Week beginning 30 November

In lots of respects this was a much better week for me personally. I started strongly. Before the end of the day we had:

  • a clear set of priorities for our document upload and evidence store; a plan for recovering scheduling software; 
  • a draft evaluation of the potential Communications as a Platform solution that best meets our needs and;
  • a new proposition for our cloud deployment service. 

And by Wednesday (and I bear almost no credit for this) we’d released a new service for residents to check their bin day and order replacement recycling bags etc. We’ve partnered with IEG4 for the resident experience and Yotta for the business process: these solutions represent the usability, accessibility and interoperability that we need from suppliers.  

It was almost as though spending Friday walking round Kew Gardens with my children, taking an enforced break triggered by their day off school was good for me. Possibly as predictable as discovering that the greenhouses were shut.

This was also the week when I ran at least 4 miles a day, in pursuit of my goal to hit 1,000 miles for the year (my New Year’s Resolution was to run 450 miles in the year so: thanks lockdown and Cyber attack) and ran out of episodes to watch of This Is Us. Someone described me as ‘disciplined’ on Wednesday evening which I was about to dispute, but realised it was in vain. 

But like the Liverpool teams of the Benitez years, I couldn’t quite put a string of results together. By Friday morning I had had enough. There wasn’t one cause. But too many little things (all from outside the team) chipped away at my focus and sense of purpose. What frustrates me most is they all represented ‘avoidable harm’. I’m not the most naturally tolerant person. And particularly struggle to manage my emotions when people make avoidable mistakes. But it also makes me particularly grateful for the areas of responsibility which are ticking over smoothly, with very little help from me (it would be unkind for you to draw conclusion from this observation!)

I also suspect this is a particularly tough period for the digital and data parts of the team. We’re working so hard. And so much of what we’re doing is really good. But we don’t have enough to show for it yet for colleagues to appreciate it. There’s no single reason. We’re rightly being more cautious with security and that’s adding friction to the release cycle. We’re struggling to align stakeholders on a couple of projects where we most need to show progress. And some of the progress is slower because we’re learning new skills and using new tools because we’re without our familiar solutions. With a bit of luck, though, we should be able to head to the Christmas break with some big hurdles overcome. 

One of the other things that really helped this week was being able to tap into colleagues in other councils. From the outside the level of repetition and duplication in the sector looks insane. And some of that criticism is justified. But when you’ve got someone you can contact, the willingness of people to help and openness of the conversation is really helpful. 

Next week

We’re mid-sprint in our business continuity response workstream at the moment and currently I’m feeling optimistic about meeting all our sprint goals. But we also need to prepare for the New Year. We’ll have to be able to set-up some more clusters of activity and project teams. And we’ll need to have just enough oversight of these to enable them to work – and so that we understand the solutions – whilst recognising that we’ll be working at a larger scale than ever before. Finally, we’ll also have to end some things well enough that people can have a proper break over Christmas and New Year. Just those things, then, for next week;)