Week beginning 3 May

Well, it was better than last. At one point, when we had a problem with the phones one evening, I did have a bit of a ‘President Bartlett in Two Cathedrals’ moment. But that was solved by the time we were open for business the next day. And on the things that will matter in the long run, our teams continue to make important progress. 

Focus for the week

One of those weeks where it was helpful to have set some clear goals if only because I’d have forgotten what they were by Wednesday morning if I hadn’t. And as such I did manage to work actively towards them from time to time. The goals are a bit too mundane and internal to share. But they had common themes related to how we manage the bits around project delivery – the relationships between projects, how we land new products so we maximise their impact. 

I’m also experimenting with a ‘watchlist’: things which are bigger than actions and smaller than business outcomes but just need enough attention from time to time to make sure they can still be resolved. 

Ones to watch

Data platform – we’ve been working to develop a data platform to support recovery – a way of securely presenting data from business applications to analysts and decision makers reducing the dependence on any single supplier and the manual engineering so often needed before analysis work can begin. I’m really excited by the opportunity for this to work at scale, but importantly we’ve now got our first application agreed so that we can use a richer understanding of our residents and their circumstances when prioritising housing repairs (in support of our existing policy). 

Find my – Our GIS team has been working hard to develop new skills so that we can provide better maps to our residents. Part of this is about being less dependent on specialist software (which is often better for the expert user) and also about how we can re-use more components. We’ve built a better way for people to find their local councillor, which will be live next week (we’ve four new councillors in Hackney today) and we’re working with public health colleagues to improve further how residents can get more value from our COVID data. 

Documenting Agile – We’ve enhanced our design system recently as we’ve been working through a much broader range of user journeys and used the opportunity to refresh how we present our ways of working. Agile means ‘just enough’ documentation and we’re learning more about where documents add value by making common processes easier. We’re developing a set of playbooks iteratively and also investing in automation particularly where we need a common approach to technology. 

What I’m learning

Designing things around the user – I’ve long believed in the merits of more proportional voting systems. But it was instructive trying to explain the London Mayor ballot paper to people particularly when English was their second language, with a Perspex screen in the way. I don’t think that has to be inherent with proportional voting but will be interested to see how many spoilt ballot papers there were, and what we could learn from making the design easier. 

Listening for the song beneath the words – one of my favourite phrases from my favourite management book. I’m getting better at coaching-style conversations but am still working to hear what’s being meant in addition to what’s being said.  

Next week

I’ve actually got a manageable diary next week: 5 days to work and currently the best part of 7 hours without a meeting already arranged! One of the things that can be harder in a crisis mode is to have enough time to think ahead. We set ourselves 6 targets for the three months to end of June and I’d like to take some time to work out what more we need to do to achieve these.