Week #55 at the Digital Service: Notes for 15–19 May 2023

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A poster titled ‘Objectives 2023’ hanging on a wall with 3 bigger subheadings and short texts for each: Link back to vision, start leveraging insights, empower the organisation

I had only 3 working days this week, but it felt like a whole working week – just compressed.

On Tuesday, we reviewed progress against our organisational objectives as part of our OKR process. The extended leadership team looked at the 3 objectives set, and the 3 different owners reflected on how well we had made progress against the attached key results after 5 months into the year.

With some delay, we also put up a summarising poster – one at every level of our office. It contains a reference to the page on our internal network. Having the poster up and visible to everyone increases awareness of people. Hopefully, it makes them check once a while the intranet page whenever it’s relevant and linked to their work.

In a blog post at the beginning of the year, we talked about the importance of good and clear internal communication. This is another example of it. If we don’t have clarity internally, we won’t be doing things with clarity and won’t be able to communicate effectively to the outside either.

Getting things ready for publication

With some delays, I managed to finish the Service Standard blog post. And I have ignored my own advice while writing it. My final draft is 1,800 words and exactly what I would have rejected when I was the editor of the Design in Government and Services in Government blog. Then, I would have worked with the authors, asked them to trim it, and got it to no more than 1,200 words. Now, it’s in the capable hands of editor Lutz, and I don’t envy him for his task. It’s a comprehensive summary of what happened in the past 3 years, what we do now and what we plan to do next.

Linked to the blog post, I spent additional time formatting the Service Standard self-reports of our 2 tax teams. For that, I looked at the page templates of the reports on GOV.UK and DTA’s assessment documentation. Based on that input, I put together a simple structure, which will need some lightweight development work if we want to publish them on our organisation’s transparency page shortly.

A few more blog posts are in the making, one at a time. The articles for last season’s Service Gazette issue are the most pressing, though. We have about a week to finish the edition and send it to the printer for getting it produced in Scotland for Creative Bureaucracy Festival in mid-June. Katrin and I need to complete the cover story, and several texts need final editing and page design. I will publish some articles via Medium.com throughout the coming days. Having a deadline again gets us going.

Sharing some more how we do things

Lisa, Sonja and I had a user research catch-up. It’s Sonja’s second week, and she started planning a research offsite with the designers in the coming weeks. We want to understand the status quo of research across all projects and see the needs and capabilities. We plan to take a long afternoon with everyone conducting user research at Digital Service. 

Knowing there are user researchers in the German public sector, at least at Dataport, a local and state government-owned IT supplier, and the Federal Printing Office, I contacted them for an exchange. They immediately added one more person to the conversation – which gets us to 5 user researchers in the German public sector. We can take this as a sign of progress. A couple of years ago, having any internal user research capability seemed unthinkable. In the coming weeks, we plan an exchange format to discuss:

  • Cultural environment in the administration for user research to happen 
  • Structural setup and linking with other digital roles and ways of working
  • Processes and work practices
  • Involvement of stakeholders from the administration in research activities
  • Budget and tooling for research activities

On Wednesday afternoon, I welcomed digital transformation colleagues from Caritas, the most significant German catholic charity, for an exchange on how to get things started, create momentum and make things happen in a Federated structure with a little mandate. Our Chief of Staff Sonja joined and shared how things at Digital Service from the bottom up and externally with a fellowship programme that led to fast results.

While travelling to Switzerland for a break, I met Raul Krauthausen on the train. It was Global Accessibility Awareness Day and the most tangible awareness education: He is a wheelchair user and actively blogging and reporting about the many issues he and many others face when using public transport, especially when trying to travel independently and spontaneously.

What’s next

I need to get most articles for the Service Gazette ready for publication. And I hope to see the Service Standard blog post getting out. Otherwise, I am meeting with service designer Maria from the Federal state pension insurance provider to review the proposal for the user-centred design community as part of the NExT network.