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Weeknote 9 - 13 March 2020

6 min read

On business cases, fine tuning teams, jazz fusion, the RSA and COVID-19’s impact on the climate At the start of the week I took the opportunity to contribute to a Government Digital Service experiment on business cases[1]. I’ve done something similar in public sector organisations before but not so openly. This is a brave thing for that team to do so I hope people respond in the right spirit and make constructive comments.

We held our first Service Design review for our new mobile service for Cornwall Housing. The review did identify some things we need to sort out but, with a month or so to go, it is looking in good shape. We also need to do some systems integration to release some more advanced features later so I have been talking to the various suppliers to make sure the overall design for this hangs together. We also refined the backlog for our fast change team. The potential backlog is shrinking as our product teams get up to speed and can take on more of the fast-change items. In April, we will run another retrospective with our key stakeholders but we might look at changing the role of the team, perhaps to help the product teams deliver their backlog priorities rather than working on our own, separate, backlog.

I’ve been joining in the daily stand-ups for one our infrastructure teams and, this week, joined their regular team meeting. Like many of our teams, they are spread across the county so most of these meetings are over Skype. To be honest, it is hard for me to follow the daily stand-ups because of all of the specialist jargon so the team meeting was a good chance to hear about the bigger picture including how the team was cross-skilling, overall service performance and some strategic risks that could easily get overlooked in the day-to-day activities. Guitars, Jazz Fusion, the Popmasters quiz and the Board Masters Festival also came up. Seemed there are some strong views both for and against Jazz Fusion!

We are halfway through the first 4-week sprint for the custom development team I am helping. The team already have some mock-ups and prototypes for some of the key features and will organise a review with the lead user. Since the team is only working part-time this is really positive progress.

The customer experience team held another short discovery session looking at how we handle reports of pot holes and the insurance claims that are sometimes associated with them. We’ll use this overview to prioritise the opportunity alongside other candidates but there seemed to be several potential quick wins that would make things better for residents and staff.

I know lots of people who are members of the RSA[2] who don’t seem to have much to do with the Arts. The organisation is putting renewed energy into their Cornish activities so I went along to one of their events to find out more. I hadn’t realised that the RSA is actually the RSAMC[3] which explains why there are so many members in my network. The focus on the event was “community” and covered topics very relevant to the work we do in the Council. I shared a couple of tweets from the event[4] and will try to make the next one which will explore the world of work.

I’ve continued to re-publish some of our agile guides externally[5]. Also, for the first time this week, I’ve published my first week note[6]. Eventually, the idea is to publish externally in real-time but, as we are new to this, we are being more cautious. I’m hoping more people in the Council will eventually be sharing more about the great work we are doing.

Final meeting this week was our agile coaches catch up. We had postponed these a few times as we were sorting out some priority delivery projects so it was great to check-in with the team, see what common patterns were emerging and discuss how we could best use out collective efforts to keep the agile transformation moving in the right direction.

A word about a good cause

COVID-19 is already an issue or a tragedy for thousands of people and has not yet run its course. There may be a small sliver lining for the environment. Reducing air travel can have a massive impact on your individual carbon foot-print[7] and other forms of transport are not far behind. There will be a sharp short-term impact from COVID-19[8] but people may make enduring changes after having a forced opportunity to learn how to work remotely.

I am a member of several virtual communities and there are currently lots of questions about how to run teams and events remotely. A combination of our geography and some wise choices we made some time ago means that our Council seems to be ahead of the game in remote working. We haven’t sorted out everything - e.g. we have some physical Kanban boards around - but remote team working is routine and generally, very effective. Our video calling tech is more reliable than in most organisations I have worked in and our BYOD service is excellent (one of my colleagues was up and running on the same day she requested the service).

Personally, I still need to do something about my drive from home to New County Hall. I don’t need to commute every day but the trips I do are often in a mid-sized diesel which we thought was the environmentally friendly choice 10 years ago. It is not clear what I should do now. A lot of the environmental impact of a car is in production and disposal (exactly how much does not seem to be clear) so this needs to be a factor when considering attractive new offers like the Council-backed scheme for electric cars. Public transport does exist but that would add 3 hours to the day. There are plans for improvements on my route over the next couple of years but that is linked to plans for Newquay airport which had a shock last week[9]. Let’s hope for good weather this summer and the motorbike can take some of the strain[10].


  1. Prototype Business Case ↩︎

  2. RSA Community Event ↩︎

  3. Overview of the RSA ↩︎

  4. The RSA South West Twitter feed ↩︎

  5. Blog post on estimating ↩︎

  6. The original versions of these weeknotes were only published internally ↩︎

  7. Carbon emissions from flying ↩︎

  8. It is early days but the impact could be significant ↩︎

  9. Newquay airport and Flybe ↩︎

  10. But I will also need to think about an electric bike at some point. ↩︎

Originally published on by Richard Barton