Week beginning 26 October

It was one of those ‘I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday . . . Gosh, it’s Thursday already’ weeks. Which is probably for the best. There was me thinking that the Merseyside Derby would be a useful distraction. At least we know they weren’t reading my last weeknote in Stockley Park

When a strategy hits reality

The biggest win from this week was that our recovery strategy survived. It was a week where each day a new consequence of the cyber attack became clear. Each of them needed a coordinated effort to support colleagues to make a success of the mitigations or work-arounds. The strategy is putting in place the core building blocks of the response whilst mini projects are delivering the individual outcomes needed. But that’s a lot of moving parts. I twice had to check myself to not give the same team yet another thing to do. Next week is half term so we’ll have to be even more careful not to overload teams when people are on leave. 

Making crises work

We all want to ‘build back better’. But I’m learning more about how to not let a crisis go to waste. To an extent COVID and our cyber attack both have the advantage of having a clear ‘cause’ so we haven’t spent time trying to agree on the problem. But that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily aligned on the solution. And with an immense amount to be done, we have to move at pace and stick on the same course. We don’t have time to build a consensus, but can’t afford not to. There are no techniques which are particular to a crisis, but the layer of stress and uncertainty that it can cause is both an opportunity and a threat. I’m learning the importance of keeping as many options open as possible and understanding as many perspectives as possible. 

Holding tasks and owning outcomes

Given a problem, I prefer to step in and try to help when I know I can make something better. But there were a couple of things this week where I felt I put things at risk by holding too much responsibility for the tasks. I spotted one early enough to ask for help – and a delivery manager stepped in to manage it as a mini project. And the other I spotted but wasn’t able to fix as easily. The thing that I’ve found harder is making sure that once I’ve let go of responsibility for the tasks I still own the outcome. I find it easier to move on and find the next problem rather than ensuring I’ve retained sufficient knowledge of the tasks and progress that I still own the outcome. 

Enough of the right preparation

There were a number of occasions this week where I enjoyed the range of topics and issues I had to know about. But I didn’t handle them all equally well. Initially I struggled to spot the differences. But my reflection is that it was about preparation. There wasn’t a clear distinction between how much I prepared but there was a difference between how well I prepared. I don’t have a structured way of preparing for important meetings (I do it as inconsistently as when I used to revise before an exam) so I’m thinking about what a preparation checklist would look like. I’ve got important meetings with social care leaders and then senior politicians – both on Monday morning – which looks like a good starting point. 

Facts, emotions and consistency

One of the key tasks for our ICT management team is to communicate effectively across the organisation, and to enable effective communication with our residents. We want to be as open as possible, within the constraints of a criminal investigation. In some respects it’s fast-moving – each day we learn more about the impact of the attack and what that means for a recovery path. But the question that everyone wants to know is ‘when will everything be back to normal?’ and that will be hard to answer for some time. So in the meantime we need to give the facts, being aware of the changeable daily emotions around this (not least our own) and do so in a way that’s sufficiently consistent that enables people to respond accordingly. I suspect there isn’t a rule book for this and only hindsight will tell us whether we get it right. 

Next week

I didn’t make any particular commitments this week and at times it showed. So next week I will try to ensure:

  1. I get back in the habit of checking in with people before diving in with the detail  
  2. I develop and use a checklist for preparing for important meetings 
  3. I find a way to make sure I own the outcome when I no longer hold the task