ADVENTURES OF A DELIVERY MANAGER (Alpha) – New Year 2020

Confessions, Weaknesses & Resolutions.

New year, new me… I’m going to get better at documenting my projects this year.

It seems that New Year’s resolutions are almost passé these days. Everyone I’ve asked since coming back to work either isn’t doing one or refuses to do one because it’s probable that they won’t keep it for the whole year anyway. 

In some ways I get it… in some ways I don’t. 

It’s fair because it seems daft to embark on a journey that we have no confidence in completing at the point of setting out. On the other, it seems defeatist to deny ourselves an opportunity to set out on a path of self-improvement, as there must be at least a part of us that wants to improve to have entertained the thought in the first place.

That said, there is a trend that I have seen emerging, which is about setting intentions around improvement – some professional, some personal.

These intentions have been kinder (to self and others) and also less extreme, less definite and much more open to the realities of how life and work tend to flow. One example was the decision by one of my colleagues to simply eat meat less often.

No massive declaration.

No ego-led grandiose commitment.

No self-created pressure to deliver on an almost impossible overnight habit change.

This reminds me quite a lot about both Agile and my journey via “Adventures of a Delivery Manager”.

More conventional forms of Project Management have often jarred me through their rigidness and absolute declarations of the right way and the wrong way of doing things. As have static programmes of learning where there is the right way and the wrong way to learn.

If I look back on my journey over the past 18 weeks (yes, EIGHTEEN weeks), it has taken turns and twists that I could never have seen coming and I have learned my craft (so far), often in quite a topsy turvey nature – largely based on the needs at the time.

It’s also the challenges that have grown me the most. The things that, (had I meticulously planned my adventures), I would have written out of the plan and hoped dearly for them not to appear. But, having undertaken the journey with a set of themes and intentions as opposed to a rigid pathway, I have been able to make these challenges my friends and embraced them for the rich learning experiences that they have been.

So what about my ‘resolution’ for 2020?

I really like the idea of setting intentions. Albeit I don’t think we should wait for new years or even decades to make commitments for self improvement (although I do think the G+ community would probably grow tired quite quickly of ‘new day new me’ posts)… The break between Christmas and New Year does allow for a period of reflection. The down time also allows me to return refreshed and with my brain waves being in a more receptive state.

My general intention and principle has always been that I want to be a brilliant Delivery Manager, but it always serves to be specific and I was shown a weakness of mine early upon returning to work – so this seems like a good place to create a new, specific intention.

Upon returning to HackIT, we had a session where we talked about the concept of “Minimum Viable Documentation” for our projects.

I was excited for this session, because I had struggled to fully understand how and where we consistently document our projects and had experienced some challenges when inheriting a project from a departed colleague to understand properly what had happened before me. 


During the session however, as my colleagues were sharing their various methods for project documentation – it dawned on me that I really wasn’t doing such a good job on my own projects. Cate, our Head of Delivery, delicately suggested that there was a spectrum of strong to weak project documentation activity across the team and I knew that I was on the weak end of that spectrum. I was disappointed with myself, because I knew that if someone were to take over my project, they would be faced with largely the same problem that I had experienced.

Acknowledging weakness can be hard, especially when that weakness affects (or potentially affects) others. But equally, by acknowledging weakness it can be turned into a strength.

This is one of the things that I especially like about the safe space environment here at Hackney Council. Following that meeting, I felt both safe and empowered to approach Cate and ‘confess’ my shortcomings around product documentation.

Doing that wasn’t, however, an indulgence guilt admission. It was in fact an opportunity. It stands to reason that if Cate presented the concept of such a spectrum, then regardless of whether I was or wasn’t at the lower or bottom end of it, Cate would know who was at the top end of it. That was the purpose of the conversation. By openly sharing my weakness, I was able to seek help from a place of strength and Cate recommended that I speak with my fellow Delivery Manager Soraya, who (I can safely say), IS really rather good with project documentation. And who was also very willing to help!

The conversations, both with Cate and Soraya, enabled me to see that this is a need and a weakness that will require consistent work, to form a new habit. Documentation has always been hard for me – it’s one of the reasons that I was attracted to Agile in the first place, but that’s no excuse to pretend it isn’t important. However, they have kindly set me up on a path of self improvement in this area and I feel confident that the shortcoming is surmountable and that I am supported in my efforts to turn it around.

So my ‘intention’ for 2020, is to consistently put effort into project documentation, to get regular feedback and help and to get better at it across the year.

Here’s to 2020!

Ian

Joining Up Staff Data: Week Note w/e 06/12/19 – Alpha (Experiment).

It’s good to be back!

A week on “hiatus” with Lisa (our Product Owner) being away for Thanks Giving and the rest of the team tinkering away on some ‘side hustle’ projects. But now we’re back – it felt like a bizarrely long time, which is an indication of how we’ve become accustomed to working together.

This week we reviewed the feedback that we received at our show and tell and took some time out to think on what iterative stretch goals we might aim for in this project, as we had already delivered an MVP for Joining Up Staff Data using Qlick.

Firstly we had a bit of a sesh to simply reacquaint ourselves with where we reached so far in sprints one and two and considered what we might want to try to achieve in sprint 3. We’ve taken an ambitious stance, but we’re open to getting as far as we get.

We took all of the suggestions made at the Show and Tell, along with those that had surfaced during the user research for the higher level Digital Support Services programme of works.

We created a neat Venn Diagram that helped guide us around what to prioritise which brought together:

  • What the organisation wants
  • What we have the skills to do
  • What we have the time to do
  • Value to the Organisation

Using this as the foundation to our decision making, we decided to create one inward (IT) insight and one outward (Organisational) insight.

On this basis, we will be attempting to create a user friendly reporting tool that could provide us with new insights about headcount in the Organisation and also some insights on Microsoft Licensing requirements (as this will solve a whole problem in helping to understand how many Microsoft Licences we can reduce our count by).

The team have largely thrown themselves in to the back end of Qlick at this point to start the process of pulling that data together and creating the raw numbers, before we tackle the front end of the pilot to see how we can make it more intuitive.

Beyond this, thinking about how we might test it and how we might give Qlick a bit of a celebrity makeover so that it’s more of a go-to tool for people looking for organisational data insights – as well as making our recommendations for what happens next when we’ve wrapped up our last sprint.

We’ve got a lot to do – but we’re sure giving it our best shot!

Adventures Of A Delivery Manager – Week Ending 29.11.19

I really should decide whether I write these week commencing or week ending… that said, given that is the critical thing running through my mind at this point on a Friday evening, it suggests I am feeling fairly relaxed and calm this week.

TIDYING UP THE PROJECT

This week, I’ve made good use of some space to tidy up “Adventures Of A Delivery Manager” following my last week note and I feel a lot more settled about it. I have a nice four weekly rhythm in the diary with all of the relevant events now lined up for the coming few months – I guess I’ve properly committed to this for the long term!

I’m also really pleased to have the support of David Durant who is taking up the mantle of being my go-to in place of Nic with regard to this project. We’ve got a session in next Friday to talk about the Sprint Goals for sprint 3. In all honesty, it’ll be more of a review and discussion about what could have been – but regardless, it serves to just get in to that mindset about it.

NETWORKING

This week has been really cool for some organic networking.

Following delivering “Adventures” as a talk at the CrossGov meetup on Monday, I was contacted for a shadowing opportunity from .Gov, so we’re going to put that together shortly.

Then on Thursday we delivered our “Delivering An Excellent Delivery Team” show and tell, where we offered the opportunity for shadowing. I’m delighted that someone reached out there too.

Beyond shadowing, I also met our Hackney 100 student who I am going to work with over the coming months.

All of this really helps me to expand. I really subscribe to the concept of “see one, do one, teach one”, so the opportunity to teach and tell is really beneficial – shadowing is SUCH a win/win activity.

TECH & CHALLENGE

David is teaching me some tech (coding).

I find this REALLY hard.

I’ve always found languages hard, but code is especially hard, because they are words and abbreviations that I understand in a different way, so they feel really hard to convert in to a new way to do new things.

One of the reasons it’s really frustrating for me is that I place a really high value on the art of communication… a single word can make all the difference. Often I wish I could learn multiple languages, but for whatever reason, mastering other languages just doesn’t come naturally to me. Coding is no different… one space or letter in the wrong place can have quite the unintended effect!

That said, there are other skills I have learned in my life that were hard, but worthwhile and so I will pursue this, especially if it helps me to do a better job and serve my colleagues and team mates more effectively.

I do have to do a couple of things however to stay healthy in this space however.

Firstly, I have to always give my teacher and fellow learners warning – that when learning something really hard, I get unintentionally grumpy. No matter how hard I try to hide it or suppress it, it happens anyway – so best to acknowledge it and manage it. Secondly, I have to choose very carefully when I do this kind of training, because it really challenges me and takes me a while to recover from it. This means I need to be sure that I’m not going to come out of the training and in to a critical workshop or detail/concentration based task… I need to decompress first.

TO DO

Next week I need to promote the Barter Wall… it’s not gaining traction and in danger of becoming wallpaper, which would be a shame.

That’s it from me this week!

Joining Up Staff Data: Week Note w/c 18/11/19 – Alpha (Experiment).

This week we started the work to “piggy back” on the work already undertaken by Daro in the Data and Insight Team with regard to joining up staff data. In theory it was going to be quite straight forward. In practice (as is often the case), it was a little less so – but not insurmountable.

We started the week with what we called our “quick & dirty” data analysis. As we got in to the exercise, we discovered that it was going to be somewhat less quick, but a whole load more dirty!

In everyday language, what I mean by this was that the data was more inconsistent and unreliable than we had first anticipated. The goal of the exercise was to think about what new insights we might want to try and glean using Qlick, the existing tool for analysis previously configured by Daro. (Both the insights we could get now and the insights we might be able to get by building on the work already done).

The new challenges and questions that started to pose themselves however, were along the lines of how useful these new insights might be and what we might actually need to do to create something meaningful.

It started to create a bit of a chicken and egg question for us… What comes first… cleaning up the data or creating a mechanism to join data up.

There are pro’s and con’s to each position… joining up data gives a more overall coherent picture of what’s there. But equally, if joining up one poor data source to another poor data source, we are left with a set of doubly poor data that is potentially produces an insight that is twice as unreliable as the first.

Ultimately, we took this as far as we could on our own and decided to pose some questions to our wider audience of stakeholders at our show and tell. We specifically asked what insights might be most useful.

This information is most useful to us, because by understanding this, we can get an idea of the level of accuracy that we might be able to achieve based on the correctness of the data sets that such insights belong to and then make a call on whether we think that by joining them up we might get be able to get data that would answer such questions to a level of reliability that will actually help anyone.

If we can’t do that, then the question is answered for us by default.

Talking of the show and tell, we felt much better about this one.

We worked harder at preparing it, assigning responsibility for articulating a ‘section’ rather than a slide and rehearsing a couple of times to make sure that we were all settled and ready for the review.

Collectively we all felt that it went better than the first and we treated ourselves to a box of Quality Street to celebrate!

In terms of how we are working, I’m pleased that at our retro (where above mentioned Quality Street were devoured), the issues that we collectively discussed were all different to those that we had worked on at our previous retro, which suggests that the iterations that we made around trying to balance work had been a success.

In terms of going forward, we are going to try making ourselves more visible to our regular teams of practice and also we are going to have a look at further flattening the team structure by finding ways to more evenly distribute work between us. This means that some of us may try taking on the generic admin tasks of team members who are peaking on technical aspects of the projects.

We’ve also decided to take a weeks hiatus this coming week, as Lisa headed off to another continent to celebrate Thanksgiving and Ian took out some training time to get Scrum Master Certified and Tim is carrying out a swift piece of discovery on another arm of the Managing People Data suite of works. (Tom I am sure is being kept very busy on the Data and Insight Team in Lisa’s absence!)

We’ll be back next week to explore how we might build on the work undertaken by Qlik so far and to think about how we might make Qlik more widely accessible. We’ll also be thinking about what recommendations we’ll be making at the end of the alpha phase on this project.

As always, thanks for taking an interest in this project and if anyone has questions – feel free to reach out and ask any of the team!

Joining Up Staff Data: Week Note w/c 11/11/19 – Alpha (Experiment).

The job interview and the idea of doing nothing…

The first part of spring two was mostly about narrowing the field to a more workable set of variables that we could really dig in and focus on. This made sense so that we could ask better and more specific questions to those around us who were helping us to consider the options.

We had lots of fields which was possibly a bit unruly to make the first steps to joining up staff data… so we decided to give our ‘candidates’ a grilling…

And what better way to do that by interviewing them!

We gave each of the possible candidates a persona and interviewed them as if they were applying for the job…

– Why do you think you would be good at this job?
– What are your perceived weaknesses?
– How well do you interact with others?

Were a few of the questions we asked the applicants.

We also cross examined them against what they were suggesting as we got really in to the process… “you ‘say’ you’re unique Ms Staff-EmailAddress, but actually, looking a bit more deeply, we’ve found that you’re not as unique as you think you are – can you explain a bit more about this?”

It was a fun exercise and it really allowed us to explore the possibilities in some depth. Ultimately, the process allowed us to narrow down our working variables to three chief fields:

Staff Email
First Name (job share/work experience)
Surname (job share/work experience)

Having done this, we started to expand our thoughts and direction.

In a workshop including Daro from the Data and Insight Team, it was brought to our attention that a similar conclusion had been reached in an independent piece of work and we were really pleased about this validation. To our surprise and delight, we also learned that a tool had been created to create some data insights that wasn’t a million miles away from where we were headed too.

It was an interesting moment and posed a new set of questions and options that we hadn’t considered before.

One such option was the idea of doing nothing.

Odd one might think, but we wanted to make sure that we explored the pros and cons of every choice.

Could we do nothing? Decide that the many of the success criteria for our project had already been fulfilled?

We weighed it up…

– It would save time
– We could start work on other things
– There were some insights we could derive from what’s been done already

We also explored the other options around continuing:

– What if we sought to take the analysis of this data to the next level?
– Could we ‘piggy back’ on to what had been done and build something else in to in to it?
– Maybe we could re-build something ourselves and see how the two tools compared?
– Perhaps we could test the existing tool rigorously and see if we could spot any flaws?

We had a rock solid discussion where we weighed up the pros. cons, risks, what’s involved, how long it might take amongst our thinking processes.

We also worked through a number of musical genres in our thinking time (with an alarming number of the group knowing ALL the lyrics to Sinitta).

Ultimately we concluded that doing nothing wasn’t an option – the discussion around joining up staff data isn’t going away and so whilst there are questions still being posed, there are still answers to find.

We decided that at this point we would “Piggy Back” on what has already been done to date.

This would include rigorously testing that tool and also looking for further insights that the business is already asking for.

It leaves us in a potentially fortunate position, because if the existing tool proves to be robust, it means that a good chunk of the ‘MVP’ work has already been done and our focus can switch to the second set of questions that we’re interested in looking at.

What insights can we get?
How can this be expanded upon and scaled?
How might we build on what’s been done?
What needs to happen in the business for that to happen?

We look forward to testing and sharing!!