Weeknotes 46: day by day, minute by minute*

My new lobster clock arrived this week!

This week I’m trying what should be a straightforward and intuitive approach — the daily breakdown. I used this format a lot when I first started writing weeknotes but I’m always worried about it becoming stale (and also very long if I documented everything everyday). So here’s a snapshot of my week:


Monday started with a swim (yay!) and then straight into a row of meetings.

I joined the contracts team for the weekly catch up so that we could discuss our priorities for the next quarter — these include replacing the sims in all of the tablets and ipads with a cheaper contract (this’ll save us a substantial amount of money), and working on our ‘printing as a service’ offer to staff so that we’re ready to re-procure that contract later this year. For both of these we’ve already done a discovery phase which has given us much better insight into the current service.

It was great to welcome Eko into the team, and also catch up with Karim who’s just been on a scrum master course with Tobias Mayer and come back full of ideas and raring to put them into practice.


On Tuesday I caught up with Nic, our Lead Delivery Manager and had a great chat about recruitment**, skills development, and the flow of work coming into the team. Later on we worked with our financial systems team to look at our user needs for both payment and managing income, finishing off the short discovery we’ve done over the past two weeks. I had some quiet desk time in the afternoon which meant I managed to catch up on a whole load of small things I’d promised to either do/send/read.


One Team Gov post-its

One Team Gov breakfast in Hackney — what a great start to the day this was. This was a bit of an experiment — would people want to come to Hackney, would the logistics work etc***. It was a great discussion — thank you to everyone who came and helped make it so. Rahma Mohamed wrote up some great notes from the discussion.

Talking of One Team Gov — James Reeve wrote this great piece on bureaucracy this week, and is proposing a bureaucracy hack (I am very excited by this idea), and it chimed really well with discussions I’ve been having with henry lewis, looking at how we can use used centred design and agile methods to improve our internal processes. It’s the sort of thing that, done badly (and we’ve all seen it done badly), distracts, de-energises and slows down teams, and makes them less productive. We’ve been thinking about this for ourselves at Hackney — governance so good, people prefer to use it.

The afternoon was mainly about show and tells — three very different projects, but all of them were informative, engaging and open. First up was Rahma Mohamed and Joanne Moore talking about the work they’re doing to iterate our Hackney Agile Lifecycle, then our adult social care colleagues who are working with Convivio Team on developing a directory of services. Finally our architecture and infrastructure colleagues showed us what they’ve been doing around single sign on for staff, which will make it much easier for us to access our work on any device, any time, securely.



As a public servant I want to understand Agile so that I can better manage complex change

I started to focus on how we’ll run our intro to agile course for the second time — we learnt a lot from the pilot, and this is our chance to make it even better. Matthew and I spent some time thinking about what the next most important things are we need to do so that we’re ready for the end of February. I spent some time with Hidayat, one of our delivery apprentices, helping him refine his trello board for our printing as a service project, thinking about the skills needed to writing great acceptance criteria and how he might structure the board so that the team can work more effectively together.

I also had a cup of tea with a colleague from our parking service, who wanted to know more about what we’re doing, how she might learn more about agile ways of working and what my job actually involves. I love talking to new people, and finding out more about what they’re thinking about, and I was able to point her in the direction of some further reading/thinking that she can do, and I’m going to organise for her to shadow some of the team as well.


I worked from home in the morning, and managed to write my application for the London Leadership programme. It’s a relatively new programme and something I’d really like to be part of, but it’s also really competitive (there’s only a couple of spaces per borough). Fingers crossed . . .

In the afternoon I had a few meetings, including catching up with Mal, one of the line managers of our apprentices. He can’t come to the retro I’m running on Monday to look at how we’re doing with our apprenticeship programme, from the line managers’ point of view. So we sat down together and chatted about his feedback — what’s working really well, what we need to focus on next, and what do we need to improve. Mal’s really proud of the work they’re doing in his team, and of being part of the programme, and he’s already thinking ahead to what happens next for this first cohort next year, and how we’ll help them move on to a job (either with us or somewhere else — success is progression on to the next thing).

What I read this week:

Louise Cato published the reading list we’d collated at bookcamp. I’ve started reading Radical Candor, and am really enjoying it.

View at Medium.com

I didn’t get to see Cassie Robinson. this week (we were meant to catch up but couldn’t) but I read this excellent piece from her on the Tech For Good movement:

View at Medium.com

*in all honesty the minute by minute bit of the title was an excuse to include a picture of the clock. Sorry — a totally gratuitous lobster reference.

**we’ve had a great response to our delivery ads, and are working our way through the shortlisting process. Am really looking forward to interviewing potential new team members.

***as ever I distracted myself from my nervousness by over catering. Deep down I firmly believe that if you get the food right very little can go wrong . . . this may or may not be true.

Weeknotes 45 – asking stretching questions

Winter Lights art festival @ Canary Wharf, London*

This week I thought I’d try using 4 of the questions from Sartori Labs as the basis for my weeknotes, to see what happens.

Satori labs 10 questions

What did I do today that I do every day?

This is a tough one – no two days are the same and there are lots of things I wish I did every day but I don’t. Most days I start by writing down the 3 things I want to focus on that day. I know that when I do that, I’m much more productive. But I still don’t do it every day. To answer the question though — asking questions when I don’t understand what’s being said.

What surprised me?

I surprised myself on Wednesday by feeling much more confident about presenting in public. Emilia had asked me to talk at the Crown Commercial Service buyers conference about Hackney’s use of Digital Marketplace and what we’ve learnt. I used it as an opportunity to also talk about the wider culture, behaviours and skills I think you need to be successful at procurement**. And thanks to Matthew’s help I’d made my content much more engaging.


What happened this week that gave me a glimpse of the future?

Our development team held a show and tell on the work they’ve been doing to put together our API hub. It was a great presentation and another really good example of how we’re working in the open.

On Friday the gov.pay team came in and talked to us about their product. We’ve been doing some collaborative discovery work about our user needs and pain points with our banking and finance systems teams in this area.

We know that a poor payment process affects how our users feel about a service, and that we’re not meeting all our user needs at the moment. There isn’t a magic answer to this – and we won’t get there in one go. The gov.pay team were great — really engaging and thoughtful.

What did I learn?

I like this question — it invites reflection. Every week I learn a lot. This week I started to read through this thread about managing your time – some great advice and tips:

and I really liked this reflective piece from Mathilde Collin:


GovCamp 2019

As always at events like this there were more sessions than I could go to, so there’s also a long list of things I missed out on. I went to some excellent sessions though — weeknotes, wardley mapping, delivery vs project manager (go Philippa Newis for pitching this one), book club, and user story mapping. I got to meet a whole host of new people, including the very lovely Audree Fletcher who’s kindly offered to come to Hackney to run a ‘write your very best user stories’ workshop in February.


I also liked this from Ben Holliday – there’s a real knack I think to asking the right questions at the right time, and in the right way.

And finally this from Catherine Howe – the challenge of how to work across disciplines. Thoughtful and useful.


*there’s no link to my weeknotes for this photo, I just really liked the photo. And the art trail.

* *and this week I got to meet another procurement hero davidkershaw . Yes I have procurement heroes. This is from David at GovCamp :

Weeknotes 44: New year, new formats

Walking to #oneteamgov on Wed through St James Park

It’s a new year and so I think time to see if there’s learning and benefit to be had from trying out some different weeknote formats. I tried a few when I first started but recently I’ve pretty much stuck to ‘5 things’ format – I like it and it works for me. But, over the next few weeks I’m challenging myself to try all of the suggestions in Sam Villis’s excellent blog post. First up is this one:

  • Good things
  • Learned things
  • Difficulties
  • Achievements

Good things

Lots of good things happened. On Monday we had another building an excellent delivery team session – Nic’s set these up to help the new and growing* team to come together, and to help us focus on where we want to improve our practice. I used the session to review how we’re running our service assessments and get feedback from the delivery managers on the experience. Really interesting range of views – which I’m planning a separate HackIT blog post about, but what stood out for me was a) the honesty and reflection from the team b) getting the balance right in assessments between support and challenge.

Service assessments — liked learned lacked — cluster post its.

On Wednesday I went to the One Team Gov breakfast in Westminster – a great set of discussions (as always), and I’ve started to think about what we’ll need to run the Hackney one on 23rd Jan successfully! I was introduced to the car park theory for teams — it’s really made me think about team shape and space in a different way.

View at Medium.com

I went from breakfast back to Hackney in time for a session with henry lewis and Kirstine, looking at the programme of work around how we can support staff better at Hackney. Together we created a high level roadmap for each product/service – it’s an ambitious programme and was really interesting for me to help facilitate the discussion. We talked a lot about team – how to create a collective sense of purpose when you’ve got a distributed team.

Learned things

I was lucky enough to get useful feedback this week from a range of different people. A couple of bits made me feel sad, but at the same time incredibly grateful. There are some behaviours I wish I was better at and I’m consciously trying to improve on, so whilst it was frustrating to know that I’d got it wrong this time it was equally important that I saw that so I could learn from it.

I read quite a bit this week including this from Jenny Vass which is really good advice to anyone thinking about a new role **

View at Medium.com

I finished Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming, a Christmas gift from a friend. Really worth reading — and a fascinating journey.


My personal trello board is still too focussed on to do lists — and I think probably needs a major reorganisation, so that I can see what the next most important thing is to focus on. I’m not sure how to approach it — so I’m still at the thinking stage.


I’ve managed to navigate a route to being able to advertise our roles on the Civil Service jobs site as loans, and the new roles went up on Wednesday. A couple of people have already been in touch as a result — this is ace.

I made space on Friday to think about priorities and goals for this quarter, and used Matthew Cain’s objectives and key results template to start mapping it out – I’ve got enough now to show the teams, so that we can have a discussion about what feels ambitiously manageable.

And I managed 2 swims this week – only 48 to go.


*we’re recruiting to new posts – http://hackit.org.uk/work-with-us/careers

** I’m not looking for a new role but did I mention we’re recruiting?

Weeknotes 43 – getting back into the swing of things

Like most people it was a short week this week, and a chance to catch up on things I’d put off till the New Year. I’d sensibly made myself some ‘do this today’ trello cards for key things coming up, and restarted my habit of reflecting about the ‘3 things I want to accomplish today’ before I open my inbox/slack/chat/twitter etc.

4 (great) things that happened this week:

  1. I drafted my slides for the Crown Commercial Service buyers conference that I’m speaking at in a couple of weeks time. Matthew gave me some great feedback on them that helped me improve them immensely, and I feel great that I’ve prepared in advance*.
  2. Not really work related but definitely great – my friend Susie started her 2019 project – Small Actions Today. I think this is an awesome reaction to feeling like it’s an increasingly depressing world and I’m really curious to see what happens to the project.
  3. After being pretty persistent – and asking ace people like James Arthur Cattell and John Fitzpatrick for advice and help, I’ve worked out how to advertise our short term** vacancies as loans on the civil service jobs site. I’m hoping that by doing this we can attract even more ace people to come and join us in 2019. We’ve got tons of interesting, innovative, challenging stuff to work on, and a genuinely brilliant team culture. Fingers crossed the first ads will go up next week.
  4. First swim of 2019, on my first day back. Can I manage 51 more? After a successful run up to Christmas where I managed a swim a week, I’m setting myself a 2019 challenge. Once a week, every week.

What I read this week:

This from Janet Hughes before Christmas is a really good guide to blogging:


A great first set of weeknotes from Carolyn Parker


which reminded me of this great post from Sam Villis


I’m promising myself I’ll try some new weeknotes styles this year.

and finally I really liked Louise Cato’s thoughtful first weeknote of 2019


*failing to prepare ahead of time/not giving myself enough time is still (one of) my Achilles heels, one of those lessons I’m possibly doomed to learn again and again. Not this time though, oh no.


**up to two years

Weeknotes 42: as 2018 comes to an end . . .

5 great things that happened this week*

  1. Stephen and I put together some slides to explain our approach to improving the way we manage contracts and plan our commissioning longer term. Stephen, Karim and Jacky have done a great job of pulling together the data we need so that we can plan ahead.

We’re working out how we can best support our contract managers so that they can be as effective as possible. Taking the approach of starting with user need we’re asking them some confidence questions – as in, how confident do you feel about:

  • Good procurement practice — setting yourself up to succeed
  • Onboarding a supplier — getting the commercial details and relationship set up right
  • Managing the contractual obligations — securing best value and outcomes
  • Measuring performance of a contract — building effective supplier relationships/knowing what good looks like
  • Realising the benefits — knowing what difference we’re making for our users
  • Planning ahead — knowing what we need in the future

We think that knowing the answers will help us target the right support at the right people to help us become more skilled across the teams.


2. We held our first DeliverWeek – it was an MVP to see what value we could generate for ourselves and others. James Arthur Cattell and Rich Blake both held great sessions with us (thankyou both), and as a team we spent time thinking about some key agile ceremonies and how we might improve how we run and use them.

3. I finally realised a long held aim to host a OneTeamGov event in Hackney (Thanks Jenny Vass for the prompt and James Arthur Cattell for the help). I would love to see more local gov participation in OneTeamGov so I’m hoping it’ll be a great discussion.


4. There’s been quite a focus on our apprentice programme this week. On Tuesday we had a meet up with employers and apprentice providers hosted at Amazon with Hackney’s employment pathways team. We’re looking at how we can develop a network of local apprenticeship opportunities that supports small employers in Hackney and creates opportunities for local people. I facilitated one of the breakout sessions – we had a really interesting discussion from across a range of interests.

Notes from the session. I really want one of these glass boards for our office . . .

Two of our apprentices — Nana and Micah, talked about their experiences with us so far, and the importance of the line manager and buddy roles in supporting them.

The next day Amazon hosted our apprentices for a day of talks, workshops and inspiration. An amazing experience for them all – which focussed on building the skills they need to have a successful digital career.

5. We ran our 5th service assessment – this time on the improvements we’re making to our pay my rent service. Emma and the Orange Maple team had prepped really well, and Ian Ames came to give us an external perspective and challenge. His feedback made my heart sing – everything I’ve been hoping we can achieve in developing our governance as a service by using the local digital service standard and a robust but supportive assessment process.

In January we’re going to have a team review of all 5 assessments – how can we improve how we’re running them, what are we learning, how is it helping the teams and most importantly – the services we’re building.


What I read this week

I really liked this from David Kershaw – particularly the multi disciplinary approach which is one I’ve been taking with some key contracts.

And this from the ace Rebecca Kemp – on working responsibly


This from @jukesie on alphas was interesting


and this from Paul Downey on approaches to roadmaps (I also like this from Eleanor Mollett:


*technically a fortnight. and this is it from me for 2018, am taking a break from weeknotes now till January.


Weeknotes 41: how to . . .

Last week was a very full on week, with new challenges, and lots of thinking about how to do things . . . (and do them well).

So, 5 great things that happened:

  1. I did some public speaking – in front of a lot of people. And it went well*. I was super nervous, but
  • I’d given myself time to prepare
  • I got there in time to listen to the previous speakers (it really helps I think to connect what you’re saying to what the audience has been hearing and thinking about beforehand)
  • I remembered (mostly) to breathe

Importantly though Paul Maltby is always fab to chat with, which also made it fun (once it started)

2. Matthew Cain and I delivered our pilot intro to agile course to 7 key colleagues this week. It was tiring but rewarding – and culminated in a show and tell created in an hour by the participants about what they’d learnt, and what they’re going to do next. The content is open source, and we’ll be iterating and improving it when we run it again in January.

Our fab participants delivering their show and tell to quite the crowd

3. On Tuesday Hackney hosted a Winter Warmer event for older residents – Jasmine had arranged for some of us to spend time there, with users, talking to them about their needs. It was great to meet a range of people, help them with some of their tech problems, and talk to them about if/how they use Hackney services online.

User research is a team sport

4. I had a great call with Joash and Nicola from Amazon about plans for the event next week. This is with Hackney employers, looking at apprenticeships and growing digital skills in the borough. I’ve volunteered to support the facilitators of the breakout sessions with some ideas and resources — I’m suggesting the 1–1–2–4 all approach from liberating structures as a way to include everyone in the discussion.

5. On Friday we spent the day at Amazon’s new headquarters in Shoreditch with some of the team thinking about what we need to do next to embed, share and improve some of our emerging custom and practice. I’d woken up with a cold, so wasn’t feeling at 100% but the energy and commitment in the room to delivering real value to users was brilliant, and made for a great end to the week.

How to HackIT

Note: I also had major stationary cupboard envy.


What I read this week:

This was ace from Catherine Howe on focus and flow, and finding our hum


This from Gavin Beckett on his view of what’s happening across local government (disclaimer: Hackney features heavily 😉 ):


and I really liked this from Adur and Worthing on how they’ve been changing their approach to how they work


*by well I mean I think I made sense, didn’t gabble, and got across what I wanted to say. And got in a plug for #weeknotes.


Weeknotes 40: bumper edition

I didn’t write any actual weeknotes last week — instead I had a go at writing This is how I work . . . give or take. I had some lovely feedback to that blog post both from colleagues at Hackney and wider. There’s a collection of them here if you’re interested:


Now I’m attempting to squish two weeks into one, with 6 (great) things that happened this fortnight.

  1. We published two more service assessments. This is brilliant for lots of reasons. We’d committed to running 5 before the end of December and then reviewing our approach as part of how we’re approaching governance as a service. We’ve run 4 so far so we’re doing well. One of the teams decided to take a different approach to how they prepared and demonstrated their evidence which was ace because it means we’ve tried something different. We had external assessors from GLA and LGSS (thanks Michelle and Josie), and we’ve iterated how we brief assessors so that we support them better. Lastly — publishing them is part of our commitment to working in the open — which I’m really passionate about. Kahar and I had a brilliant chat with Hattie from BEIS about what it’s like to be a GDS assessor so that we could glean some top tips from her on what a great service assessment feels like as an assessor. In December we’re running our final one of the five, and then as a team we’re going to review and iterate how we organise, run and publish them in 2019.


2. I spent the day at MCHLG’s ‘vendor declaration project co-design day’ with a host of interesting and engaged people — looking at how we might design ways for suppliers to support the local digital declaration.

3. We kick started our discovery into printing as a service – we’re looking at how we’re currently using our multi functional devices across the council. This sprint we’re planning out our user research and looking at the data we have already. This is part of how as a team I want us to approach procurement and contract management — using agile methods and a user centred approach to join up the skills and knowledge in different teams to problem solve.

4. I worked with Emilia, Chris and Warren to pull together our discovery bid for the MHCLG local digital fund – looking at how we might build capability in digital commissioning and supplier relationship management. Fingers crossed we’re successful. As a team at Hackney we’re either leading or partnering on several bids – it’s been great to see so many people collaborating on shared problems. Esko Reinikainen and his team have produced an interesting network map from the data published so far:


5. Matthew Cain and I spent time prepping for the agile training we’re running this week. I think it’s shaping up really well, but it’s still an experiment in time/content/effort/participation* which won’t necessarily all work perfectly first time (and that’s ok). We’ve also roped in some colleagues to help us deliver it (thanks in advance to Rahma Mohamed Philippa, Nic, Emma and Marian.)


6. Our apprenticeship programme is coming together nicely – all 21 have started now and we’re working closely with the 3 training providers to make sure they’re up and running on working towards their qualifications. This week two apprentices have gone to work for a couple of hours a day with adult social care on a data project – it’s been great to be able to help out another team and it’ll give Bruno and Micah a really good insight into that service, spend some time with users and understand more about how the team uses data and evidence to design services for the future. Philip Glanville the Mayor of Hackney, came to meet the teams this week – and spoke passionately about creating apprenticeship opportunities in the borough. I’ve also been working with Amazon to design a wider building a digital career event for our apprentices in December and Hackney and Amazon are also jointly hosting an event for local employers in a couple of weeks:

Philip Glanville talking to some of our apprentices

What I read this week:

Hattie gave me a link to a great post about seeing feedback as a gift:


and Richard McLean pointed me in the direction of this (which reminded me to finish reading Accelerate**).


Cassie Robinson. wrote weeknotes about her new role – I really liked their open, iterative approach to what they’re doing:


and this just made me laugh out loud***.

Last but not least this – a sensible and clearly written reminder about how users see services:


*I was distracted by the new Jack Reacher book. I know.

**this includes a big tin of good biscuits and decent coffee.


Weeknotes 39: This is how I work… give or take

Location: London. I really love living and working in London. 
Current Gig: Head of Delivery for ICT, London Borough of Hackney 
Current mobile device: iphone 8
Current computer: Ipad (work) and a MacBook Air (home). We have chrome boxes on the desks as well.
One word that best describes how you work: openly

First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I have an undergraduate degree in Dutch. Yes that’s right. I started out in publishing as a typesetter and print manager*, then moved into media handling and website management in my first government role at OfTel (now OfCom). I worked at the Local Government Commission for England as the Head of PR and Communications where I collaborated with the University of London Computer Centre and Ordnance Survey on some very early online mapping of ward boundaries. After that I worked at the Cabinet Office — government comms standards and communities, Home Office — corporate comms, and at Acas as Head of Communications. Those last 3 jobs I job shared with the awesome Michelle Bayley, a brilliantly effective partnership, and hopefully in a ‘role model for a younger generation of working parents’ sort of way. All things comes to an end eventually though and I moved on to develop and lead Acas’ digital innovation team. And now I’m at Hackney.

Take us through a recent workday.

I tend to be up at 0630 and out of the door by 0700. I catch the train to Hackney Central and am at my desk around 0800. Once a week I get up earlier and swim first at London Fields Lido. Having the lido behind the office is an enormous joy. I usually check my diary on the way to work to scan what I need to focus on that day and answer any straightforward emails.

When I get to the office I try to write out my daily goals before I do anything else. I don’t always succeed. This is something that I learnt from reading Getting results the agile way, by J.D Meier. When I do remember/make time to do this it’s really helpful — and at the end of the week I check back to see how I’ve done against them.

Most days are a mix of conversations, meetings and reading/writing. We have show and tells for our projects and I try to make sure that I get to as many as possible each week — they’re the best way for me to know what’s happening each sprint and hear from the teams about how it’s going. I also have regular chats with my team, and with Rob, Henry and Matthew so that we’re making sure we’re keeping in touch about what we’re doing and sharing ideas. We all work openly which I think really helps to foster collaboration and also useful challenge. And we hot desk — the advantage for me is that I sit next to different people all the time, and that generates interesting conversations too.

I try to make sure that I spend some time outside at lunchtime — I’d love to be someone who brought their own lunch but I’ve never really managed it.


I also try to schedule in some keep free time so that I can focus on longer term projects and plan ahead. In the afternoons sometimes I’ll sit in a beanbag rather than a desk, especially if there’s a sunny patch near a window**.

By 1730 I’m usually on my way home or out to a yoga class. The train journey home is useful for catching up on emails/reading.

I started writing weeknotes earlier this year and I’m finding them a great way to reflect on my week, and work more openly.

What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?

My phone

Sharpies and post its. I know it’s a cliche.

Apps: Monzo.

What’s your best shortcut or life hack?

I’m not sure. Life is very busy most of the time so I probably have lots that I don’t even realise I’m doing. We have a family what’s app group that’s a really useful way to quickly sort out family admin/plans/find out where everyone is. Work wise I’d say it’s applying the so that? to any request for a thing/meeting, it never fails to start a good conversation.

Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.

Our online HR system has two separate log ins depending on if you’re doing something for yourself or something as a manager. So if you’re authorising someone’s leave, and that reminds you to book your own you have to log out and log back in again separately. I’m not sure what the user need is behind that, but it is finicky. ***

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

Trello. My Calendar. And in my head.

What’s your favourite side project?

ThisGirlTechs. I’m working on this with Gurpreet Sehmi and Christina Hammond-Aziz which is awesome in itself. We want to inspire disadvantaged girls into digital and tech roles by connecting opportunities we can generate through our networks to year 10 girls looking for work experience. I think we’ve just signed up our first pilot school which is very exciting.

What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?

Fiction wise – I’ve just finished A line becomes a river, by Francisco Cantù. Beautifully written, and informative.

Work wise – I recommend anything written by Janet Hughes, Kit Collingwood or Richard McLean and in terms of books I’m currently reading Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren and Jez Humble.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

I’d like to see more people working in local authorities writing about what they’re doing generally.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Be bold. Thanks Janet.

*a mix of Terry Pratchett books and Cats and Kitten in Counted Cross Stitch. I kid you not.

** I know this makes me sound a bit like a cat. Light is really important to me so come winter I try to find as many opportunities as possible to be in sunshine.

***writing this I am now worried that this will turn out to be user error and someone will point out a really obvious shortcut I haven’t spotted.

Weeknotes 38: learning from others, shared experiences

I wrote most of these weeknotes whilst it poured with rain outside. Winter is here and I can sense that the dark mornings and evenings already have the potential to have an effect on my general well being*. There’s also been sunshine too though:

6 (great) things that happened this week:

  1. A group of us from Hackney went to the Diversity in Digital event at Parliament. There were some ace speakers on a variety of subjects, and I saw Jenny Vass and Nour Sidawi and Julie Byrne which was fabulous.

2. Britt and Diane from Food Standards Agency invited me along to their digital strategy workshop, as an external participant/observer, along with Emma Stace. It was really interesting to learn more about FSA’s challenges and think about how they might move forward as a team.

3. Kahar drafted a great MVP guide for assessors ** at Hackney (we’re using the excellent GDS guidance as our starting point — standing on the shoulders of giants. We’re testing it out next week with two separate service assessments. Assessing our work against the Digital Service Standard is a key part of our governance as a service — an opportunity for the team to share learning, discuss challenges, and provide assurance that we are building the right things, to the right standard, in the right way. Simply put — they’re a way of answering the question “How’s it going?”.

4. On Wednesday Stephen, Karim, Jackie and I (aka the contracts team) spent time with Steven from Camden talking about mobile data and print contracts. We were effectively sucking all the knowledge and recent experience from him so that we can learn from Camden’s recent successes in both of these areas. There’s lots to think about as well as opportunities for improvement in the way we provide these services at Hackney. Overall on contracts and procurement we’re taking an agile, user centred design approach to thinking about future services. Our plan is to work through an internal discovery process on key services before starting any new procurement — this month it’s our multi functional devices***. In 3 two week sprints as a cross functional team we’re going to learn more about our current service, our users needs and what the data is telling us at the moment. We think there’ll be improvements we can make to the current service as we go, as well as learning more about what’s needed in the future.

5. On Thursday Keith, our lead architect, ran an open session with his team to present the high level network design . This was a really good session, and a great example of why we open up our work to external challenge at an early stage so that we can iterate and improve. He’d invited a range of people — from other local authorities and other industries, and there were thoughtful questions and discussions as a result. I was quietly pleased to understand almost all of the conversation (there were some quite technical moments) — it’s not my background or area of expertise by any means but I’ve been reading widely, and asking questions at every opportunity so that I can learn more about it.

Keith outlining his teams‘ high level network design

6. Our regular HackIT team strategy stand up was so popular I had to peer from the back — Rashmi and her team along with Made Tech sharing their work on our APIs.

What I read this week:

This from Jonathan Kerr, I really liked this format and Dan Barrett mentioned me in his as well:


Challenge accepted. This from Amanda was excellent:


This from Alex Mecklenburg — I worked with Doteveryone in my last role at Acas on the pilot and it’s great to see the format iterate and develop:


Philippa Newis wrote a great blog about whe she wanted to join HackIT:


and Gill from our design team wrote a really useful blog post about our recent empathy lab pop up:


*this happens every year and I manage it through a combination of plenty of outdoor exercise, a light box and a Lumie light alarm clock.


**feedback on these would be awesome

***printers . . .

Weeknotes 37: the power of productive conversations

I’ve had some really productive conversations this week, where setting the conversation up with the right people, a clear outcome, and early shared understanding of the reason we’re talking has meant we’ve been able to move forward on work at pace.

5 (great) things (conversations) that happened this week:

  1. Martin Chaney and David Durant asked me over to the GLA to be part of one their service assessments. It was really good to see the approaches the GLA team are taking and an opportunity for me to learn from other teams, and think about the sorts of questions an external assessor can usefully ask. Plus — seriously they have an amazing view:

Tower Bridge at night

2. Rob Miller and I had a great conversation with Sarah Gornall, who I’m doing some coaching with as I navigate my role. I’ve worked with Sarah before, and she is awesome. Having a joint conversation really helped to set up an open and honest discussion of what I want to get from the coaching, and what benefits it will bring to HackIT.

3. I had several brilliant conversations about Governance as a service this week. First with with Rashmi, our lead developer to find out more about our API standards, and Hackney development playbook. Both of these are looking great and they’re a key part of how we’re approaching governance as a service.

Then with Ste from Citizens Advice who’d read my original blog post. We talked about everything from team empowerment to running effective meetings to Catwigs*. And finally with Warren and Emilia from GDS/Crown Commercial Service who are doing really exciting work about the bigger procurement/commercial skills picture. We’re collaborating with them both on an MCHLG local digital fund bid – a Discovery phase to understand how we might build capability in digital commercial, procurement and contract/supplier relationship management across local government. **

4. Emma Harley gave a lightening talk at MCHLG on the work we’re doing on Submit my plan. The team’s show and tell was also this week – featuring brilliant collaboration and innovation with our GIS team and our planners.


Love the innovative use of lockers to display the user journey too, which generated a good conversation about what decisions the team have made this sprint and why:

submit my plan user journey on the best bit of space available

5. Rob Miller, Joe and I chatted about the 2018 ICT survey results in more detail — and thought about what we wanted to analyse further. We need to balance what we’re just curious about against what analysis of the data will really help us move forward, and help us have useful conversations with colleagues about where we should focus next. Joe’s done some great visualisations already which we can use to start those conversations over the next few weeks.

What I read this week

This from Cassie Robinson. looking innovatively at increasing public engagement with health research:


and this from Prateek Buch on using agile principles for leadership


This from Mark Schwartz on anti-patterns — IT mental models and traditional behaviors that just don’t work well in the digital era. I particularly love the names they’ve been given . . .


Thankfully here are the potential anti dotes in the follow up blog:


*a set of cards designed to help you think about your project, not the apparent thing that is wigs for cats.

**talking of which, I’m running an experimental Wardley mapping session in December to see if we can use it to better understand our skills landscape and work out where we need to focus on building new skills in HackIT so that we are able to deliver in the future. If you’re interested** and want to help us give me a shout.

***there will be tea and cake involved.