Weeknotes #3 & 4 (June 14th — 21st)

A whole month at Hackney already.

Emma McGowan
5 min readJun 27, 2021


Reflections on digital in local gov with MHCLG’s CDO Paul Maltby (and some familiar faces)

In the past few weeks I feel like I’ve begun to understand most of the moving parts of my new job. It’s a big and complex programme and I’m still meeting new people everyday. I’ve got to spend some time with the teams and get to know what everyone does which feels nice. No more mid video slack messages to ask ‘hey Lucy, who’s that speaking now?’ which feels more reassuring.

It felt like we achieved a lot as a team this week. We’ve done some work on the shape of the programme; team manuals, who does what, what thing goes under what role, whats missing and tried to map our goals from now until October. We’ve also tightened our weekly rhythms. We’re a fairly big team with 3 different product themes there are a lot of meetings every sprint. We sat down to determine what we really needed as a meeting and how we might work more asynchronously across the programme. So now each meeting has to have a purpose we all agree on and an assigned owner which means after a simple review we’ve been able to create some more time in our days.

Kicking off the show and share

The team also did two brilliant show and shares. One for our HackIT all hands where we went into some more technical detail our digital and IT colleagues would like to hear and the second was for a wider audience across the services we’re working with.

It was brilliant to have the Director of children and family services open it as well as have our MASH (multi agency safeguarding hub) manager talk about the work Ethan and team have been leading at our front door. Some brilliant patterns around work trays there which I think we can use more broadly across the Council.

It was great to have in depth conversations with our fostering and adoption leads as well as get my head around the work we’re doing in adult social care on finance (think all things brokerage, care packages etc).

Rob and I had our 121 walking around Peckham Rye (nice to have your boss live local!) and we talked about HackIT and how best we can evolve to support the organisation post covid. We also chatted about objectives to set for myself over the next 6 months which felt open yet structured. Reminds me I still have to get some thoughts down about these to him.

Highlights of my week:

Strategy workshops. IRL. No more words are needed (apart from to say covid secure, rules followed).

I got to have three chats with Kit Collingwood which made me happy. I always feel so energised after we chat and we were pretty productive too. Also excited about our One Team Gov local meet-up this Friday. Ping me or Kit if you want the link to join. We’ve been thinking about connecting our thinking across the new boroughs starting with finding help. Nice to see Lingjing and Philippa too.

One of the conversations with Kit involved a chat with MHCLG’s CDO Paul Maltby where he was kind enough to ask for our reflections as digital leaders in local government. Think he may have got more than he bargained for though when me, Kit, May-N, Jenny N and Ed Garcez rocked up — some of the most vocal folk around ;)

I didn’t go to the office this week, which felt strange and makes me think how important it’s been to be around people recently. As I mentioned in my previous weeknotes, starting a new job remotely is a very odd experience. I’ve enjoyed being around the Hackney Service Centre as it has helped me feel more connected to the borough and get acquainted with the culture norms. Relationships are at the heart of how I work and I invest a lot of time in getting to know people. Doing that physically still seems much easier.

Things that are on my mind / reading /listening to

Change, certainty and complexity. Been listening to lots of podcasts and also revisiting some old friends (reinventing orgs and dark matter and trojan horses) as well as having chats with old org design colleagues.

This piece by Cate McClaurin broke the internet because it was bloody brilliant. I will be quoting sentences from that for a while to come. This one really stood out; “It takes immense privilege to be able to speak truth to power and to experiment with playfulness and creativity inside a large bureaucracy. Popular phrases such as ‘Ask for forgiveness, not permission’, and ‘move fast and break things’ assume a level of pre-existing privilege for the practitioner that protects them against damaging criticism or negative consequences”

I thought Alison Warren’s piece on product management was really ace. Especially as its a big theme for me right now at work and across HackIT we’re starting to think about our approach to product management and what it means for us as a discipline.

And this weekend a few of us said goodbye to Dom before he heads to DC in a few weeks. Parties have changed now we all have kids (or in Matt’s case some fairly high maintenance cats) so this was a fairly gentle gathering in the countryside with some great people I feel so privileged to call my mates. Sure a few of us can sneak in an espresso martini or two before you go for reals… ;)



Emma McGowan

Design, digital and policy in government. Part time masters student studying public value and the role of the state at IIPP. Solo parent. Proud mamma.