What we’re learning from HackIT Service Assessments

Service assessments are a central part of HackIT’s governance approach. In the last 18 months we’ve run more than a dozen and the Delivery team have also piloted GDS Service Assessor training to help skill up a pool of assessors. Last week we completed a service assessment of the beta stage of the Manage Arrears service. The assessment itself will be published in due course – what we’re sharing here is our experiences and the key lessons we’re taking away for next time…

Great prep is a great start: From the panel: Soraya put together a really good Trello board (building on an earlier version from the ‘redesigning content on the Hackney website’ project). It was really helpful extra context and a great example for future teams to crib from. Without this, we’d have struggled to get to grips with the detail we needed to make a useful assessment. Attending a couple of the show & tells in the run up would have given us a head start for the assessment without requiring much time from us and no extra effort from the project team – we’ll try this next time.

From the team: It was useful to start a Service Standard Assessment Trello board at the beginning of our phase to link evidence to each criteria periodically as the project progressed. This helped our team ensure that we were capturing supporting evidence, as well as creating a great service in the best way we could. As the approached, the Trello board reminded us that there were some aspects of the standards which we would not have a chance to fully implement. We had plans in place to implement these and were able to share these confidently but this was the difference between us getting a partially met and a fully met for many of our criteria. The learning here is to allow more time ahead of the assessment to execute actions. Try not to just have a plan, implement the plan! 

Keep some focus on the bigger picture:
From the panel: The team have a great product that they’re very passionate about but as assessors, we’d never seen the product close up before. Even with a great Trello board and some show & tells under our belts the panel still needs a brief overview of the end to end product and how the current phase fits in. Next time, I’ll take the time to remind a team in advance, of the importance of ‘showing the thing’ on the day – a really strong narrative and end to end demo are key to making sure the team sell all the benefits of their work.

From the team: As a team, we found this assessment invaluable. We learned that it is important not to assume that everyone is aware of what went on throughout the full project lifecycle, and to remember to set the narrative and background.  This was missing in our presentation and would have been a benefit as we would have shared more insight into the Discovery work from earlier phases which would have emphasised the overall service vision and journey.

Take some time to come to a decision:
From the panel: we made a conscious decision at the start of the session to conclude the assessment on the day which meant a nervy quarter of an hour at the end of the session while the panel reached a conclusion on each of the standards. With hindsight, it might have been beneficial to have delayed this and given the panel a bit more time to explore the detail of the Trello board before we made a decision and to allow the team to challenge some of our assumptions.

From the project team: Next time, I would definitely include some extra time after the scoring for questions. This would provide the assessors with an opportunity to clarify or ask questions about anything which they were unclear on. Also, it would offer the team a chance to question the outcomes. On this occasion, the team came away feeling slightly deflated because there was no opportunity to discuss and understand fully how some of the final scores were met. Since then, our lead assessor, Liz, has done a great job to add the reasons for the outcomes which are available on our Service Standard Assessment Trello board.

Maybe a consistent panel could be useful:
From the panel: We also reflected on the potential benefits of including some of the same panel for the next stage service assessment of this product. Some fresh eyes will be useful too but it could be beneficial to help appreciate whether some of our recommendations have taken root. We were really lucky to be joined by Jess from ACAS as our external assessor, who was new to assessing but who’d been on the other side of the table a couple of times before. She was able to offer challenge from her experience in central Government (where service assessments can act as gateways) but had enough experience of being in the project team’s shoes to ask probing questions in a supportive way.

From the project team: It would be good to use the same panel for this product’s next service standard assessment as they are aware of it and the recommendations that came from this assessment. They could see the product’s progress as well as question the outcomes of the last recommended actions. We had a great multi-disciplinary panel which included both external and internal assessors all of whom objectively evaluated our service and raised constructive feedback.

You can find links to all of the service assessments we’ve carried out on our HackIT site. Written by Liz Harrison and Soraya Clarke


One Team Gov Hackney : Our first meet-up!

One Team Gov is a global community founded in 2017 who aspire to radically reform the public sector through practical action. There is a particular focus on breaking down silos within and between government organisations. It’s made up of mostly civil and public sector employees driven by optimism, the desire to make things better and united by a set of core principles. This fits in very well with the Hackney Council values of being open, ambitious, pioneering, inclusive, proactive and proud.

So far, the core group in the UK has run a number of unconferences, including one at the annual event where the top 200 civil servants meet, as well as contributing to reports such as NESTA’s Radical Visions of Government. It’s core themes this year are diversity and wellbeing, the climate emergency and public sector leadership.

Across the world it now has groups in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland and has run three 1,000+ people global meetups.

However – as well as going global it’s also time to start going local! Groups already exist in Wales, Leeds, Manchester, Scotland, Newcastle and most recently one was set up by our friends over at Croydon Council.

Inspired by Croydon and the other groups we decided it was time to set up a branch of One Team Gov here at Hackney. One first meeting was bright and early on the 15th of Jan and was attended by people from a number of areas in the Council including Housing Needs, ICT and Adult’s Social Care.

Fueled by coffee and croissants we had a brief intro to the One Team Gov concept and a round of introductions as many people attending had never met each other before – already a great start! Following that we had a lean coffee session where everyone was given an opportunity to introduce topics related to improving how the Council functions and then to vote on which ones they would like to spend the remainder of the time discussing.

The suggested topics included how to end projects well, creating a culture of empowerment, benefiting from data insights, enabling and empowering teams to be self improving and governance of cross-cutting projects. The two that the group chose to focus on were on how to share information about the work we’re doing to prevent duplicated effort and highlight conflicting objectives and how to provide consistent ways and means of communication.

The mini-session on work related information generated insights including the following.

  • The difference between “static” information about a project and and “the narrative” of what it’s achieving
  • The use of project start-up and close-down checklists
  • How difficult it is to know what other parts of the Council are doing and especially who is responsible for things
  • The danger of being overwhelmed by too much information
  • Whether it can be a good thing to have conflicting objectives in different teams
  • HackITs use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

The mini-session on consistent ways of communication insights were as follows.

  • “No time” to communicate can often be an indication of other more complex issues preventing participation in a project
  • People often shut out communications they don’t see as related to their “day job”
  • Ways of communicating are very important – building a strong relationship often means having to initially talk to people face-to-face even if they are spread throughout the borough
  • It’s important to ask how people like to communicate
  • When looking to make people involved in a project – make sure you include discussions with the manager (about their time) and their team-mates (about the impact)
  • Having agreed combined objectives can make people feel more like part of the team and more willing to respond to communications – start small, build reciprocity!

After the two discussions came to an end we had a short retrospective which covered four areas. Things people liked included the opportunity to meet new people from different areas of the Council, the way the session was run and the croissants! People learned about lean coffee and that we all face common challenges. It was felt that the session could do with people from other teams and perhaps dedicate more time. Finally, the group longed for specific actions to take away – and a breakfast fry up!

All in all it was a great first session. We’re going to organise one every month – if you work at Hackney Council and would like to be involved please let us know.

Hackney’s new Change Support Team

Shortly before Christmas, I joined Hackney Council to set up a new Change Support Team. I’m well overdue a first weeknote, so I’ll brand this a ‘month note’ for now… The main news here is that we’re hiring for three very exciting roles – keep reading for details. 

Some first impressions of Hackney:

I’ve been unbelievably impressed by my colleagues around the Council and the work that’s being done – in just a few weeks I’ve seen amazing examples of change and innovation across all areas of council services

The speed and scale of change in the borough is massive. My colleagues in the Data and Insight team put this image together which gives a sense of the scale of change in the last ten years.

It’s sobering to remember though that this level of change doesn’t benefit all Hackney residents equally. The borough still has 11th highest level of deprivation in the UK, and that’s particularly challenging when you look at, for example, the impact of rapidly rising rental costs on Hackney’s low income residents.

Broader than the trends in Hackney, the scale of rising need is shocking. National policy failures in housing, mental health services and adult social care for example all take on new meaning when you see what those crises mean for vulnerable residents and the front line staff who are being asked to do more with less to support their residents. 

The response to these challenges has been incredibly impressive at Hackney, with staff leading on new ways of working in their service areas to manage all sorts of change. In just the few weeks I’ve been here, I’ve seen how Adult Social Care have introduced the Three Conversations Model, how colleagues in Housing have introducing new tech to streamline work around managing tenancies, and partnership working with the voluntary sector and local communities to improve outcomes for young black men. Over 70 staff members from across the council have completed three day Agile training, to help introduce new ways of working, focusing on keeping users at the centre of design and quick experiments which encourage “failing fast”. 

The new Change Support Team:

The Change Support Team will provide extra capacity to support this kind of change. The team will act as an internal consulting agency, sitting with different services across the Council, building confidence and capability to deliver complex change. 

We’re going to hire for a multidisciplinary team – combining expertise in Service Design, Behavioural Insights and Agile Delivery. We’ll run short term projects with different teams around the council. The roles will essentially be like working for a public sector agency – but without the business development and with the ability to work long term with colleagues and build up a real expertise in the borough and our residents.  

The success of our team will be defined by the degree to which we’re perceived to be an integral part of the Council service we work with – embedding the confidence to embrace change and adopt new ways of working, not simply ‘doing transformation to’ services.

I think the roles we’re recruiting for are very exciting jobs – it’s a great way for someone with local government experience to apply their skill sets across a range of services and develop expertise in a range of new areas; similarly this team is a brilliant opportunity for anyone with academic, private sector or voluntary sector background to apply their skills and make a real difference at scale. 

We’re looking for people who: 

  • Have experience of working in teams using Lean, Agile and User Centred principles to drive complex change 
  • Can demonstrate excellent problem solving skills – ability to adapt and iterate when necessary, and lead in ambiguity 
  • Enjoy – and are good at – working with people. You’ll bring an agency mindset to the role, seeing the service teams around the Council as our clients, and bring client or stakeholder management experience to this work. 

I’ve included an overview of the roles we’re recruiting to below – and you’ll find the full job adverts and descriptions on our recruitment site.  I’m more than happy to chat to anyone interested. If you’re not sure whether the job description is right for you, please get in touch on zoe.tyndall@hackney.gov.uk and we can set up a quick chat. 

Two of these job ads aren’t live yet. Keep an eye out early next week – or drop me an email and I’ll be in touch when the adverts are live

  1. Behavioural Insights Analyst (Up to £54k)

Some of the things you’ll be responsible for in this role: 

  • Research: Use quantitative and qualitative skills to lead on research in discovery phase; understanding how Council services are used and where problems are that BI approaches could help solve
  • Designing, running and evaluating experiments: Using behavioural science methodologies to design interventions; working closely with the Service Teams to understand impact of tests on costs, efficiencies, processes and residents’ experiences of Council services
  • Communicating and implementing change:Using outcomes data from tests to work with other teams to implement changes to Council services. Communicating projects and methodologies effectively to build capability and confidence of colleagues around the Council to adopt behavioural science approaches

This job is ideal for someone looking to apply their expertise in behavioural insights to a range of different topics, services, communities and problems. You’ll have expert knowledge of behavioural science techniques, and experience implementing these to achieve better outcomes.  Ideally we are looking for someone with core behavioural insights experience; however we are happy to consider applications from those who have worked in related fields, for example in digital marketing, advertising, public health or social research.

See the job description here

2. Service Designer (Up to £51k)

This role is ideal for someone looking to apply their expertise in change management and agile working to a public sector setting. You’ll do some of the following types of work:

  • Writing Business Cases: Use council data sets and research with service teams to quantify issues, to present analysis of why change to a process or service will benefit the council and residents. 
  • Create process maps and customer journeys: Work with service teams and colleagues in the Change Support Team to map existing journeys and processes, as well as other Agile tools such as user pen portraits, How Might We statements, etc. in order to focus on where Change should happen
  • Design solutions and trial these with service teams: You’ll work with the Behavioural Insights specialist and Delivery Manager to design new processes and test the impact with Service Teams. 

We’re looking for solid analytical skills here, more so than in some Service Design jobs. You’ll need to be confident in business analysis skills, understanding the costs of existing processes and making the case financially to work on any given issue. 

You might have worked as a designer, a management or strategy consultant, researcher or analyst, or have had responsibility for innovative approaches to developing services or programmes; you’ll now be looking to apply your skills to a wide range of different service areas and to join a dynamic community focused on delivering better outcomes for residents

Please see job description here.

3. Delivery Manager

As Delivery Manager, you’ll be central to the new Change Support Team’s success. You’ll have responsibility for: 

  • Managing the team’s workload: Leading on our Agile approaches – for example, leading Sprint planning meetings, Sprint review meetings and retrospectives, managing the Team’s Trello board and cleaning and prioritising the backlog;
  • Relationship management: Liaising between the Change Support Team and Service Teams around the Council, managing pipeline of potential projects, scoping and designing projects with Service Teams
  • Communications and Evaluation: Leading on creation of product road maps, show and tells, week notes, other communications around the Council. Evaluating impact of the team’s projects and creating dashboards of the team’s work

You might have worked as a Scrum Master, in Delivery or Product roles, or have had responsibility for innovative approaches to project management. You’ll be happy to work flexibly, supporting colleagues on projects as the need arises and developing skills in related areas, such as user centred research and data analysis as required.

I’m Done, but I’m not finished!

Over the year, since starting this apprenticeship in October of 2018 I have been a part of a wonderful organisation and team, with a manager (Gabriel) who has supported me throughout the months. My role is Application Management for the Social Care side of things in the IT department.

The first choice for my apprenticeship has been nothing short of an amazing learning experience, as I have been able to shadow my team members as well as join other teams to be able to approach my work in a more holistic view, knowing how both sides to the organisation work.

However, as you may have guessed, my apprenticeship has come to an end, well at least the college side of things. I have completed my course and would like to share how that experience was for me.

The beginning

I started the course with an open mind, a curious attitude and a solid determination to do the best with whatever was thrown at me. Little did I know, nothing was thrown. At least, at first, we weren’t given any guidance on how we would complete the course let alone a single unit, but as time went by, we were able to find our feet and had a steady rhythm. The class we had every Thursday was quite productive and allowed us to find out what method of teaching worked best for us. Things were looking up until we got the sad and abrupt news that our assessor was leaving.

The middle

It was a tough period around June/July. We were without an assessor and guidance on what our next steps would be, but when we heard that a new assessor would come in to clear things up and get us underway, things looked to be better. We were able to have more structured sessions but still had the trickles of disorganisation seep into the new schedule. Having to balance college and work at that time became easier as I had a solid routine to get sufficient work done whilst being able to contribute to the team effectively every week. I was happy.

The end?

After the struggle of communication and organisation from the college side of things, I am happy and proud to say that I have completed my Level 3 course in IT!

It was a long road to walk down, but I had my team and the apprenticeship programme officers such as Ronke and Esmay to help me through it. Being able to mix and get to know the other apprentices, old and new, has been such a wonderful experience.

I’ve had so much fun with the different functions, network days and events, such as the Annual Apprenticeship awards that I was more than happy to co-host with a fellow apprentice, Afnan. However, now that the college is done, I will be looking to further my knowledge and experience with Hackney and hope that I can continue to grow with the council that helped me to start my career!

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!