via Helen Bevan

What I listened to

View at Medium.com

I’ve long been a fan of Tom Cox’s writing – heartily recommend 21st Century Yokel and so thought I’d give his radio playlist a go. There’s a brilliant monologue in it about forgiving wasps . . .

What I’ve been struggling with this week

(1)This is a new section I’m trying – in the spirit of reflecting on personal challenges. 5 weeks into a new role I’m struggling this week with my own frustration at my incomplete mental map of the organisation – the sort of map you carry in your head when you’ve worked somewhere for a while. You know who’s who, how to get things done and what the best route is to get there. Luckily my new colleagues are both super helpful and patient with my questions and I’ve needed to remind myself that 5 weeks is still early days . . .

(2) Norway, hiking. Beautiful and breathtaking, plus I got to swim in the fjords #lifegoal