On conveyor belts, living up to our values and International Women’s Day.
I’m back to weeknotes after taking a break to write about Target Operating Models1.
I’m also back to my personal sticky note board to try to keep on top of all the things I’m working on. I can only do one or two of these things myself so I am joining up lots of bits of work from other people. It is more like a conveyor belt rather than a Kanban board2. Here is a selection from the last couple of weeks.
- learning how to respond to Council-wide priorities without undermining teams who are trying to manage their own work
- sharing scarce skills between teams without drowning in dependencies and delays
- finding out how people want to be line-managed
- experimenting with different ways to get the skills and experience we need - permanent staff, contractors, external services, collaboration, etc
- improving the way we measure the carbon impact of our business travel
- hearing about the central role digital services will have in Cornwall in the future3
- working out how we can use our professional IS skills for good causes
- reviewing the pilot of some cross-government training4 to see if we are ready to start rolling it out
- getting ready to take on some work from someone who is leaving at the end of the month.
Many of the things I am working on involve tests of our values to some extent. Some of these are clear and straightforward but I am not sure about many of them. The hard ones involve sensitive or emotional topics, uncertainty, competing values or all three. I generally don’t get very stressed or emotional through work but, when I reflect on those rare occasions, it is often down to a gap between what I think my values are and what I am actually doing. The gap can be due to some obstacle or constraint that the organisation has put in my way but it can just be my own lack of courage. Here are some examples which have come up over the last couple of weeks.
We value transparency and openness but there are limits. Coaches need to hold back what they know to give students a chance to build their own understanding. Keeping things secret for a while can be necessary to achieve fairness e.g. when preparing for a competitive tendering process. Sometimes it is better to hold back and give people personal feedback one-to-one rather than be totally transparent in a meeting with lots of other people.
People get paid differently for all sorts of reasons. We want the differences to be for fair reasons such as performance and contribution, not due to biases such as sexism and racism. How do you compare the performance and contribution of people in different disciplines or when circumstances give them very different opportunities? How do you carry out assurance for unique roles with no direct comparison? What sort of evidence of unfairness is required before we act? Does any unfair gap mean that some people are being underpaid or does it mean others are being overpaid? Are market forces a fair reason to have differences in pay?
We want people to be empowered to make decisions about their own work. This sometimes clashes with our values of collaboration and team working where we need people to give up some of their autonomy and act as a group. All of this can clash with various financial controls, quality assurance processes and safe guarding mechanisms that, for good reasons, put limits on what people can do.
Sorry if these come across as a bit conceptual or theoretical but I don’t think it would be right to be more specific in a public weeknote. These tensions affect what I am discussing and deciding on a daily basis and I am sure it is the same for many others. I hope I have the competence and courage to do the right thing most of the time.
The IT industry is very male dominated5 so occasions like International Women’s Day(IWD)6 are a good opportunity to think about equality and take some action. If you are looking for practical suggestions take a look at the IWD site6. During the rest of the year, Better Allies7 publishes tips to counter sexism and other sorts of injustice.