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.

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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.

Bureaucracy Hack problem no 1: To Collaborate or Not to Collaborate? Oh! If only I had the choice!

To Collaborate or Not to Collaborate? Oh! If only I had the choice!

They’re penetrating the bureaucracy!

We’ve been working with colleagues across government to think about bureaucracy – what is it, when is it needed, and what does good (and bad) look like. We all have examples of processes, rules, myths and behaviours that get in the way of us being able to spend time on doing our actual jobs.

Our hypothesis is that if we can #HackTheSystem and make our working lives easier we’ll deliver better outcomes for our users, and that it is possible to make a positive difference to bureaucracy.

James has written about the overall plan and what we’re thinking about initially:

https://link.medium.com/wiI91xFcuU

We have identified several problems as a group. This is the first one we’re exploring to see if it’s one that fits our criteria.

What is the problem that we are trying to solve?

The problem, as experienced by users, can be summed up by our own experience of trying to plan for this event. Communicating across all the organisations where the team members are based, when using an online collaboration tool, was impossible.

The various departmental security policies blocked us and we had to give up and use our own phones instead. The underlying reasons why security people sometimes don’t want to open up systems are more difficult to understand but we hypothesise that it is as much about their interpretation of their main responsibilities (to protect us!) and the departmental culture, as it is about any actual technical issues.

For #HackTheSystem we’re using five criteria to work out if this is a problem we want to include on the day:

Does it happen in lots of different places in the public sector – as in, is it a structural and widely recognised problem?

We know from some early research that James did that our experience was not unusual, and anecdotally we’ve heard lots of examples where permissions, architecture, approach to security, and people’s behaviours means that collaboration is difficult. We’ve all admired organisations who make it look easy, and become frustrated in organisations where it isn’t. We also know that there are examples of where people are subverting their organisation – maybe they’ve simply started using trello and slack without asking for permission.

Is it a problem we can do something about? Is it actionable?

We think the problems aren’t just about technology (but that’s a big part), it’s as much about culture. We know it’s possible to do something because some people have already done it. At Hackney we have made some progress – most of our productivity tools can be accessed easily from anywhere using any device by accessing the internet. Next henry lewis and his team are going to implement a new network design so that all our applications can be accessed in this way.

Can it be solved (or prototyped) in a day?

We think so. So long as we keep the scope manageable, are clear about what we’re not doing, and set ourselves achievable goals. The technology solution is quite straightforward so the focus might be upon how we can share solutions in ways that make sense to colleagues managing security and infrastructure, how we communicate and collaborate rather than the technical details. We might also want to explore why. collaborating outside our organisations is so important – what’s our elevator pitch?

We might want to think about which organisations we could target to share our design solutions, such as the National Cyber Security Centre, organisations that security colleagues work with regularly and trust. Who are our potential advocates?

Will it lead to a real difference – will fixing it give us more time as public servants to deliver value?

Taking the ability to easily video conference as an example, we think that collaboration builds trust between people and teams, and that in turn allows people to achieve more than they can by themselves. This isn’t a public sector only problem – we need to improve productivity generally: making use of 21st century tools would enable us to work more effectively. Thinking about culture, if we can create a culture in our organisations that says “Yes, if…” rather than. “No” that will have an impact beyond the problem we’re trying to solve here.

Is this something that is easily grasped?

A lot of the language used by security experts isn’t very accessible to everyone, so we will need to be careful about the use of jargon. But the core ideas behind Hackney’s technical solutions are quite straightforward to explain in a way that can generate a good discussion on the day. We ran a recent open session with colleagues from other organisations to open our work and get feedback on the design; this worked really well and delegates didn’t need lots of technical knowledge to be able to engage.

Look out for more posts coming soon as we continue to think about what we would like to cover in the hack.

If you’d be interested in coming along on 3 July – block it out in your diary now, and (simple!) sign up details will follow soon.

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.

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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.

http://attending.io/events/oneteamgov-breakfast-hackney

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.

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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

http://attending.io/events/oneteamgov-breakfast-hackney

This from @jukesie on alphas was interesting

http://attending.io/events/oneteamgov-breakfast-hackney

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

http://attending.io/events/oneteamgov-breakfast-hackney


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

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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:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/advice-new-delivery-manager-beverley-byford/?published=t

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:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/advice-new-delivery-manager-beverley-byford/?published=t
https://media.giphy.com/media/5b5B4CnAvhAu74aRpQ/giphy.gif

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**.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/advice-new-delivery-manager-beverley-byford/?published=t


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

**And I got to meet him, finally!

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:

Careers

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. . . .

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