Last week I had a break from weeknotes as I finished up at the National Leadership Centre and had a couple of days off before heading back to the Local Digital Collaboration Unit at MHCLG.
The week has gone quickly and I have a lot of thoughts to filter through, some big, some not so big, so I’m going to try and draw these together here.
Joining my old/new team
I remembered enough from 7 months ago to get back into the role quickly and while I don’t have all of the detail I remember the mission and purpose clearly, and that hasn’t changed. That feels good because I can intuit some of the rest, and start adding value. That said, it doesn’t feel like the same team I left.
LDCU has grown in a few different ways; we now have responsibility for the Digital Directorate’s Cyber team, Ben is leading that which means that he’s slightly removed from more general LDCU work. Covid-19 and our funded projects around planning have pushed the team to much closer working with Paul Downey’s Digital Land team; again that’s a good thing but it also means quite a change in approach.
We also have a new DD level appointment, Lawrence. That’s a welcome change, but means a new dynamic which will also require some getting used to.
Finally, and probably most obviously, Covid means everyone is working from home. That would be hard at the best of times because it requires a sustained effort to continually foster two-way communication, and check in with everyone to make sure that they’re ok (because — hell — this is not a normal situation).
So LDCU has grown into a larger team with more people involved directly and indirectly. I sense that it has been a testing set of changes at a tough time which might have led us into more responsive ways of working, so I’m hoping to push that and see what gives. The team also seem to have moved further away from agile ceremonies, there has always been an element of campaign and event planning to what we do and those haven’t been the easiest bedfellows, but it is problematic because it’s precisely those ceremonies that make sure everyone has a voice in the decision making process.
I worry that with everything going on at the moment, and the mission not slowing down at all, that people will start to burn themselves out.
Where do I fit in?
The above may sound slightly negative, though I don’t mean it to, they’re observations from a week back in the team, so they are likely to change. Plus, if anything, they’re opportunities to do better more interesting and more innovative things.
I’m trying to work out where I can use what I’ve learned at the National Leadership Centre, and my skills to their fullest. So when I say the team is different I have to recognise that I’m different too.
It’s weird being back and seeing the difference in responsibility from a Grade 7 and Grade 6 role; at NLC I managed a multidisciplinary team, did commercial work, developed a digital strategy and managed a budget of £1m. I’ve grown a lot in the past few months and there’s a lot I want to do to further the LDCU mission — because it’s a good mission — and one that most of the team chose to work on because they believed in it too.
At the moment I’m concentrating my efforts on developing aaS’s (no not asses I mean “as a service’s”) working out how we can provide support to our project teams but in a more targeted way.
The collaboration managers model has has tonnes of value, we’ve concentrated our efforts on building capability, coaching, and supporting the teams we’ve funded, and we’ve built relationships and developed trust between central and local gov digital as a result. They buy into the mission too — but it’s time to push that further now that we have the first followers on board and make sure we are supporting other LAs who have been less engaged or able to participate so far.
Finally I want to call out some of the cool stuff the team have been doing. It’s been 2 years of the Local Digital Declaration, and lots of people are tweeting and sharing about it, also we’ve opened applications for our Covid-19 challenge fund which I’ll be working on – I’m really looking forward to it.
And what else?
My new laptop arrived and I had forgotten how much I hate windows/office, everything takes me twice as long. I did manage to link up my keyboard and trackpad to my iPad and this is an acceptable half way house for now.
I did a lot of work on budgeting and resource planning to tie in with some of the team’s thinking about how we move to a “continuous funding model”.
I’ve been thinking again about being a zoomed out person and how you communicate ideas when you’re not a designer. I’ve been learning, but I’m always worried that I don’t have the “craft skills” (as Matt put it).
But I can use tools and I can develop structures and map things. So I’ve started using Miro more. It’s actually really freeing to have all that space to just play. I’ve used it before obviously, but usually in workshop scenarios where I felt it’s use was good but limited. I now recognise that was the constraining structure of the workshop (as a good workshop should be; focused) and not the fault of the tool. Honestly, this could be a game changer for me.
Invading your inboxes
I decided (quite on a whim) last week to start up my own newsletter. I’m not entirely sure why, other than that I had some time off on Thursday and Friday which gave my mind room to do some thinking.
I was thinking about why we often don’t see our skills as products that we improve and iterate over time. So I thought it would be an exercise in seeing if I can say something useful, interesting, to offer something direct to people that might help them. I put something on Twitter on the Saturday afternoon and immediately had 5 sign ups — which I was elated by, but it’s grown pretty steadily and I now have 77 subscribers which is awesome and scary in equal measure.
I put out another newsletter today and nobody has left (yet) so that’s something. If you read that, and you’re reading this, please let me know what you think.
One Team Gov Suicide prevention
Organisation of these events is continuing. I’m lucky to be joined by an excellent team and things are getting done. We’ve had 30 volunteers sign up to help us so far, of which 70% are Mental Health First Aiders.
Half want to attend our MHFAs take over breakfast event on 19 August, and almost a quarter have volunteered to take part on 10 September to support attendees.
I’m happy with that as a start but we need to work on getting guest speakers now and building our agenda. Then we can open tickets to the main event to everyone — which will be ace.
Finally I almost forgot my reading list for this week: https://trello.com/b/BBJ726mr/progress-bookmarks
I haven’t managed to do much more evaluation of my reading what with everything else going on, but hopefully I’ll be able to do some soon.
And that’s probably enough for now, thank you for reading, thank you for being here and listening to me ramble I appreciate it xxx