Finding support services near you: weeknotes 08/03/20

As we’ve previously mentioned, we’re running Finding support services near you under Agile principles. We recognise this may be a departure for some of you reading these weeknotes – though, if you’re reading weeknotes, I hate to say it but you’ve already departed! Agile, at its heart, is about collaboration and our aim is to make our comms sufficiently engaging and transparent that you feel connected to the project and know that your opinions, questions and input are valued. Indeed, we actively want you to help us to make decisions together. 

You don’t have to wait for the weekly missive to find out what we’re up to. You can check in on progress whenever you want via our public Trello board. Extensive user research has given us a good handle on what this product of ours is going to look like and you’ll see in Trello that we are breaking its delivery into fortnightly sprints. Again, this is an Agile concept; its aim is to deliver value early and consistently so that we can adjust and iterate as we go. We love a big ribbon-cutting moment as much as the next Project Manager but we also know that the continual check-ins and corrections of Agile pay off. 

The tasks we’ve set ourselves are in the current ‘sprint’ column and the ‘backlog’ is a list of things we haven’t yet scheduled. You may notice that we write our tasks to include the what, who for and why. For example, ‘Display categories on the front-end so that users can browse to a relevant service’ is written as a user story that helps us stay focussed on what we are trying to achieve. We don’t want to blithely crack on with a task without thinking because therein lies the ‘busy but not productive’ mantra.

Enough of the Agile re-run, what have you been up to?

The Readers

We hear you. See, we are listening! 

We’re halfway through sprint 1. We’ve created our advice for organisations on how to write good About Us sections and this will be reviewed this week with a content expert. We’ve also devised our first attempt at a categorisation to help organisations describe what they do, who for and why. It’s their own user story, in a way. Both the About Us and categorisation will help website visitors find services and organisations that are relevant to them.  

Following extensive user research, we’ve finalised our step-by-step guide to the admin interface of MiDoS – our database software – so that organisations can add their listing to our website. We’ll add the verification process once it’s built. 

We’ve also had a peek at the out-the-box MiDoS front-end so that we can better understand how it’s put together. Although we’re building our own custom front-end for the website, we may use this out-the-box version for early testing. We’ve also started mocking up wireframes (think architect’s drawings) of the custom front-end and we’ll start user-testing with those in future sprints. It’s our intention to use the existing Hackney WordPress theme for the look and feel of the website.

The team has carried out desk research to clarify how easy WordPress, Wix, Meetup and Eventbrite are to use. This information will feed into our upskilling piece for organisations who need to develop an online presence from scratch. We’ll be pulling this together in the rest of the sprint. 

That’s all for now. Please fire off your questions or feedback to us and, remember, Trello is round-the-clock if it’s 3am and you just really want to know what we’re up to. Though I can tell you: sleeping. Now go and count some sheep.

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.

Hackney Spacebank: weeknote, w/c 22.11.2019

Cartoon of Mickey Mouse slicing a cake into equal size pieces and putting the slices onto plates

Three things you need to know about Spacebank this week:

Starting our build

Over the summer and autumn, we paused our work with libraries. We did three things:

  • Completed a discovery about community halls, supporting a wider review of looking into utilisation and asset management
  • Secured some funding
  • Procured a “custom off the shelf” (COTS) scheduling tool – a white label API

We are ready to start working with the library service again to implement the API and configure a user interface based on the prototype wireframes. These will need some re-designing to reflect our new digital brand and component library. 

A slice of cake

Everyone loves cake. It’s also a useful analogy for working vertically – adding a little bit of value to our users each every two weeks. This sprint, we working with the comms team to re-design the information on our website about meeting rooms available for hire in our libraries. We going to put this “in the wild” and monitor how users engage with the content. It’s a small step, achievable in two weeks. 

People and skills

As always, the biggest risk in this project is the capacity of the team. We are a couple of roles down at the moment. This is weighing heavily on my mind and much of my time is focused on recruitment. 

Service assessments: treasure, dragons and a place to dry your socks

An unsuspecting vanguard 

The Hackney Spacebank team are looking at ways we can improve access to low cost or no cost meeting space in the borough for voluntary and community groups, micro businesses and residents. 

We’ve been squirrelling away for the last six months – give or take a couple of fire breaks – and we’re now ready to build our MVP. It feels like we’re at the bottom of a mountain, blinking into the sun, trying to get a glimpse of a hazy summit. We’ve got some navigation, our wits and a great team ethos. Like the best kind of adventures, there will be mysteries to unravel, treasure to be found and dragons to be tackled along the way. 

We’ve completed two service assessments on our journey thus far. These are like a bit Scottish Bothies – stone dwellings for individuals or small groups hiking in the mountains. A place of shelter to pause, unpack our bags, refuel and regroup. At Hackney, service assessments are an assurance, not a gateway. They are an opportunity to ask: are we doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time? 

Our Spacebank team have been accidental pioneers of Hackney service assessments. We volunteered to do the first ever discovery phase service assessment back in March where we experimented with a self assessment approach and a couple of weeks ago we completed the first prototype (Alpha) assessment. 

A reluctant start

I didn’t feel popular when I broached the subject of prepping for a service assessment mid way through a series of five sprints. I understand why. The team were knee deep in the detail of prototyping a new service. I was asking them to step back and reflect. All the information we needed was in their heads and I had to find a way to extract it with minimal disruption. 

Over the next couple of sprints, I ran two 1-hour workshops. We took three or four service assessment standards and answered two questions: what’s the story we want to tell and how can we evidence this?* We looked at the good stuff and the not so good stuff, treating everything as valuable learning and identifying areas where the assessors could help us improve. 

For some of the team, completing a service assessment was new territory. I kicked the first workshop off with a short slide deck so that everyone knew enough** to join in. After we had bottomed out each service standard and assigned them to a team member, we agreed how to structure the assessment itself. We wanted the prototype to do the heavy lifting. We used a demo to walk through our proposed minimal viable product (MVP) and highlight some of our key messages. For example: our growing understanding of users’ needs, iterations as a result of testing, and tech choices.

On the day we were ready. There was a healthy dose of nerves, supplemented by caffeine and chocolate. After the demo, we broke into small groups each led by an assessor. This was the opportunity for an in-depth conversation on a smaller number of service standards. To wrap up we came back together and assessors fed back their thoughts and recommendations to the whole group. 

And at the end of it all, what did the team say: 

“The assessors were excellent and gave really useful, actionable feedback.” Emma, Developer

“I liked how we prepared by giving the assessors the information they needed for each service standard on Trello before the assessment. This allowed us to use the time with the assessors to get their feedback on things we could consider during the next phase of the project.” Sam, User Researcher

“I think the format in which we did an intro, a demo and breaking up into groups and playing back the highlights was a really good way of making the most of our time in our service assessment.” Joy, Service Designer

And our assessors said:

“Super interesting alpha assessment today at #HackIT. It’s always a privilege to meet talented committed teams doing the hard work to make things better for users.” Kate McCaul, Head of Digital at Acas

What are we learning?

Here’s what we are learning about participating in service assessments:

  • Preparation in bite sized chunks – little and often but involve the whole team
  • Take the lead (delivery managers/product owners) but share the responsibility
  • Give ownership of each standard to the relevant team member
  • Show “the thing” and practise showing “the thing”
  • Give assessors early sight of preparations
  • Structure the assessment to support conversations rather than questions and answers
  • Talk about the not so good – your best learning comes from this

Feel free to explore our Trello board and read our service assessment report. A big thank you to our assessors: Cate MacLaurin, Head of Delivery at Hackney, Kate McCaul, Head of Digital at Acas and Giulia Merlo, Service Design Lead at Cancer Research UK. Any tips on dragon handling are welcome. 

*The second question became redundant quite quickly as describing the story surfaced the evidence simultaneously

**What’s enough? A judgement call based on the personalities in the team and confidence levels. 

The hiking analogy of this blog post has been inspired by my long-time friend Shona MacPherson who lives in the Scottish Highlands. Today, she starts a solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, an epic 2650 mile walk from the U.S. border with Canada to the U.S. border with Mexico. She’s raising money for Mikeysline – a suicide prevention charity. 

Creating a Job Description Register weeknotes – Week commencing 27th May

From the User Needs we came up with User Stories, capturing likely journeys that Users may take when interacting with the HR process. We came up with User stories for HR Business Partners.

We then had a workshop with HR Business Partners to prioritise the User Stories, using MoSCow. The prioritised User stories are highlighted in Yellow, see below:

Must have Should Have Could HaveWon’t Have
As a business partner
I want to make sure the scoring is accurate  
So that the grading of the role is correct  
As a Business Partner I want to make sure I understand the actual changes being proposed So that I can decide if the Job Evaluation is neededAs a Business Partner
I want easy access to the most recent JDs during the disciplinary procedures
So I’m confident we’re making decisions based on accurate information
As a Business Partner I want to have enough information contained in a new JD So that I can carry out a Job Evaluation
As a Business Partner
I want to have the most up to date JD So that I can conduct a JD evaluation if requested by an employee
As a Business Partner I want to easily have access to the current JD So I can compare it with previous versionsAs a Business Partner
I want to automate the scoring method’s process
So that I can reduce human error

As a Business Partner
I want to make sure the decision letter and the Job Evaluation is stored in the agreed place after the evaluation So that everyone knows where to access it

As a Business Partner
I want to publicise the organisation structure
So that anyone can access it





As a Business Partner
I want to make sure I can find the correct versions of JDs
So that I can give them when they are requested by staff


As a Business Partner
I needed a completed questionnaire with the JD
So that I can make a decision quickly whether the JD need evaluating

As a Business Partner
I want to easily access the current JD
So that I can refer to it at employment tribunals and other purposes



As a Business Partner
I want the finalized JD to be saved in an agreed place
So that new recruits and their line managers don’t have to ask me for the JD











As a Business Partner
I want easy access to the most up to date JD when supporting service area managers on HR issues
So that I can perform this administrative task quickly



As a Business Partner
I want to have easy access to the most recent job descriptions when I am participating in service reviews
So that I am making decisions based on accurate information



As a Business Partner
I want to save JDs quickly during Service Review process
So that I can complete this admin task quicker



Next week we will be emailing other councils to understand their process and extract and analyse eDOCS data related to Job Descriptions. Thank you for reading.