Weeknotes 43 – getting back into the swing of things

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

4 (great) things that happened this week:

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

What I read this week:

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


A great first set of weeknotes from Carolyn Parker


which reminded me of this great post from Sam Villis


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

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


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


**up to two years

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 16: inclusive design, letting go, retro dancing


We had our accessibility audit carried out by the lovely people at digitalaccessibilitycentre.org (DAC)in Wales. Luka Alexander went along to watch the testing and meet the testers. So far the results are looking great, which is rewarding as we’ve had a real focus on inclusive design right from the start.

As a team we’ve learnt a lot about different accessibility needs (especially ones that you wouldn’t normally immediately think about such as panic disorders and time out actions — this is all really useful for future services even if we don’t have that sort of functionality now.

I’ve started work on a handover trello board — listing the things that come next, where we are on various issues we’ve been trying to solve, and what I’d do if I was staying. There’s a sense of trying to get everything sorted before I go, but that’s unrealistic and the team are in a great place to take things forward.


I’d volunteered to help colleagues at BEIS with some interviewing for a product manager so I spent Tuesday morning sifting applications for the role. I really like working with other teams and departments on recruitment — it’s an opportunity to help colleagues out, and it gives me an insight into what skills people are looking for, as well as how different people approach applying for roles.

We had sprint 6 review and retro — sadly I missed the retro because of other meetings but it apparently involved dancing and pleasure/pain, loss/gain axes (I had to look up the plural of axis btw)

a lot of pleasure and gain for the team, which is good


We spent the morning in sprint 7 planning. There was of course cake:

gluten free, very gooey, chocolate and raspberry brownies

Over lunch Philippa, Cheryl and I did some more work for our coding course — there’s two weeks left and prizes to be won for the best team site built during the course. It’s not that we’re competitive but . . .


Sprint 6 show and tell *— sharing early results from the accessibility audit and from the latest round of user research. Later on I demoed the beta site contents to our Board — great feedback from them, and we’re testing the site itself, and key user journeys with our Chief Exec and Chair this week**.

Thursday evening was the penultimate coding course — luckily (!) the projector was broken so instead of learning more things we all got to work on our project sites. I needed the time to consolidate what I’ve learnt so far.


I was out on leave on Friday but the team moved house (to the other side of the 22nd floor to join our technology colleagues.) We can finally stop camping out in other teams spaces. Most excitingly there’s loads of clean white wall space that we can’t wait to get our hands on.


Things I read this week:

Via @ClareMoriarty on twitter

I’m with you on this, @simoneverest. When I was asked to give a talk on digital transformation I started by defining digital as ‘the world we now live in’ & digital transformation as ‘changing to keep up with the world we now live in’ #keepitsimple


and via HBR this great article on joy at work accompanied by my fave photo of the week

from James Padolsey https://unsplash.com/@padolsey

*snack vision was ‘spherical’

**point 18 of the GDS standard, our equivalent of the minister.