Week notes: Taking a breath

Autumn in sussex

This is a quick week note to keep me on track as I have a few longer posts in draft and that is usually a sign that I have too much going on in the brain and need to download a bit.  One of the reasons for the back up of blogposts was getting to three really great events last week;  TicTech Local, A collaborative missions event hosted by Collaborate and a brief pop in to the Demsoc UK away day.  I’m not going to try and summarise them here but they sparked a lot of thoughts about system change and also about the need both for clarity of mission as well as a longer term game plan if you want to see significant change happen.  It was brilliant to spend some time with other democratic and system change theory people and reconnect with work in civic and democratic tech that I have been part of over the last ten years.  It was also very exciting to see the starts of the Public Square project which is a collab between Demsoc and Mysociety – more on that anon.  It also reminded me how important it is to get out and about as it shifts your perspective on the day job and I find it helps bring clarity as to where I should be paying attention.

The result of this was spending the weekend looking at how we could redesign one of our larger change programmes in order to properly bring together the different ways of working that we have in the team but also to embed a more visible theory of change into the work which will (I hope) give us a more sustainable approach over the next 6 months.  I think I probably should have done this a little while ago – but happily the team and I reached the same conclusion via separate means last week and so we are going to spend a day this week making sure that we have really nailed the project narrative and the project design.  We have another large programme which is currently in the design process at the moment so I also want to make sure we are sharing learning between them both.

We are currently wrestling with how to bring together an agile first approach at scale in a number of different areas and I am spending quite a lot of time thinking about how to help people with different perspectives on this the time, space and opportunity to understand the world from someone else’s point of view.  Part of this is linked to my last post about dogma (or rather my dislike of it).  I think the answer may be in a much more active programme of enquiry around our methods – something we have talked about in terms of a playbook but not yet got on with.

So here are my intentions for the next few weeks:

  • Make sure that our two major programmes have got the right design in place
  • Look at whether those programmes have the right missions underpinning them – and draw a distinction between this and the vision and strategy that we already have
  • Give our enquiry about mixed methods more space and oxygen rather than think it can be achieved in the margins
  • I also want to kick off some work about value that we have started a little while ago but didn’t follow through because I am noticing that lack of clarity or agreement about what is valuable is hindering some of the collaboration we are trying to accelerate within the team

The other thing I need to get out of the door is a very nearly finished beta version of what would have been called a digital transformation strategy back when we still thought digital was a useful work.  One of the reasons I was so excited to join CRUK was because and the excellent work that has already been done to embed a digital methods and ways of working in the organisation and the fact that this is a brilliant foundation from which I think we can help the organisation make a real step change.  I really therefore need to stop polishing it while muttering quietly to myself and get it out in the open where it can be improved and developed by the wider team.  So – if you see me this week feel free to ask me how I am getting on with that and if the answer isn’t satisfactory then send me back to my cave to finish it.

Bu the reason I called this week note ‘taking a breath’ is that these things take time.  I am a hugely impatient person in all aspects of my life and my brain goes at 1000 miles an hour a lot of the time – but just because the ideas move fast it doesn’t mean the change can or should do too – real change takes time and real learning needs reflection – so I think my resolution for the Autumn is to think about how to pace myself and I hope as a result my team – so that we all feel that we have the headspace to do some really great work and bring some of the ideas that we have to life.

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