Personal Transparency: Working Hours – Sep 19 to Jan 20

About the data:

  • This is the first new data-publish in my personal transparency experiment.
  • This data covers my time in work or work-related activities from 23 Sep 19 to 10 Jan 20.
  • This work is logged against four categories:
    • Working in Office (self-explanatory)
    • Working from home or remote location (e.g. train, cafe, home)
    • Self-directed learning (coding, other learning and time spent writing this blog)
    • Formal learning (Civil Service learning or other organised courses)
  • Data published: Date, timestamp, Start/Begin, End/Leave, Category
  • Format: .csv
  • I have corrected the data, mainly to cover for those entries where I logged after the fact (so the ‘timestamp’ on the log is not the actual time that was logged). Plus also a few errors and omissions.

How I gathered the data:

  • I used a simple Google Form, via a shortcut on my phone’s home screen. The form allows immediate logging of the ‘start’ or ‘end’ of an activity, and the category of activity.
  • The form also allows me to note down an alternative time if I am logging after the event rather than at the time the acivity occured. I needed to do this a lot as I very often forgot to log at the time. In general when I logged after the fact I approximated to the nearest 5 mins.
  • Note that I have not logged any ‘travelling time’ (either routine commuting to work, or longer journeys to meetings at other offices). The only exceptions to this are where I have worked on the train, which I have logged as ‘Working from home or remote location’

Learning, insight and follow-up from this exercise:

  • With a simple form in place, it is not a significant effort for me to record this data.
  • It’s vital to log the work as it happens – logging the times after the fact and then correcting the data later is confusing and time-consuming!
  • I will perform some analysis on this data when I have got better at recording it – and have more of it.

Transparency – an experiment

Those of you that know me may have heard me talk about transparency, and how I feel this is important for good public service. I think that civil servants being more transparent about their work could have various potential benefits:

  • Greater accountability
  • Better learning / sharing of best practice
  • Promotes understanding of what civil servants ‘actually do’

Ultimately, the public pay my salary so there’s a reasonable argument they should be able to see what they get for the money.

The experiment

I’ve decided to conduct a personal experiment in transparency and accountability – effectively a form of personal radical transparency. The principal is that I will endeavour to publish as much information about my work as practicable.

The purposes of this experiment are:

  • To examine the value of greater transparency from civil servants – for example, does this give greater insight into what I do, or actively obfuscate that? Which things are useful and which aren’t?
  • To examine the practical considerations around being transparent – what tools / guidance / best practice / rules might help civil servants be more transparent?
  • To identify any other consequencs of transparency – for example, does it affect the way I work and/or the decisions I make, knowing that some of this will be published?

The (initial) ground rules of the experiment are:

  • I can’t give details of anything protectively marked / embargoed.
  • I can’t give details about my work that give away other people’s information (only my own information).
  • I can’t give way details that would otherwise compromise security – for example my personal security.
  • I do not have much time to dedicate to this so it will be on a ‘best endeavours’ basis.
  • Some of this likely won’t work, won’t be practical or won’t be sustainable – hence it is an experiment.

I’ll be adding more information (in this blog’s new “Transparency” category) over the coming weeks and months so stay tuned. Wish me luck!

Solving Kurosu

What it was

This Christmas I encountered ‘Kurosu’ – a japanese grid-based logic puzzle in the same vein as Sudoku (albeit a lot simpler than Sudoku).

As a Christmas puzzle – and to top-up my coding skills development over the holiday – I set myself the challenge of writing some code to solve all such puzzles. It took a few hours over several days but I managed it in the end (probably wouldn’t be blogging about it if I hadn’t…)

My code uses simple logical induction to eliminate the puzzle grid’s non-solutions, row-by-row and column-by-column.

You can find it at:

If you don’t want to run it youself you’ll have to take my word for it that it works!

What I learned

Part of the challenge was that I wasn’t allowed to look at anyone else’s solution to this until after mine was working.

I confess admiration for this (very different) solution, which takes a more combinatorial / number-crunching approach – generating the set of all possible valid solutions then simply testing which one is at a hand. Plus – his taut PERL scripting makes my Python look laughably clunky and byzantine!

But I’m trying not to feel completely inadequate – my approach roughly emulates the process a human would use to solve the grid and needs relatively few (4 or so) iterations to settle on a solution.

What I will aim to do differently as a result

  • Keep brushing up on my coding – still so much to learn
  • Reflect on different approaches to coding and problem solving – think about efficiency not just efficacy of code

Note: I went back and edited this post into my usual learning format after publishing it.

My learning and development plan

What it was:

An activity to develop and share my personal learning and development plan.

What I learned:

I wanted to use this as an exercise in planning and discipline, so I adopted the “Goals > Objectives > Tasks” approach to make a logical, structured list

I used these sources:

Finally I used a text editor to write it and then Coggle to visualise it. There a few errors in the conversion, some of which I have fixed by hand, but the end result is close enough!

Here is the result, with the link to the full plan and a plain-text version pasted in for reference:

Personal Development Plan – As at 20 Nov 19
Become more disciplined and effective
Develop discipline as a habit
Develop a routine for removing distractions (eg Phone away etc)
Have a weekly plan and stick to it
Improve on following processes & procedures
Up to date on Leave recording
Performance management cycle
Conduct work pattern recording
Stay current and relevant in technical and professional skills
Grow my techical skills and experience
Complete Python ML Bootcamp course
Take a touch typing course
Maintain Professional PR and Digital skills
Complete CIPR CPD for the year
Compete a course on User Research basics
Be an intelligent customer for AI and ML
Complete real-world data science exercises that improve my life
Complete Python for Data Science learning
Execute and understand a sample ML exercise
Seek out opportunities and challenges and find a new role
Grow my Network
Social Media / LinkedIn / Defence Connect
Cross Govt
MOD Leadership
Find a new job
Update CV and expose it for feedback
Set up jobs monitoring
Complete Private sector applications – at least 50
Complete Public Sector applications – as many as possible
Explore new opportunities
Seek out a project delivery role at work
Take on a corporate challenge / wider activity
Become a senior leader, ready for SCS
Gather and act upon feedback
Gather feedback in one place
FLS feedback
Interview feedback
Psychometric feedback
Address weaknesses and shadows
Identify shadows and make a plan to address them
Develop Emotional Intelligence via training
Develop Commercial Acumen through practice
Develop SCS competences
Develop new competence examples for SCS
Review SCS behaviours and map to ‘how’ of my personal objective
Develop leadership
Practice Open Leadership
Identify an SCS buddy / mentor
Read: “why should anyone be led by you”
Develop personal leadership statement and reflect in my objectives
Keep learning and developing in a concerted way
Deliver this Learning and Development plan
Generate L&D plan
Review the plan at fixed intervals (monthly)
Maintain a log of completed activities
Set up self-coaching and reflection on earlier learning
Capture all learning and actions in a coherent system
Complete the backlog of write-ups
Collect notes from FLS coaching sessions
Set up a system for reviewing / reminding

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

The plan lists all the things I want to do as part of my learning. There’s a lot there so the challenge will be to stick to it and be realistic about how much of this is doable inside one year.

I’ll likely create a Trello board to track my learning actions – but that is for later.

Future Leaders Scheme – End-of-Scheme reflection and discussion

What it was

A meeting to reflect on our collective learning with a cohort of people who had completed the Civil Service Future Leaders Scheme in 2017/18/19, chaired by Director-General at MOD and held in February 2019.

In this blog post I have pasted the content of the end-of-scheme learning template that I completed in preparation for the meeting.

What I learned

What was your key learning from the Scheme?

  • Better grounding in commercial considerations
  • Importance of self-organising, planning and review for my learning
  • Preparation and considering my approach before meetings and engagements
  • The value of coaching with my team leaders and as a general approach to conversations
  • The need to ‘bring the outside in’ and harness external perspectives whenever the organisation needs to learn, grow, change or do new things
  • Importance of planning and directing senior conversations
  • Understanding my leadership style, and ensuring that I embody this

What has been your most important learning about yourself during your time on the scheme?

  • I have a distinctive leadership style with helpful and unhelpful elements
  • There is a place for my leadership style in the SCS (previously I had though there was not)
  • I am able to adapt my leadership style to suit
  • I need (and am broadly able) to create structure, context and continuity for myself as well as for the team
  • I need support on project management / team co-ordination tasks
  • My learning and development needs to be planned and managed
  • Reflection is a powerful tool that I am able to use

What has been your greatest challenge over the past 2 years and how have you addressed this?

Aside from on-the-job challenges, the greatest challenge has been finding time/energy to dedicate to learning and development. I have addressed this by:

  • Booking time in diary for learning, booking onto courses and insisting upon attending these even under sever diary pressures;
  • Making my learning public, making a public commitment to act upon learning and therefore more likely to follow through
  • Using some hours every week ‘dead time’ to focus on technical skills development. I have used the time to complete an online Python course (coding skills for data / analytics).

What were your departmental and corporate contributions during your time on the scheme?

  • Arranged and hosted 2 x Action Learning Sets at MOD
  • As part of the Experiment Group work, I developed, executed and analysed a randomised digital survey (analogous to a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT)) of the FLS cohort (80 responses) – which showed that allowing flexible working makes a very significant difference to the number of candidates who will apply for an SCS post.
  • Contributed to early phases of corporate challenge (was not able to participate in later stages)
  • Set up the ‘lift lobby group’ of people involved in defence change programmes.
  • Began publicly sharing (blogging) my learning

Overall comments on your experience of the scheme and what your next steps will be?

  • I feel I have developed tremendously while on the FLS.
  • Some of this development is likely due to my being on temporary promotion to SCS this year – however I feel I have developed much more during this stint on promotion than during my previous stint, with FLS being the key difference.
  • I posit that the FLS has given me a framework and discipline to reflect upon and contextualise, and so truly learn from, my experiences – rather than simply experiencing them!

What I will aim to do differently as a result

Looking to the future:

  • I want to continue learning about leadership and management
  • I will continue to develop my technical skills and pursue becoming an intelligent customer for Machine Learning and AI.
  • I will continue to seek out and apply for SCS1 opportunities
  • I will aim to seek out a delivery role, and leadership roles.
  • I will consider opportunities outside central Govt Departments
  • I wish to stay in the digital/data/information field but would consider opportunities elsewhere that gave me the leadership and delivery opportunities I need.