Weeknotes w/c 24 September 2018

There was lots of variety this week, something I always enjoy.

Throughout the week our Platform team have been mounting a concerted effort to crack down on the backlog of incidents and requests in our service queues. We’ve been working hard to make it easier for our users to get our help and to provide them with a more personal service. It’s also essential that our users can feel confident that we will respond to them quickly and meet their needs without undue delay.

I was really pleased to see the thought that had gone into preparing for the week. It wasn’t simply an ‘all hands on deck’ effort and careful analysis of data meant that teams were working in a targeted way to maximise the impact of the week. I was also really pleased to see how well everyone pulled together and the focus that was given to making sure that we actually resolved people’s requests, not simply closing calls to make the stats look better. When I checked in on progress at the end of the week the team had managed to close a significant chunk of the backlog and also had some useful learning points that we can use to further improve our service.

The ‘backlog snake’ was also a cheery addition to the office – a great way to track progress!

Monday afternoon included a very useful discussion with Tim (our Chief Exec) and some other colleagues talking through the challenges and opportunities ahead. I’ll confess to being a teeny bit evangelical, but I’m clear that Hackney is the best place that I’ve worked for the opportunity to deliver transformational change. As a large unitary council it has scale and there’s a natural predisposition across the organisation towards collaboration, which means that many constraints I’ve found elsewhere are much less prevalent here. We’re fortunate to have good working spaces, progressive HR policies and we are making rapid progress in equipping our users with modern technology tools. The area I think we most need to focus on now is making sure that we are supporting colleagues in developing the skills, confidence and ambition to make the most of these and reimagine how the Council can work. There are many great examples already across different service areas and we discussed ways that we can highlight these and use that to help shift expectations.

Other highlights from my week included:

  • Meeting up with Rory from Made Tech (who are helping us with our work on APIs) and Mark, Josie and Paul from Methods (who are leading proponents for ‘LEGO government’ – the idea of using reusable and interoperable technology to improve public services and reduce cost) to share ideas and hear about their work.
  • Some positive steps forward with our work to help services maximise the benefits of Drive for managing their documents and records.
  • Two good discussions at Hackney Management Team when Liz presented an update on our work on data and analytics, and Sarah updated them on the work she’s leading to improve Freedom Of Information request performance.
  • The excellent presentation that Lucy organised, where Ross gave us an overview of the Council’s children’s services from the perspective of the Journey of a Child.
  • A useful meeting with colleagues from adults’ services and local NHS partners looking at how we can share information to improve the care that people receive.
  • Cate’s excellent stand up presentation on the work she’s been doing to review our governance arrangements, which sparked off some really good discussions.
  • A catch up with Ajman, our director of housing, checking in on the progress our teams are making and talking through areas where we need to focus to make sure that we maintain the pace of delivery.
  • And I also had welcome conversations with O’Cynthia and John. I enjoyed sharing reflections from experience of working at other councils and how Hackney compares. John had also been at Hackney some years ago and it was interesting to hear a bit more of the history of the Council.

The low point of the week was hearing the sad news that Vicky, Hackney’s Head of Customer and Corporate Services, had passed away after a short illness. Vicky had been at Hackney for many years and I know she’ll be much missed by all of her many friends and colleagues.

Something I’m hoping to learn

On Thursday afternoon I popped over to the new GDS offices in Whitechapel to meet up with Neil Williams, who is moving on after seven years of working on GOV.UK to become the new Chief Digital Officer for Croydon Council. It’s great to see people of Neil’s calibre and experience joining local government and I’m really interested to see what I can learn from his experience of the move. I’m conscious that it’s quite a while since I started working for local authorities and I’m keen to see if there are areas where I should challenge my preconceptions and look for ways that we might approach challenges and opportunities differently.

(You can listen to Neil discussing his time at GDS on this podcast: https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2018/09/28/podcast-head-of-gov-uk-neil-williams-looks-back-on-his-time-at-gds/)