Week beginning 10 May

The good

The Council’s annual staff awards took place on Thursday. I had skin in the game – our team had four nominations: Tim, as manager of the year, Annalivia as Star, registrars, who won team of the year, and the food distribution and Here to Help service for project of the year. Each were well deserving in a year that’s thrown so much at us – both opportunities and challenges. It was a cracking way to bring the week to a close (although I could have been more productive on Friday, in truth). 

And the less good

I reckon over the years I’ve read every piece of good advice there is to read about leadership. And for some random reason I was thinking earlier this week about what I’d say to my younger self and stumbled across: “stop looking for the secret. It’s simpler than you think. It’s just hard to do”. That brings us to Tuesday. I was in a bad mood. I’ve noted before how ‘leadership is how you respond when you’re having a bad day’. But I couldn’t. It’s curious how intense things can become when it’s you, a screen and your living room. 

Focus for the week

I set five goals for the week across the three recovery workstreams I’m leading. I can reasonably say that I met three, with one in progress. Setting weekly goals distorts things – where the work wasn’t expecting to hit the goal, what it means for things that aren’t goals, how to make space for all the other things. But it still feels like a healthy dose of accountability. Without getting too meta, I’m interested in what we could learn by looking at the evolution of the goals over time – which are achieved and which aren’t – and what this means for how we work. 

What I’m learning 

Building a routine – I’ve been working to build some new routines around giving feedback. I’ve been doing it consciously for four weeks now – not quite long enough that it comes naturally. I suspect the next couple of weeks are critical to see if I can turn it from being something I have to remind myself to do, into something that feels strange when it’s absent. 

Balancing the short and longer term – A crisis demands a short term focus. But a sustained recovery also needs a longer term view. I can see the mission and I can see next week. But I’m starting to find it harder to judge the pace. Is what we’re doing next week sufficient to get us towards the goal? So I’m spending some time next week to find out. 

Even better if – I’m actively making time to think about how the things that are going well could be even better. General busy-ness and pace can pull you towards asking ‘what’s next?’ at the expense of giving things the chance to really sing. 

Ones to watch

Noise reporting – we had a good show & tell from our project with Society Works about how we can improve the experience of reporting and actioning noise complaints. It’s taken time to win the confidence of the teams involved so it was gratifying to receive positive feedback from the head of service. 

Social care case recording – we launched a couple of key features for editing records and creating warning notes over the last fortnight which had been harder to achieve than we expected. We’re trying to strike a careful balance between making rapid progress but not at the expense of technical debt, which slows down progress later or taking shortcuts which jeopardise security. 

Reusable components – we’ve been talking about the benefits of reusable components for about 18 months. It started with APIs that exposed data that was needed by multiple applications and consuming common services like GOV.UK Notify. Single sign-on is another important building block. It was good to see the housing register project benefiting from the work of other projects by being able to use this for signing on to the admin interface. 

Next week

Given all of the above, I need to make a concerted effort to seek more feedback, starting next week. Be warned.