On roadmap wrestling, real performance development and tech for good.
We have been developing a roadmap for our main finance and workforce management systems. It felt good when we started and built up a picture of all the great improvements we wanted to make to our services, system features and ways of working. Recently though, it has not felt so good as we try to work through the roadmap and wrestle with practical constraints. This will be familiar to most Product Managers.
In the short term, we need to decide what to do with our limited capacity. We have ambitious plans to make the Council a better place to work but also have tough financial objectives. Should we risk delaying the benefits by working on all of this in parallel or should we focus and get a few things done before moving on? If we focus, which things should go first and which will wait?
Looking further ahead we should be able to change our capacity to better match the demand. This could mean developing our skills and improving ways of working to be more productive, recruiting to grow our permanent team or buying in temporary help from suppliers and contractors. We’ll probably need to use a combination of all of these but, as you can guess, the work to do this is also in the roadmap. We don’t want to put off developing our services while we grow our capacity but, unless we work on capacity, we’ll never get through our roadmap.
These are not impossible problems to solve but they are hard and depend upon the collaboration of a large group of people. I am getting great advice and support but we don’t always agree and it is frustrating when the things we try don’t work. It will feel better in the future. We’ll make and refine the tough choices, deliver the most critical outcomes and benefits, increase our productivity and get ahead of our roadmap.
We have a formal staff performance and development system at the Council. Most organisations have something like this but they can work in very different ways. At some organisations this can become an administrative exercise of recording development plans which are then ignored for a year until the process demands a review. It was great working with other line managers to share ideas for meeting the spirit of our system and not just comply with the process. We’ve committed to try new things, share what works and apply the same ideas to our own development. I’m really pleased to be in a group that is clearly passionate about helping people develop.
The Council is a strong supporter of good causes and encourages staff to volunteer. Some people prefer to keep their professional and voluntary work separate, for example, an engineer volunteering to deliver food parcels. I like to link both and use my professional skills in my voluntary work. Lots of people, probably the majority, are willing to volunteer but, for all sorts of reasons, don’t get around to it. I’m working with a group of volunteers to see if we can help convert this willingness into action. The Council IS team has done this kind of thing previously and developed a system for a big local charity. Other options are events focused on particular themes1 or we could do smaller things for a larger number of charities.