The first signs of autumn and looking ahead

As I’ve been cycling to work this week, I really noticed the colour of the leaves had changed and some trees had such vibrant colours that it warmed my soul on such a chilly morning commute. Its moments like that which you remember…I must take a photo before it changes too much.

I know that I’ve not blogged as regularly as I used to and I’ve been thinking about how I can start to rediscover or rethink my approach, until then, the sporadic nature will continue.

I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections around what has happened since coming back to work from a refreshing summer break.

I wanted to just share some of the activities that have stuck with me the most and things that have happened since returning from summer…it isn’t comprehensive – didn’t have time to pull that list together 🙂

  • The main change is that one of our organisation change team (Julie) is working with me to better define the digital transformation picture for the county council…that has provided some really helpful support in a range of things.
  • I’ve started Digital Coaching sessions with one of our Cabinet members (Cllr Barry Parsons), which simply formalises an informal catch up session approach we previously had been doing over the early part of the year. We spoke about making the conversations more visible to the organisation and making them more relevant and strategic so that is how it started – simple really. The first conversation started well with some really productive discussion around digital operating models, government as a platform, Buurtzorg and the Simon Wardley Value Chain
  • I’m also working with procurement colleagues to start to engage suppliers around our digital direction and strategy. I’ve been invited to a provider marketplace day in November which will provide an opportunity to share some of our thinking and direction.
  • I’m working with our Social Care colleagues to work-up the details of a strategic Digital session where we can explore what digital means and the opportunity across social care.
  • We had a visit from colleagues at Suffolk County Council to share digital transformation lessons and will be exploring further opportunities for collaboration
  • Mike Bracken came down and spoke to our Corporate Leadership Team and Heads of Service around Digital and the approach of the Government Digital Service around change and transformation. That visit triggered a range of responses internally (all positive) and has unblocked some minor barriers and opened up new conversations which is great.
  •   I had a couple of visits to London for discussions with Local CIO Council, Socitm and other colleagues including some fellow localgovdigital folks (Dave Briggs, Paul Brewer, Ben Cheetham and Phil Rumens) around Place as a Platform. It was a fascinating session and we still have quite a way to go before we really avoid putting technology first in our discussions about Digital…the example from Adur and Worthing by Dave and Paul demonstrated that it is all about rethinking the fundamental operating model of the council.
  • A visit to the treasury with some other colleagues to have discussions and explore the technical architecture of a digital platform approach to Libraries working  – this was something which our Head Libraries (Ciara Eastell) had asked if I could support as she is the current President of SCL (Society of Chief Librarians)
  • I managed to fit in two coaching/mentoring sessions with my Chief Executive and Mike Bracken..I’m finding the coaching/mentoring sessions really productive and helpful and they are having such a positive impact on how I see myself and it has improved my confidence and I believe (although others may disagree) my outputs as well.
  • A fascinating and insightful provider perspective day as part of the Far South West Commissioning Academy – This process really highlighted to me the challenges of procurement and commissioning and the impact on relationships and trust in this process. I’d always suspected as much but to hear the details and insights from providers really validated that.
  • Further mind-boggling fun with the Design Council and in particular an awesome master class from Becky Rowe from ESRO – we shared our thoughts and reflections on the design council blog here
  • Following the design council session we (myself, Kevin Gillick and Jo Prince-White) ran a couple of prototype user insight sessions for around 30 colleagues from across the council – it was a fascinating process to rapidly pull the workshop together and the feedback from the participants was great so we plan to run some more plus other workshops as we continue our learning through the programme.
  • Outside of work – this week I was Elected Chair of Governors at my local primary school. I’m really proud to have this role and it is an exciting time for the school, we recently had a OFSTED inspection and were graded a solid Good and the report outlines some outstanding aspects which we are very proud of as a school. I now look forward to continuing to work with the other governors and the school and most importantly the children to improve outcomes.  I’ve been fascinated by the work of primary schools in particular for a while now and the work they do is such a great insight into how organisations can approach change as well as. In the last few years I’ve witnessed more design thinking in a primary school than in the wider public sector. I suspect the autonomy and relentless focus on children’s outcomes is a great place to start. In a recent conversation with the Head Teacher she outlined an approach to a piece of work around well-being with staff and every step matched the Design Councils principles of “Human centred” > “Being Visual” > “Iterative and collaborative”. It really is fascinating to see this in a different context. OR maybe my connection to design thinking is helping me see the wonder in everyday decision making of good and outstanding leaders.

The one thing I feel I’ve done very little of though is broader LocalGov Digital stuff, However my thinking around this is that unless you have a focus on local delivery and change you can’t effectively engage on a broader level as you end up disconnecting on both levels.  This is all part of the system leadership challenges we all face.  But my aim over the next few weeks and months is to properly re-engage with colleagues in that space as I missed LocalGovCamp which I was gutted about.

But I’m even more passionate and committed to providing support and leadership where I can to help Devon and the whole sector transform.

I’ve said it before in my last post but it is worth repeating here….

The primary purpose of public services is to improve people’s lives not to effectively manage the money, that is an enabler much like digital is, information is, data is and of course the people in and around the system are enablers.

 

Managing a team, even a small one

It is that time of year when the much-anticipated and eagerly awaited appraisals are held…I had my appraisal a few weeks ago and enjoyed it – Yes I really did enjoy it…I’m not being sarcastic here, I actually found it a really useful and valuable process and it helped me form the basis of my recent post about reflective thinking.

After my appraisal I obviously have to arrange and conduct the appraisals for my team (I manage 5 people) which has been happening over the last few weeks now – Whilst as a team we talk often (or least when I’m in the office we talk a lot, I suspect they are grateful for my days when i work for Public-i at the moment ) I always find this a good time to set aside focused discussion on an individual and reflecting on their learning over the past year, discussing what they think has gone well and not so well, what they are proud of in terms of achievements and we agree and talk through a series of targets – I assign my targets as team targets and then each member of the team may have some specific individual targets to focus on as well.

The whole process for me is refreshing as I have those conversations with individuals that are not often had in open, getting into their real motivations and listening and seeing the passion come through. As a manager you have such responsibility to ensure that the people you are employed to support and manage fulfill their potential and feel valued and empowered to get the work done.

Over the last 16 years of working in local government I’ve had such a diverse range of managers all with great qualities in different areas – I’m sure they had their own opinions of me too which I dare say were not all positive, but I’d like to think I’ve changed for the better and have listened and learned from them. Obviously I had and have my favourites (rightly or wrongly) but they all taught me about managing people and about leadership.

The one common factor they all shared in my experience was in allowing me as a person to grow, to challenge myself, to challenge others, to question why things are done, to be the awkward voice sometimes and for that I thank them…but it is this quality I need to replicate with my team.

I see the core purpose of my role to ensure that my team can do what they need to do – when all is said and done, I’ll not be the one who actually makes the changes, who builds the things people use and interact with, who codes some clever plugin to solve a problem…I’ll be the one going wow that looks awesome, how did you do that!

I guess I’m like a conductor of an orchestra, to most people I’ll simply be waving my hands about in random directions with my back to people, but people are not really interested in what I do, they are interested in the outcomes of the team.

This is one of the reasons why I’m encouraging my team [ and hopefully others from across the wider communications team ] to contribute to a team blog and to share their learning, their experiences, their thinking, their ideas.  The blog is called [ Re: Work Digital ] and we soft launched it last week, Matt in the team was the first to write something and went live with his post “A new pair of trousers“, we’ll no doubt get more things into the blog once we get things a bit more organised however it is a learning curve for the whole team so please be gentle and if possible,  encourage them with constructive feedback.

You’ll soon be in a similar position to me, learning about my team, listening to their motivations and passions, hearing about the challenges we have and how they might be solved. That is pretty powerful.

Back to work and feeling refreshed

I am now just finishing my 2nd day back to work after 3 weeks off.  I actually missed writing my blog on a regular basis, something i didn’t think i would do, but i have found it to be quite relaxing and it helps me clarify my thoughts as well as getting the excellent comments or signposts from people reading.

Now before i get on to work related stuff, i want to Thank Everyone who did comment and send best wishes to me and my family over the last 3 weeks, it means a lot. Some of you i have not even met in person and yet it feels like you are friends.  I just hope that i can get to met you all in person over the coming months and years.

Back to work stuff

There is always so much to catch up on and so many emails to read and action, but i have found that i now have even more to read via rss, blogs, twitter and the like.  But it is worth it because there is so much information out there and i know i am only connected to a small amount of it.

I have been working with a couple of colleagues this afternoon putting together the final touches on our collective presentation for a conference on Friday run by the LGIU called Social Networking Sites and Youth Participation, it looks like it will be a great event and i am looking forward to listening as well as speaking.

I am hoping that tomorrow we can finalise a film of our Chief Executive talking about the benefits of Social Networking for a 3 minute video clip which i want to include into the presentation for Friday’s conference.

I will also seek approval to include via this blog as well.