This week I had a lot of conversations. A lot of meetings. In London. In York. On trains, in boardrooms and in canteens. A fair few were via the miracle that is the internet. I didn’t actually set foot in the Bristol office.
I learned a lot, contributed a little and all in all it was a good week.
What really made it good though was that I had a revelation, a moment of clarity about the job that has — I think — got my head in the right place to make sense of it all and really get in the mix.
Two things led to this.
One was I started to re-read my previous weeknotes from my time at JISC and ONS (plus the non public ones I wrote about my early days at MRC). This made me remember that I always struggle to find my feet initially and that is just the way I am. It takes me a while to find my place in a new place, in a new culture and I always panic that it is taking too long! I tend to forget this later once I am settled. So colour me reassured.
The second was that I realised I was thinking about things wrong — I have been in the wrong operating mode. In recent years I have tended to either be the deep in the weeds product person who is all about delivery working alongside the team (that I have tended to build) or I’ve gone far the other way and been the ‘what could it be?’ strategist coming up with the longer term vision and sketching roadmaps to get there.
I don’t need to be either of these things at the moment. I need to be part evangelist / part fixer.
I am pretty passionate about the entire topic of the ‘internet of public service’ as you can probably tell. I am a shameless agilista and militant about a user-centric approach to things. I’ve been those things for a long time now. Longer than GDS has been around albeit I will always be indebted to their endorsement of all those things.
That said I like to think I look at this all through a pragmatic lens. I am not dogmatic about these things — I understand I operate in the land of bureaucracy and legacy. That you cannot expect to change organisational culture overnight and that you need to have empathy with people who are faced with these changes.
So I need to get out there and be helpful. Find ways to make it easier for people to make the shifts that are needed for Defra to undertake this digital transformation. To share my experiences, my understanding and my most useful asset — my network!
The challenge is how to turn these things into solid outcomes — it is potentially a lot of influencing and intervening that doesn’t really present the opportunity to ‘show the thing’ but that just needs a little thought.
So I finish the week feeling like I have more of a handle on things, that I am starting to actually be useful to the team and the organisation, with the knowledge that I am traveling a load less next week and with a personal challenge — how do you show the thing when there is no ‘thing’ to show?