Week #4: 23–27 May

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3 framed posters standing in front of a big sofa. 1st poster says: Good services are verbs, bad services are nouns. 2nd poster says: Show the thing. 3rd poster says: It’s ok to – and then lists a long list of things that are ok in the work culture, including OK to say I don’t know, ask for more clarity, ask for help

This was a short week with a public holiday in between. Unlike the English, Germans don’t move their public holidays closer to the weekend. So a Thursday off creates a ‘bridge day’ you can either fill with a day of annual leave or work calmly in the office. I did the latter.

Sharing learnings from the UK

Before I slowly forget everything seen and done in the UK, I offered a 75-min lunch and learn session about the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the UK government’s broader approach to digital transformation. The session was well-attended, and after 40 mins of me talking through a pile of illustrating slides, my colleagues and I discussed many related aspects, including crucial success factors for change at scale.

I also managed to frame some classic posters to brighten up the kitchen space.

Preparing design blog posts with the team

After some weeks of pure inputs, I’m getting closer to co-creating outputs via blog posts again.

As I don’t want to or should be the one writing them, I ran a workshop as part of your Design Weekly session. Together in the design team, we identified potential topics and barriers for creating blog posts and how to overcome them. Quite a few topics came together, and we’ll get into writing shortly.

An all-new blog is also what we consider for the International Design in Government community. Through a community survey, we learned there is a clear interest in reading and writing blog posts from colleagues worldwide. So Paloma and I will start collecting topics and building a content pipeline. I’d expect the blog to materialise in early autumn.

Exchanging with colleagues around the corner and abroad

After an insightful call with the French colleagues earlier this year, I caught up with a colleague in Paris who works for beta.gouv.fr and the ‘Direction interministérielle du numérique’. Their view and interest are in agile ways of working, including service design. In September, they are planning to bring international folks together in Paris. Time-wise that might fit perfectly with attending the ‘Service Design in Government’ conference in Edinburgh, which just accepted our #StrongDesign workshop proposal. A little European trip in late September sounds like a charming thing to do.

After about 20 years, I located a former fellow student in another government-owned subsidy, working at the ‘Federal Printer’ (‘Bundesdruckerei’). As old-fashioned as it may sound, they don’t only print Germany’s and other countries’ banknotes and identity documents but also do a lot of development in the secure digital identification space. We talked about our work now and realised how our teams’ work overlaps, including making digital public services accessible and usable.

On Thursday, Paloma and I ran the monthly international community call – on ‘designing good forms’. We heard from the San Francisco Digital Services team and about the upcoming GOV.UK Forms product that GDS is working on. After over 5 years, it was the first time I didn’t represent the UK government.

Learning more about biases and discussing legacy systems

As part of the internal book club at the Digital Service, we discussed the first chapters of Marianne Bellotti’s ‘Kill it with fire’. The book delves into managing ageing computer systems and future-proofing modern ones. While it requires a bit of tech literacy, we had a vivid discussion about the broader maintenance of physical and digital infrastructure.

Also, I was delighted to see it adopt a Service-Dominant Logic view and acknowledge value (co-)creation by users.

This week, together with 13 colleagues, I participated in the second part of unconscious bias training. While the first part focussed on recognising it, this part covered interventions and let us work through some scenarios.

What’s next

After 4 weeks, I’m getting close to wrapping up my first month at the Digital Service. Multiple tasks for the next few weeks are reasonably clear now. And some activities in June will be more outward-facing, too.