Overarching feeling of the week
A bittersweet week where I found out about changes that are happening which are awesome for the people involved but a bit destabilising for me.
People are moving on or moving around and, while I am massively happy about people achieving and doing well, I also (selfishly) feel a little unsettled by it all.
Following on from a theme from last week I’ve been out of the office a lot again this week and I am not enjoying the life of a nomad. I feel like I’ve been running between places and my time has become compressed as a result.
I missed #DigiGov18 as a result of things falling into my diary and didn’t even find time to pop in. It meant I wasn’t there to cheer on fellow weeknoter Julie but I was thinking of her!
This week I’ve been snatching moments in coffee shops, from shared work areas in various Whitehall buildings or squatting at my old team’s offices. Having to cart all my stuff around at all times and unpack, pack up, unpack again is annoying. I feel a bit rootless.
I need some more structure in order to feel comfortable, so I’m going to have to carve that out somehow.
Five things that happened (more than five things happened)
1.I helped run an assessment for ACAS on Tuesday with my old team. This was a Beta assessment after the Alpha we did back in S2 Ep05.
I am consistently awed by the team’s approach to work, their focus on up-skilling their team, and on the long game. It really is refreshing. They don’t have their assessment report yet so I can’t say much more except to say that I was impressed.
I couldn’t help but notice that women outnumbered men in the room 7–4, (though I cast no judgement about whether these two things are related ).
It was also good to hear that the team had used our Alpha assessment report to onboard Beta team members, and that the work we did had been useful. I like to feel useful.
Cate, in turn, is heading off to Hackney Council for an equally awesome and important role. These are both amazing things and I can’t congratulate either of them enough because they are both brilliant, inspiring, women (see previous gif).
3. Work is starting to pick up and things are beginning to come directly to me. Some are straightforward while others are slightly more problematic, but so far nothing is insurmountable. Things just take time and I am more than happy to ask “stupid questions” until I’ve got more context about the departments I’m working with.
4. It was a good week for seeing and spending time with people. On Monday morning I met Douglas for the first time. This was to chat about an upcoming blog he has written, and also to put a face to the name and chat One Team Gov. Hi!
I had lunch with Sam, Adele and Thom in my team and then had a drink after work to celebrate Adele moving on to her new role in the GaaP team.
On Wednesday I spent some time with my old team from the Cabinet Office (using their office space to work) and then went out for drinks with Luke, Wendy, Olivia and also Helen who used to be in our team and is now flying on the Fast Stream.
On Friday I met David for coffee to catch up on the great work that Letchworth Heritage Foundation are doing. I always thought that they were an organisation ripe for transformation and the work there definitely seems to be doing that. It’s exciting to see positive impact happening at a local level, and in my town too!
5. I made it to One Team Gov breakfast club again which was good and much needed soul food.
This week I’m taking the mantle from (a very busy) Jenny again to bring you more detail about what was discussed.
But firstly I wanted to give a massive shout out to DavidBuck who, after a conversation on WhatsApp, has made me a lovely glittery rock with googly eyes, because #OneTeamGovRocks. I plan to hide this somewhere around government so keep your googly eyes peeled for it…
There were a selection of good conversations this week and a range of topics.
The first was a call for sponsors for #OneTeamGovGlobal. We are still some way off having enough money to make the day as excellent as we want it to be.
If you work in Government or a related field and are reading this then please consider sponsoring us!
There was a really interesting conversation about whether or not government is currently “overusing” user research. It was interesting and constructive conversation because there were a range of views on this.
Currently, the Government Service Standard stipulates that services should be developed by a multidisciplinary team, and that team should be made up of certain roles to ensure delivery is managed in an agile way. When we assess services we look for detail about how the team is running as a way of understanding if they are empowered and able to make sensible decisions about the direction of their work.
Key to this (and to ensuring user needs) is a User Researcher, but some people in the room suggested that this stipulation may have developed a “market” for user researchers by insisting that any service (of any size or complexity) needs user research.
They thought that a way of managing this might be to create pools of user researchers who do research around themes and share findings across services. I am totally on board with this as an idea, especially for smaller services.
I think there’s something really important about how we share and make user research available across teams and boundaries and how we encourage reuse. Also how we actually store user research findings so that they can be useful for other teams.
Also, how could we enable teams to “piggyback” on other team’s research activities where there is a crossover?
But I think that this type of thinking should be rewarded and celebrated, and all too often I hear teams saying that there isn’t research available, which often feels to me like shorthand for “we didn’t try to find it”.
The current set up, and how services are funded also makes this difficult because teams have finite resources…
There were some concerns that the sheer volume of research happening across government might mean that we saturate the market and make it more difficult to find participants, or get “professional participants” who turn up time and time again.
Not everyone in the room agreed with that view and it was helpful to remember that actually five years ago this wasn’t even a thing that happened in government — where we are now is a vast improvement on where we were.
Given the amount of championing for it I’ve had to do in my time I think there is still significant work to be done to help people see and understand the value. I don’t think we are yet at a point where we should be entertaining the notion that it isn’t needed. Until it’s fully embedded we should carry on.
Lots of people agreed that it was most important to find and nurture more junior talent and retain it for the civil service as a whole rather than buying expensive contract resource. I think we can all agree on that, right?
There were more discussions about how to build a trust-based organisation and push decision making downwards, creating a culture where it’s ok to fail (small). And then a conversation about how to embed empathy and what it looks like in practice. This conversation took in storytelling and narrative as a way of engaging people, as well as what we actually mean by empathy or being empathetic.
I feel like my productivity has fallen off a little this week, but I have been busy on Twitter, engaging with lots of things and posting tweets. I’ve been emailing Estonia and trying to build up excitement about the event.
I’ve also been strong-arming people (my old boss Olivia is the first) to tweet about their pitching plans so that we can start to get people thinking…
Finally, Jemima set up our LinkedIn group which you can join below, and which will hopefully bring us a new audience of people who might not use Twitter — this is good for getting more Policy and Operational people at the event — we want a good mix!
In other news…
Jenny asked a really interesting question about age discrimination on Twitter and got some good responses…
This write up by Giles is one of the most useful things I’ve seen in a long time:
I watched this lovely little docu-thing about Interpol…
And finally, here’s this week’s playlist. If you made it through these monumental notes you probably need it:
 BTW, I cannot get over Richard Ashcroft’s jacket in this video, those shoulders are just… I can’t even. Did we really ever really think he was cool?
While we’re on the subject, The Verve is a terrible band name. Imagine a band called The Pep, The Zest, The Elan, The Vigour, The Ardour. All of these are awful. (Though if you added the word black to the last three I think you have the potential for some great metal/goth bands… paging Dan)
 …or do I?
Very long weeknotes this week, sorry! Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend!!