On not wasting a crisis, morning routines, kids coding and the National Grid
This week started with the first retrospective for a team which came together on the 7th April. This multi-skilled team was formed in a hurry with people from across the council to improve how our COVID-19 response teams (known as Cells) were working. The Cells had come into existence just weeks before but were beginning to struggle to stay on top of things with the usual hand-made spreadsheets. The improvement team have iterated some better tools and processes over the last few weeks.
The team have been fantastic given everything we were throwing at them. They:
- put time and energy into joining 15 other people for 15 minutes each morning to coordinate our efforts
- openly shared what they were finding difficult
- learnt how to self-serve using our new collaboration tools
- worked directly with developers to add on essential reports, automation and controls.
- switched over to new processes on the fly.
The whole thing has been done using remote, agile ways of working - including the retrospective. We did identify things we could improve or do differently next time but, overall, it has been a really positive and productive experience. The last few components will be rolled-out in the next couple of weeks so the team has decided drop into a lower gear. We will continue with less frequent calls and a smaller core group of people to finish of the roll-out and look at opportunities to make the same improvements in less critical areas.
The improvement team catch up had become part of my morning routine which also includes:
- start of the day chat with my part of the IS department where we can talk about things outside of work and check everyone is still ok
- daily catch-up with one of our infrastructure product teams where I put on my agile coach hat
- people and redeployment call where representatives from the whole of IS jump on any new requirements or sort out any cross-team issues
Some days these take up most of the morning but we are getting better at covering things the whole team needs to do in the first few minutes of each session and drop down to smaller, focused groups needed for the topics that day.
A word about some good causes
Before the lock down I had started to get involved with the TechJams1 organised through Software Cornwall. When we knew the face-to-face events were going to have to pause I borrowed some of the TechJam equipment so that I could practice and be more help when we start again - which might have to be virtually.
Last weekend I was working through some of the exercises for the Raspberry Pi2 and BBC Micro:bit3. My first coding experiences were on a Commodore Pet my uncle had for work closely followed by my older brother’s Sinclair ZX814. The options for kids these days are loads better and much easier to use. However, you still need access to a few quid5, an internet connection and an encouraging helper. What do we do for the households that don’t have any of these?
On a completely different subject, we haven’t used any coal-fired electricity generation since 10th April6. Demand for electricity has shifted but the total is down significantly. This isn’t all good news. Too much generation causes as many issues as too little generation but some power stations can’t be turned on and off quickly. Demand may fall below “base load” during the summer which is causing some head scratching at the National Grid7.
You can get hold of a Micro:bit for less than £20 (a few days food for some) but you need at least a smart phone to program it. ↩