Quick Notes from the Westminster One Team Gov Breakfast 9th January 2019

I take quick notes of what we discuss at the One Team Gov Breakfast — imperfect, unattributed but hopefully it gives you good idea of the kind of things we discussed. Please join us to find out what its like in real life — everyone is welcome!

Parish Notices! Cate McLaurin is hosting a One Team Gov meet up in Hackney at the end of January… do come!

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What are the best ways to help people understand how we work in a team?

When you have new starters, new to government or new to the team, how do you help? we remember the experience of not understanding all the acronyms, but what else?

  • At GDS — created permission to ask what things mean.
  • Give them a mentor — not line manager — to help generally with getting used to the new place. And they can ask questions in private if they want to.
  • A simple induction process
  • Purposely speak in plain english
  • Explicitly give permission to ask if you don’t understand
  • Lots of processes aren’t clear — how to arrange a meeting etc.

[side note from a story: BT had a company poet — and it was Roger McGough!]

  • Give permission and role model it — be vulnerable. Say ‘I cant remember what that acronym means either, so lets look it up’
  • Help people get out of siloes to contextualise their work
  • Trello Board for new starters — with end of day, end of week and end of fortnight catch up to see how the new person is getting on. Framed as feedback for the mentor/inductor. Oh- and publish it!
  • Help them set up chats with people you think are helpful to understand the environment/ Civil Service. And maybe give them some prompt questions to initiate conversations.
  • Deliberately think about how you give people the confidence and their voice in the workplace — tip was ask them to talk about something they loved and to ask what their prediction for the future was.

and as luck would have it, that linked to the next question…

Finding your voice in a team

How do you help new team members find their space in a team thats already working together?

  • Role modelling actions — its really helpful when someone senior says ‘I don’t know’ and it helps people feel useful when they help.
  • Car Park Theory — when you arrive in a car park and there’s only one car parked badly, and then you remember they were the last to arrive and had to squish into the awkward space left by the other cars
  • We fill the space that’s left by others. But the space might not fit the people. The space of the people who have left may not fit the people who are arriving.
  • Now the whole team is different because it has a new member — how does the team adapt and embrace what is new for everyone?
  • Its a complex problem — so experiment. Understand how finding your voice works by doing it .
  • Bridges Transition Model —might help https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/bridges-transition-model.htm
  • Practitioners versus Generalists — generalists are often more used to jumping in and when its ‘muck in central’ you don’t always give the specialist practitioners space to do their specialism. [btw, I love the phrase ‘muck in central’. Hello day job]
  • Get people to meet as people — create spaces to get to know each other as humans. Have away days with actual fun in it.
  • Explicitly giving people the space to learn in their role.
  • Be you. and trust your team to tell you if thats not the thing for the environment
  • Use your mediums — blogging, twitter etc. Maybe your voice is uncertain because you are demonstrating humility.
  • Put a who you are/ why you’re there set of post its on the wall so people can learn about others

‘You should never waste a good crisis’… what can we do as One Team Gov?

Brexit planning is meaning people are being moved to new teams very fast — what can we do?

“We’re not so much talking about the elephant in the room as we are actually in the elephant house”

  • How do you redeploy relevant skills effectively? not just as people who could do anything
  • On the back of a frantic day, give yourself time to reflect — three things I would have done differently if I had had more time that day. And that, over time, could build up into a body of knowledge. Almost like keeping a diary of the crisis?
  • Is this an opportunity for Free Agents? Teams need people… we want to move people better…
  • In Gov its often money being unlocked that kicks people into doing things/ opportunities?
  • How do you still create space for imagination?

Does Civil Service recruitment box tickers over innovators?

  • For some schemes — yes, you often (?) need to know the system
  • Hiring is powerful — I’ve found ways to challenge the structures and reach beyond the standard way of doing it
  • Its *people* who hire — so it’s about what they look for, getting the opportunity to hire or interview gives you influence here. Get into places!
  • Make sure you have diverse panels — backgrounds, BAME etc — so that we diversify perspectives
  • Jobs require different kinds of skills — reflect these in the job descriptions, i.e. creativity would help in this role!
  • Say ‘its ok if you dont already have these skills’ in your advert
  • Blind scoring systems helps
  • But… If you don’t tick the boxes, you wont get thanked for the above and beyond

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Londoner, government geek, feminist. Writes #weeknotes about the day job, leadership and interesting things I find on the internet.

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