Week beginning 15 February

Focus this week

What’s the only thing that’s harder than managing the software and data recovery from a major cyberattack during a global pandemic in half term week? I was about to find out; mostly on Tuesday, which was also my wife’s birthday.

One of our recovery projects is necessarily ‘waterfall’. There’s a tight plan where the odd technical issue has eaten away at the contingency. And on Tuesday, it went down to the wire. But it was only resolved after lots of senior folk had started to get anxious (and rightly so). 

But by then, I was already too distracted from the birthday. The day began with an irritating email – something which was done with the best of intentions but with incomplete information that made something else harder. Then the news that 5,000 or so more residents would be asked to shield, so we needed to be ready to support them in customer services. And then plans to start making phone calls to support the vaccination programme.  

Oh – and it was the first day in years when I missed a Liverpool match. And they won for the first time in seemingly months. Not sure what to do about the Derby later.

Yet by the end of the week, as I compiled my weekly update to Silver command about the recovery actions, it became clear that we’d moved some pretty important steps forward. And, pleasingly, smaller things had moved forward too. I also added two ‘brave’ slides: one acknowledging some key blockers we were facing and another with a short forward plan (see weeknote v10.6).

Somewhere in there I had set myself a focus for the week. But I couldn’t claim any great relationship between defining my focus on Monday and what had been done by Friday. And right now, I can’t quite find what the goals were either.  

Ones to watch

Here to Help – we received a grant from LOTI this week to develop our Here to Help service. Our investment was, I think, vindicated by the extension of the service to encourage take-up of the vaccine. We knew something else would happen and wanted the flexibility to remodel our tools to support the unexpected. More excitingly, we’ve also got some money to do an independent evaluation of the service. I’m really keen to learn about the impact it’s having and how we can further improve the quality of what we do. 

Closing the feedback loop – I was thrilled to hear of a ‘better everyday’ initiative in customer services this week. We’re using the feedback from our satisfaction survey to call residents who’ve not had a good experience; to acknowledge it; and fix it where we still can. We learnt in user research in the autumn that without visible signs we’re acting on feedback, we lose the trust of residents. So I’m really pleased we’re making this simple effort. 

Cloud deployment – the cloud deployment team gave our strategy show & tell this week to talk about the roles and skills that we’ll need in cloud engineering. It’s important to me that we’re open with the team about how the cyberattack will change how we work. Yes, it’s probably unsettling for some people but better to be open than to add to the worries by being silent. And by being up-front I hope we’re giving more people a chance to develop the skills we need. 

What I’m learning

From desiring something to making it happen – I experienced a mildly painful case study this week in the difference between management that desires something to happen and leadership that makes it happen. There was a problem which I had anticipated emerging in November which came to pass this week. I had willed it not to, and vaguely told some people to avoid it, but I’d not actually committed to seeing that through. So it’s on me that it came to pass. 

In contrast, I had a positive reflection in the same week. We were sharing our customer services framework with another team. And I reached back to the complex customer journeys work that we did a year ago this month. And what we’re doing today on Here to Help is entirely consistent with those intentions – just much better and it’s actually happening. 

The first thing was relatively small and the second is big. But the accumulation of small things often causes more pain than fewer, big successes. So I need to find a way of being more consistent and insistent in tackling smaller things. 

Next week

I’m expecting a more stable week, next week. And miraculously, my diary has some big time slots without meetings. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the week will be to use this to do some big things well. So I need to set some clear goals but also ensure they’re the right ‘size’. I think I’ll start by joining in with the team calling back residents to learn from their feedback.