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


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 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.


Weeknotes 23: #oneteamgovglobal, people first

HackIT manifesto: people first

Week 4. 5 things that happened this week

  1. On Monday I went to #oneteamgovglobal – my first unconference and an event I’ve been looking forward for ages. It was brilliant – energising, thought provoking, inspiring, exhausting. I met so many interesting people, pitched a session that was chosen, blatantly (and selflessly) put myself forward to help at any #oneteamgovNederland events* , and learnt some sketchnoting (thanks Sam Villis and kim mclaren ).

I was left with an overwhelming sense of hope after the event. You can read more about #oneteamgov and their principles here if you haven’t already come across this marvellous bunch of folks.

And whilst at #oneteamgovglobal I also met a whole load of #weeknotes folk IRL — an amazing bunch of people.

2. I met Emma who’s just joined our team from Teach First. The Delivery team is almost complete, with one more vacancy being advertised now and our apprentices being recruited in August. Shameless plug alert – if you’re a great agile delivery manager and want to build services for Hackney residents so great they want to use them** have a look below:


3. Stephen was back this week and we caught up about contracts management and procurement. He’s new to his role as well so we’re both still in the mode of finding out how things work at Hackney. It was a really good discussion – he’s brought with him lots of experience in local government procurement and contracts management which I don’t have, and I’m learning loads from him.

4. I’ve been thinking about how we can take forward our training and development strategy – I had a great discussion with Rob Miller about the thinking I’ve done so far, and possible next steps. I’m really excited about this work – and how we can make the most of the opportunities we generate to share learning and develop our capabilities.

5. We had a great Pipeline workshop with Rainmaker Solutions – converting user needs into stories and mapping out the current process. It really helped me to understand the problem we’re trying to solve and it was great to be working with Soraya who’s just joined the delivery team as well.

What I read/learnt this week:

From a recommendation from Robert Vos at #oneteamgovglobal I read about Lankelly Chase and their work on working with complexity

I learnt about AWS ReStart programme via a webinar. A really interesting training programme aimed at military leavers and disadvantaged youth via Princes Trust.

and I read further through Richard McLean excellent governance as a service reading list.

*#oneteamgovNederland doesn’t exist (yet). But I’m planning ahead.

** and you get join a brilliant team doing great stuff. . . .


Weeknotes 22: working in the open

my new Hackney values lanyard — I chose ‘open’

So, week 3. It’s beginning to feel more familiar, and it’s been another interesting week of learning loads, and meeting great people. I’ve also collected several lovely lanyards and am finding it difficult to decide which one to wear each day.

Working in the open

Everyone can contribute to a better working environment by being more open and honest about what they’re doing. Sharing work with colleagues helps us break down the barriers between silos, and helps us work together more effectively for the residents. Share widely, and share often; share with people who may not have actually asked about what you’re doing (just because they haven’t asked, doesn’t mean they’re not interested).

The more we share, the better our work gets. HackIT manifesto

Five things that happened

So — here are 5 things that happened this week related to openness, sharing and community.

  1. Matthew Cain and I ran a session on how to name a service — based on the excellent slides and blog posts from Tom Hewitson and Lou Downe (thankyou)* and our own experiences. It seem to go down well – and was a nice intro for me for conversations with people I hadn’t met before.
  2. I went to a great show and tell about Hackney’s Tenancy API and the collaborative working between Made Tech, our development team (thanks Rashmi and Vlad), our architecture team and between different teams in HackIT. There’s a real sense of excitement about this work, and the collaboration and innovation it’s demonstrating.
  3. I had a great call with Katie and Joash from AWS, and Esmay from the Hackney Works team about our digital apprenticeship programme and how we might collaborate together – and help our apprentices build their networks and experience. Lots of great ideas and opportunities from both sides.
  4. We had a GDPR training session which was really informative — and helped me better understand the local authority context. I was reminded of seeing these brilliant posters from Co-op digital:

Making the General Data Protection Regulation easier to understand

5. I caught up with the awesome Dan Barrett which was lovely — and resulted in a great conversation with Matthew Cain and Dan about lots of stuff — data, forming teams, delivering value to users, complex processes and organisations.

What I read this week:

This blog post about a wiki style approach to collaborating from Linda O’Halloran:

Making the General Data Protection Regulation easier to understand

An interesting post from Richard Pope:

Making the General Data Protection Regulation easier to understand

This, which is a marvellous story of three Dutch women and their answer to cleaning up rivers:

Making the General Data Protection Regulation easier to understand

And finally I’ve ordered 3 copies of this (so technically haven’t read it yet but am very much looking forward to it) — thanks Doteveryone:

Making the General Data Protection Regulation easier to understand

*Sources are here:




Weeknotes 20 – week 1, being new, being welcomed

Early morning at the Hackney Service Centre

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

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

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


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

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

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

Queensbridge neighbourhood office

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

What I read this week

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

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

Digital Architecture revisited

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

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