Week #49 at the Digital Service: Notes for 3–7 April 2023

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The book ‘Org design for design orgs’ sitting on a wood palette next wild grass and moss

I read a bit between walks with dogs, feeding rolled oats to ducks, and travelling through Germany from east to west and up north.

I bought the book ‘Org Design for Design Orgs’ in 2016 when it was first published, but I didn’t get past the second chapter then. Chapter 3 is where the helpful and good content follows, though. Authors Peter Merholz and Kristin Skinner, who have seen in-house teams in various shapes and sizes, share their 12 qualities for effective design organisations. They are:

1. Shared sense of purpose
2. Focused, empowered leadership
3. Authentic user empathy
4. Understand, articulate, and create value

5. Support the entire journey
6. Deliver at all levels of scale
7. Establish and uphold standards of quality
8. Value delivery over perfection

9. Treat team members as people, not resources
10. Diversity of perspective and background
11. Foster a collaborative environment
12. Manage operations effectively

In some areas, we have been doing a lot of work. In others, the organisational setup was already a massive enabler before I joined. Then in others, I know there is more work to do as the organisation and design team grows and evolves.

The areas and 12 qualities resonate with me, and I want to share and discuss reflections with the design management team in the coming days. I also miss some exchanges with other Heads of Design about these things. So I should bring that to the Berlin Service Design Leads table when it happens again. Or call some former colleagues for a chat.

There are various other aspects to chew on. I’ll keep doing that for the coming days.

Building an archive of past work

With some spare time this week, I compiled a simple page listing all talks and workshops I have given over the past 12 years.

Back in June, I started researching and collecting activities. I found 66 in total. That’s 5 to 6 per annum on average – and only a quarter I did alone. By far, most of the sessions I did with colleagues at work or friends – 22 collaborators in total.

Collaborating with others is how I get things done and how they turn out well. Or at least better. So far, I have done 2 talks together with colleagues at Digital Service. In the coming months, I’d like to do more. After the pandemic years have been calmer, and I did 4 talks last year, I would like to get back to the average. Doing things together with others gives them space and makes 2 people share the duty.

Not all slides and recordings are available online, and I probably also missed some conference contributions. Going forward, I will make sure all suitable material is available for participants and non-participants soon after.

The next list I’ll build is all my writing and all publications I got out in the past decade. After positive feedback on the speaking archive, some people may find it helpful, too. The many blog posts, articles, and a few book chapters will be more research work. I plan to finish that in a few evenings or on weekends.

Also, if anyone feels like building a random #GovDesign presentation title generator, here are some training data from my list of talks:

  • Making government user-centred
  • Designing government services that meet user needs
  • How designers help make government better for everyone
  • How the UK government designs public services according to human needs
  • How designers help make government better for everyone
  • How we do design in the government
  • Designing for a better citizen experience

What’s next

Next week is a shorter one. But the calendar looks pretty packed already for the remaining 4 days. I have several catchups, including a welcome for a freelance user researcher we started working with last week.

We will also do 2 newbie sessions: on accessibility and on cross-discipline collaboration. Beyond that, I will continue with recruitment. While our mid and senior UX/UI role is closed, the working student communications designer role is up for a few days, and we received several applications.

Besides, I will prepare my section for the online workshop for Apolitical on the 18th of April. We will have a check-in call at the end of the coming week.