Weeknote w/c 4 November: promoting wellbeing and listening to our users

Senior Managers’ Network

On Thursday morning we had the latest get together of the Council’s Senior Manager Network. These are always useful events, providing the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and discuss cross-Council initiatives.

As well as useful updates on the corporate accommodation programme, the Council’s communication strategy and the introduction of name blind recruitment, we also had a session led by our Public Health team looking at ways that the Council supports health and wellbeing. This includes a wide range of support and opportunities for activities such as: smoking cessation; gym membership discounts; cycling; activities like rounders, 5k your way etc; let’s network Hackney; support with tenancy desposits; and the employee assistance service. I would strongly encourage you to take the time to find out more about these and see how you might be able to benefit from the Council’s offer.

The most impactful part of the morning was a talk given by a colleague who talked about his struggles with mental health and how he and his manager had worked together to provide support and help him manage the effects of this. I was struck by the openness and honesty in the presentation and also how the combination of their efforts, supported by the Council’s employee assistance service and the NHS, was helping to achieve positive outcomes for the individual and also the Council. 

Survey

We’ve started to look through the feedback we received in response to our recent staff survey, where we asked colleagues to let us know how we’re doing.

There are further signs of great progress. 63% of users of users are positive about our service, which is up from 61% last year and a fantastic increase from 28% in 2016. It was also really encouraging to see that 70% of respondents to the survey said that document collaboration and sharing is proving useful and over 59% of people are finding instant messaging helpful too. These show that our new tools are bedding in across the organisation, which gives a good basis for us to build from.

One of the most important aspects of the survey is the detailed answers to the questions we asked. There are lots of comments to read through which span across the whole range of possible opinions (as illustrated in my tweet below!). We’ll be reviewing those all carefully and using them to check that we’re prioritising the right work and to help us identify any additional actions we need to take to make sure that we are meeting our users’ needs.

I also…

  • Caught up with Matthew, Richard and Susan to prepare our update for Members about the new hackney.gov.uk. This is a great opportunity to share how the team have delivered a more accessible website and achieved significant savings in an impressively short period of time. We’re booked for 25 November, so have a bit of time to make sure that we are well prepared.
  • Had a very useful session with Matthew and Tony, along with Dawn and Jenny from our finance team, to look at how we will develop the longer term finance strategy for our in-house print service. The team have worked hard to make sure that the service achieves a balanced budget for the year and we discussed ways that we will continue to improve this moving forward and also help reduce the cost of printing across the Council.
  • Met with the Mayor and Ian (my boss) for our regular two-to-one meeting. As ever, this was a wide ranging and useful conversation which covered the work we’re helping to deliver, emerging opportunities / areas for focus and an update on how we are performing across our service.
  • Caught up with colleagues in our Regeneration division. It was great to hear positive feedback about the recent upgrades to the team’s PCs and laptops, and also that the work on supporting the review of the way that the service manages their files and documents has started well. The key will be maintaining pace as we move these forward so that we sustain the direction of travel.
  • Met with a former colleague from the senior team at SOCITM. It was interesting to hear how they’re developing the society, especially their work to support a more representative group of people into the IT profession.
  • Was encouraged by a good week for HackIT awards. Sarah shared the news that she has won Information Governance Professional of the Year (Social Care) for her work here and our submission to the LGC Awards has been shortlisted (although we won’t find out who wins that one until the spring).
  • Wrapped up my week with a conversation to learn more about the arrangements for resilience across London. This is part of my new role taking the lead for this for Hackney Council, and it was helpful to understand how our arrangements in the borough connect in with mutual support and coordination across the capital as a whole.

Something I’m learning

The bike is going well, with 56 kilometres covered over the week! But as demonstrated by the route I used for my journey to a meeting in Stratford, I have some work to do on my navigation technique…

Weeknote w/c 28 October: reflecting on how we’re doing and our next steps

Away day

On Friday last week we had our regular quarterly Divisional Management Team away day, kindly hosted by colleagues at Addaction (one of the UK’s leading drug, alcohol and mental health charities) in their Clerkenwell offices. Once again, I found it very useful to step away from the day to day hurly burly and take time to reflect together. 

This time we focused on the development of our team and considered what we should be looking at to continue to develop our service and the contribution we make for Hackney. Lots of very positive progress has been made since our restructure early last year, and it was good to reflect on this. But there’s always something that needs to be focused on next, so it was useful to take the time to think through what our priorities should be.

This was also timely, as it gave us an opportunity to look at the follow up work to the recent inclusion conversations (https://blogs.hackney.gov.uk/hackit/thinking-and-acting-inclusively) and include that in our thinking.

The main areas we looked at were:

  • Taking stock of where we are now, looking at what’s working well and our next areas for focus
  • Further developing leadership across our service, developing a suggested programme of workshops for the next six months
  • Our approach to supporting career development and succession planning across our teams
  • Ways that we can respond proactively to the demand for support from our teams – eg by using fixed term roles to increase capacity where needed
  • We also reflected on our personal goals for the next year

Modern tools optimisation

On Monday afternoon we looked at the next steps with our Modern Tools for Work programme. Over the last eighteen months we’ve made significant progress, providing fast, modern collaboration tools, refreshing end-of-life PCs and laptops, updating meeting room technology, making fast, reliable wifi available across our core buildings, and refreshing our policies and guidance to help colleagues get the most from these. We’re now looking at how we can build on that to help teams get the most from these improvements.

The sort of questions I’m keen for us to explore include how might we….

… support service teams in modernising the way they work so that they can increase collaboration, improve efficiency and enhance service delivery to residents?

… further develop our service’s capabilities to offer a practical advisory service which can help turn the insights from the user research we’ve been doing with service areas into tangible improvements in the ways that their teams work?

… achieve savings through reducing the use of expensive, legacy software (including, but not limited to, Microsoft Office)?

… enable more effective partnership working by using the capabilities in the new productivity technologies (eg with TMOs, schools, the voluntary sector etc)?

Ollie is working with Henry to scope the follow up work and I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops.

I also…

  • Joined the Adults Social Care management team to discuss the changes we’re developing for mobile telephony.
  • Had the quarterly Hackney Digital meeting with the Mayor and Cllrs McKenzie and Nicholson. Henry gave a really positive update on the work we’re doing on our connectivity programme and the feedback from Members was very helpful.
  • Was pleased to see more services using Google+ to work together collaboratively. It’s interesting to see how this is being taken up as a way to share information across teams and make communication more interactive (helped by the great work that Jenny and Hannah in comms have been doing to promote this to management teams across the Council).
  • Was also pleased to see the team weeknotes that Lindsay and Rashmi shared, giving an overview of the work that their teams have been doing. I find it really helpful to catch up with people’s work and learn a bit more detail about the work we’re delivering.
  • Thought that Ola and Tom did a great job providing updates to Thursday’s Information Governance Group. We’ll be taking some time to think this through when Nic (our new Corporate Information & Knowledge Manager) joins us at the end of the month so that we make the meetings are as useful as possible for colleagues.
  • Enjoyed the DevOps end of alpha show and tell. It’s great to see how this has progressed and it feels like we’ve got a really clear direction to work towards now.
  • Took part in a debrief session looking at how the Council responded to the recent fire in Clapton. It was helpful to reflect on this together with colleagues from other services involved. The Council’s response worked very well and we identified some useful ways that we can adapt the response to emergencies in future to make sure that we are supporting our residents effectively.
  • Spent some time with colleagues in finance picking through the intricacies of tax rules. Much fun was had by all concerned…
  • Said goodbye and thank you to Nic, who’s now moved up to Sheffield. Nic’s done great work helping us to develop our delivery practices and the scale of his bravery and ambition was demonstrated by scheduling a house move the day after his leaving drinks.

Something I’m re-learning

I’ve decided that I’m going to start cycling to work and on Saturday I picked up my new bike. It’s nearly 30 years since I cycled regularly, so as well as looking forward to this I’m also a teeny bit nervous. I’m arranging to book myself onto one of the Council’s cycle training courses to make sure that I’m picking up any bad habits early.

(If you’re interested in looking into cycling into work then do check out the Council’s bike loan scheme and the staff benefits available for buying a bike: http://intranet.hackney.gov.uk/travel/).

Weeknote w/c 21 October: a bit of security and resilience

Security is for all of us

We had our latest ICT security group meeting at the start of the week. One of the things that stood out to me was the need to make sure that we are consistent in remembering that we are all the ‘IT security team’. In some organisations the burden of responsibility for security falls on the IT security lead, but I think this is unwise. Even if we don’t realise it, we will all be making decisions and taking actions every day that will have implications for the security of our data and systems. Coming together regularly in our security group helps us to make sure that all of our teams are thinking about the part they are playing to keep data safe.

We’ve done good work over the last couple of years putting in place a robust security approach but we need to make sure that we continue to make security a priority and work to improve further – security risks change quickly and as we move towards adopting cloud technologies we need to make sure we are keeping up to date. If you haven’t already attended one of Mac’s security briefings please keep an eye out for the next one and make sure you go along!

Designing resilience into the system

I was pleased with our response to the major break in the Council’s fibre network, which affected a number of crucial teams towards the east of the borough at the start of the week. As well as excellent team working between our infrastructure team and the CCTV team who manage the fibre network, I was also pleased to see that the approach we have been taking to make it easy to access Hackney’s systems from any device, anywhere, any time helped the affected services continue to get their work done with limited disruption.

Thank you also to everyone who made colleagues from the commercial waste team feel welcomed when they relocated into our office on Tuesday while the network connection at their usual base was down.

I also…

  • Published my write up from the recent discussion groups I held on inclusion: https://blogs.hackney.gov.uk/hackit/thinking-and-acting-inclusively.
  • Caught up with our software licencing work. We’re getting on top of the complexity of this (with useful help from the Crown Commercial Service team and colleagues at other councils to learn from their work) and are getting helpful support from our colleagues in procurement to make sure we’re lining up with the Council’s procurement processes.
  • Caught up with HackIT alumna Sarah, who’s moved to a role in the NHS. It was good to hear that this is going well and that she’s already introducing the user-centred approach to information governance that she has led with the HackIT team into her new organisation.
  • Had the best part of a whole day for desk based work on Thursday. This is unusual and I tried to make sure that I didn’t squander it.

Something I’m learning

I got some useful feedback on a piece of writing I’d done. I like to make sure that I write things in a clear way, with clear reasoning and conclusions. But it was pointed out to me that this can give the impression that I’ve made my mind up and am not open to alternative suggestions and ideas. I need to remember that sometimes making things a bit more ‘messy’ might be a good thing.

Weeknote w/c 14 October: a very short week!

Half term has rolled around, so this week was somewhat shortened by a couple of days off with my children. We had a successful negotiation to agree how much time would be allocated to Minecraft and I even managed to get them out of the house, getting some kudos for remembering to bring many umbrellas – which they were thankful for when the inevitable deluge arrived.

Chief Exec’s roadshow

Tim, our Chief Exec, does an annual series of roadshows where he brings everyone across the Council together for a recap on the previous year and a look forward to the year ahead. I went along on Monday afternoon along with a couple of hundred colleagues from across services.

It would be easy for the roadshow narrative to be focused on doom and gloom in the context of ongoing funding challenges that Hackney and other councils are facing. Instead the focus was on a Council that is proud of making a real positive impact for our communities, despite budget cuts. I particularly liked that the recap section took the form of a series of video clips that teams in different services had made sharing work that they were proud of. It was fab to see our Digital Design team included in the clips and I also loved that several of the videos from teams in other services included them talking about work that we’ve been doing with them to improve the technology they use. A key principle in our approach is embedding technology and data in services’ improvement strategies, not having a separate ‘digital strategy’. This felt like a real endorsement of that.

I was also really pleased to hear that the team representing HackIT in the Marketplace which followed each roadshow event had received lots of positive feedback. I popped over on Monday morning to see them when they were setting up and was very impressed by the thought that had gone into providing useful and engaging updates about the work we’re doing.

The Community Library Service celebrates its 70th anniversary

On Tuesday morning I went to Stoke Newington Town Hall to speak at the event that the Community Library Service team were holding to celebrate their service’s 70th anniversary. I took the opportunity to draw parallels between what I think can often be overly-narrow perceptions of both libraries and computing.

People often assume that the main purpose of a library is to lend books, but their origins are a much bolder social goal of offering opportunities for people to acquire knowledge and improve their lives. Andrew Carnegie, an important early funder of public libraries, summed this up: ‘A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.’

Similarly, computing is often portrayed as being a geeky pursuit for people who love wires, flashing lights and complex code. But I think a much more powerful description of the role that computers can play was offered by Steve Jobs in 1990: ‘What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.’ – the real potential of computers is that they allow human beings to achieve far more from our potential than we can unaided. I think we’re still in the relatively early days of seeing the impact of that.

I then talked about the work that we’re doing together with colleagues in the libraries service to improve the public technology offer, work with the other boroughs in the libraries systems consortium we’re members of to improve the systems that libraries use, and explore ways that we can work with the Community Library Service to help housebound residents access the online world.

As an aside, the brochure for the event contained a really interesting history of the service from its origins in the rubble of the Blitz to a much loved service that many housebound residents continue to rely on today. It’s well worth a quick read: https://drive.google.com/a/hackney.gov.uk/file/d/0B22V-aMUdjwFY29ZcHhwN0ZoczVPUU9GT0RKb2w1WUc1Sno4/view?usp=drivesdk.

I also…

  • Caught up with Cate, Henry and Matthew to discuss our strategic focus moving forward, building on the work that we’ve been doing over the last few years. There’s an interesting challenge of how we strike the right balance between setting a clear direction while also giving teams autonomy to deliver. Watch out for a HackIT strategy stand up soon when we’ll share what we’ve been considering and ask for your feedback.
  • Joined with colleagues in the NHS as part of an interview panel for the Regional Director of Digital Transformation for NHS England. There was an impressive list of candidates and it was a good opportunity to get closer to the work that is taking place in health.
  • Joined a call hosted by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for a briefing on the potential implications for cross-border data transfers if the UK has a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU. In so far as it’s possible to tell at this stage, I think we’re in a reasonably sound position on this. But time will tell…

Something I’m learning

Getting meetings right is a regular conversation point – how can we make sure that time together is valuable and helps teams work together well, and how can we make sure that we avoid low value ‘talking shop’ discussions? In the time I’ve been at Hackney I’ve learned some useful lessons from colleagues in the team about planning meetings effectively so that their purpose is clearly set out and using different approaches to help people contribute their ideas. But this is still very much in the ‘I’m learning’ category, with plenty of room for further improvement.I had an interesting conversation with a colleague in another service last week, who shared something they’d been reading about adopting ‘silent meetings’ as a technique for engaging teams in thinking about topics. It’s an idea that has its origins in Amazon and there’s a useful summary here (they also shared an interesting podcast about silent meetings here). The colleague is going to try this with their teams as an experiment and I’ll be interested to hear how that goes. As an aside, I was also really pleased to hear how their team are already using the new tools we’ve been rolling out to improve their meetings, including using collaborative documents to develop ideas and Hangouts Meet to help people join meetings remotely. It’s good to know that these are having a positive impact!

Weeknote w/c 7 October: the aching legs edition

The Royal Parks Half finally came around yesterday morning and I joined 16,000 other runners for a 13.1 mile jog around Westminster and Hyde Park (nicely timed to avoid the rain). It was a great route and I continue to surprise myself by actually enjoying runs like this. I was delighted to complete the course just inside the 2 hour goal that I’d set for myself (I had 29 seconds to spare!).

I definitely need to work harder on my resilience and determination, but it was great to have a supportive crowd and encouragement from other runners – which was definitely needed when I got to the point where my levels of motivation were dipping.

If you count the Gift Aid, we’ve pretty much hit our fundraising target – a massive thank you to everyone who’s sponsored us! There’s still time to add to that and support the work that Mind do helping to promote positive mental health:  https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=CommunitasTrustRunners&isTeam=true.

Further work to develop our future approach for mobile phones

We’re continuing to work hard to develop the details for our future approach for mobile phones (see previous weeknotes). This week Cate D, Cate M, Paul and I met up with colleagues from a number of services whose teams do field based work (inc housing repairs, parking enforcement, parks and waste) to look into the tricky issue of where there might be a case for continuing to provide corporate devices if we move to an allowance based model for most staff.

My first observation was how valuable it was to have everyone together in the room for this conversation. While I’m a huge advocate of using technology like collaborative documents and video meetings to help with productivity, there are some occasions where there isn’t any substitute for actually being in the room together. This was one of those.

The question we were working through had risked becoming a bit of a tense topic. It was evident that some of our colleagues felt that their concerns weren’t being heard and there was also nuance which would have been hard to work through without being in the same place at the same time. In the end, I think we have boiled this down to a fairly simple set of principles that we should be able to use to determine the right outcome for different service areas. Our next step will be checking that by working through the principles with the different services and seeing how well they fit with our users’ needs.

Making sure that we are recruiting effectively and inclusively

One of the themes that came up in the discussion groups I held recently * was making sure that we are doing everything possible to make our recruitment inclusive. We’ve already implemented changes such as making sure that our adverts don’t use gender specific language and making the application process as simple as possible, but it’s important that we aren’t complacent.

One welcome change that is being implemented across Hackney is introducing applicant blind recruitment. This will mean that hiring managers don’t see details like candidates’ names when they are shortlisting for roles – helping to reduce the risk of unconscious bias in the process. On Thursday I met with colleagues from HR, Matthew and Soraya to look at how this will be implemented and other suggestions for changes that we can make to help us recruit successfully.

I will confess to having been slightly nervous about this. I am very positive about making sure that the recruitment process is supporting our commitment to inclusion, but I was worried that the way that we implement these changes might make it harder for people to apply and risk making it harder to fill vacancies. But the excellent presentation from Soraya and Mark from the recruitment team gave me a lot of confidence that this will be a positive step forward. The conversation included some very useful suggestions for ways that we can update the application process and I’m optimistic that this will work well once it’s implemented (hopefully early in the new calendar year).

Soraya and Mark will be arranging to present a show & tell to share details about the approach so that you can find out more.

* Blog post coming shortly – it was slightly delayed by the change to my plans on Tuesday (see below)…

I also…

  • Chaired the latest meeting of the Member-led Customer Services Steering Group. This was a very positive discussion and we identified some useful work to carry out ahead of the next meeting in November.
  • Had an unexpected day on GOLD duty, taking on the role of overseeing the response to the major floods in the north of the borough (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-49972617). This meant that I had to park everything that I’d planned to do on Tuesday, but once again I was enormously impressed by the work that people across the Council did supporting the many residents who were affected by the incident, including a large number of people whose homes were flooded out.
  • Joined Thursday evening’s Audit Committee meeting, where I gave an update on the work we’ve done in the HackIT team to increase permanent recruitment and reduce our dependency on agency staff.
  • Went to Kim Wright’s leaving do (Kim’s off to be Chief Executive of Lewisham Council). I found it interesting to hear the stories from Hackney’s journey during Kim’s time here and am trying to track down a copy of the ‘How to get the best from Hackney IT’ booklet that she mentioned in her speech (it sounded very entertaining and I’ll share a scanned copy if I can find it…).
  • Took part in a call with colleagues from LOTI to plan a workshop that we’re having in a few weeks time for the assistive technology project.
  • Finished off my week with a mentoring session. I always enjoy these as they’re a good opportunity to learn about work that others are doing and think through challenges together.

Something I’ve learned

I’m rubbish at warming up and down properly after activity like yesterday’s run – I blame my secondary school PE teacher whose obsession with that put me right off. But I did take up the opportunity of a recovery leg massage after finishing yesterday and I’ll definitely do the same again if that’s on offer. It made an enormous difference, as did having ten minutes to lie down during the process!

Weeknote w/c 30 September: a new website, great progress with Spacebank and ‘looking forward’ to the Royal Parks Half…

It’s the final week before my Royal Parks half marathon run this Sunday. I’m not sure how confident I am that I’ll crack the 2 hour barrier, but I managed a couple of runs into work last week and a decent 20k run on Saturday, so I’m hoping that I’m reasonably well prepared…

There’s still time to sponsor my team for the run. We’re raising funds for Mind so that they can help support positive mental health – it would be great if you could pop a few quid towards our target here! https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=CommunitasTrustRunners&isTeam=true

New website for Hackney

The Big News last week was the launch of the new hackney.gov.uk! It’s been delivered by a surprisingly small team, who’ve punched well above their collective weight, in a surprisingly short amount of time. I’m really chuffed that not only have the team delivered a big improvement in terms of accessibility and usefulness, they’ve also:

  • Used the design work from GOV.UK to help us deliver a big improvement in the user interface and provide a clear foundation for future content that we publish.
  • Moved to a platform (WordPress.com) that will make it easy for us to deliver our content through mobile apps, Alexa skills, voice-activation technology, chatbots or any other digital product that our residents and businesses prefer to use in future.
  • Massively reduced our hosting costs.
  • Used the project as an opportunity to deliver other big improvements for our residents, like the Summer in Hackney map.

As ever with a big piece of work like this, there are still some teething issues to work through, but it’s a fantastic achievement. A massive well done to everyone involved!

Spacebank

I often find myself wishing that I could find more time to spend with the projects that our team are delivering. One project that I’m more closely involved with is Spacebank, one of the manifesto commitments that we’re leading on (https://pipeline.localgov.digital/wiki/156/community-groups-booking-free-or-low-cost-meeting-spaces-hackney-space-bank).

The team working on this have been doing great work to understand the challenges that Hackney residents experience when they try to organise space for meetings and community activity. I think that this a particularly interesting project because of the way that it cuts across different Council services, giving us an opportunity to find new ways to join up the user experience and make things simpler for our residents.

This week saw some particularly good progress for the project, including the conclusion of work to shape the technology that will underpin the next iteration of the project, agreement for next stage funding and a brilliant show & tell where the team shared the work that they’ve been doing with colleagues in Housing to look at community halls provision across Hackney. I was especially pleased that both the Director of Housing and Head of Tenancy & Leasehold Services made time to come along to see what the team have been finding through their work – it’s so important that senior leaders engage at this level of detail and great to see our colleagues in housing doing that.

I also…

  • Had a really positive meeting with HR colleagues and colleagues at partner councils to look at the model we’ve been developing for the updates to our salary supplements (see previous notes). The feedback was very positive and I think we’re heading on the right track.
  • Presented my latest update on our work to the Hackney Management Team. The follow up conversation included really good feedback to the work that the Data & Insight team have been doing with colleagues in children’s services and you can read the full report here: https://blogs.hackney.gov.uk/hackit/autumn-2019-hackit-update
  • Was pleased with the update that Steve brought to our DMT meeting, sharing progress in developing our service’s contracts information and strategic procurement plan. I really appreciate the hard work that’s gone into getting these into good shape..
  • And I responded to quite a few emails asking about our plans for mobile phones…!

Something I’ve learned

One of the apps on my Apple Watch is called Breathe. It’s designed to help you take a pause and step away from the pressures of the day. I think that this is a good idea.

There were a couple of occasions last week when I was reminded how important it is to make sure that we don’t get so caught up with focusing on delivering our work that we forget to make sure that we take a moment to consider the pressures that other colleagues have and what might be behind decisions or actions that feel obstructive. There are few challenges in life which can’t be made worse with impatience or frustration!

Weeknote w/c 23 September: a late weeknote

Crikey, where have the last few days gone? I never manage to wrap up a weeknote on a Friday, but I’m not sure how it’s got to Thursday already… I wondered about making next week’s a fortnight note but am determined not to break my successful run of actual weekly weeknotes, so here we go!

There’s still time to sponsor my team for our Royal Parks half-marathon run on Sunday 13 October. We’re raising funds for Mind so that they can help support positive mental health – it would be great if you could pop a few quid towards our target here! https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=CommunitasTrustRunners&isTeam=true

Senior Managers’ Network

On Wednesday last week we had the latest meeting of Hackney’s Senior Managers’ Network. These are good opportunities to catch up with colleagues from across the Council’s services and what I particularly like is how these are used as an opportunity to share learning with one another and exchange ideas, rather than just broadcasting corporate messages.

Early on in the morning, Cate and Henry had a slot to share how our ‘HackIT Manifesto’ has helped us guide the way we work as a team. It’s good to talk about our goals of putting residents and our interactions with colleagues at the heart of what we do, rather than doing technology for technology’s sake.

There was also a strong theme of putting people first in the updates presented by colleagues from other services. We had briefings from adults’ social care, customer services and policy & partnerships and there was a consistent theme of taking the initiative to rethink the way we do things so that we focus on how we are making things better for people, not just following processes. It was a great reminder of why working for Hackney is so rewarding.

Community libraries

Earlier in the year I spent some time out and about with the community libraries team, who are celebrating the service’s 70th birthday this year (you can read more about that here: https://www.hackneygazette.co.uk/news/heritage/hackney-community-library-service-celebrates-70-years-1-6204826). In a few weeks’ time they’re holding an event to celebrate this with people coming from across the country to share ideas.

I’ve agreed to join them to talk about the approach we’re taking to our digital work and the work we’re doing together with the libraries service. We’ve also hatched a cunning plan to look at ways that we might work together to support some of the community library service’s users to help them get more from online services. I’m quite excited about that and will share more in a few weeks’ time.

I also…

  • Joined our Brexit planning group for the latest update on Hackney’s preparations for when Britain leaves the EU.
  • Took some time with Cate, Henry and Matthew to look through the proposed questions for our forthcoming annual user survey.
  • Held two more of the discussion groups looking at how we can make sure that Hackney is an inclusive place to work.
  • Met up with Tom to look at the guidance we’re developing on use of photos for work purposes.
  • Took part in work with external partners, including the regular ‘IT enabler’ board which supports health and social care integration across the City and Hackney, and also the regular meeting hosted by the Local Government Association which leads on cyber security and resilience for the sector.
  • And the week ended with the inaugural LOTI social, where a group of us from the HackIT team got together with colleagues from the central LOTI team and partner boroughs for an enjoyable get together.

Something I’ve learned

I’ve long been allergic to grand-standing presentations about ‘transformational change’. Instead, I have a strong preference for taking the long view and building mutual understanding and effective working relationships with colleagues in other services to provide a foundation for us to deliver sustainable improvement together over the longer term.

With this in mind, the presentations at Wednesday’s Senior Managers’ Network were so rewarding. I really enjoyed hearing how those teams have been using ideas that have come out of the work that we’ve been doing together combined with leading thinking in their professional fields to take very different approaches to their work. It felt like a real endorsement for the partnership approach that we’ve been taking and showed lots of opportunities for the future.