Weeknotes #19

Week commencing 22nd June 2020.

Weeknotes. They’re back! I’ve decided to start writing again which has been amazing and a long time coming. There’s a good reason why I have not written as much recently but I’ve been trying to work out how to start again. Let’s just say, last week I managed to finish the post that has managed to hold me back for so long. It’s funny how until recently it’s been so inhibiting, it’ll be clearer as to why when I publish it - needs an edit and I”ll get it on here. Quite nervous about publishing it and it comes with a huge warning for some people, so look out for it but please treat carefully. Thanks to Spadge, Kiri and Vikki for the sense check and support.

Before I get to this week, the last few weeks I’ve been spending all my free time writing the latest assignment for my MSc which has been nothing short of a pain in the butt and has left my family massively neglected. Working 8-6 then a break to put the boys down before writing 8pm til the early hours wasn’t sustainable. I”m quite glad it’s finally submitted.

We’ve also been really busy at work for 4 months straight, something about a pandemic? I don’t know something happened, apparently, it’s still going but it seems no-one told the people I’ve seen gathering in back gardens for weeks, and having parties and BBQs and seeing friends well before the government announced any changes. I’m not bitter. Much. Also, if you’re going to go to the beach, fine but please clean up after yourself. The pandemic didn’t remove the bins or stop you taking it home with you. Pah.

I can’t help but wonder and feel conflicted about my anger and frustration towards those people. For all the hard work and dedication of people I’ve worked alongside this whole time, the NHS workers, public sector staff, teachers and volunteers have worked this whole time to keep people safe. It’s really difficult to have experienced some of the challenges of working flat out for the past 4 months, working with teams to keep public services on their feet whilst working more hours than ever before, only to look out the window and realise that a good proportion of the people around us have decided “everything’s fine.”

It’s hard to understand how some people can decide to go back to normal, but we all have to do what’s right for ‘us.’ (Thanks for the reminder Anna.) Now that’s off my chest, I can get back to feeling excited I have the headspace to bring week notes back.

“It’s hard to understand how some people can decide to go back to normal, but we all have to do what’s right for ‘us.’”

Last week was a catalyst

I will start off with a little bit of last week because actually, last week was a kick-start, nudge and a prompt for me to find time again.

If you missed it, Lauren invited me to work with her on a webinar for Stride. We talked about moving from being a practitioner into a leadership role. I spent an hour talking with some wonderful people talking about leadership, a topic that I’m dedicated to becoming better at and learning as much as I can. It was ace to have time to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned over the past few months particularly and bring them together in a way that others could take something from and maybe challenge themselves with. I think you can still sign up to see the recording and you can read the write up. I’m immensely grateful to Lauren for giving me the support and trust to bring something I love sharing and learning more about, to an audience that I wouldn’t usually get to interact with. If you want to know more about it then or just asking questions then feel free to message me or get in touch any way you choose, that would be super.


Also, if you haven’t taken a look at Stride yet, do. They’re demoncratising leadership development and looking for people to test it out, pilot it and help make it a great tool for everyone. So yeah, go look them up. +1 👍.


This week I’ve been mostly…

Back to this week.

I started off Monday with a bit of a highlight, some would say it’s best not to peak too soon but y’know, whatever. Monday kicked off talking to Emma and Jack and Ilesh from Camden Council.

We talked about strategy, tech and how to some of the work we’ve been doing our team over the past couple of years on architecture and principles. When to buy a thing, re-use other’s work and build something for your own needs. It was all about context, your own capabilities as a team and what you need to achieve. I’m writing a little bit more about that elsewhere and will post more about that in the week but it was absolutely great to spend some time with familiar and not-so-familiar faces, talking about something that I really care about.

I’ve also been lucky enough to spend some time working with a really fun project with the team at the moment. We’re building out a pilot / proof-of-concept for an automated contact centre with a heap of AWS services. The gist is, you can call a phone number, ask for a service and voice bot will interact with you. It’ll direct your call to the right place, or that’s the idea at least.

It’s great to spend some time more hands-on again, working with the team directly on solving problems that really aren’t very well understood. We’re managing to really add some additional value and really proud of what we’re managing to achieve in both software and service design. Will it’s really thinking about the problem in-depth and managing to learn new tech whilst problem-solving his way out of this massive hole he’s been dropped in. On the design side, we’re challenging in a really positive way, trying to work out how we help without hindering progress so that we can add value without pulling apart the whole notion of what we trying to achieve. That feels like a really useful, sweet spot to be in. Thanks Lawrence and Kiri.

What really tops it off is that it’s great to be able to focus in our areas of depth and not really have to think about the way we work to get things done, because we all know Josie has it in hand. It too often, like great design, goes unnoticed or is invisible because she manages to fix things before anyone else has thought about them and bring things together in a way that is really clear for both the team and our customers. She’ll absolutely hate me for this but thank you for being ace.

We’ve also got so much work on at other sites for Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes. Both are going really well again and it kind of feels like it’s the first time I’ve been able to put my head above water for a little while. It’s a welcome change to kind of take a breather and look around a little bit more and see the wood for the trees.

We’ve managed to get a handle on how things are working with Milton Keynes and we’ve got some brilliant support from some new faces. It’s really helped us to have better, more candid conversations and we’ve worked hard to be heard and we’ll work even harder to deliver. Jonathan, Jim, Lisa are working incredibly hard and have done an immense job. I hope they’re as proud as I am to have to got to this point.

At Cambridgeshire, we released the next version of a contact management system we’re calling ‘SHIELD.’ It was designed by our team, led by Kat, for those people shielding as a result of COVID-19 guidance. Initially, the system was for the army of volunteers to log the outcome of the thousands of calls they are making to people shielding. Since then, our team has put in an immense effort to automate that contact process using [GOV.UK Notify][]. I’m so proud of the team working on this, especially Panos, Kat, Scott, Benedict and Adele who’ve got really close to the problem. They’re working day in day out to take some of the burden away from the volunteers, reduce the number of contacts they have to make but doing it in a way that really values people’s time and doesn’t undermine the user experience. It’s incredibly powerful to see how that balance is being struck and the intricacies they’re having to work with. I’m so grateful for all their work.

Loads of other difficult, interesting, fun, painful stuff happened this week but I’ll probably leave it here for now. It’s quite nice to just be back publishing at least once a week. Hopefully more but y’know, no promises.

It’s quite cathartic to just get my thoughts down and take the opportunity to say; I’m really really grateful this week. This is the first time in a long time I’ve had the headspace to be thankful and have a bit of a clear head. So for all those people that have sent you messages of encouragement and support or just taking stuff off my plate very thankful to all of you.

Also, it’s pizza night 🍕

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