Weeknotes S4 Ep08

It’s still sunny!

Sarah and duck (and umbrella) dressed as a rainbow because I’m writing this and its Pride weekend. So sending love out there into the world via the medium of kids cartoons.

Overarching feeling of the week

A bit of a mixed up week with various things happening and feeling like I’m all over the place.

I only had one day in the office which doesn’t feel like enough.

I needed to work from home on Wednesday as I had to take the little one to his new school for an hour to “settle” and meet his new teacher. Working from home on a Wednesday felt strange and threw me a bit because I haven’t done it in some time.

As a result I worked on Friday, and discovered that my usually jam-packed standing-room-only weekday train is barely at half-capacity on Fridays, which is insane…[1]

An empty train, a scene from Spirited Away

I also started working compressed hours this week. This means I need to do an additional hour each day so that I can take every other Friday off. It’s sometimes called “9 in 10” and I hope that as I’ve been doing extra time in the evenings anyway it will all go ok.

I’m also hoping that it will restore some balance to my recently quite hectic and stressful life. Though I simultaneously feel strangely stressed out about it, like I suddenly have a big thing to account for.

Must be a hangover of a deeply rooted presentee-ism I think.

Five things that happened (more than five things happened…)

ONE. Blogs, savings stickers. My team published a blog this week which not only speaks about what we do but also announces some of the savings we’ve been making.

You’ll find that here:

How GDS is saving money and thousands of hours through departments’ digital transformations

It’s nice to see the work that we are doing being spoken about publicly because it makes it slightly easier to explain to people when they ask “What do you do?”

I hope there will be more blogs about what we do, and it would be great to get more of the team involved in writing them.

Also it would be good to use a picture which accurately reflects the gender diversity in our team — we have loads of brilliant women and that is an excellent thing that we should definitely celebrate!

Anyway, I’m not moaning, it’s a good thing for us to be working in the open, and like Steve says:

As you’ll see in that picture we also have a natty new sticker which features an alpaca (apparently it’s not a llama and will get offended if anyone suggests otherwise), I like his teeth and… sunglasses?

LLamas in “Deal with it” sunglasses [2]

Anyway, new stickers are cool with me. On that note…

TWO. Stickers! I got another batch delivered which is exciting, especially as I’ll have these for #OneTeamGovGlobal so if you see me there please ask for one! I have a feeling there might also be a sticker exchange which will be great.

I’ve been asked to sendsome to New Zealand which is exciting — it’s cool to be sending things around the world.

Kit also shared a picture of my sticker in situ and I love it, so thank you!

Kit’s laptop and phone, my sticker ☺️

THREE. User research. On Tuesday I went to observe some user research for one of the departments that I work with. They were testing improvements to a live service which I have actually (struggled to) use in the past.

A dog at a computer with the caption “User Testing”

I was really impressed with the improvements they are testing and trying, overall their recommended changes make it much easier for me as a user (though obviously I am not the user).

Plus, I always really enjoy observing because user researchers and interaction designers are, in my experience, friendly and welcoming. They always seem to be happy to speak to people about what they’re working on, and I like listening to their experiences. I get to find out more about any constraints they’re facing and learn about how they are working. Which is really useful.

Oh, and also…

How GDS is saving money and thousands of hours through departments’ digital transformations

FOUR. Gin the park. On Tuesday night I met some of my old team: Luke, Wendy and Olivia for a drinks picnic in St James’ park (as the football was on).

It was a beautiful evening and it was good to catch up with them all and find out how they are getting on (even if we were visited by a rat for a while)[3].

St James’s Park

FIVE. Service Design. I met my friend Matti at the Home Office to chat through some of what they are doing in service design there. It was really interesting and useful. Plus just generally just good to chat.


Well it’s time for that happy earth gif again. I love this gif.

Earth gif

As I write this it is ONE week and ONE day until the event.

An excited baby

So we’ve got the final preparations to do and the team are working really really hard to get it done. That means getting all of the volunteers ready, getting everything finished and printed.

As I speak three people in my team have signed up to volunteer and that makes me incredibly proud.

Today DavidBuck shared a picture of our first strategy meeting back in February.

It’s almost impossible to believe that this wasn’t even 6 months ago. Back then we were only just starting to think about what this event would end up being.

Now we have an event bringing together 700 attendees, from 43 countries, supported by over 100 volunteers. We’ve been across government (and beyond) getting support and raising funds. We’ve been planning and bringing people in, explaining what we are doing. Speaking to people all over the world. It’s been an absolute blast.

There have been various people involved at different times, but considering we’re a team of approximately 25 people, all doing this in snatched and spare time over and above our day jobs, I think this is pretty amazing.

This week we published three blogs by attendees coming from around the world (Singapore, New Zealand and Luxembourg) you’ll find those here:

How GDS is saving money and thousands of hours through departments’ digital transformations

And the brilliant Debbie and James wrote a blog explaining how we will be managing pitching on the day…

How GDS is saving money and thousands of hours through departments’ digital transformations

Lots of the team (myself included) will be busy on Friday this week (battling the protesters to make it into London) and on Sunday night lots of us will be working (staying in hotels locally, at our own expense) finalising things.

Then we kick off first thing (7am!) on Monday morning.

This is dedication.

“So committed… I like your dedication…”

In other news…

This was a nice little thread about the use of war terminology by Dan Hon which Simon then picked up. I was having a very similar conversation about this with someone only this week, talking about how using this sort of terminology can really put off women in workplaces (not just women, many people, but often disproportionally women).


This week we celebrated 70 years of the NHS, and I loved this from Matt

And I loved seeing loads of people’s tweets about the treatment that they’ve had and what the NHS means to them. It’s been really quite beautiful.

I absolutely loved this post by Audree because it articulates a thing I’ve been struggling with for quite some time.

How GDS is saving money and thousands of hours through departments’ digital transformations

Back when I was a project manager I wanted to change paths and move into a career in (what was then generically called) UX.

At the time I was told that UX was a design discipline and that I needed to have a portfolio, despite many years of working with web teams and learning through managing others to build interfaces (and doing a varied assortment of UX-type things because I needed to pick up work as I was part of a small team).

Describing the work I had done and what I had learned through experience wasn’t enough. Recruiters couldn’t make the mental leap and didn’t know how to “sell me”.

What I felt then was that they were looking for interaction designers over UX designers. It frustrated me because I felt, (and still feel) that you don’t have to have worked in a specific design discipline to understand and be good at certain things which are often termed design. If you’re a problem solver, inquisitive, collaborative, with relevant experience then it can be possible to do that work.

While we’re at it, I also felt (and still feel) that I didn’t want to put together a portfolio of my team’s work because I valued working with other people to solve problems over and above everything else; doing my small part to keep it in line and to fill in gaps, that wasn’t my work, it was a combined effort.

Although what I’m describing above happened approximately six years ago, this pervades. UX might not be quite so trendy anymore but recently I’ve seen many Service Design roles stating that you need to have worked in a design discipline. It puts people off and it’s reductive.

I loved this presentation by Ella about Hero narratives:

This was a (depressing, if) enlightening and thought provoking read.

“The future became less a thing we create through our present-day choices or hopes for humankind than a predestined scenario we bet on with our venture capital but arrive at passively.”

How GDS is saving money and thousands of hours through departments’ digital transformations

Last but by no means least, here’s my playlist this week.

[1] Seriously Sam, we’re not even out of that boring first bit and you’re already banging on about the trains again. Honestly, couldn’t you wait?

(blah blah — trains — blah blah blah)

[2] What is the actual difference between a llama and an alpaca anyway?

How GDS is saving money and thousands of hours through departments’ digital transformations

[3] …because we had been hiding our olive stones in the flowerbed… shhhh!

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