Week #43 at the Digital Service: Notes for 20–24 February 2023

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A bright blue poster with big pink letters in a slim black frame that reads ‘Make things open’, it leans on a brown sofa in a modern grey-white office space with concrete walls

‘Make things open’ – after almost a year, I framed the poster above. I received it in late March last year as a leaving gift from the design team at GDS. Tim Paul designed it and incorporated the entire content from the Services in Government blog published between October 2019 and March 2022.

Blogging is one of the formats my colleague Pamela and I mentioned in our talk this week. As part of the 29th community call in the International Design in Government community, we shared how we at Digital Service helped the German government open up in the last year or so.

The full recording of the session is only available to community members. But, especially given the title, our section is available on YouTube openly. We also uploaded our slides to the public documents folder on GitHub.

Over 70 people from almost a dozen countries joined the call, and almost the same number of people have watched the recording already. The second presenter was Giles Turnbull. As expected, he did a great job explaining what working in the open means and shared various examples from people from the public and private sector.

Giles provided arguments for working in the open …

… and he gave tips for doing this in practice – in several ways.

Aligning with Services Week 2023, my partners-in-crime Kara and Paloma want to make the next community call happen in late March. I’m looking forward to reviving the international exchange.

Doing mostly design management things

It’s been a week where it felt like I did a lot, but still, I have little show.

We completed job descriptions in sync with our new design level skill descriptions. I mentioned those various times before. After rounds of iterations, we have a first sharable version. They include 4 skill areas with 3 skills each. We defined 4 levels – from awareness to working and practitioner to expert. That’s 48 skill descriptions. Each contains between 2 and 6 activity descriptions. So defining those few hundred activities took a little while. Now, we want the designers to put them to good use – independently and with their people manager. They should become handy in setting annual objectives, creating development plans, and discussing progression paths.

Right after finishing our draft, I saw some folks tweeting about their published competency frameworks and level descriptions. At that moment, I didn’t have the capacity to take a closer look, fearing I might want to go through everything once again. But I’d like us to share what we have done with other German public sector organisations and the wider public sooner than later. In the UK, the Digital, Data and Technology Profession Capability Framework has led to an alignment of digital roles in central government organisations, local government, and far beyond. With that experience in mind, I know making our work broadly available can help others progress with their organisation’s digital maturity.

Early next week, we will open mid and senior-level design roles. Multiple projects need to grow their design capacity and capability. Looking closer at data from our regular employee engagement survey gave further evidence. In some areas, we also occasionally work with freelancers where it takes too long to hire permanent team members, where we only need support short-term, or it temporarily requires a unique skill set. But just like at GDS, we want this to be the exception from the rule. Building in-house capability in the German administration is at the very heart of our beliefs.

With the new roles up and out, I need to finish our summarising design discipline page mentioned before. I hope to complete it shortly and get it up in days.

What’s next

Next week, a new designer, Lena, will join us. She was a design fellow with Tech4Germany last year and worked on transparent monitoring of the German government’s digital strategy. Lena is joining Sabrina on the growing digital check team.

Many more design management tasks wait for me, some more fun than others.