End of a chapter.

Last month saw the end of my current team’s existence. It’s a team that’s delivered digital service redesign of public services over the past 6 years. It’s a shared team, wholly owned by three local authorities with the intent that we could deliver better public services if we worked together. Sadly, these past few months we’ve had to bring it to a close.

The team was founded by four of us and grew at its peak to over 40 people. For the past 18 months we’ve been waiting, negotiating and finally coming to terms with the fact that the organisations we’ve worked with, and for, fundamentally do not see things the same way anymore. We’ve also had to remind ourselves that just because some people have made some very politically driven decisions, it does not take away from that reality that we did something difficult, valuable and impactful.

The past few months have not been easy for me and the decision to shut down the shared team was certainly not mine and is absolutely not a reflection on the work of individuals in the team whatsoever. We’ve worked tirelessly for the past 5 to 6 years to try and create better public services where multiple councils could get the benefit of design once, deploy many, scale of technology and scaling of skills, culture and approach.

On reflection, our shared team would’ve been in a much better place from the beginning if the three partner organisations had a shared view of the world. Sadly not the case. This really should’ve been our first port of call to check and there was a fair amount of bias on our part that service design, user needs and public cloud technologies were obvious approaches to create more accessible, inclusive and cost effective services. Our assumption (wrongly) was that the organisations we worked for, already believed the same. As a result, we spent way more time that we expected to, influencing, coaching and persuading people to share our experience, understanding and approach.

That aside, I am immensely grateful, proud and have infinite respect for our team and the culture we built. Rightly or wrongly we created a bubble within very bureaucratic institutions, worked around countless outdated policies and processes to get shit done. I’ve lost count of the number of people in the team who said to me “this is the best team I’ve ever worked in”, “I can be myself here” or “the thing I’ll miss most is our culture.” Feedback to be proud of. Those simple acknowledgements mean the world to me, they’re acknowledgement of the hard work and relentless consideration we put into the team’s needs. We committed to being as honest, authentic and fair as we possibly could. It paid off.

I’m proud of the team we built and the impact we made and I’m confident that the experience we gave people was one of a team truly built on trust and respect. It’s an experience that I hope will grow exponentially as each person takes those experiences with them and supports others to do that same.

On that note, if you find yourself in a not-so-great ‘team’ culture, I’ll share with you what I encouraged our team to do in our final weeks - role model your backside off. I repeat, role model your backside off.

We will all work in groups that do not know how to trust, share and work for each other. These are not teams. You’ll work with people that have not learned how to lift others up, nurture respect or even how to truly listen or support each other. To that end, role model your backside off. If I’ve learned anything these past few years is that change does not happen unless you make it happen. Things only really get better when people care enough to show up and get it done.

If you do find yourself in one of those not-so-great cultures, please try and show them a better way. Show that group of people how to be a team, there’s a difference. Elevate those people around you and show them what great leadership looks like. You don’t need to hold a senior role, a title or position to make that difference and have that impact. Some of the best leaders in my team were introverted, contemplative and frustrated.

If you don’t know what good leadership looks like or haven’t experienced it, take the time to learn. Be open. Be purposeful. Be considered and exhibit intent. Stride is a great place to start. If you have experienced great leadership, live it, breathe it. Take those experiences you’ve likely had of trust, respect, diversity and authenticity and build traction for change through the actions you take.

Above all, keep learning. Always be learning.


p.s this is mostly a note to myself.

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