Weeknote w/c 24 June: thinking about skills and taking time to listen

Thinking about skills

Skills development was one of the main themes of my week. We’re getting positive signs of good progress with the work to develop digital apprenticeships across the core LOTI councils, with several councils moving forward to set up new apprenticeships later this year. This includes my former colleagues at Kingston and Sutton who have published job ads for seven new digital apprenticeships, which is great news! https://www.kingston-sutton-digital-jobs.co.uk/apprenticeships

On Thursday evening, I went to an event at the Royal Society for the launch of a report they have produced looking at the market for data science skills (https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/dynamics-of-data-science/). This provides useful information about this rapidly growing area of the technology market, and I was really interested to learn about the work that’s being done to create new higher level apprenticeships to encourage more people into this field.

And at the end of the week I also had a brilliant conversation with someone who organises a programme of events which are designed to encourage young people to explore opportunities to learn more about technology and data and consider this for their future careers. We suggested some ways that we might link this in with LOTI apprentices and will be following that up later in the summer.

Taking time to listen

On Tuesday we held a ‘deep dive’ session to look in detail at one of the areas of work that’s become more tricky over recent months. It’s an interesting scenario where changes in service management mean that some of the decisions that were made earlier on in the work are now being revisited, which could mean a need for rework of the development that we’ve done. It felt that the discussions about this had become a bit entrenched, so we got together with people from across the teams involved to talk through the issues in more depth and look at how we can agree a way forward.

I was pleased with the way that this went and it was very helpful to have the operational teams and their senior managers together in the room with us at the same time. It was also obvious that the time that the team have been putting in to developing effective relationships is bearing fruit. Because of this we were able to agree high level priorities and guiding principles for the aspects that will need to be looked at in a bit more detail to agree the way forward. There will be some follow up needed, but overall it felt like a positive meeting which demonstrated the value of getting together to talk an issue through, rather than just relying on email, reports and periodic project update meetings.

Other highlights from last week were:

  • We started the week with a very useful conversation with colleagues from the Council’s communications team. As our work develops in scale and impact it’s really important that we are linking in with comms effectively so that we can make sure that residents are provided with the right information about how Hackney is using technology and data to support service change. We agreed some practical steps that we can take, including sharing our forward plans of work and using the Amazon ‘start with the press release’ approach to make sure that projects’ objectives are explained clearly from the start (and making sure that these are kept up to date as projects iterate through delivery).
  • Steve took us through the work he’s been doing to help us develop our commissioning approach to our contract management, making sure that we are managing our contracts and services proactively and identifying opportunities for different approaches. Steve also delivered an excellent strategy stand up on Thursday, sharing the work that the Contracts team are doing to embrace agile approaches and new routes for procurement such as the Digital Marketplace.
  • On Tuesday Liz took me through an excellent update on the work that the Data & Analytics team have been doing. This covered a wide range of topics, including providing managers with better access to people data; supporting the waste teams with insight into recycling and waste demand; important work on property and customer data; new tools for children’s social care to help them protect vulnerable children; and analysis to make it easier to understand patterns in housing needs. Later in the week I joined a catch up with Tim (our Chief Exec) and shared some of this – it was great to show how our team are helping the Council to design and deliver services through better use of data.
  • I did some more follow up work with colleagues in finance on the investment plans that we’ve been developing. We’re now happy that these are in sufficiently good shape to take them to the director of finance, which we’re planning to do later this week.
  • On Wednesday I took part in filming for the video that’s being prepared for the forthcoming Hackney Leaders’ conference, based on conversations with managers across the Council about their experience from their careers and development into leadership roles. I remembered one of the managers from early in my career who gave me the opportunity to take on the management of one of our company’s largest shops – knowing that someone had the belief that I could do the job well is something that continues to inspire me and I know that I need to remember to do the same for people that work with me.
  • On Friday Ian (the boss) and I caught up with the Mayor for our regular 221 meeting. It was good to report continued positive feedback from users on the service that we’re providing, especially the device upgrades that we’re rolling out (we’re now about 40% of the way through this), and also the projects that we’re helping to deliver across the Council.
  • I wrapped up the week with a mentoring conversation with a colleague from another London council. This was our first meeting so we talked through their career experience, their thoughts on the direction that they’d like to take and spent a bit of time discussing ways to develop their personal profile. I enjoy this sort of thing and always try to make sure that I’m seeing it as an opportunity to learn as well as to share from my own experience.

Something I’m learning

Speaking with some of the other attendees at the Royal Society event I went to on Thursday reminded me how much I have to learn about data science and data analytics. As I said earlier in this note, this is an area where I think we have a huge amount to contribute, but as I talked with people who are much more expert than me I was acutely aware that my current level of understanding isn’t deep enough for my liking. I decided it was ok to ask for an explanation when people used terms I didn’t recognise and am resolved to spend some time learning more about this important field.