Happy Friday, how are you?
I’m feeling ok, the weather is a bit rubbish now eh? Still, I guess most of the week was lovely. The first full week in a while too, so I’m tired, I definitely came home and went (almost) straight to bed on Wednesday.
In conscious that recently I’ve slipped into a day by day rundown of what’s happened, but that always feels of lower value, so this week, I’m making a slightly jumbled return to thinking about things thematically.
For more info about weeknotes structures you could use, here’s the blog I wrote a while back…
Before we begin:
I’ve been acutely aware of how different situations effect my energy levels this week, hence the gif at the top of this post. I’ve been aware of those times when I’ve depleted all of my energy, where my adrenaline is running through being over-upbeat and trying to bring people into the conversation.
There are times when I’m having to think hard about lots of things while also trying to get the best out of people. It’s that mental energy I’m exerting manifesting physically through exhaustion, and needing to go to bed early to recover.
I’m not sure how delivery managers do this as a full time thing. Please feel free to provide your most useful tips either in the comments below or on the tweeter.
Anyway, I had a moment like that this week, and it was hard. The most difficult thing about that feeling is to remember not to let it overtake me. It would be easy to believe that because it felt like really hard work for me, that other people weren’t working hard, but that’s not a generous thought.
Much better just to recognise that we all work differently, work out how I can do it better next time, and move on.
Some things that happened:
The very best things that have happened this week have been the informal chats I’ve had with people in my team and beyond. I had lunch with our Service Designer beckymiller33, which is always useful as she gives me a lot to think about. I’m hoping she can help me to turn some of my dodgy doodles into things we can use and reuse, that tell the story of the work we are doing.
On Tuesday I met Olivia and Wendy for some lovely lunch and a catch up, Olivia got married at the weekend so it was an uplifting conversation.
I also had a 1:1 with Ben, we talked about my upcoming end of year review and it was useful to think about what I’ve achieved since joining the team and where I want to go next.
The bulk of my week was taken up with more reading and a lot more thinking about our funded discovery project outputs. I’ve now read all but one of them and provided feedback on lots of them.
That feels good, I’m glad I’ve got a rounded picture of all the work that’s been going on. We’ve also been doing much more thinking about how to give really useful and directional feedback to teams as well as what we need to publish on the local digital website so that the work becomes more use-able to others.
I think that there are a couple of themes emerging about the outputs. The below represents only my thinking at the moment, not that of theLocal Digital Collaboration Unit or even (heaven forbid) the department, so please don’t take this as official messaging, it’s not, it’s a brain dump by me! #caveat
1.Telling the story. Using a critical eye when reading project outputs means spotting gaps and questioning everything on the page.
That could turn into a negative exercise and we have been working hard not to position it that way. But when we use that critical eye we notice where things aren’t quite explained or where conclusions appear to take a jump.
In some cases, teams haven’t fully “ shown their workings”. For example, they may not have described their user research in enough detail. More often than not our projects have this information but haven’t included it within the final narrative, or don’t realise how much it might support their case. So it’s really important to always be generous.
Working with project teams, spotting these opportunities, and feeding back (ultimately, being useful and pragmatic) is my favourite aspect of this work.
2.User research. This is a hard one, as maturity in user centred design varies so much across different organisations (even in central government) and there are all sorts of reasons why UR can sometimes go awry. Getting to the crux of understanding different people’s needs and motivations isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes it means asking different questions than you would expect, like “where are you when you’re doing this work? And what are you trying to achieve” rather than asking about how someone does the work using a specific tool.
We all fall into this from time to time and I’m thinking a lot about how I might support future funded projects with it. It’s also worth saying that in many cases it’s really not this at all but is actually point 1 that is taking place. Like I said, be generous.
3.Double diamo- or -mond. I know some people have a problem with the double diamond being overly simplistic. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good model to broadly explain some activity.
So if we think that what we call the discovery phase is the first diamond and the second is the alpha phase. I think in some instances project teams have completed the first part of the first diamond (labelled ‘discover’ above). This is where we cast our nets wide and explore the problem space widely.
In a couple of instances it feels as though teams haven’t managed to fully complete the second half of that diamond (‘define’). This is where we distil what we’ve learned and start to draw conclusions about what we should do at alpha. So you end up with a discovery that doesn’t quite feel finished — a diamo- if you will.
There are so many reasons why that might happen, it could be the time constraints we imposed to provide us with outputs, it might be because budgets have run out, people weren’t available, or… any number of reasons, really.
Ultimately though it means that some of our discoveries may need to keep on discovering.
This need to extend discoveries in some instances shows up what we already know about funding; that existing government funding models are often at odds with with ongoing agile projects.
“Fund teams not projects”
And that’s an interesting challenge for our work.
In other cases some projects may have headed straight into the second half of the diamond and begun distilling ideas without casting their net wide enough first. Again, that might mean that the recommendations reached at the end of the discovery might not have considered all the options, so the team might need to extend their discovery or go back and look again at the question they’re trying to answer.
In both of these cases, again, it could very well be point 1 and not this at all, we need to be generous, taking the time and working with the teams to find out and not assume anything.
On Wednesday Egle, Adam, Eni, James and I spent most of the afternoon going through all of our feedback for the discoveries and bringing it together into something really useful and concise. It took a lot of time, but we managed to finish four of them (out of 10!)
It’s so important that we do this work together, building a consensus about what we know and what we think we should do next. Now that we have taken the time, we have the language and structure we can use to move forward.
I also received the first draft of the alpha project outputs for the Family Context in Children’s Services project. So during this week I also had to find time to give that the attention it deserved, and make sure my feedback was meaningful.
Our alpha projects officially submit their final outputs next week, and I can’t wait for that!
What else happened?
Somebody at work wants to talk to me about working part time and how to keep within your hours. I will chat to them but I fear I am a terrible role model (I did a meeting today and then spent time writing this, on my non-working day) so yeah…
I started writing a post about vulnerability and privilege, after a tweet and discussion I saw, but rather than put it in a separate post I think I will write about it here — the thoughts aren’t well formed and I’m still working out how I respond to this knowledge. So please bear with me while I rumble through it.
It started with this tweet by Leisa
It seems strange to me now, but at the time I felt slightly defensive.
Vulnerability is a trait that I value in myself and in others; the ability to courageously push through and do things outside of your comfort zone. But that defensiveness troubled me because I tend to think that when you’re immediately defensive it’s because there’s a real privilege issue you should examine.
So I tried to. I’ve been sitting with this thought and wondering what to do next. How to put it into words.
I don’t think the problem is definitely with the word vulnerability or with vulnerability being a thing in and of itself. If I know anything about privilege it’s that it is different for everyone, there are layers and layers of it for some people, and less for others. I know I have privilege, I am white, straight, with a job and a family.
I am relatively safe from harm, relatively safe when I decide to be open. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel some trepidation every time I hit “publish” or “tweet” but I do understand that for some people it might seem impossible, not just hard.
My gender, social status, background, and mental health are always front of mind when I am open online, those are the things that I both have experience of and feel passionate about creating space for. I feel like by doing things like writing these notes, that I am helping others to believe that it is OK to act and be this way.
But if I really examine my privilege then I have to also concede that when I publish I also take up space.
I did a quick bit of investigation. I counted up the number of BAME people in Web of Weeknotes (I’m sorry, I’m always uncomfortable using the term BAME, I don’t like it really but I’m not sure how to say it better, the people is the important bit, I mean real humans).
Anyway, it was very clear that most of the people occupying this space look (kinda) like me.
If I’m out here being open and honest, perceiving that I’m creating space for others to bring their whole selves then am I succeeding? Or am I just succeeding in creating more space for people like me to centre their experience as the main / “normal” one? And if so, what can I do to change that?
I don’t know. Maybe I can only talk to my experience and encourage others to do the same until they all overlap. I can only continue to educate myself about other experiences and to try.
I’m going to keep thinking about this and about how I can try to make this better. I am a work in progress.
All of the above actually now I think about it reminds me of this blog by Alastair
I loved this:
This great post by Joanne
I got some lovely post from Amy!
And finally, I didn’t include a playlist last week, so here’s the one I created. No new playlist for this week.
Thank you for reading and if you got this far, here, have a special goodbye gif: