Week beginning 5 April

Focus for the week

This week will have been dominated by the launch of the consultation on our new structure in customer services for some of the team. We’ve achieved an immense amount in the last 12 months – in fact 32 new ways to help our residents. 

A set of initiatives introduced in customer services in the last year

But mostly that’s been despite the way we’re organised. The proposals for a new structure are designed to make it easier to continue our ambitious plans and are the product of lots of conversations – with residents, colleagues in the service, people across the Council and our senior leaders through the Mayor’s customer services steering group. As a result, I hope they’re not surprising. Change can always be worrying but I hope we’ve reduced the stress by clearly signposting the direction of travel.

It’s taken longer than I wanted to get to this point and the nature of these things is that when I had to work hardest on the proposals, I had the least to say. But next week we can meet to discuss them together and I can start to get a sense of how they’ve been received. And whilst we’ve worked hard on the proposals, it’s important to listen carefully to the thoughts and ideas of the team. They know better than me what it takes to run a successful customer services operation. 

The vast majority of my time remains on the software and data recovery, cloud unless and data platform workstreams that I’m leading. After a week away, it took me a day to get up to speed But I was well supported by coming back to a number of handover notes – thanks particularly James and Soraya – and weeknotes. Yet even now, there remain 45 unattended-to emails in my inbox. I wrote three well-crafted goals for the week:

  1. A clear way timeline and process map for document processing in revenues and benefits that we have communicated to the heads of service, is consistent with our technology strategy
  2. Timeframes and documented tasks for establishing access to two important services which can only be accessed over a VPN 
  3. A social care show & tell which works towards a practitioner-led conversation and shows that we’re delivering value early and often

In hindsight they were too ambitious to achieve in 5 days, let alone just the three that I had available. However, we made progress on all three fronts. I was particularly pleased with the social care ‘show & share’ because we heard directly from practitioners and had useful feedback on how we could improve the record history for a service user. 

Ones to watch

Repairs Hub – I’ve been watching from the sidelines as Repairs Hub gets rolled out to more contractors. As our head of housing transformation told the Mayor on Friday, it’s a good example of where we’re building back better. It gives us visibility of a repair from start to finish, regardless of who does the job – as well as a view of possibly related jobs. After a period of gestation it’s good to see things really accelerating. 

Change Support – we’ve been incubating the Change Support Team for a little over a year. We thought its success would be judged on whether it made visible and calculable impact in the Council (done), whether it would stimulate further demand for those skills (done) and have a compound impact. The team has started to create a microsite to share its stories of change, underpinned by the tools of change (more powerfully, in my view). It’s still early days but I’m really pleased they’ve made this step.  

Housing register – this project is just beginning and I caught up with the early progress at the recent show & share. But perhaps the most exciting thing was to see how the project is enveloped in the way the benefits and housing team now work. The team has been communicating through weekly show & shares for more than a year and the housing register work was just one of four initiatives they showcased at the session. 

What I’m learning

A fresh perspective – One of the consistent benefits of having a break is being able to take a fresh perspective. Our rhythms and routines are great for creating predictability but the familiarity has costs, too. I used to work for someone who would routinely reorganise the office every six months and every time she did, it would have a ‘first day back at school’ affect. I’d particularly like to contribute towards making sure the good things are even better.  

The importance of teams, for better and worse – I read four books* about accomplishments last week. Three were historical accounts and one was a theory of how to achieve change, based on the author’s experience. And it reminded me that nearly every advice book underestimates the impact of people and their teams. And nearly every book that’s about a person is actually about a team. 

* The China Mission: George Marshall’s Unfinished War, 1945-1947 by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan

The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple

Accomplishment: How to Achieve Ambitious and Challenging Things by Michael Barber

Next week

I’ve got two important papers to produce at the start of the week for senior leaders so I need enough space to do those well leaving enough energy that I’m not playing catch-up for the next four days.