Weeknotes 51 – what happened this week?

One of those weeks with much variety, some great conversations and value delivered in lots of places.

6 (great) things that happened:

picture of the primary school where I’m chair of governors (jobshare)
  1. I spent a couple of hours at the school where I’m chair of governors*, reviewing the headteachers performance against 3 key objectives. This is a really thorough process every six months, and we have support from our improvement partner to make sure that as a governing body we get it right. It’s really useful to see how objectives, impact and outcomes are described and measured in a different context to the one I work in normally, and just how much emphasis is (rightly) put on delivering the right outcomes for the children.

2. Kylie Havelock invited me to an awayday for the customer journey team at Citizen’s Advice to talk about the work we’re doing and how we’re approaching it at Hackney. As always I was v nervous** (I wonder if that ever goes away – and maybe it doesn’t and that’s ok too), but I gave myself time to prepare content that met the brief, asked for help from Matthew Cain and it went well. One thing that I did during the presentation was have a pause for a conversation – and that worked. These are my slides if you’re interested.


3. Chidi led a show and tell on the work the infrastructure team have been doing to redesign our low level network. I now know what that means, because the team did a great job of explaining it – and in explaining what they’re going to deliver for Hackney. It was clear the team themselves had learnt a lot about working together, and designing for the future.

Chidi presenting on Hackney’s low-level network design

4. On Friday I went to the One Team Gov discovery event on leadership development. This gave me an opportunity to hear from a wide range of people about talent management, leadership schemes and how and why you might want (or not want) to focus on potential. I really liked Audree Fletcher’s analysis of the core elements of various schemes that are available, and in particular the idea of developing your own personal board. A group of people that you trust and admire who you can check in with, get advice from and discuss ideas with. I realised as she was talking that I’ve done that (you know who you are and thank you) – and how valuable it is.

It also made me think about (and talk about) the importance of teams, and the dangers of hero leadership. I think that the teams and the culture that people find themselves working in is as important (if not more important) to how they thrive than someone’s leadership potential (and I’m still not sure how you measure that). I wonder what a team development scheme might look like . . .

View at Medium.com
View at Medium.com

6. Dan Barrett wrote two blog posts this week about talking about data. This is fab because he is a great writer, and I think if anyone outside my immediate colleagues can help me understand data better, and why it’s important to talk about it, it will be him. Also he is totally ok with eating dessert in the sunshine when it’s not part of a meal, just because we can.

View at Medium.com

6. Stephen, Karim, Eko and Jackie piloted their process for swapping the SIM cards out on all the tablets/iPads we have across the council. Their persistence and planning paid off – with over 70 sims swapped in the first few hours, and they’ve used that experience to review and iterate the approach so that next week it goes even more smoothly. This project is delivering value already – each sim swapped out will save us 2/3rds of the cost of the original, and we’re helping users manage their devices better as well.

What I read this week:

View at Medium.com

I thought this was an interesting blog post from the Canadian Digital Service (CDS) about bringing policy and digital together to solve problems.

And these weeknotes from Hidayat Deen — great to see him writing these regularly.

View at Medium.com

What I learnt this week:

I wasn’t all that well this week which meant that I needed to slow down a bit, do less, and recover.***

Whilst that was frustrating it did mean that I had to really think about what the priorities were this week and what I could let go of. This from Oliver Burkeman on Saturday was timely:

View at Medium.com

*I’m currently job sharing this role – having been chair for over 10 years, I’m stepping back gradually. So far this arrangement is working well – and means my co-chair gets to try out the role with the support of someone experienced.

**my New Years resolution was to say yes to invites like this and then worry about being nervous. It’s working so far 😉. This advice helped:

View at Medium.com

***I’m really not very good at this.

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 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 35: testing assumptions

It’s been a week of trying new things, and seeing what works, and using data to test what we think we know. Another busy week, but one where I managed to mostly get my diary right*.

So 6 (great) things that happened:

  1. I worked with Joe, the data scientist in our team to a) write up the main results of our ICT survey and b) define the first few questions we’re going to ask of the data we’ve got — so that Joe can do some amazingly clever things to visualize the answers. I’m so grateful to be working with someone who’s really expert in what they do — and I’m learning loads from him. The data team generally are doing awesome things — check out this blog post from Sandrine:


2. We ran the second service assessment — this time on a service we’re building to manage repairs. It went well — the team were confident and engaged, the assessors asked pertinent questions, and provided good feedback. The team (Unboxed and Hackney working together) have done regular, informative and open show and tells which has really helped. I think the team felt that it was a positive experience (at least that’s what they said when I asked . . .) Last week we ran a service assessment on our managing rent arrears service— you can see the report here. Next week we’re going to run a reflection session to see what we’ve learnt so far, and generate ideas about how we might improve how we’re doing them. We have 3 more service assessments in the pipeline, and I’m keen that we iterate and reflect as we go.

3. I met up with Richard McLean which was awesome. A brilliant chat about all sorts of things governance and culture related which has inspired me to think more about how we’ll know if our approach to governance is working. Sadly I didn’t get to see Dan Barrett and Sam Villis at their meet up, poor co-ordination on my part 😦 .

4. I spent some time on Friday working on the intro course on Agile, Lean start up and user centred design that Matthew Cain and I are collaborating on. We have our first 8 participants signed up, and we’re running it for 3 hours on 3 consecutive days, testing our assumption that busy people can commit to that stretch of time each day. Whilst doing some research for it I found Taiichi Ohno’s ten precepts, which really appealed to me:

You are a cost. First reduce waste.

First say, “I can do it.” And try before everything.

The workplace is a teacher. You can find answers only in the workplace.

Do anything immediately. Starting something right now is the only way to win.

Once you start something, persevere with it. Do not give up until you finish it.

Explain difficult things in an easy-to-understand manner. Repeat things that are easy to understand.

Waste is hidden. Do not hide it. Make problems visible.

Valueless motions are equal to shortening one’s life.

Re-improve what was improved for further improvement.

Wisdom is given equally to everybody. The point is whether one can exercise it.

5. Hidayat, Emma and Sam organised and ran a marketplace stall alongside ICT colleagues as part of the Chief Exec’s roadshows — we’d sort of thrown them into the deep end as they’ve only just started with us, and they did a brilliant job. We also used the opportunity to support Good Things Foundation #getonlineweek and to talk to colleagues about their use of Google (we’ve rolled this out across Hackney Council over the summer).

a picture of our ICT stand

6. We had several great show and tells this week – including one from our IT security colleagues all about the work they’re doing to keep our systems and our data secure and safe and one from Ayup and London Borough of Kingston about their work on social prescribing.

Mac and Keith and all things security.

What I read this week:

Two blog posts from Matt Edgar — both of them about asking the right questions, and empowering teams to ask them too.

“the moment we start prescribing policies and freezing repeatable business processes, we limit the capacity of those involved to add the human value that comes from being, well, people-centred in the first place”


This from Coco Chan about #silentcamp was excellent:


And also this from Giles Turnbull — great advice:

*right = balanced, paced and time to think between meetings. And time for exercise built in which is really important to me, to enable sustainable effort.


Weeknotes 34: the (empowered) team is the unit of delivery

This week has been an awesome* week, where loads of great stuff happened with various teams – and I think I balanced work/home/life pretty well. Those weeks don’t happen very often — and when they do I think we should celebrate them.

So — 5 great things that happened this week

This is possibly one of the best stickers ever. #DeliverCon18 — Gather.
  1. We went to #DeliverCon18*. We, being the delivery team, including our new apprentices Hidayat and Emma, and our newest team member (so new she hasn’t started yet) Philippa Newis. It was a great gathering of agile delivery managers from across government, sharing tips, ideas and thoughts in a really well organised unconference. Well done Ian Ames, James Arthur Cattell and all the volunteers who made it happen. There were some brilliant sessions — including one pitched by Hidayat that Beverly Byford from DWP Digital wrote up here:


Nic and I both gave lightning talks — Nic on pipeline and me on Governance so good, people prefer to use it. Both went well – and we got lots of questions and interest afterwards.

2. The small team who’ve been looking at our mobile data contract got together for a last sprint planning session. We’re tying everything up now — documenting the processes we’ve come up with, and making sure we’ve captured all the insights we’ve learnt from the users and the data. It’s been great working with them all — and I’m quite sad that the discovery phase has come to an end.

3. However — we kickstarted a new discovery phase into another of our large contracts this week so we got together with colleagues from our support team to start to plan that out. It was great to work with some new people — Jacky, Colin and Michael, to figure out what we need to look at so that we can to better understand our data, customer behaviour and what our quick wins might be.

4. This week we held the first of 5 service assessments we’re holding in the run up to Christmas — this one on our managing rent arrears service. Dennis and Soraya did a great job of presenting the work of the team, and organising the panel. Colleagues from Southwark provided external challenge, whilst delivery team colleagues provided internal challenge. It was great to see the high quality of the work the team have done, and their openness and positive attitude to learning. We’ll post the full assessment on HackIT this week, alongside our other assessments so that everyone can see what we’ve been doing, the challenges we’ve faced and how we’ve dealt with them.

5. Matthew Cain and I spent Friday working on a short course for colleagues on agile, lean and user centred design. It was great to work with him on it — and it was brilliant to get down on paper what we’ve been thinking. The first pilot where we’ll test it is in November, which gives us a very real deadline to get it ready. . .

We’re going to need help from the wider team to actually deliver it — pulling them and their expertise in so that we’re sharing our knowledge and skills with colleagues.

What I read this week

Matthew Cain wrote a fantastic blog post about end to end services rather than transactions. Gavin Elliott wrote a great piece this week about culture — creating functioning environments. Tom Loosemore wrote a thoughtful piece about Internet-era ways of working. All of these are helping me think about how we can deliver better at HackIT.

I really liked this from Sam Villis on #weeknotes styles — a thoughtful guide to give you ideas if you’re thinking about writing them and aren’t sure where to start:


and finally this from the ever brilliant Emily Webber. Absolutely agree, if we mean people let’s say people, if we mean things, let’s say things. . .

Emily Webber — should I say resources? Answer: no

What I learnt this week:

Writing about when things dont go well is important too. Ian Ames #weeknotes were honest, insightful and useful**.


*Dark early mornings: 0, Swimming:1. Pool is quieter and still awesome.

**And I got to meet him, finally!

Weeknotes 33: inspiration, accessibility and sharing our work

Quite a week — where lots of things happened*, and some things didn’t because I had to let them go . . .

5 (great) things that happened

  1. Mike Bracken came to talk to us — brilliant talk, really engaging and inspiring. There were some great questions from the team — and encouragement from Mike for the work we’re doing. Our design team have done a fantastic job of inviting external speakers, running pop ups and talks this week, including an accessibility pop up where staff can experience what it’s like to access online services with a variety of access issues. I particularly liked the creative taping of buttons to Hidayat’s fingers to mimic mobility problems. (Hidayat started with us this week as one of our two delivery apprentices — it was great to welcome him to the team.)

acessibility pop up — in the pic the team are testing different ways of accessing services

2. I went to #mapcamp2018 along with my colleague Kameel. We split the day between us — I was there in the afternoon which meant I got to hear great talks by the awesome Janet Hughes, Dr Sal Freudenberg and Danielle Haugedal-Wilson. It was inspiring stuff — and as a result Kameel and I are planning to try some Wardley mapping together.

3. I’ve been working with a small team over the last few weeks looking at our use of mobile data, and how we might use agile methodology and user insight to inform our future contract management and procurement. It’s been brilliant working with them all — this week they did a presentation to the rest of their colleagues about what we’ve done, how we did it, and what we’ve learnt. I know they were all nervous — and they did a fab job. Loads of great questions from colleagues — and a chance to share our work with each other.

Show and tell — Anwar, Karim and Stephen presenting

4. I had a great call with Katie and Joash from Amazon Web Services (AWS) about the support they’re offering for our apprentices — there are loads of great ideas which we’ve focussed down into three main areas: support in building a digital career, job shadowing with AWS, and mentoring/skills workshops for women (building on work they’re already doing around diversifying talent in tech).

5. We had our regular leadership team meeting which was an opportunity for me to explain my thinking about how we might approach contract management and strategic procurement. I’m planning to use a discovery focus with a small agile team for a key contract each month so that we better understand the user needs, our current data and processes, and the commercial landscape before we think about procurement. I think this is the right approach — but we’ll only know when we’ve tried it a couple of times.

1 (great) thing that happened that I missed

Dan Barrett and lots of other brilliant weeknoters met up in Bristol. I’d had it in my diary for ages but a combination of work things plus domestic ones* meant that, in rare moment of diary sensibleness, I had to let go of it. I really missed being there though.


What I read this week

This thoughtful blog post from Cassie Robinson. who’s moving on to the Big Lottery Fund from Doteveryone. She’s awesome – one of the first people I met in my previous role, super supportive and insightful.

View at Medium.com

Following my post about Governance so good, people prefer to use it several people tweeted/messaged me about further blog posts and articles that I hadn’t seen yet (thank you!): including this one from Kent Aitken from Canada’s Public Policy forum

View at Medium.com

What I learnt this week

I learnt quite a bit about Wardley mapping — and am inspired enough that I’ve signed up for the online course from Leading Edge forum.

I’ve also started a night class at City Lit in Dutch** — this week was about numbers and I thought I’d share this wonderful video which was part of the course material. Clever and engaging . . .

*not all of it work, and included flooding and emergency building work

** when One Team Gov Netherlands is ready to go, I’m there ready to help them.

Weeknotes 32: making work visible – using snakes, data, whiteboards and weeknotes

A really interesting week – where lots of different strands of work came together, and we had some brilliant team discussions and focus.

6 (great) things that happened this week

  1. Our first two apprentices started and seem to have settled in quickly. The rest are joining us over the next few weeks – we’re partnering with Ada College for some of our apprenticeships and they came in this week to explain how the course works, and what’s expected of us as employers.
  2. The ICT survey I’ve been working on closed this week – with over 650 responses it’s going to give us useful insight into how we’re doing against our key objectives. Equally usefully it’ll tell where we need to focus next. Now I need to work with Joe in our data team to generate useful, visual insight that we can share and work with. Joe’s got some exciting ideas for analysing the free text responses and comparing them to other factors which will build up a really good picture for us. I’m really lucky to get to work with colleagues like him, experts in their field.
  3. The delivery team had a couple of ‘how might we’ sessions this week – looking at how we’re going to run service assessments (we’ve committed to running 5 in the next 3 months), and how we might improve how we start a project. Both of these were really interesting – lots of ideas and energy from a relatively new team. We’re all* going to DeliverCon in October where we’ll be pitching some sessions to our colleagues from across government.

4. Our platform teams had a backlog busting week (as well as dealing with a unplanned relocation issue). They worked really hard to do this – and I think felt supported by the rest of us. Susan and I rolled up our sleeves, got all Blue Peter ish and made their work visible as our contribution:

It got people talking about the work they were doing, and why (which was the intention). It reminded me how important it is to make the work of the team visible – this can be difficult if there’s a lack of wall space.**

5. My colleague henry lewis wrote his first blog post on medium. This is ace – and it’s great. He writes about the sort of work that often goes unnoticed, but that is completely and utterly vital in meeting the needs of users in a modern workplace.

6. Nic worked incredibly hard all week to make sure that the new pipeline tool went live on Friday. This has been a really interesting project – working collaboratively to take an existing product from @localgovdigital and build on it. We’ll be using it now to openly show our flow of work from ideas to live so that we can generate collaboration and share learning. It’s a key part of our approach to governance which I’ve blogged about here this week as well


What I struggled with this week

It’s autumn. Yes I know it’s all beautiful leaves and crisp mornings, etc etc. But – its still not summer, it’s cold in the mornings and it’s getting darker earlier. Winter is definitely coming and I’m not a fan.***


I also gave my first strategy stand up talk – on governance. Like a lot of people I find speaking in public nerve wracking – but what I’ve learnt is that if I prepare well, remember to breathe and just actually do it, it’s ok. Actually that’s probably good advice for most things come to think of it.

*including our two new apprentices Hidyat and Emma, and our new senior delivery manager Philippa Newis who starts officially with us at the end of October. 💪

**but it turns out a concrete pillar is perfect for post its.

***I swam though. And that helped. It wasn’t as cold as I imagined it might be


Why Governance is good

(or, why the right governance is good and how we’re approaching it at HackIT)

Governance as a service — governance so good, people prefer to use it

At HackIT we’ve been thinking about how we run ourselves, and our work. I’ve been looking at what we need to do next to iterate our approach to governance. Our HackIT manifesto already sets out our key principles — and there’s been lots of work done to remove some tortuous processes that weren’t working for us.

We’ve already opened up our work, use the local gov digital standards as a benchmark, have adopted the GDS tech code of practice to guide us, introduced pair programming and test driven development, and we’re using agile principles and rhythms to deliver value early, and increase pace of delivery.

But the team is changing and developing — new people are joining us from all sorts of different organisations (and we have 21 new apprentices starting). We need to be able to scale, develop and embed our approach effectively — recognising that we’ll learn along the way and we’ll want to adapt it as we go.

Why is governance important to us?

Governance helps us maximise the flow of valuable work. That’s basically its purpose — with three main functions:

  • Coordinate what we’re doing and stop doing stuff, so we can go faster
  • Focus our people and money, so we can deliver what matters
  • Answer the question “How’s it going?”

My hypothesis is that we don’t need more governance. But because we are scaling a new approach to working using agile we do need to be really clear about what we’re doing and why, communicate it well, and keep checking in with ourselves to make sure it’s effective.


We’ve got some governance principles to help us get this right:

  • Work in the open by default — because that enables us to reduce formal governance
  • Most decisions should be made at team level — that’s where the best information is
  • When a decision impacts more than one team — teams are responsible for discussing and agreeing what to do between them
  • Where a decision impacts us all — we need to discuss that more formally at a senior level
  • Clear protocols and guidance help us so we avoid overwriting each other’s decisions.

We’re still working on some of our protocols and guidance — for instance around our data strategy and our API strategy — and some, such as the GDS tech code of practice, and the local government service standard we’ve already adopted because we know they work.

What are we doing next?

We’re going to clearly delegate responsibility and decision making to team level wherever possible. To support our teams we’ll focus on growing key skills and behaviours around leadership, decision making, working in the open and use of evidence. As a senior team we’re committing to regularly and clearly communicating our approach including how we feel about risk.

These are big commitments and we know we can’t do everything at once. So over the next three months we’ve decided the focus will be on:

  • Using the updated Pipeline tool that went live this week to openly show the flow of our work
  • Running 5 service assessments, learning from doing these so that we know what our change process (production into live support) might look like in the future
  • Carrying out a discovery phase on a next iteration of our Hackney Agile Lifecycle to support our understanding of and narrative about our governance approach
  • Building a strategic procurement plan using data and insight from our contracts register

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Some really clever and thoughtful people have done great work on agile, governance and working at pace. Here’s my curation of some of the best blog posts/articles I’ve read, along with my thanks to all of them for sharing their work so openly:

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

Governance for service delivery

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.