Week beginning 25 January

Focus for the week

We met all but one of our goals for the application recovery workstream. I promised that I’d move some things from ‘nearly done’ to actually done. By that measure, I failed. The two formal reports I had in mind remain unsigned. Despite that, I feel reasonably chipper. Both reports made sufficient progress that they’re now out of my control and a third report got completed by the deadline. We also circulated an important discussion document to colleagues in social care about where we go next with technology and data to ensure it’s an enabler of their vision and strategy for the service. 

I also found a way of getting two new things started: we’re looking to convene a ‘discovery day’ in customer services where we invite people from other organisations to walk in the shoes of our residents and meet our teams to help us think differently about how we put the customer first. 

I also had a couple of important customer services meetings: with colleagues from our trades union and then with Councillor McKenzie and housing services leadership . It reminded me that I need to make time to share the feedback and reflections from these more widely with the team. Knowing what happens at a more senior level is an important way of helping colleagues to develop their careers

Ones to watch

I was really impressed with how the ‘council tax plan B’ team ended the project. The Plan B won’t be needed because Plan A is now the most viable option. But on hearing the news the team didn’t simply move on but worked hard to document their work on GitHub and as a result it will actually help Plan A be more accurate – as well as setting a standard for how we end other projects. 

Out of hours – we’re thinking carefully about how we can provide the best possible service to residents who need to contact us outside of work hours. We want to ensure it’s a consistent experience, that when things go wrong we are as proactive as possible as well as ensuring it’s as resilient as possible so that we meet basic expectations. Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking to groups of residents to understand their experiences and ideas and using that to inform how we work over the next couple of years. 

Document upload – the team is transitioning the product from a working but incomplete alpha to a more stable, reusable component. Some of that transition has taken longer than we anticipated, and picking it up again required some extra effort with stakeholders that I hadn’t anticipated. But having got over that, we’re now able to push it forward for the next phase. Kudos to Tom and David for sticking with it. I also really like the subtle and important insights they’ve identified through user research

What I’m learning

The Here to Help team had a deliberately self-reflective show & tell after a couple of sprints that hadn’t gone to plan. They said it was an intentional response to the strategy show & tell where we said that it was important to be open and honest if show & tells were to be an effective part of governance. It can’t have been easy because their show & tells involve a wide range of stakeholders and have typically had an energetic, positive spirit. I was really pleased they did it, not least because if they hadn’t identified and addressed the issues now, then there would have been much bigger challenges in 4-8 weeks’ time. The openness was well received by the group and were heard in a very measured fashion. 

I noticed a pattern of learning from observation. It felt like I was able to step out from the ‘thing’ and observe what it meant. From the housing steering group, I learnt how more detail on our customer services vision could help guide teams to a common approach to user experience. From an agency that bid for work, I learnt how we need to adapt our ways of working to enable different sorts of partnership. And from a couple of colleagues, about how to listen to the music beneath the words. If only I knew what was different about this week! 

Moving meetings – it’s amazing how uncreative I’ve been whilst working at home. In the office I’d meet in different locations – standing, sitting at a desk, sitting on beanbags, in meeting rooms, in the kitchen. But most of my days aren’t now spent in exactly the same spot. Three times this week I had a different location. The best were on the treadmill and immediately after throwing a ball with my son in the garden. And it’s still nice to occasionally talk on the phone rather than video. Rob says that’s an age thing. 

Next week

At the end of next week, we’ll be 10% through the year that will shape the decade. I’m simultaneously delighted by the progress we’ve made and daunted by the fact that we’ve only got 90% left. I think we’ve developed a good pattern of achievable short term goals. But I wonder what more I could do to make sure that we’re laying the foundations now to make the whole year a success? We need to avoid imaginary deadlines whilst making sure that the incremental steps of each week add up to sufficient progress over the year.