The week began with the quarterly ‘Hackney Digital’ meeting that Stephen Haynes (Director of Strategy, Policy and Economic Development) and I have with the Mayor and Cllr Nicholson, where we focussed on looking through the latest updates for the connectivity strategy review that Henry Lewis is leading. We had a very constructive discussion looking at the priorities that Henry’s recommending following the extensive engagement with other services and telecommunications providers that he led earlier this year and got some helpful steers for the next steps.
Later in the morning I joined the Housing Transformation Board which covers a wide range of improvements across the housing service, including the work we are doing with housing colleagues to help improve services to tenants and leaseholders. There have been several senior management changes in housing over the last couple of months and Matthew Cain, Jasmeen, Nic and other members of our team have been working hard to help new colleagues get a good understanding of the ‘app’ based approach we’re taking and build confidence in the direction we’ve set. The highlight of the meeting for me was hearing another senior colleague in housing strongly advocating the progress that has been made and the direction of travel – a real endorsement of the hard work that’s going into building a real partnership ethos between our teams.
Also on Monday, I had catch ups with Cate McLaurin, Henry Lewis and Matthew Cain to check in on progress. We have 1:1s every two weeks and alternate between more formal reviews of objectives and a less formal discussion about how work is progressing. I find this helpful as it makes sure we’re taking a rounded view and have time to keep each other up to date.
I think the way we do this is a good fit for the approach that we’re looking to develop across the whole Council for appraisals and performance management. On Wednesday Molly from the Organisation Development team and I presented an update on this thinking to the Senior Manager Network meeting, which seemed to be well received. Our proposal is to switch away from annual objectives and twice yearly appraisal meetings (which can often feel like a form filling exercise and is rarely a good fit for the way that people actually work) towards more frequent ‘check ins’ where managers and their reports get together to look at priorities, progress and development opportunities with a greater focus on having a good quality conversation, rather than complex rating systems. The next step is to trial this as a ‘beta’ with a range of service teams ahead of adopting it across the Council. (We also know that some service areas such as social care have specific performance review needs for their professions so we’ll be taking those into account.)
At the end of Wednesday afternoon Cate McLaurin and I met up with Cllr Williams, our Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources, to talk through our plans for our apprentice programme. We had a very positive discussion and it was great to hear about the progress Cate has made with taking on the lead role for this since she started a few weeks ago.
Wednesday ended with the termly full governing body meeting at the school where I’m a governor. I find this a very rewarding responsibility which gives me valuable insight into how the education system works and a good opportunity to get first hand experience of public service delivery on the ‘front line’. I’m taking on the role of chair of governors next year which I’m expecting will be an interesting challenge.
Thursday was all about GDPR, as a group of us spent the day in in-depth training about the new Data Protection Act. I was reassured to find that the work on this over the last year has given me a fairly good understanding, but there were some useful details that I hadn’t picked up before so the day was a valuable way to develop my knowledge.
Over lunch I managed to fit in a quick chat with Sarah and Tom to talk through the work to roll out the new Digital Action Plans for officers and similar data protection training for Members focusing on their roles and data responsibilities. Being able to demonstrate that all of our users have had good quality training will be an important part of our overall data protection work, and we are making this genuinely mandatory by advising users that we will suspend their IT access if they don’t complete the training.
The week wrapped up with a meetup event for G Suite users across central and local government, hosted by Google. This was a good opportunity to catch up with colleagues, compare notes and provide feedback to Google on areas that we’re keen to see them focus on.
Something I’ve learned this week
I’ve been reflecting on the importance of setting goals to help with focus. I’m currently finding it harder to motivate myself to get out twice a week for 5k runs than I did for 10k and 21k runs when I was getting ready for the Hackney Half a couple of months ago. I think this applies to work too and while I’m not a fan of over focusing on targets (which I think can often be at the expense of keeping our sights on the bigger picture that we need to work towards) I do think it is helpful to use objectives to focus the mind and make sure that quick progress is made. I’m going to be asking myself whether I’m prioritising the right things and giving them enough focus.