Building a team with a team

A stormy shoreham beach

A few years ago I met a really successful entrepreneur who told me that 80% of his time was spent looking for the right people – once he had them then all that was needed was to point them in the right direction.  I have never been quite sure of the 80% but I do know that having the right team around a problem makes almost anything possible.  One of my priorities for the year is to build the right team.

Of course we’re not starting from scratch and we have some great people there already – but there are a couple of areas where we want to add and/or draw together some skills internally a bit more deliberately.  And the ‘we’ is vey important here as I’m of course working with the excellent digital foundation laid by Paul Brewer and his team.

Building a team is like a puzzle where you don’t have all the pieces in advance.  You are looking for people with particular skills and experience but you are also looking for a particular mindset and also the magic that means that they fill a space in the puzzle that you may not even know is missing.  This post is me thinking out loud about what we are going to need going forward but firstly I should say that we have a couple of underlying assumptions in mind:

  1. Everyone is digital*:  by this we mean that we need an underlying assumption that people we recruit ‘get’ digital which for short hand means they are familiar with agile and iterative methods and experimental approaches and that they comfortable enough with technology to be able to work effectively with it.  We don’t want to stack the place with technologists but we do want to stack the place with people who can work alongside technology and the people who build it
  2. Everyone is ready to work in multi-disciplinary teams:  We are looking for people who are able to work outside of functional silos and who understand the nuance of how to work with other experts to make the whole of the team greater than the sum of the parts.  We are moving in the direction of the more formal matrix working for lots of teams but in the meantime we are looking for people who can manage the ambiguity of having a line manager as well as someone leading on a specific piece of work or practice area.
  3. Design thinking is embedded;  we are also looking ideally for people who have some familiarity with discovery and design approaches and are able to run the mechanics of this – break out the virtual post it notes

People who want to work with us will be interested in each of our 5 key areas of focus (we call them platforms) and also how they support each other;  this means sustainability and climate action, the question of how we help our communities thrive, local system leadership and making the very best use of new technologies.

Some of these qualities are already in the team, others are more aspirational and we are working separately to develop the baseline of skills in this direction – but recruitment offers up the opportunity to accelerate things and we want to take that opportunity.  

Secondly I should say that we are recruiting first to find people who can hold and develop emerging communities of practice in areas where we know we want to deepen our practice.  Part of the role for each of these will be do nurture that community and work to develop skills of the people who are part of it.  We are still working through the mechanics of what this means – which I would hope would be part of the interest in the role.

The areas where we are looking to develop communities of practice are:

  1. Data:  This one is big and we are not just talking about the data!  I am building a qual/quant data capability and as we develop it will connect to our citizen Wifi work and we hope develop a civic data approach that can really address what is starting to be described as data poverty or exclusion for civic groups. 
  2. Participation and in particular asset based practice:  This is an absolute foundation for what we want to do strategically with our Thrive work which you can read about here and see the job advert here.  This person will also be instrumental in the community mapping work which is described here. And you get to work with the fabulous Tina Favier so thats an extra bonus!
  3. Service design:  We’ve already done a lot in this space with Same Room but we now want to properly build our internal community with this post. Amy Newnham has written about this here
  4. Product management:  With our low code platform we have a lot of applications that need to be effectively product managed and ‘gardened’ from within our services – we want them to live outside of the digital team but this will take more endemic product management skills to make it work.

We are experimenting with the structure and seniority of these jobs and are also open to the idea that some of our practice leads will be part time or perhaps shared with other like minded organisations either locally or within the local government family.  So while we have adverts out there please do get in touch if you are interested in a conversation – probably easiest to reach me, Paul or Amy via DMs on twitter – and we can have a virtual coffee.

Having said all of that the most important thing will be to find people who are interested in what we want to do together – and if you think you might fit then get in touch.  I’ve signposted some of the pieces that explain that here but its also worth reading our strategy documents as these outline our direction of travel.  On a personal note I joined Adur and Worthing as its a place that is open to ideas and to change and wants to get stuff done.  Having been here 6 months I am very pleased to say that thats very much true and that we are cooking up some exciting work for 2021 – come and join us. 

*. Please read this for insight into my own navel gazing as to why digital is a deeply problematic term: 

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