Turns out this evening is when it comes tumbling out:
Hello! I haven’t started weeknotes series 2 since before Covid. At first once it hit I enjoyed the adrenaline and sense of purpose of the emergency response and getting stuck in. My background is Product Management and I loved being able to get practically involved again on initially PMing the Shielding app as we hit the ground running. But I didn’t feel like writing about it because honestly that isn’t what I NEED to do — writing is not how I process. And also a lot because I felt that I had nothing to add to the conversation — we were all making the same apps (which is ridiculous and there IS a conversation to be had there about central gov providing data instead of a dashboard ) so I didn’t feel like writing “we’re making a Shielding app”. You already knew that. You were making one.
Then I didn’t feel like writing weeknotes because the council was very inward and lurching towards a financial crisis and the management team were wearing several hats at once — many of them unrelated to our day jobs. My team were amazing in this time , cracking out endless top notch new work, delivering discretionary grants apps , Planning step by steps and doing user research definitively proving that no-one on this earth uses the phrase “surface car park” , whilst I did things like financial recharge reviews and filled in 10000 versions of a recruitment control form as it went through 15 different versions of approval process and staff left as a result.
How open can you be? Making things open makes things better — “our internal processes are driving me mad!” Thats what I wanted to write , that’s why I wasn’t writing a blogpost. That and rather than be drawn away from timewasting social media, I WANTED to be sucked into it. I wanted to doomscroll, to zoomscroll, to numbscroll, to get into that empty buzz of your brainspace where you forget that you are locked in your home in a global pandemic while your job is insanely busy and yet somehow you don’t feel like you are doing it properly or even AT ALL.
Then I didn’t feel like directly telling you in writing what we were going through but I was also so aware that we always shared when it was good — but what do I share about it being bad? I felt like a hypocrite but I didn’t know what I could say or what would happen if I talked about it. To give an example of why — when I tweeted a photo of CDS stickers we had bought last year, someone screenshotted that post and sent it to the finance department to question why we had spent it. I wrote a frankly brilliant blogpost about the digital culture of mission patches after that, I have no idea if the same person has read it. But it felt really shit — really bad culture — no-one asked us why we bought them. Other departments have their professional organisations — chartered accountants, social care professional networks, and we all have each other, and our professional body is each other , online, unsurprisingly enough.
I did feel like talking to you all though, I missed you and and my mojo was frazzled af. I made the effort to join in some service design meet ups, to say “Yes! I will talk to you about that thing you are doing that I can help with!” Then I ended up quite organically running a lovely design in local gov meet up with Simon Wilson and joining the dreamyurt and it really really helped.
Well, it turns out that Croydon had not been being open and it had made things very much worse, as you all know. We have served a section 114, the auditors released a report in the public interest which was truly shocking reading and the organisation is in a deep state of exhaustion, self-examination, anger, stress and disbelief with a lot to do to change and quite the journey to rebuild trust, systems, accountability and culture. That uncovered culture includes deep and concerning levels of keeping things closed that had created dysfunction, mistrust and fear of challenge in some pockets of the organisation. The journey away from that has started and there are some fresh green shoots of hope — the new chief exec is great and has a very real desire to get us through this which she demonstrates by her actions consistently. The new leader is sincere in her desire to work together to make things right for residents and staff and I have heard very good things about the new assistant chief exec too. They are making things open. It is starting to feel like this may eventually lead to some proper making things better. But right now it is mainly incredibly difficult.
Thank you for sending your love and your thoughts. Thank you for thinking of us and saying what a shame it is because we were doing great things in localgov and people were looking to us as an exemplar. Dave shared those tweets in our CDS internal channel and it really boosted the team to know that our community had our back. Thank you thank you thank you.
I think we are going to make things open and I think it is going to make things better.