Week beginning 9 November

How to make a week that was just bang average interesting enough to even write about let alone read? And on a drizzly Saturday. Here goes . . . 

Our recovery challenge

I’m becoming obsessed by an irresolvable tension at the heart of our recovery. Our challenge is that our work needs to be speedy, secure and sustainable. But it can’t be all of all three. We have rightly had a couple of projects take longer to get into production until we can be satisfied that they have been designed in a way that’s as secure as possible. There are always engineering tensions between doing things quickly and building them in a way that avoids technical debt. And there are tensions between ensuring that we make the right decisions for financial sustainability and the speed of response.  So we need to develop a consistent and shared framework to help guide our decision making. 

Doing what happens

It’s too easy to have weeks where you do what happens to you. I assume these weeks are entirely unsatisfactory and the sign of being an ineffective leader. To me, they mean that you aren’t adding much value, you’re just observing the passage of time. You aren’t leading, you’re just being a reference report for reporting which makes you feel important but doesn’t materially change the work. But in my more optimistic moments I wonder if it’s ok to have periods like that? That it means projects are going to plan and people know what they need to do. And I’ve largely met the expectations of people who’ve emailed me (ie. I’ve tended to reply). It helps me understand why some leaders put so much store by performance measures to judge whether there’s anything they need to worry about. But I’m not convinced that it’s what I’m here for. 

Surprise and delight

One of the features of my week was catching up with people that I hadn’t seen in too long. And it was a real pleasure to hear about some stuff that the teams have been doing. The work Tim is doing to support people using our online services; how Ade is helping improve how we handle registrars enquiries; and the work Barnes has done to improve repairs training were particular highlights. When I worked in consultancy we talked a lot about wanting to surprise and delight our clients so I get a particular thrill from hearing about good things I wasn’t expecting. As part of my catch-up with the Mayor about customer services, it was also particularly nice to be able to move so many of our customer journey improvement projects into ‘done’ – with a month still to go before the end of the quarter!

Positive reinforcement

I ignored all attempts at positive reinforcement when I was growing up and, indeed, for most of my career. My view was ‘I know that’s ok, I want to know what needs to be better’. And that’s partly my excuse for not doing it enough myself. I’d prefer to find something clever and insightful to say. But I’ve been addicted to receiving it for the last few weeks. It’s felt extraordinarily kind. My resolution now is to get better at paying it forward. 

Next week

I’ve really struggled with settings goals for my week. I’ve written about it in my weeknotes, but mostly it hasn’t made the transition from here to reality. I’m not certain that it’s had a meaningful impact on the team (see above) but it’s certainly made me feel more reactive. I probably can’t share these and ‘work aloud’ so you’ll have to take my word for it that they’re now written.