Week #38 at the Digital Service: Notes for 16–20 January 2023

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A pile of light blue posters surrounded by mailing tubes, stickers, post-it pads and blue cards all carrying the square logo of the Digital Service; the poster says in German: “Solution second, problem first”

Following last week’s blog post on visual culture and design artefacts, a few people reached out and asked for printed copies. It even included a person working in Canada’s provincial government of Ontario. So I’ve sent some out, adding a few of our stickers, too.

Sharing artefacts and documentation of approaches and principles in printed form is also part of the digital transformation job. I remember how Harry spotted Lou’s ‘Good services are verbs’ poster in the Danish government’s MindLab a few years back. Making things openly available via GitHub and other platforms allows people to build on your work and messages and use them to support their efforts.

Following last week’s publication of the translated accessibility poster on dyscalculia, Craig, the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions former Head of Accessibility, merged my fork. Hence, the German poster version is now more discoverable from his more central repository.

Sorting things out, getting things out

Getting closer to February and the start of our new trimester objectives cycle, Christian, Magdalena, and I started drafting our cross-discipline objectives and some key results (OKRs).

Currently, they include 1 objective about making teams at the DigitalService adopt the German government’s Service Standard. It feels like a no-brainer, especially as Tech4Germany has been on its sounding board and made a supporting commitment earlier. I started drafting a related blog post, which I am co-authoring with my product colleague Debbie and transformation colleague Caro. We aim to publish it in February and want to show how we’ve been using the standard so far and our commitment to it.

Another drafted objective is to make DigitalService a more visible employer and strengthen its brand. For that, we need more outward-facing activities, artefacts, and formats. One related thing in the making is new discipline pages. I made progress with the one for design and research. I want it to become the home of our communication around the discipline and for attracting talent. It will give an overview of what we do and how we work, our user-centred design (UCD) approaches, and how we organise ourselves. It should reference blog posts, interviews, open roles, and upcoming events. For new UCD roles, I want the first version of the page online in the coming weeks.

A new physical touchpoint with Digital Service will be a little booklet that Daphne is designing, which we reviewed earlier this week. It is a collection of Christina’s columns written for the public sector newspaper ‘Behörden Spiegel’ – where they don’t get the traction they could get, I believe. So we’d like to make Christina’s texts on the digital transformation of the public sector available to more readers by putting them together in a well-designed little booklet. I felt inspired by looking at Newspaper Club’s minis, “a booklet-sized newspaper […] stapled and trimmed like a magazine”, as they say. With 7 columns written and 12 in total, we will make it 2 separate publications. One should arrive in February, the second one in late summer.

Also going into print soon, at least I hope, is the next Service Gazette, our 8-year-old newspaper for service innovators. This week, I published the first story ahead of the print version on Medium. The German public sector gets some things right, but using animals as service names isn’t one of those. So I’m commenting on that and making a few suggestions on how to name public services well. Daphne drew charming illustrations corresponding with the article’s main points, utilising her illustration talent.

Still in the making is a proposal for redesigning the design discipline’s ‘Design Weekly’ meeting. With the growing team, I’ve sketched a few sub-formats that should allow us to scale, utilise everyone’s knowledge better and keep things interesting. In addition, our weekly design discipline meeting will sync with its engineering and product meeting siblings from February, so team meetings are much less likely to clash with them.

What’s next

Next week, I’ll be in London and working from there. Then, I’ll catch up with Kara and Paloma at GDS to plan international community activities for the year.

Apart from the mentioned blog post on the application of the Service Standard, there’s another post on community work and its importance I’m writing. So I’ll progress that, hopefully as well.