Weeknotes S02E04

I’m not very good at writing weeknotes on a regular basis. I rarely find the energy on a Friday afternoon to write. Maybe I should try on a Monday morning — which to be fair, I did try to do this week, but circumstances got in the way and Monday morning was a bit busier than planned. So here we are at an odd time for writing and publishing.

I worked from Greenwich’s offices last Thursday. This was a lot of fun, and I’ve really missed being able to do this sort of thing. In my previous job, I worked a lot with our partner councils, central government and in European collaborations, so I was always spending time talking to people working in other local authorities, and I just love it. The online communities are great — X-Gov Slack, OneTeamGov Local, UKGovCamp — but there really is no substitute for being in person with a group of people.

Greenwich’s office had a quiet buzz to it — very different to County Hall in Essex. The two councils have lots of similarities — we’re hiring from essentially the same market, we deliver many of the same services, we’re focusing on some similar products at the moment. But we have different approaches, and it’s interesting to see how decisions around organisational structure follow through into different approaches to technology choices and delivery models. None of this is to say that either of us are doing things the right or the wrong way, but I’ll be really interested to see how things develop over the next few years. There’s value in local authorities taking different approaches.

Being around other people also reminded me that I do like being around other people. Even though I consider myself an introvert and need my time alone to relax and recharge, I do get a lot out of being with people and meeting new people. I need to remind myself to do this, in work and outside work.

We have lots of things going on. Now that the intranet alpha has come to a close, there’s a bit less momentum on that work, but still plenty to do. Sometimes it’s hard to navigate the number of stakeholder conversations that need to happen, and work out how best to manage those. Part of me would love to do what I’d describe as ‘whole service’ work, where we’re able to really get into the detail of the end-to-end journey that users. But this is incredibly difficult to do (and when I say ‘do’, I mean ‘deliver real value’, not just ‘have a chat about stuff’), especially due to the way that we’re structured. The other factor, though, is that we have some basics of technology that just aren’t where they need to be, and we have to fix them before we’re able to innovate well. Getting this balance is tough. I’m not sure that we’re getting this right, but there is no easy ‘right’ for these things.

In this phase between big pieces of work, I’ve tried to pick off some small ‘quick wins’, which is definitely satisfying in the short term. I’ve thought of this blog post again — essentially, it boils down to saying that the things that give you the sense of satisfaction of ticking a task off a list probably aren’t the things that are satisfying after a year. I’m not sure that I’m doing enough of the ‘satisfying year’ things, so that’s something to work one. I do know one thing that works — sitting in on user research. There’s a deeper level of satisfaction from being able to sit in and see the difference that a product makes (and a stronger motivation to do better when something’s not working) than I get from almost anything else.

In parallel to this, there’s another factor, which is that I’m always conscious that I can get stuck into the detail where perhaps I need to be looking at the bigger picture and making the space for others to look at the detail. This will be something I need to continue to work on as the team grows and I need to focus on some of the big picture stuff a bit more.

Sorry, this one was not the most uplifting. But one of the things about weeknotes is that it’s more helpful for me to reflect and write about the things that I’m finding challenging than it is to gloat about what’s going well.

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