Weeknotes 31: working with effective networks

This week has been a busy week and out of the office quite a bit. Out and about included my first visit to #localgovcamp, our quarterly management meeting, this time at Stoke Newington Town Hall, and a Hackney leaders network event.

So, 6 great things that happened this week:

  1. Local gov camp. Lots of energy, great talks, met loads of people who I’d been following on Twitter, heard mentioned by my colleagues, or had already met at One Team Gov. Nic, Emma and Richard hosted great sessions on the work we’re doing in Hackney on user research library, project pipeline and planning. There were loads of interesting sessions, to mention a few: Lizzi Standing ran a great session about #weeknotes which I think has inspired several people to start writing and generated a good discussion about working in the open. Esko from Satori labs ran a session on network mapping which sparked all sorts of interesting thoughts about how we might use this at Hackney, and Ian and Belen from FutureGov ran an engaging session about the digital academy work they’re doing with Essex.

2. I ran a workshop in the office around our learning and development strategy* with team leaders at the start of the week, asking ourselves three questions: What’s my role as a leader in embedding a learning culture? How do we develop a future leadership pipeline and then nurture it? What are my needs as a leader? I used the liberating structures 1–2–4-all method to make sure that we generated good discussion and ideas. At the end we all committed to 3 micro-actions we would take next.

3. Paul and I wrote a brief together for a small project for a group of our new apprentices to take forward: how might we creatively play back our internal customers’ experiences of our service so that we can use the insights to improve how we deliver those services. We’re trying to be clear about the ‘what’ we want to achieve so that we can leave the ‘how’ to the team who’ll deliver it. It was great to work with Paul on something practical that the apprentices can make their own.

4. I spoke at our senior leaders network meeting about our digital apprenticeship programme, alongside Alex who looks after Hackney’s overall apprenticeship programme. I was quite nervous – it’s a big room of senior people, some of whom I know but most I don’t yet. But – I was well prepared, and we have a really good story to tell so it went well.**


5. Our quarterly management meeting this week was great – a really good discussion about what we want to achieve in the next 3 months, and a chance to share what we’ve been working on with each other.

6. Final swim #8 of 8. I’ve really enjoyed it each week so – I’m setting myself a new goal: can I swim every week up until Xmas? That’s (only) 13 swims. . . .but it’s getting colder.

What I’m reading this week

I’m still reading Leadership on the Line, which is very good, and also a new novel by Tim Winton (also v good).

Tim Winton, The Shepherd’s Hut

* Jessica Brown will recognise this format, because I’ve basically taken and then built on the ace work she did at Acas 👍

**that is apart from my seeming inability to do simple maths whilst under pressure.

Weeknotes 30: From snowflakes to insects

Thought of the week — from Tobias Mayer. In his ‘The retrospective is now’ essay he puts forward a different take on Norm Kerth’s Prime Directive on retrospectives:

We are emotional and vulnerable beings, subject to a continuous flow of influences from a myriad of sources. Sometimes we perform magnificently; other times we mess up. Mostly we are somewhere between these extremes. In this last period of work everyone did what they did, and likely had reasons for doing so. Accept what is. And now, what can we learn from our past actions and thinking that will inform and guide our future ones?

6 (great) things that happened this week

  1. We’ve agreed to take on 21 apprentices, instead of 18. This is awesome news and I blogged about it more here.
  2. Riccardo published the first elements on our pattern library. I’m really proud of the pattern library built at Acas and really pleased that we’re doing the same at Hackney.

3. Lindsay from our infrastructure team gave a really engaging and informative session to colleagues about serverless computing. Using a snowflake, pets, cattle, chickens, insects analogy which made it really very simple to follow and gave me the interesting title for this week’s weeknotes. Lindsay also took the opportunity to tell us about the work his teams been doing in this area — I’m hoping he’ll blog about it too. This link covers the same ground if you’re interested . . .

The pets and cattle analogy demonstrates how serverless fits into the software infrastructure landscape

4. We’ve been working with Rainmaker Solutions on developing the local government pipeline, building on the work that #localgovdigital did. It’s still in development but it’s open for anyone to have a look at here. Nic, our lead delivery manager is demoing it at#localgovcamp next week so that we get a chance to show what we’re working on to colleagues from across local government.

5. Thinking back to my gremlins in weeknotes 28, I did a lot of work to better understand and be able to track the data on one of the projects I’m working on. And as a result feel much more confident about tracking success.

6. Swim 7 of 8. still brilliant, far fewer people (it was raining).*


What I read this week

One Team Gov published their goals for the year — def well worth a read, and I’m now thinking about how we can contribute to them through the work we’re doing at Hackney.

This blog series about Canada’s Free Agents from Abe Greenspoon was honest, clear and interesting. And links directly to One Team Gov goals.

The pets and cattle analogy demonstrates how serverless fits into the software infrastructure landscape

And this from Mark Schwartz — why it’s a hypothesis not a requirement, and the link between agile principles and servant leadership:

The pets and cattle analogy demonstrates how serverless fits into the software infrastructure landscape

*I also swam on Sunday, as had I visitors who’d heard me talk about how lovely it was and demanded to be taken. But, using the same logic as before, that is still not swim no8.

Weeknotes 29: connecting people

I’ve spent time this week connecting people to other people, who are working on similar things. It’s felt really satisfying, and as though I’m beginning to find my way around the organisation.

5 (great) things that happened this week

  1. A small internal project team got together to work on a shared problem, and gracefully allowed me to work with them to plan it out as an agile project*. They took a bit of a leap of faith with me, that by doing it this way we could deliver something of value quickly. I really enjoyed it — and it’s working.
  2. Swim(s) 6 and 6.1 of 8. Yes that’s right, I went twice. **
  3. I met colleagues in our legal department to talk about how we can help them use user journey mapping to better understand a problem. The workshop is next week and I’m looking forward to seeing the outcomes.
  4. I worked on developing our apprenticeship programme — meeting Andrew and Alex from Employment Pathways, thinking about the first few networking events we’ve set up, and I also met Jack Graham who gave me insight into the work Year Here are doing, and intros into local orgs who are working on inspiring women into tech roles.
  5. I asked for help with analysing and visualising our ICT survey data later this month — and several colleagues immediately got in touch offering to show me how to do things I wouldn’t know how to do otherwise.


Also — coming up

Richard, our lead user researcher has organised for the next cross govt user research meet up to be at Hackney, the first at a local authority. The theme is ‘Making user research safe for participants and researchers’.

Cross-government user research meetups

What I read this week:

Finally finished Tobias Mayer’s book of blogs/essays The People’s Scrum. Thoughtful and thought provoking essays.

I particularly liked the essay called ‘Don’t have meetings’ . . .

Scrum is centered on people, and people have conversations. There are conversations to plan, conversations to align, and conversations to reflect. We have these conversations at the appropriate times, and for the approrpiate durations to inform our work. If we don’t have these conversations, we won’t know what we are doing (planning), we won’t know where we are going (alignment) and we’ll keep repeating the same mistakes (reflection).

Rahma Mohamed ‘s weeknotes on the work she’s doing on two of our key projects.

And Gavin Beckett’s reflections on his One Team Gov , which reminded me that I haven’t written mine, yet.

Cross-government user research meetups

*3 sprints of a week each, on a visible wall. I used my BIG post its, a gift from Rebecca Kemp (she knew they’d come in useful in my new job).

**But after some discussion it has been decided that it doesn’t count as number 7.


Weeknotes 28: data, and more data

A short(ish) weeknote this week (to reflect the short week!)

Thought for the week — courtesy of Studs Terkel

5 (great) things that happened this week

(NB loads of good things happened — this is just a sample)

  1. We’ve made offers to all 18 apprentices now — which means that very soon we’re going to have an influx of new talent and energy. Am really looking forward to meeting them all — and there’s a real sense of excitement across all the teams about doing the best we can to induct them well, and get them off to a good start. I spent some time this week thinking about how we can support managers with this.
  2. I learnt more about how our mobile data contract works than I thought I would at the start of the week, including meeting our suppliers, reading through lots of background material and learning loads from Steve about the art of the possible. I’ve also had the chance to work closely with Steve all week on a range of various things, which has been great as we’re both new to Hackney, and working our way into our roles.
  3. I went for swim 5 of 8 at the lido. In the rain (which was actually kind of magical).


4. We finalised the ICT survey 2018 questions — it’s ready to go out next week and I think we’re asking the right questions that will help us innovate and improve. It’s been great to work on this over the past couple of weeks as it’s helped me also think about our impact measures.

5. I spent time with Sonia, Hackney’s Head of Policy and Partnerships — learning about the work of her and her team. I heard her talk at an event about the work she’s doing on inclusive leadership — something I’m also interested in, so it was good opportunity to discuss how we might collaborate.

What I read this week

This via a friend who’s used it really effectively in the NHS and was raving about it:

Stop Counterproductive Activities and Behaviors to Make Space for Innovation

I also like that it suggests using the 1–2–4-all method of incuding everyone in the room.


This from Ben Holliday on different trypes of maps is really helpful.


Via Glynn Jones on twitter — I was reminded of this excellent blog post about boldness from Janet Hughes


and finally I loved this from David Venturi, via Steve Messer’s brilliantly titled weeknotes — a data scientists’ approach to ranking data science courses.


What I struggled with this week

There was a lot of data and maths stuff this week. I have to remind myself that I can work with both, really effectively. And kick against my default belief (long held and powerful) that I can’t.