On continuous improvement and being a BAME ally.
Most of my time this week was spent on various types of continuous improvement. Here is a selection of things that cropped up:
- We ran a session on project finances which included looking at how we develop estimates. I raised the work that the UK Treasury has done on Optimism Bias1 which can help counter the natural tendency to underestimate, especially when developing new IT systems. Like many of the Treasury publications, the work on Optimism Bias contains excellent advice but the way it is written puts many people off from applying it. We also talked about tactics such as presenting ranges of estimates to help communicate uncertainty, especially early on in a project.
- At our regular Team Bumblebee2 catch up we discussed the progress we were making on our IS improvement initiatives, including research and development for new public cloud infrastructure and rationalising some of the tools we use for our team backlogs3.
- We had several sessions working on the cloud infrastructure for our new website4. A cross-team group of engineers got together to look at some issues with the demonstration system we had built and, after some discussion and screen sharing, we got it working. We also agreed to add features and components bit by bit so that, eventually, we could demonstrate everything we will need for the new site.
A word about a good cause
I joined in a meeting of our staff BAME5 forum this week. I am white but joined the group to find out what I could do to help as an ally6. I have spent most of my career working in London which is more diverse than the country as a whole; Cornwall is at the other end of the scale7. Some of the issues are the same across the country but in Cornwall this can be compounded by a sense of isolation. This is unlikely to change very quickly as lack of diversity probably deters others from visiting or relocating here.
I believe the Council is committed to improving racial equality but there are some practical challenges in running this sort of staff forum. Only a small number of staff identify as BAME and not all will want to get involved in a forum or have the time and energy to help keep it going. Encouraging allies or merging forums could help in practical terms but would also change the character of the group and could defeat the purpose, e.g. an ethnic minorities forum in Cornwall would cover more staff but could easily end up being dominated by white people. Another option might be to join forces with similar groups in other bits of the public sector, such as the NHS, or local charities and businesses.
I took away some actions including doing some research towards Black History Month8, and using my cross-Government network to get hold of ideas and materials the forum can use locally.