Week beginning 12 November 

I couldn’t handle the pressure of a team that hung on my every word (and it wouldn’t be healthy) but I still get a thrill when I throw something out and someone picks it up. So my week started well when I checked my inbox to find people eager to help deliver the five things that I wanted to see us achieve by Christmas in v10.45. I had a moment on Monday where I had to double-check that I really was committed to those being ‘the things’, But after a year of setting weekly, then fortnightly goals for the software and data recovery workstreams I’ve got much more confident in defining and committing to outcomes. 

I’d resolved that this week and next would be focused on pushing things over the line. It’s the third time this year I’ve had that kind of goal. I don’t enjoy it and am not even sure it works. I’ve never got personal satisfaction from getting things done. If anything, it leaves me feeling dissatisfied. But I’m also uncomfortable with the leadership style. Yes, it says to teams that have been battling with something for a while ‘we’re here to help you get it done’. But it also creates an additional reporting layer which doesn’t add much value and it rarely makes anything go quicker. It also takes a degree of humility; I feel like we’re never less likely to meet the goal within the timeframe than when it’s nearly achieved. Of the three applications that we’re trying to get done by the end of the month, the one that was looking least likely a week ago now looks most likely. 

We published the next level of detail on our plans for the future shape of IT. We’ve made some important adjustments to the previous proposals whilst remaining true to the vision and purpose. We’re pretty confident about the big pieces but the stuff that will affect the day to day for most people needs to be worked through, and we can only do that together. I hope that calling out to lots of our questions will help the team see where they can help make this work. 

One of the themes that keeps returning at the moment is the shortcomings of change that focuses on one part of the operating model (just tech or just skills, for example). That sort of change has its place tactically, where it opens up broader opportunities but can also lead to lots of effort to make marginal progress or, worse, lots of hard work to improve something that remains fundamentally the wrong thing to continue doing. In those cases, designing technology that’s fundamentally simple and flexible is so important because it reduces the cost of future change. 

I had two days in the office this week, which were really enjoyable. There was just enough mix between time to just ‘be around’, meetings where some of the people were also in the office and communal space to do video calls. 

I’ve observed before how it’s hard to stand back when you’re operating in crisis mode. But I wanted to understand how the last year has affected the culture in one of our teams. I was really pleased to get an interesting set of responses to an anonymous survey. Most people thought the culture had changed considerably in the last year and there were some positive insights about the culture and the areas where we need to improve were things that we had already identified. 

Next week Ron starts as our head of customer operations. It’s a vital role to get right. It has to have the same agenda as Angharad’s customer experience team but with different horizons. We need to support the customer success managers to continue to evolve into their new roles and make sure that our proactive work to support vulnerable residents is matched by operational excellence for our transactional services.