Week beginning 17 May 2021

You might have noticed that I’m struggling a bit to be enthusiastic about my weeknotes at the moment. We’ve had a period where the most obvious things haven’t been quite going to plan and at lot of effort has been going into things that are less obvious. And this is the longest running format I’ve used for weeknotes ever. And the more the world changes around us, the more my world seems to stay the same. I’m also aware that some things that would ordinarily dominate my week have had to be dealt with in a more contained way.

In our weekly updates to the Council’s Silver group of Directors and Heads of Service I’ve worked hard to stick to the discipline of sharing only what we’ve delivered rather than things where we’re making steps along the way, which has felt important given that often we don’t know how many steps are needed to complete a task. But that constraint has also made some weeks harder to account for than others. 

But there were plenty of reasons to feel optimistic this week. We’re now testing a recovered document store which will support the recovery of the revenues and benefits service. Our regeneration team has access to two recovered applications that enable us to plan our programmes. The Repairs Hub tool has an authorisation workflow for higher cost repairs, enabling us to extend it to our larger contractors. 

And there’s even more to look forward to next week. All being well, our document evidence store will be ready for use to support our housing repairs service. Our social care case recording tool will show relationships between people. And we may be testing the Modern Gov application which enables us to manage the publication of Council papers (we’ve been doing this in a less efficient way, but used effective work-arounds hitherto). 

But it also highlights some of the challenge around prioritisation, planning and context switching. Much of the team would prefer to be working on a single activity at any one point with a goal and set of clear outcomes. If that were the case, it would also be significantly easier to manage. But the majority of our work involves hand-offs which are often unpredictable. Often these are important partnerships with software vendors where our contribution comes in bursts and the level of technical input we need to provide is often less predictable than perhaps it should be. Prioritising and planning this is difficult – particularly when trying to deliver at pace across the whole Council. My preferred approach is to have more plates spinning than we can handle on the assumption that they won’t all need equal care at the same time. But I’m also doing some work to look ahead three months and consider the balance between capacity, delivery and resilience.  

Personally, I got involved in the design of our first use case for our data platform – how we might re-use data about our residents to prioritise housing repairs. I wanted to support the team to make sure that the use-case would enable other services to see how it could apply to their circumstances and that the experiment could leave us with some clear outcomes and business benefits so that we could show its value. 

I also played an active role in helping design the next stage of the recovery of our social care application. We’ve got lots of knowledge about how the application worked previously and we need to harness this, with just enough governance to make sure that we’re making the right decisions for now and the medium term. 

I wasn’t courageous enough to seek feedback as actively as I’d hoped. I didn’t feel up to it on Tuesday – and on Wednesday I was acutely aware of what I needed to do differently! However, I used the public commitment I made last week to force myself to do something – and asked one of the team to facilitate a retrospective so that I could learn more. And the habit I’d been working on over the last few weeks now feels less of a conscious choice, which feels positive and so I’m now ready to share it. I’ve been trying to give more active feedback around our show & tells so that I’m not just a supporter or an observer. 

Oh and this week I got my vaccine – my prize for actually getting around to registering with a GP – and ran a half marathon at the weekend. One left me feeling worse than the other!