Weeknote 20.22

My first weeknote for a while. Purdah is a handy excuse, but there were a couple of weeks where I just couldn’t face it – and then I fell out of the habit. Tonight it’s just a desperate attempt to spend some time not thinking about Sunday; its possibilities. 

Cost of living has been high profile for a number of months. Zoe’s team has been working across the council to scope the opportunities and challenges associated with providing an income maximisation service. We administer a number of small grants for people in crisis, and there are wider support opportunities available in the voluntary sector. The team’s building on its effective work to increase the efficacy of the DHP service and it’s an exciting project. 

Agile isn’t hard. But it’s easy (possibly easier, even) to make the simple things harder than they need to be and neglect entirely the bits that are deceptively difficult. Our convention has been to work in sprints because of the benefits the fortnightly rythms provide for stakeholder engagement. But we don’t consistently set sprint goals that express the value delivered for users and they’re rarely quantitative. I’m pleased with the tracker idea that Alex has developed and David is picking up through the Modern Tools programme.

Making good documentation so often becomes like New Years Resolutions. But we’ve got a couple of exciting opportunities to pitch our products to other councils so Marian has been doing the hard work to explain the value of what we’ve done and how it works, at a high level, so that colleagues in other places can consider our open source solutions alongside some of the more high profile alteratives. 

Personally I’m never more tedious than when I discover something which I should have known earlier. It makes me an evangelist out of a sense of guilt and desperation. My latest revelation has been the importance of looking beyond delivering something towards how we support it. We’ve got a couple of things at the moment where we’re picking up work that’s got a clear vision for getting to live but nothing beyond that point. I’m also currently responsible for applications support, which is part of it. But I need to work a bit harder on how I pitch it because I know that my former self wouldn’t have listened carefully to my current self. 

In the work of the TDA (ie outside the meeting) we realised the value of good governance and our leadership principles. We’ve twice visited a thorny data sharing issue with a software supplier. We needed to check back to the notes to make sure we’d correctly interpreted the decisions that we’d made and were committing to the right actions once we’d disagreed well.

One of the tensions In grappling with at the moment is expediency versus strategy. We’ve got a huge strategic potential to develop a high quality people record, using a Person API across our built products. This leans into Hackney’s heritage in master data management and the valuable Citizen Index. But we also need to deliver value to users now and there’s alway a legitimate reason why the Person API isn’t quite right for now. Vision without execution is an hallucination.

Networks are important. I found the value of the senior managers network through COVID and the cyberattack. But the opposite also applied: with that pressure we didn’t have time to invest in personal relationships, and with a lot of change at senior level, that became harder. The Senior Managers’ Network this week wasn’t always easy but nevertheless represented an important opportunity to try and move beyond those conversations and rebuild some personal relationships. 

Each week I’ve been setting personal goals, until my recent weeknote hiatus. Mostly their absence has been negative. In spare pockets of time I’ve lacked the focal point that they’ve provided. But there’s been one obvious advantage: my diary has been a bit freer to respond to stuff that needs attention immediately. 

So on to next week – the purgatory between Wolves and Madrid. But with a conference about public sector data, a couple of projects that need focused attention as well as some financial planning I’m sure to be busy enough to stay distracted.