Week #106 at the Digital Service: Notes for 6–10 May 2024

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Person at a table with a laptop computer on which a list of local court applications can be seen enlarged in yellow on black

I just need a little time pressure at times. With Global Accessibility Awareness Day around the corner, it took me about 2 evenings to finish a 1,600-word blog post. It’s in review and with my comms colleagues now.

It’s another example of a blog post I thought we were not ready to write because we had not done enough work. But, whenever I felt that a blog post was long overdue. The 1,600-word count evidences that. A post shouldn’t be that long. If it is, it’s not concise enough, or you waited too long to write it, accumulating too much work.

At GDS, while working on the Service Standard and GOV.UK Service Manual, we had the team rule that no update should be more than 6 months apart. There, we had a single topic. I need to cover several issues in my current role, but an update on each shouldn’t be further apart than 1 year.

Since taking on the role of Head of Design and then Head of Design and User Research in Germany, I have written introduction blog posts about user-centred designuser research, and communication design, all co-written with colleagues. Since then, designers and user researchers working on specific topics have built on them and written in much more detail about the work in their service areas. They have recently covered user research on justice services and systemising user research by building the sub-discipline. Last summer, I continued with other non-design topics I care about, like working with the Service Standard and building communities of practice.

There are many other topics to cover and to continue covering. A follow-up blog post on the Service Standard is overdue, as is one about taking a long-term service design view to our work. In the draft state, a third one discusses our heads of discipline setup at Digital Service. I hope to finish these over the summer. My goal for 2024 is a minimum of 7 published texts. That is at least 1 more than last year.

The accessibility overview post recaps the last two years of activities in the space. In the post, my co-author, Marion, and I discuss how we created internal awareness and started building capability and shaping processes. It’s the opening of a new chapter on the blog – with more sections to be added in the coming months by us and others.

Doing and iterating introductions

Last week, I welcomed 2 new starters to our discipline. This week, I co-delivered 2 of the 12 onboarding sessions to them and the other newbies. That was an introduction to the disciplines and an introduction to our projects.

The more I run a format, the more I want to change it again. We’ve been going through a few iterations for the discipline introduction. It felt it had a good flow for some months, incorporating more interactive and active learning approaches. Now, it feels more conversational but also too repetitious. It misses case studies that make things tangible and share stories from past projects. It’s too weak on storytelling.

You can feel that a presenter isn’t passionate about the material they are presenting. I think that’s the case for me with some of the introductions. The third introduction I’ve done repeatedly is the one to accessibility. I feel mostly in sync with it. It went through even more iterations, and our content blocks still keep shifting and moving. It’s also the session we almost always run out of time for because there is so much to cover.

Following a page from our introduction to service design guidebook, we should keep iterating. None of the 35+ trainings were ever the same. We kept rewriting, tweaking, and swapping content blocks continuously. That is still the case now, as Clara and Ignacia keep running and evolving the training.

As cumbersome as it might feel, training, including onboarding introductions, should never be done. It should constantly evolve, incorporating fresh views, the latest learnings, and re-examined experiences. We wrote about training “as an agile service” in 2022. That still stands today. So, I will need to return to the drawing board before the next monthly session occurs. And do that until I feel well in sync with it again, at least for a while.

What’s next

As mentioned, Thursday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. I will be busy helping to prepare for it. We plan to publish the overview blog post, run a pizza-powered accessibility check for the beta-stage parental benefit calculator, and hopefully publish the German version of the How many people? accessibility tool. It’s on the Digital Service repo now. The data I collected from last week isn’t yet in there.

In the meantime, I continue to spend time with annual performance reviews for everyone in my discipline.

From Monday onwards, I will help the Nordic colleagues get the Helsinki event page ready for publication. I will also check if I can organise a morning event for international folks visiting Berlin to attend the Creative Bureaucracy Festival in mid-June.