Week beginning 12 April

Focus for the week

I set four goals for this week and spent just enough time on each to feel like I contributed towards their progress (one is probably better not shared openly). 

  • An agreed approach for document management in revenues and benefits which is clear communicated
  • Define the remaining  work & timeframes involved in providing access to services over PSN and connecting an older application which requires access over VPN 
  • The data platform project is clear what value it will deliver first to users

Whilst two are still work in progress, it felt like a week with more comprehensive progress. I also avoided the Friday morning anxiety that I get most weeks as we prepared the update for ‘Silver’ – the Directors and Heads of Service meeting to discuss recovery progress. 

In addition to the work I expected at the start of the week, we also grappled with a system outage over the weekend and in to Monday afternoon. I didn’t contribute much, in truth, but tried to hold the ring between teams but not so tightly that I was a blocker. We were fortunate that it resolved on Monday because I suspect that any longer would have had a material impact on the rest of the week. 

The process of setting the goals across the different workstreams is also starting to generate a useful conversation both amongst the workstream leads and at our recovery meetings. We’ve been working in this way for four weeks now so it’s a helpful reminder that sometimes it takes a few goes before it something new starts to take hold. 

Ones to watch

Find my polling station – You can’t choose where you vote and it isn’t necessarily the closest place to where you live. It doesn’t change much, but before you know, you need to know. There’s a clear user need to find my polling station. And Democracy Club, an independent social enterprise, has built a service that’s better than what we can do. So we’re making sure the data about our polling stations is in good shape for Democracy Club’s tools to provide the right information to residents. 

Delivering and improving – we’ve got a couple of teams that are delivering significant new features whilst also listening and responding to user feedback about what we’ve done already (Repairs Hub and social care case recording are probably the best examples). That creates a challenge in everything that we do: How can show & tells find space to reflect and learn, whilst talking about what’s new? How do we make space for improvements whilst delivering new features? How do we prioritise improvements sufficiently to keep users’ confidence whilst focusing on the big things? How can we use the performance of the live service to teach us about prioritisation? 

Managing our housing finances – a significant number of council services found ways to design interim approaches for continuing through the cyberattack. And as we start to put those on a firmer footing, we need to manage the data as was, the data processed whilst the software was unavailable, and the new data. The work we’ve done in housing services with our partners Nudge conducted a Service Standard assessment to ensure we’re doing that as well as we can. It’s pretty damn bold not just to be recovering from the cyberattack but also be aiming high. 

What I’m learning

Digital chairing – I spend far more time facilitating or leading meetings than chairing. And I did a pretty ordinary job of chairing one meeting this week. Partly I’m blaming the software. Bad workmen do tend to blame the tool. But I reckon the video algorithm gives more prominence to those more active in the meeting. And when you’re chairing, that means they’re more visible to you in a way that silent participants are more visible when you’re face to face. 

Feedback – I received some feedback this week which was hard to hear. I knew it was right, I know it’s harder to solve than it looks. And I don’t know if I can. This was also the week where the determination to tackle the last piece of feedback started to fade. I think that the right thing to do is make sure I’m consistently adopting the previous piece of advice, not forget this, and promise to tackle it when I have the time.

Next week

I’ve set goals that aren’t the most pressing issues for any of the workstreams. There’s a logic, which I’m interested in setting: the pressing issues are well attended to and they may or may not be resolved in the next five days but my shadow won’t help that positively. Therefore, I’m better off setting goals which are about making the most of some important but not urgent tasks and thinking ahead to what next. It’ll be interesting to see how well this works or whether it risks causing a disconnection with the teams and their work.