Meet the Local Digital team: Paul Tait, Delivery Manager
In this blog series, we’re shining a spotlight on different members of the Local Digital team to showcase just some of the incredible expertise and hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
In our latest issue, Paul Tait explains why he joined government and what it takes to be a great Delivery Manager.
The role of a Delivery Manager is a great blend of a traditional project manager role — managing tasks, timelines, risks, budgets, and corporate processes — and the Agile “servant leader” — unblocking issues, designing good working practices, and building team culture. This means I am both a coordinator and a cheerleader.
How and why I became a Delivery Manager
I started my career with a few odd jobs, internships and tutoring, as well as working for IKEA in Sweden for a month! During this time, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to work in government. I wanted to be part of a sector that is uniquely placed to improve people’s lives.
My first role in local government was as a trainee at Lambeth Council in South London. I loved working at Lambeth as I had the opportunity to work in different parts of the council (Housing, Children’s Social Care, HR and Policy), which felt culturally like different organisations.
Councils have a lot of untapped potential in terms of digital, and as time went on, I naturally gravitated towards technology projects. I understood that much of this potential came from the ‘people side’ — technology is useless if the right people do not know how to use it.
My best learning opportunity came when I was asked to manage a project called ‘Making IT Work’. As a council, we already had access to these amazing Office 365 tools, but most staff members were not aware of them, or didn’t know how to use them. My small team of five people changed that, by implementing a training programme, making improvements to the way these tools were configured, migrating to cloud storage, and using Office 365 to deliver mini process improvement projects.
Following this, I took on roles as a Delivery Manager for the creation of Lambeth’s new website and a Corporate Programme Manager for the Children’s Social Care Improvement Programme.
After five years at Lambeth, I wanted to broaden my experience in government and in 2021 I moved to my current job as Delivery Manager for the Local Digital team at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The opportunity to help councils improve their use of technology is a dream come true.
What a typical week looks like
I try to support whatever needs the most help. We have a growing programme which means my role changes all the time, keeping things fun and varied.
Currently, I spend roughly half my time on the overall Local Digital programme, working closely with other team members to facilitate conversations about team finances, recruitment, procurement and governance. I spend time thinking about who is best suited to do what, and try to help position team members in the right places to move things forward, as well building a positive team culture.
The other half of my time, I’m working on our new Future Councils programme, a partnership between Local Digital and a group of councils to deliver replicable pathways to digital and cyber security reform that other councils can follow. I’m helping us to develop our delivery plan and keep us moving forwards to make it a success.
What does creating a positive team culture mean?
Some people think of delivery management just in terms of project management. The other side of the role — the people and culture side — is arguably more complex yet sometimes overlooked and undervalued.
In a good team culture, people feel their jobs are important and that their contribution matters. People participate in meetings and really listen to each other. When someone doesn’t understand or agree with an idea, they’ll say so. When someone says they’re struggling, you see the team rally around to support them.
Here are five things I try to do to help promote good team culture.
- Admit when you need help. It’s okay that there are things others know more about or are better at. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — for me, I need all the help I can get with presentation design!
- Listen actively. When someone is speaking, really focus on what they’re saying and ask follow up questions to help understand their point better. This demonstrates that you value their work and also may help that person think through what they’re saying and feeling.
- Look after yourself. I can be much less patient or attentive when I haven’t slept well or exercised. I focus on prioritising these so that I can stay calm and positive. If you aren’t feeling yourself, share this with the team — you’ll create an environment where others feel confident that they can do the same.
- Show how much others mean to you. Show appreciation for your colleagues all the time, through simple “thank yous”, shout-outs in meetings, or by nominating them for staff awards.
- Take time for a laugh. I try to organise games for the team, whether that’s an elaborate Taskmaster competition or an online drawing game. It’s nice to have a laugh with colleagues, particularly when elements of your work may feel stressful.
Finally, a few bits of advice for anyone interested in becoming a Delivery Manager
- Get tangible experience. No matter your role or seniority, find someone who will let you lead on a piece of work or project. I found that, in local government especially, there were lots of opportunities to take on a large area of responsibility beyond your current grade, if you can find the right senior figure to support you.
- Be open. Gather as much feedback from a range of people. Book in time with team members and stakeholders to understand their background, experience and opinions to inform your work. This will also help build a positive team culture!
- Be honest. Admit when you can’t deliver something you promised, when you don’t have the right experience, or when you’ve messed up and ask for help from others. This will help you to build trust and openness with your team.
- Be bold. You’ll make mistakes along the way but they’ll help shape you and improve your work in the long run.
Follow our work
The Local Digital team works in the open, and you can read more about the work we do and follow our progress on Twitter, LinkedIn, Sprint Notes, the DLUHC Digital Blog or our fortnightly newsletter. You can also connect with Paul on LinkedIn.