Weeknote w/c 4 February: hats and making change human

A slightly briefer weeknote than normal because my week was partly spent with my school governor / trustee hat on. I find this very valuable experience as it gives me a different perspective on public service delivery and it’s rewarding to have the opportunity to play a part in helping to make sure that the schools our trust is responsible for are providing an inspiring education for the children in spite of the challenges presented by changes to the education system and funding.

Thinking about how we change the way we work

I had a useful discussion mid-week with our chief exec and some other senior colleagues, talking through some of the challenges and opportunities we need to consider as we look to embrace collaborative and flexible ways of working across the organisation, enabled by better technology. One of the points we discussed was the trade off between efficiency and consistency, and people being able to work in a way that suits their personal preferences. Personally, I prefer to be ‘lighter touch’ in the rules we apply and to let people adapt their working styles in ways that work best for them and their teams. But it made for an interesting discussion as the benefits of a more flexible approach tend to be harder to boil down into clear measures of success.

DMT – shifting our focus

We’re having some useful conversations about how we can make sure that we’re using our DMT meetings to best effect. Our operational meetings are intended to make sure that we’re keeping on top of the key areas of our performance across the service, but it feels like we need to do a bit more work on this. I think they key is for us to make sure that we have a shared picture of our performance, are making sure that we celebrate progress and success (which I find can get lost if we’re not careful) and are focusing together on the things we need to do as a team to help address underlying factors that might be making it difficult for our teams to make progress.

Other highlights from my last couple of weeks were:

  • Our quarterly information governance group meeting, which included positive progress and growing collaboration with services to embed good information management practices.
  • An update on the work our team are doing to update our asset management for IT equipment. With our imminent refresh of PCs and laptops it’s really important that we get this right and I was encouraged by the progress.
  • A couple of useful discussions looking at how we can support leaders across the Council in learning more about how digital approaches, technology and data can help them develop their service improvement and transformation strategies. I think it’s important that this doesn’t fall into the trap of looking like a fad that we’re trying to impose on our colleagues and we talked through ways that we can make the concepts relevant and useful.
  • I was pleased that a number of colleagues mentioned that they’re looking at writing up ‘How to HackIT’ guides that we can use to help develop our governance approach and working practices across the team. And this reminded me that I’m feeling guilty about being slow with my part of that… Something I need to fix this week.
  • And linking in with the discussion about helping colleagues use technology to modernise ways of working in their teams, I was pleased to wrap up the week with a very encouraging catch up with Tom and a colleague from a team in public realm and catching up with the work they’ve been doing together to use Drive to help make information accessible from any device, anywhere, any time.

Something I’m learning

Coming back to my school governor / trustee work, this presents an interesting challenge in terms of the different roles I have, as I am both a trustee of a small multi-academy trust and also chair of governors at an individual school within the trust. This means that I am learning to remember which hat I’m wearing, as in some of the work my responsibility is directly for one school whereas in other meetings I need to focus on the trust as a whole. The two aren’t fundamentally in conflict but there are some decisions where the right choice for the trust might not always be the most popular at the local level.