Weeknotes w/c 30 July 2018

I crammed in lots this week, partly because I was making sure that I was on top of things before I go on leave. I’ve decided to play with the format for my note and give a bit more focus to a couple of the topics that I thought were particularly important.

Modernising the way that we work securely across government and beyond

I had a couple of meetings this week with colleagues from across the public sector looking at how we can develop the future model for secure collaboration across public services. It’s nearly 18 months since the Government Digital Service made the very positive assertion that ‘The Internet is OK’ (https://governmenttechnology.blog.gov.uk/2017/01/20/the-internet-is-ok/) and I’m keen to see this thinking being put into practice.

The days when a ‘special and secure network for government’ (or at least the bits of government that aren’t dealing in defence and national secrets) was a good idea are long behind us and the reasons why that is a poor fit for modern public services are well rehearsed (my own missive on that is here: https://bytherye.com/2013/11/09/keeping-our-information-safe-using-it-well/).

I’m really interested to explore questions such as:

  • How can we apply a ‘do no harm’ principle to secure collaboration, that makes sure that one organisation’s risk appetite doesn’t prevent other organisations from taking full advantage of the potential that modern technology offers? *
  • How can we make sure that we have properly reflected the complexity of public service delivery (including the vital role that the voluntary sector and community groups play) when we design our security models?
  • How might we learn from modern internet companies, who are able to protect the security of their platforms without mandating hyper-restrictive controls on their users?
  • And how can we shift to a focus on applications and information, and away from large scale network integration?

I’m pleased that these conversations are taking place and while it might sound like it’s all a bit ‘techie’ I think that if we get this right it will make a big contribution to delivering public services that are fit for the 21st century.

* I also think it’s important to note that some ‘risk averse’ approaches actually have the opposite effect and make risks worse.

‘Right sized’ governance that works with Agile

Over the last year and a half we have been working hard to embed Agile and design led approaches in our work. We’re still developing this but are already seeing fantastic results across lots of the areas that we’re working on.

Something I’m keen to do alongside these changes is to develop our internal governance arrangements so that we can match the pace and innovation that Agile is helping us achieve with effective shaping of the work that’s coming into our service, oversight of what we are delivering and clear capture of the benefits that we are helping to enable. And I want to make sure that we do this in a way that doesn’t take away from the pace and energy that we’ve started to achieve.

We already have good work underway for this – including, but not limited to, developing an increasingly clear picture of our pipeline of work and also the thinking that Matthew is bringing together on our future model for capturing the Return On Investment for the work we deliver. On Monday, Cate, Matthew and I had a useful session to talk through this and look at how we are aligning the various threads. I’m hoping that over the coming months we’ll be continuing to clarify our approach and that this will help us continue to accelerate and demonstrate the progress that we are making.

Some of the other things I spent time on this week included:

  • Speaking with Mark at UK Authority to talk about how we want the supplier market to change. The result was this article: http://www.ukauthority.com/articles/hackney-s-call-for-suppliers-to-join-digital-ecosystem/ and more than a few calls from suppliers wanting to chat. My diary will be busy when I get back…
  • Meeting with colleagues from the GLA to talk through the business case they’re developing for the London Office of Technology and Innovation.
  • Some more intros with team members who’ve joined over the last couple of months. This week I caught up with Susan M-L, Lee, Susan S and Michael and really enjoyed our conversations.
  • A very useful overview from Lucy talking through the strategic landscape in adults and children’s services and the work we’re doing in those areas. I like how these sessions are helping us to make sure that we’ve got a clear picture across the work we’re doing.
  • My quarterly update to Hackney Management Team (my report to them is here: https://blogs.hackney.gov.uk/hackit/committing-to-work-in-the-open) and also update meetings with the Mayor and Ian (my boss).
  • Our fortnightly management team meeting, which included looking at our service performance, user satisfaction and a really useful discussion about the work Cate is leading to help us embed our approach to training and development. This linked nicely with a separate discussion later in the week about Hackney’s work to develop inclusive leadership approaches across the Council.
  • Meeting up with a colleague from Essex County Council to share the work we’ve been doing to use the Digital Marketplace and redesign our service.
  • Planning our user survey which will go out in September and will help us check in on how we’re doing and make sure that we are still heading in the right direction.
  • Catching up on our health and safety arrangements – watch out for a reminder about completing your workstation assessment if you haven’t done it recently!
  • A very useful briefing from Chidi, Kim and Lindsay on the analysis for our database rationalisation work.
  • And also some time spent updating the information that we’ve provided for the Council’s Corporate Plan.


Something I’m working on learning

There’s lots of training and guidance for managers on how to have ‘difficult conversations’ and discuss areas where performance needs to improve. I’ve found that there’s less about how to provide useful feedback when things are going well, and I find that I’m sometimes unsure about how to do that without unintentionally sounding like I’m being picky and moaning – especially when I appear to have acquired a completely unjustified reputation for being something of a pedant… 😉 I’m going to give this more thought and look for ways that I can get better at this.