Manage a Tenancy : Weeknotes – 30/8/19

Many things coming together for MaT – but lots still to do! I’m drawing all the different parts together into one “Hub document” intended as a central repository of everything about the service for both team members and stakeholder. Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing that.

The status update in that doc currently says the following.

  • ETRA will go live on 4/9/19 with some post-live updates to follow shortly afterwards
  • Following the great project-retro with Emma H. last week we’ve completed a first draft Team Charter which we’ll continue to iterate in future retrospectives. Currently we are aware we need further sections on impact mapping, metrics and our service design work.
  • We had the initial meeting with DXW on 29/8/19 which went well. Contract still to be signed so start date still not decided but hopefully it’ll hopefully be less than two weeks away.
  • The full set of user journeys and user stories that will serve as the initial agreement for that work still need to be completed but we’ve had some great meetings with our Product Owner that have got this well under way
  • We’re starting work on significantly improving the quality of the backlog
  • In general we’re lining everything up to make sure we’re good to go for when DXW arrives – there’s a lot to do!
  • There was a very thought-provoking and productive meeting with our team’s new Service Designer and the Head of Digital about the SD work that will be undertaken in September. This turns out to be more ambitious and far reaching than I had understood. It’s looking like it may be just the preamble to another round of discovery rather than the lead-in to immediate new digital features for MaT. This is going to involve some very interesting and positive conversations in the near future.

At the same time there’s a lot of other great things going on in HackIT from the experiments in team structures to the DevOps work – onwards!

Hackney Spacebank: weeknote, w/c 12th August

Meet the unicorn of omniscience – handsome isn’t he.

Three things you need to know about Spacebank this week:


1. The end of our discovery is looming

We are aiming to finish our discovery work on community halls by the end of August. There’s nothing a deadline to help us focus on what’s important vs. what’s nice to have. The trick is finding the sweet spot of knowing enough to make a decision about what to do next, rather than chasing the unicorn of omniscience. 


2. Observation of community halls team

Our researchers Sam and Winston spent a few hours observing the community hall team this week. They shadowed colleagues who are responsible for one-off and repeat bookings. It was great to experience first hand how the team deals with enquiries and handle bookings. This extra detail really adds to our understanding about the process. Thanks to Coralie and her team for giving us their time and insight. 


3. Up next

We’ve got a feedback session next Tuesday with stakeholders. We’ll be sharing what we’ve learnt so far and what we’re planning to do next. Hearing what they think is really important to us – good or bad. Their feedback will help shape where we focus our efforts in the next couple of weeks.

We’ll be analysing all the data we’ve gathered from our interviews with the community halls team and existing bookers. We are looking for themes within and across both groups and using the information to build journey maps. We’re also organising interviews with colleagues who use community halls and “non-bookers”. 

HackIT Apprenticeships – how’s it going as a line manager?

We’re five months into our first cohort of our digital apprenticeship programme – there are 21 in total, spread over (almost) every team. When we started to plan our apprenticeship programme we knew that getting the right line management support and focus in place would be crucial to its success – and we’ve put high expectations on our line managers to deliver this.

This week we got together as a group to reflect on how it’s going as a manager on the programme: what’s going well, what’s not going so well, what do we think we could do next to improve and iterate our approach?

It’s not often that this group of people gets together to share experiences and reflect as a group so we ran this in a retro format – sharing our thoughts on the wall, then grouping them into themes and encouraging open and honest discussion.

What’s going well?

  • We’re really proud of what our apprentices are doing and learning – and of being a part of that
  • We’re all being asked a lot of questions – and that’s giving the rest of our teams a sense of pride in being able to teach someone what you know
  • There’s a real sense of giving someone an opportunity – our apprentices are all from Hackney or went to a Hackney school, and making a difference for local residents is a big part of our overall goal
  • We’ve noticed a developing sense of camaraderie between the apprentices – working together on projects, supporting each other
  • They’ve hit the ground running – and the speed of learning is impressive
  • It’s made us raise our game – when you have someone learning from you, you’re very aware of demonstrating great professional behaviours and knowledge as a role model
  • The learning goes both ways – we’re getting new ideas, different perspectives, and good questions that make us think

What’s not going so well?

  • Managing the relationship with the training / qualification providers is hard work – and is something we need to keep focussing on so that we’re making sure that our apprentices are getting the right training and support
  • Some of the content of the apprenticeship standard they’re studying doesn’t really fit with how we’re working at Hackney (for instance, there’s a lot of Prince2 content in the L4 Associate Project Manager qualification). Whilst we know that being able to recognise a Gantt chart in the wild is a useful skill, we don’t work that way. And for some there are aspects of their course that aren’t directly related to their role – so they’re having to work on modules that don’t feel very relevant to them. We need to make sure we’re supporting them with this as well
  • Finding time to spend on a one to one basis is a challenge – as is getting open and honest feedback on how it’s going
  • We put a buddying system in place for extra support but we’re not sure it’s really working that well – it’s something for us to look at and improve
  • We didn’t manage to get everyone set up on devices quickly enough – next time we need to plan this better
  • We’re not sure we always recruited the right numbers in the right teams at the right time – the whole programme was part of our overall restructure and for some teams adding apprentices came at the same time as forming a new team. There was honest feedback on how it’s been for teams managing this

So, what are our ideas for improvement?

We’re going to work on some new things:

  • How can we generate more opportunities for apprentices from different teams to work together?
  • Having opportunities for apprentices to work with colleagues in other services on short term assignments has worked very well – how might we create more of these?
  • How can we create space and encouragement for sharing work?
  • How could we redesign our buddying arrangements so that they better meet user needs?
  • How might we form a trailblazer group with other interested people to develop an agile delivery manager apprenticeship?
  • How can we develop our own mentoring skills?

And we will also be continuing to focus on building good relationships with all our providers, setting clear expectations of delivery from them.

Building a pipeline of talent – HackIT digital apprenticeship programme

Our 21 apprentices in our first cohort have been settling in since September – and are already having a really positive impact across our teams. We have apprentices across all our teams- from applications to data, delivery to digital service design, infrastructure, software development and support, on a variety of level 3 and 4 apprenticeships. They’re from a diverse range of backgrounds but they are all either Hackney residents or attended a Hackney school – part of the borough’s commitment to providing opportunities for our residents.

It’s a key part of our workforce strategy – we know that in a market where digital skills are at a premium we need to work hard to attract the right candidates, and that growing our own talent is vital. It’s also a great way of bringing new ideas and diverse experiences into our team.

The right learning in the right way

Since September we’ve been focussed on working with our three apprenticeship providers Ada, Arch and WKCIC to make sure we’re supporting the apprentices with the right learning in the right way. This hasn’t all been plain sailing – working with three separate providers means there  are different approaches to learning, and sometimes a complex set of relationships to navigate. Luckily we’re well supported by the Hackney Works apprenticeship team, and we’ve been able to iterate and improve how we’re doing things as we’ve learnt.

We’ve also been helping the apprentices to build their own professional networks. Amazon hosted a day of learning in December, running a series of skills workshops, idea generation sessions and an opportunity to learn how Amazon innovate. Feedback from the apprentices was hugely positive and enthusiastic – you can read more from Hidayat about the day and what it meant to him.

What’s next?

We’re continuing our work to develop a network of local employers who we can collaborate with to build a pipeline of digital talent in Hackney. As a result of a successful and creative joint workshop with Amazon in December, where we listened to views and generated ideas from learning providers and small businesses we have a host of ideas for how we can move this forwards – on this we’re thinking big, but acting small, and it’ll be exciting to see where that takes us.

Next up for the HackIT apprenticeship programme is strengthening those emerging professional networks. And we’re working with Google, Amazon and other employers to see what other learning opportunities we can create for the whole programme. We’ve got specific events planned for our female apprentices – recognising that women are in the minority in the tech industry and wanting to play our part in changing this. To do that we think we need to make sure we’re consciously supporting them and that that might need different approaches.

There’s a shared mission as well – showing the value that apprenticeships can bring, and supporting our apprentices to feel confident to talk about that themselves.

Hackney Apprentices Meet Amazon

Think big

There are 14 Amazon principles for success, and Think big is one of them.

In December, I attended a digital skills workshop at Amazon Web Service HQ in Shoreditch. It was a great experience. The day consisted of a tour of the amazing 600,000-foot building full of equipment to encourage an agile work environment, from indoor tents to booth-like meeting spaces.

We had a great session with multiple individuals who represented AWS and other organisations: Julia, Scott, Josh, Kat and more. All talking about their unique and inspiring journeys of how they got to where they are now, as well as sharing valuable life lessons. Hearing journeys and setbacks from different perspectives showed me that nothing stops us from achieving apart from ourselves. Julia led her part of the session by speaking about how her journey started, what she studied and the personal setbacks she had. To hear how resilient Julia was through the tough times in her life really inspired me. You can see Julia’s achievements so far on LinkedIn.

Meeting user needs

Customer obsession is one of Amazon’s other principles and all us apprentices were set a group task: create an innovative service but start with the customers and work backward.

Amazon obviously wants its customers’ trust and to meet their needs. I saw a link between Amazon and the way we work at Hackney. We’re similar in the sense that all the work we do is for this borough, and our customers are the local residents. The products we create benefit the residents, and to do that well we need to meet their needs.

Be curious

It’s okay to be curious. To find or understand an answer, you should ask why and ask it multiple times. This was one of the most relatable points for me as I hesitate to ask ‘why’ in case it seems I lack knowledge. I questioned myself as to how I would gain knowledge if I didn’t ask? This really encouraged me and gave me the confidence to ask ‘why’ and be curious.

My main takeaway from the event was that you shouldn’t shy away from opportunities. Who knows where they’ll take us, and that’s the beauty of them. On the way, you’ll experience things you haven’t before, you’ll achieve new things and you’ll learn and gain knowledge.