As with my first set of weeknotes, I’ve again followed the format of asking myself the 3 questions posed by James. I like this format, because the questions force me to reflect and to try to articulate things that I can find hard to put into words.

As I’ve said in a separate post, I might not always stick to the same questions. But I have done for the week just gone.

As an aside, I’ll mention that one thing I’ve learnt through writing just two sets of weeknotes using James’s questions is that I find it much easier to find examples of — and to articulate — what I enjoy than what I find hard or challenging… I think I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy.

What was fun?

Meeting Alec from the National Audit Office (NAO) on Tuesday for a coffee and chat. Alec leads the NAO’s work on managing business operations. We share an interest in how to turn a strategy into reality through aligning different bits of work.

Alec’s work on this subject is summarised in his NAO report and in a couple of blog posts (one he wrote about a year ago and another a few months before that).

Alec had got in touch because he had been approached for help by someone working in this area in another public sector organisation, and he wanted a bit more information about how prioritise and plan in the Food Standards Agency. It was good timing, because we’d just discussed prioritisation and business planning at our executive team meeting that morning.

This is quite ‘back office’ stuff and can be seen as little more than a bunch of process stuff, but I enjoyed talking it through with Alec and got quite passionate about some of things we’ve done in this space over the past couple of years.

I explained that I put our progress down to having a clear set of priorities and an empowered multi-disciplinary team following a clear set of principles:

  • a focus on users,
  • an emphasis on data, and
  • an end-to-end perspective that helps people to understand how they are contributing to achieving the organisation’s objectives.

(I should maybe blog separately about this.)

Alec asked if I’d be happy to meet the person he’s working with in the other public sector organisation, and I jumped at the chance, plus I asked if he could put me in touch with a couple of other people.

What was hard?

A couple things.

1) Juggling.

I took Friday off, and Thursday was my final day of training ahead of my final CIMA exam next week. So it felt like there was a lot to cram in to the first three days of the week, and at times it felt like I was trying to keep a lot of balls in the air.

2) Coping with change.

This might seem a strange thing to say for someone with a job title that includes the words “Head of Change”, but change affects us all.

I’ve been leading/managing change for the past 8 years, and I’m a big believer that the change curve is real. We all go through it. And a particular challenge for people leading change is managing ourselves as we lead others through it.

At work, I put effort into creating safe spaces where people can talk openly and honestly to each other about how things are going and how they are feeling.

However, whilst it’s important to put these structures and processes in place, they only work if people invest in them. And that includes me. As elements of my own role change, I’ve recognised that some of this change is hard for me and I’ve been sharing this with people I’m close to at work. Through admitting my own vulnerability, I’ve received some great support from colleagues and it’s led to some useful learning.

If you’ve not read it, Kit has written a great post on empathy, vulnerability and curiosity as essential elements of leadership.

(And here is some further reading on the emotional side of change.)

What made you proud?

On Wednesday Jason, our Chief Executive, asked me to make a presentation to our Board on how we’ve improved project delivery in the FSA. Given the amount of change we’re delivering in the FSA at the moment, he wants the Board to understand our approach.

On Thursday I spent about an hour jotting down some notes about the steps we’ve taken to improve our capability in delivering change and projects and then trying to structure these into a presentation. As part of that, I made an effort to describe where we’ve come from and where we’ve got to.

It’s an example of how small things add up. And it’s also an example of when you’re close to something, you sometimes don’t notice how far you’ve come and what all the bits have added up to. (At least I don’t.)

Writing down what some of the FSA’s project management teams have done and what they’ve achieved made me really proud.

Next week I will play back my ideas to Jason and then the next step will be to work with Denise in one of my teams to sketch out some of the next steps on our improvement journey.

(Once it’s ready, I should maybe re-write the presentation as a blog post. Ps If you ever want some tips on giving a presentation, I always turn to this unparalleled collection of advice.)

The FSA Board meets in public once a quarter, and I really enjoyed the data stories that Sian talked about at the last Board meeting. (Sian also published some notes to accompany her presentation.) I hope Sian is proud of these stories — they reveal some great work.

Written by

Senior Director @ElsevierConnect doing product strategy implementation & performance. Mainly writing about getting from A to B, & digital stuff. Personal acc’t.

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