Weeknote w/c 6 & 13 January: a double dose of weeknotes to start the year

After a very relaxing break over the Christmas period, 2020 has got going quickly! So quickly that this is a double bill of weeknotes – I’ll be working harder to get back into the weekly rhythm from now on.

New year, new ‘to do’ list

I’ve celebrated the dawn of the new decade * with my annual reshuffle of my ‘to do’ list. Over the year I have a habit of accumulating a bundle of good intentions that haven’t received enough of my attention and I find it useful to pause and consider whether any of these are past their sell by date and whether I might organise myself differently to help me focus more effectively.

I still love the app Todoist, which I’ve been using to organise myself for a few years now. I’ve had a quick tinker with some new features that they’ve added in recent months with a view to seeing if these might be helpful with organising the stuff I need to do across work, school governor / trustee responsibilities, DIY and general life admin. Time will tell!

The main change that I’ve made this time around is to significantly reduce the number of things that I give a due date too. Being honest with myself, these usually get based on hopelessly over-optimistic aspirations rather than a realistic assessment of what has to be / can realistically be done. I’ve decided that it will be better for my focus and sense of inner calm to set daily lists that I actually stand a chance of getting done.

I’ve also decided to group other tasks so that it’s easier for me to keep a small number of key priorities at the front of my mind; to have a checklist of other smaller things that are in progress; and to then have a backlog of other things to come back to when I’ve got the more pressing things off the list.

I’ll recap on this later in the year to see if it’s had an impact..!

* I’m not going to get drawn into the argument about whether or not 2020 is the start of a new decade. It is.

Hackney Stars and the Council’s apprenticeship programme

The nominations for this year’s Hackney Stars awards are currently being judged and I was pleased to be on the panel deciding who the winner will be for the ‘Operative of the Year’ category (this covers teams who do field work such as housing repairs, parks, street cleaning etc). It was brilliant to read through ten examples of fantastic dedication to Hackney’s residents, with great illustrations of where our colleagues go above and beyond to provide excellent services. I was also struck by how many of the people who’ve been nominated have shown a real long-standing commitment to Hackney, with some of them having 30 – 40 years’ of service. This is an enormous asset for the borough and it was good to read about the support that many of them provide to newer colleagues, sharing their experience and knowledge to help sustain service quality for the long term.

That linked nicely with the apprenticeship steering group meeting that I chaired, where we reflected on the significant success that Hackney has had in growing an effective apprenticeship programme across the Council and opportunities to develop this further as part of making sure we have a sustainable workforce for the longer term.

I also…

  • Celebrated the return from the Christmas break with Cate by rolling up our sleeves and thinking through our next steps on the mobile phones question (see weeknotes passim). We have a cunning plan…
  • Caught up with finance colleagues to make sure that we’re on track with our money management as we’re now starting the final quarter of the financial year. We’re not quite there yet, but have made significant progress and will be starting the 2020/21 financial year with a much clearer picture of our finances as a result of the work this year.
  • Caught up with Tim (our CEO) and Ian (my boss) to talk through some reflections on how we might support the ongoing development of leadership and innovation across the Council.
  • Popped along to the Neighbourhoods & Housing senior managers’ meeting to give a brief overview of the sort of work we’re doing and how we’re working with their teams to use technology and data to help improve services to residents. A highlight of this was a follow up comment from a head of service at the end of my presentation, who talked about how the work our team is doing together with his service is making a positive difference for their work.
  • Had a great chat with Kit, who’s just started as the digital and technology lead for the Royal Borough of Greenwich. We talked through shared challenges and opportunities to collaborate and I’m looking forward to working together as part of the LOTI group of councils. Kit’s one of a number of awesome digital leaders and doers who’ve joined local government over the last year or so (👋 also Neil, Steve, Chris and Eddie) – it’s great to see the sector benefiting from their experience and ideas.
  • Caught up with colleagues from the Civil Protection Team to plan our next corporate resilience governance meeting. We’ve taken the opportunity to dust down our governance arrangements and make some tweaks as part of building on the very positive progress that’s been made over the last couple of years.
  • Had a really useful session with Nick (our new Corporate Information & Knowledge Manager) talking through his reflections from his first weeks in the role and discussing areas for focus.
  • Wrapped up with an introductory meeting with our new Director of Public Health. We talked about areas that our teams have been working together and some of the challenges of working in a joint role across multiple boroughs (Hackney shares a Public Health service with the City of London Corporation).
  • (Oh, and I started my swimming improvers course. I have a lot of improvement to do!)

Something I’m learning

The school where I’m chair of governors was inspected by Ofsted last week. It was the second time that I’ve taken part in an Ofsted inspection and I was reminded how exacting the process is. For governors it involved a one hour quizzing, but for the school team the process takes two days of intensive conversations and observation. It’s hard to imagine how it would feel if our work as a team was subjected to such detailed inspection and once again I was enormously impressed at how the teachers and other school staff responded. We now wait 3 – 4 weeks to hear how we’ve done…!