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

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

https://media.giphy.com/media/3oKIPnAiaMCws8nOsE/giphy.gif

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.

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.

Principles

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 14: it’s cold :-(, meeting new people :-), lamnuts :-0

[HT Debbie Blanchard and Chris King for the format]

I am writing these weeknotes slightly grumpily because it’s cold outside and summer has gone away again. I’m so done with winter*.

I went to Hackney on Thursday and met some of my new colleagues. It was a great day — gave me a good introduction, and I came away with lots of thoughts and ideas. Thanks to Rob Miller for organising it and everyone for making me feel very welcome.

I checked in with Michelle Bayley, and we talked about how we can inform and excite our wider colleagues in the work we are doing.

I worked on governance this week — still thinking about how to get the right decisions at the right time, with the right people. I don’t have an answer yet but am starting to pull ideas together. Am working my way around this list from Richard McLean which is full of helpful sources.

I connected on linked in with Catherine Howe after she published her weeknotes 16 — interestingly looking forward to the week and not back, and all about governance.

I chatted to Paul Turner from the Office of Product Safety and Standards (BEIS) about how our teams might continue to work with each other to share learning and resources. He’s one of those brilliant people who’s always looking for ways to collaborate.

I smiled when I worked out how to add a pop up in html as part of our coding course. And then turned it dodger blue (what a great name for a colour!)

https://media.giphy.com/media/1345jssG8QJSs8/giphy.gif

I realised I’d overcommitted this week. I need to get (much) better at managing my diary.

I relaxed at yoga. And watching TV (just in case I was sounding way too virtuous).

I read lots. This from Tom Hewitson (via Beth Aitman) on naming your service and why it’s hard. I’m still reading A seat at the table, and it’s still good. Sarah Richards on human optimised content.

I got excited about starting two new trello boards — one for handing over my current job, and one for the new job.

We engaged with our infrastructure and architecture colleagues to jointly solve how we’ll go from beta to live. Mathew from the infrastructure team is going to join us to work with us which is ace.

I learned a whole load of things: about github desktop, branches and forks, wireframes, design, and amazon web services to name but a few.

I have missed my eldest son this week (he’s gone back to uni).

I discovered Crosstown lamnuts. Oh dear. Too good.

https://media.giphy.com/media/3oKIPdQyoFG3RSSOL6/giphy.gif

*since I started drafting these it’s warmed up. 🙂