Joining Up Staff Data: Week Note w/c 28/10/19 – Alpha (Experiment).

Better late than never (mk1)…

I have to confess, I wasn’t on prime form on Friday after Nic’s leaving do last week and wanted to write a weeknote that contained more than one syllable words and actually meant something to those who read it… so thank you for your patience!

This week, we closed the first sprint of this experimental Alpha.

This was the ‘what’ sprint of the project. As previously mentioned, we tackled the necessary ‘what?’ questions, such as;

  • ‘What’ systems will we choose?
  • ‘What’ data sets might we try to join together?
  • ‘What’ is the quality and quantity of that data?

I’m really pleased that after research, discussion and cross-examination the team reached decisions on both areas of consideration (the systems and the data sets).

The team chose for the systems:

  • iTrent
  • Active Directory
  • G-Suite

For the Data Sets, the team chose:

  • National Insurance Number
  • Staff Email Address
  • First Name
  • Surname
  • Employee Number

I was really proud of the team for making these decisions for two main reasons.

The first is that we had some predicted and un-predicted obstacles that made it difficult to really get inside the systems and fully understand the data at a level that we would have really liked.

Getting access to the data and getting under the bonnet of the systems was not the easiest and in some cases we got further than others. But we also had to recognise that in order to open this up, we may encounter some sensitive and personal data and this (rightly), has a significant level of governance around it.

We also had to accept that whilst we are working in an agile fashion and are also working at high intensity and velocity as part of the HackIT experiments, those of whom we are asking for data and access aren’t necessarily working in the same manner.

However, whilst accepting of the presence of these obstacles, the team persisted and really worked hard to work around the challenges and to find solutions that enabled us to reach a point of understanding ‘enough’ to be able to make an informed choice and decide on a way forward.

A choice that ultimately will either show us we made the right choice or the wrong one – so we can go ahead and make the right one. (I know that’s a rubbish sentence, but I’ve tried to re-write it three times now).

The team deserve recognition for their persistence and enthusiasm to get to that place.

The second thing I felt really proud of, was running with the concept of knowing that they had ‘enough’ data to make a reasonable decision.

The reason this was so cool, was that (in what seems like an age ago) at the beginning of the project, we did a ‘manual of me’ exercise to learn a bit about each other. During that exercise, lots of team members had the courage to share that they had a tendency to ‘always want more data’ before making a decision.

This openness and sharing enabled us to have a conversation about risk and to explore some of the HackIT manifesto principles around “More Doing, Less Planning”. It also allowed us to have an exploratory conversation about how agile generally favours action and testing rather than endlessly talking about possibilities.

In turn we developed a question that we would continuously ask ourselves frequently and at key junctures being: “Is this ENOUGH?”. What is really admirable, is just how willing the team are to acknowledge that although they would like to know more, they don’t always need to know more to move forwards.

I’m not saying we’ve definitely got it right here, but I definitely acknowledge the team for stepping out of their comfort zones around this (some very much so) and for being open to testing what ‘enough’ is. Furthermore, being open to letting it fail or succeed to establish the balance point of ‘enough’ as we iterate.

Talking of iteration, it would be remiss of me to skip over the team health with this being one of the HackIT experiments of different ways of working.

At the end of the week I’m writing about here, I am better able to share how we are doing as a team in terms of both how we’re working and feeling.

Having been lucky enough to have been part of the previous experiment, there are some similar themes that are emerging…

What’s working:

  • Velocity is high
  • We are getting a lot done in a short space of time
  • We can typically get more done than we think we can
  • We really enjoy working together and there is a real sense of team bond
  • The team rallies around an issue and problems get solved quickly

What’s hard:

  • Sometimes we struggle to attend to their responsibilities outside of the project
  • The concept of ‘brain fry’ makes it hard us to context switch after an extended session on the project
  • Sometimes we need more time for ideas to ‘settle’
  • We sometimes feel our loyalty is torn between our ‘project’ team and our ‘organisation’ team / ‘department’

One of the benefits we have in this particular experiment over the Housing Data In The Cloud project is that we are spread over a longer period of time.

If you followed Housing Data In The Cloud, you’ll be aware that the first part of that project was a super-condensed one week project-a-thon and there was only so much change and manoeuvring that could be achieved in a 5 day straight run.

In this experiment, we are running across six weeks with the opportunity for multiple retro’s and safe space conversations. Within our Friday safe space chat, we explored brain-fry and split responsibility and so we responded by iterating the way in which we worked in to ‘days on and days off’ of the project. This means that there will be a better demarcation between when we are ‘on project’ and ‘off project’ with enough breathing space in-between to enable people to bring their best selves to the space they are working in at the time.

I’m really hoping this works well for us and I’m really looking forward to us moving in to the ‘how’ stage of this project.

On a lighter note… we also had a week of team home baking.

My M&M cookies were a disaster and the only thing I have ever seen make it to the end of the day on the stand-up tables on the 4th floor. Tim exchanged baking skills for procurement skills and brought us some very high quality cookies and Lisa totally put us to shame by bringing in delectable Halloween themed “mummy” cup cakes which were scoffed before we’d even looked at the agenda.

Next week we’re going to take a break from baking and think of a new team competition.

Talking of next week… Next note I’ll report on how our show and tell and Retro for sprint one went!

Oh… and our G+ Community for this project is now live!!! Please feel free to join us on there for more frequent updates! For whatever reason, WordPress won’t let me embed that here and everyone who might know how to do it has gone home as I type – but you can just search “Joining Up Staff Data” in G+ and join our community!

That’s it for this week… Looking forward to a more timely note next time!

Ian

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