Week beginning 7 December

I found it a hard week to judge. People often ask how I am and it’s usually more than a nicety. It still depends on the moment. At the moment it’s the small and unexpected things that are causing disproportionate pain. That might be deflection on my part and/or it might be that I can manage the stuff that I know will be difficult but am less ready to tackle the unexpected.

But on Friday, I noticed a new dimension. Because on Friday, dear reader, I put on a suit, got on the train, and went to work. It was exhilarating. There were about 80 of us in the Hackney Service Centre (there would normally be over 1,000).  I had a meeting room for most of the day, all on my own. And I didn’t have a hot meal for lunch (didn’t have to stack the dishwasher either, mind). Probably got less work done, too. And the whole experience cost more than a week at home. But I was bouncing all day. 

Some good things

There’s a bit of me that always worries about calling out the good things for fear of missing others. But I also trust the team knows the process is sufficiently random to not take offence. 

I enjoyed the Here to Help show & tell. The project has built a broad, multidisciplinary team and understands exactly how to deliver value to users. The challenge is in designing something that supports an intricate workflow (and all the recording that’s needed) whilst ensuring it’s sufficiently adaptable to the changing needs of our COVID support.

Recovery plans – we’re doing a couple of bits of work with AWS so that we’ve got more than one way of recovering council services. It’s asking a lot of the teams to be able to incorporate more people and be ready for different eventualities on top of all the other things. But in the two strands of work that are now starting to take shape as a result of the openness and adaptability of the people involved. 

One of the other benefits of doing to the HSC was seeing how the facilities team have adapted again to the challenge of the ventilation work in the building. After designing the one way system and signage, it’s now changing again. And the work needs to be re-done. And the team just get on and deliver. 

Similarly, the team came together to discuss how we could support social care with providing a safe way of retrieving documents from our statutory partners. In less than 48 hours we had explored three options, made a recommendation and put it in place. 

We’ve been able to recover Earthlight, a map-based application that’s important for lots of teams that deal with our local environment. It took a bit longer than expected, but we’ve been able to deploy the system securely via the cloud – which I was impressed with. 

I’m confident in my ability to start new things, and less so of my ability to continue to push them. So I was particularly pleased to see our customer services teams working this week to reinforce the importance of having time for self-reflection; for people to listen to their own calls and identify where they’d been able to exhibit the behaviours we’re looking for: be human, make things simple and be the guide. 

And something I learnt

I had a couple of important presentations this week: an all staff presentation and the weekly update to Council Silver. Neither were new – I’ve done several in the last few weeks but I got better feedback and learnt more from them than before. Somehow I achieved that sweet-spot of being confident of the material and relaxed in the environment. I used to think there was a way of forcing this but am increasingly resigned to the fact that sometimes it just clicks.

Next week

Only nine days left, folks. It’s like that hateful last three miles of a half marathon. Close enough to know you’re going to get there. Not close enough to be there. And the only thing to do is focus on the next step and not think about how much further there is left. The most important thing is that we close the year well so that we can rest properly and return rejuvenated and focused.