Mandeep Chouhan is the Customer Services Manager within Housing and Homelessness at Coventry City Council.
We’ve been working with Coventry City Council’s housing and homelessness team as they redesign their service. Today, Mandeep Chouhan shares his insight on the change they’ve seen as they strengthen their collaboration, adapt to new ways of working and embrace inclusive decision-making.
I’ve been with the council for 15 years; we’re used to doing things in a certain way. Partnering with FutureGov has shown me there’s different ways to do things. We’re no longer following the status quo, we challenge things. And now best of all, our service is set up to do that too, which is incredibly exciting.
Adapting to change
Since the COVID-19 crisis, we‘ve been working in a remote environment with new tools, which has meant adapting. But it’s also meant we’ve been able to work effectively in a blended team from wherever we are, safely.
Immediately growing our tools and resources has given us access to different teams throughout the week. The ability to have ongoing chats around the work has been undeniably valuable. We’ve begun using Trello boards which are a great visual representation of the project, allowing us to see what’s outstanding, what different people have been working on and what’s coming up.
Alongside these new tools like Trello and Microsoft Teams, we’ve been working in sprints which have given all of us a single focus so we’re not preoccupied with the end results. We’re not worrying about anything outside of our current sprint, which provides an unshakeable focus and has allowed us to concentrate on the immediate work that needs to be done.
Getting to grips with agile
Alongside sprints, we’ve also embraced other parts of agile working. There’s three distinct areas that come to mind when I think about how it’s changed the way we do things.
Firstly is introducing our wider project team bi-weekly standup, a 20-minute, quick and sharp meeting. It gives us time to go through what everyone is working on, if there’s any blockers and how we can fix them together.
In the beginning, there seemed to be a lot of blockers and staff were coming up against a lot of obstacles, but as we progressed everyone has been wonderfully proactive, and there’s been a lot less. Just from having this platform to talk things through and hold each other accountable, we’ve been able to mitigate a lot of challenges before they escalate.
Sharing the work with everyone
We’ve also been hosting show-and-tells to the wider housing team, something we’d never done before. FutureGov showed us how as a service, we can involve everyone. Show and tells are a space for us to tell people what's going on, where we explain the work, but also make sure it's interactive.
We're very good at telling people things, but we needed help in making sure our work is interactive, a two-way street where everyone can get involved. That’s important to me, I don’t want staff to think we're doing things to them, they've got a voice in it as well. And now we have the platform, the knowledge and most importantly the enthusiasm in place to do that.
And finally, my favourite part of the whole project has been synthesis sessions. This is where we begin designing concepts and talk through our ideas. We incorporate all of our different experiences of work, our different viewpoints as people that both work and live in Coventry and the wider picture happening in our communities.
What I like about these sessions is that it’s a conversation with everyone in the room, there’s not one individual leading it. It’s a truly collaborative approach with the right people, representing all parts of our service.
Each meeting has a purpose, and if you’ve not got a reason to be there, you’re under no obligation to attend. And they're all separate, you know your focus for that meeting. There’s no attempt to blur everything into one, which can often be extremely difficult and creates a very, very long week.
Collaboration, support and passion
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about our time spent on this project has been camaraderie and teamwork. Everyone's got each other's back, no one is operating by themselves and if there's a blocker we resolve it as a team. We support people where it's needed and I’ve not heard or seen anything negative. There’s been a real mindset shift, everyone has switched on to our shared end goal.
Another significant personal takeaway has been how to communicate with people. This project has shown me a different way to do that, a different way to engage with people. It’s ignited a passion in me to do things differently, and now we have the tools and capabilities to do that.
I can’t wait to see the long term future of the housing and homelessness service in Coventry and the impact we can have on our communities. We’ve been able to fully embrace new ways of doing things, during a very challenging time. And most importantly, we’ve been involving everyone in the team. I’m eager to see the long term impact this will have on not only our residents but also our staff.