Week beginning 16 November

I managed to find a sense of purpose and direction this week, which is so often hard during a period FIFA-imposed purgatory. And I managed to think about topics other than who might play centre-back tomorrow. And despite exercising twice a day still wasn’t able to beat Rob in our Apple Activity competition. 

Setting goals

I set ten goals to the end of the month. Unusually (for me), none of these were mine alone. I worked on them over the weekend so that when we committed to them on Monday I was sure I didn’t want to add any others. And then I made sure I was keeping track of where we needed to unblock progress to these goals. I haven’t felt such a clear sense of direction in several weeks. 

Staying calm

It’s felt like a week to stay calm. We’re past the point at which we’ve delivered a lot of important but quick wins to help services with their business continuity plans. And we’re not yet at a point where we can show demonstrable progress towards recovery. So for the last couple of weeks we’ve had to explain where we are without being able to show. It’ll be different in a fortnight, probably. So for now we have to stay calm and focus on the horizon. 

New ideas

I introduced two new ideas to the team this week. One was received well and the other, well, wasn’t. I introduced both differently and with care, on reflection (my initial assumption was that I hadn’t). But what I got wrong in both cases was that I was thinking about only how some stakeholders would hear the news. I was helped to recognise this by the feedback I received from the team. But it was also a reminder that it’s so much harder to understand how people are hearing things when you can’t really see how they’re reacting. 

Stating the obvious

In last week’s note I was reflecting on how I was bad at stating the obvious. That fault manifested itself differently this week. The team explained that they didn’t know what the recovery position was with software that we weren’t talking about (which was totally fair enough). I was initially frustrated, thinking that the answer was obvious. But that wasn’t fair. So we got together and talked about how to handle questions where we didn’t know the answer. And I understood why there was a gap between the things that were obvious in my head but why they might not be obvious to others.  

Learning a new space

I felt myself slipping back into old assumptions this week by trying to make the roles of teams more distinct than was helpful. In this case, the distinction between cloud infrastructure, and application development. We’re on a journey to understanding what DevOps really means and how it works in our technology context. I spotted the mistake I was (am?) making but am still struggling to figure out how to avoid making it. My gut instinct is that in a crisis leadership needs to offer as much clarity as possible to create safer spaces for people to work. But we also know that the way out of our crisis looks like accelerating our strategy rather than reverting to what’s familiar. 

A different sense of satisfaction

I used to get most satisfaction at work from being able to point at things and know that ‘I did that’. There’s much less I can credibly claim as my own in this job than I’ve ever experienced previously – not least because it’s the first time that I’ve been responsible for things that I know I can’t do. But I encountered a different sense of satisfaction this week when I saw Claire and Glyn present the service redesign of benefits and housing needs to a group of Councillors on Thursday night. Their work, and that of their colleagues and the FutureGov team is entirely their own. I’m not sure I could point to much that I’ve actually done. Yet I still got a huge sense of satisfaction from the work. 

Next week

More of the same, hopefully. We’ve got ten goals. A couple have been met, most others look on track. One has fallen by the wayside due to circumstances beyond our control. And I have to do something that you’ll know isn’t my strength: make what we’re doing the best it can be rather than get distracted by what’s next.