Week beginning 27 September 

Objectively that wasn’t bad. Three of those four important meetings went well. I left having given a good account of the current position and had a mandate to do what was needed. The other was cancelled – which wasn’t a bad sign. I didn’t actively work the goals for the week but for one that I delayed (on which, more later) the others have all made satisfactory progress. I also had time for the other issues I needed to care about immediately meaning the goals didn’t distort. 

Most importantly I felt as though we made progress in developing a shared understanding that we needed to work together to improve the experience for residents in one of our most in-demand services. Previously we’ve been stuck in a bit of a silo and we’ve now got an opportunity to be ambitious and look at addressing the whole problem. The team had gone to considerable effort to help me prepare well. I also remembered the importance of taking a piece of work on the last mile myself. It helps me really question and internalise the argument. 

We spent some time working together to improve how we use our specialist skills following an initial workshop a couple of weeks ago. It’s almost certainly a wicked problem or at least the wrong question to ask. The competing demands and overall too many activities required of some people are a consequence of a myriad of other issues. They need to be tackled too. But as we discussed at the workshop, the causes are also related to our culture and mindset. My hypothesis is that if we were to attempt to fix one of these problems in isolation, we’d find that the problem wasn’t solved. 

I found myself asking people for updates slightly too many times. That’s a criticism of me, not them. I’ve always felt that as a senior manager spending someone’s time to update you on their work is asymmetrical – you’re the only person getting any value and you’re providing an explanation to someone for whom it is more important, which is typically because priorities aren’t aligned. It highlights that you’re not close enough to the work to know what’s happening and that you may not have prioritised the right things. Yes, that’s sometimes necessary but I’m not pleased with myself when I have to do it. 

I’ve also been ineffective at making good time from things cancelled at short notice. I had three or four spare hours this week. But rather than seize them as an opportunity to do one of the longer, more involved tasks on my list I tended to fiddle with lots of things. I’ll pay for that over the weekend!

Subjectively it wasn’t a good week. There were one too many things where I understood the issue but I was just grumpy about how other people positioned themselves on the issue. Perhaps it’s better than being surprised by their positioning. But it’s still not good. Possibly the biggest difference between working in-house for the long haul and consultancy or shorter term missions that I’ve done previously is the importance of sustaining long term relationships through the ups and downs. By Thursday evening I was delighted to be able to sit in a pub on my own. Although the feeling hadn’t gone by Friday. 

There’s lots I’m looking forward to next week. I’m attending an event for digital leaders in a number of European cities. We’re getting better at learning from our peers in England but I know far too little about digital in other cities. We’ve got two important meetings with senior stakeholders about our strategy in customer services. We’re interviewing for a growth opportunity for team members. And generally it’s one of those weeks where most days are sufficiently busy that they will take care of themselves.