A very busy, at times hectic week. In a way a perfect week for some reflection. And, no, I’m not going to mention The Other Thing going on.
It’s the first week for a long time (like maybe 6 years) where I’ve been split over two clients in normal working hours. Reminded me of my agency time more. I had a slight pang for those days, seeing the same crew every day, working on different things together. A big part of me misses that, at least the solidity of working with people you know. We don’t talk about that enough as a confidence builder. A lot of the gov work I’ve been on people come and go, come and go. Anyway.
Project MT (helping Pilot Works and Placecube) is proceeding OK. Looking back I met my goals for the week (which for the last few weeks I’ve been setting ahead of starting work on Monday to help me limit what I do as much as get stuff done), realised we’re ahead on the design work and want to keep us to keep there. A nice mix of workshops (and each one moved us ahead) but lots of making tangibles.
Thursday was show and tell, a good one from the whole team, seeing how the stuff everyone does flows through the team. I showed off some in-browser design prototypes, but making sure to explain what a prototype even is, why we use them. Being remote means you don’t get to see people’s physical responses in show and tells, which used to be a big thing for me but hey ho. I am still really enjoying the work (might rate in my faves of the last ten years) but because my weekly time on project MT is dropping off I know my time is coming to an end. Enjoy good things while you’re doing them. And looking through my notebook doing these notes I’ve realised I didn’t copy some content into a design, so something to do.
Next week I have some reviews of design approaches, catch up on how some testing with users went (we design with users not for users etc etc), there will be some changes off those, and a little bit of a deeper dive into registering to use the service (which won’t take too long, more concentrating on how we handle bots and everyone being on board with what we do). I need to check over and release a vanilla version of the gov.uk prototype kit I’ve been using too, in case someone else in local gov finds it useful (was a stretch goal for this week, just ran out of time to document it).
The rest of my time was on project MV — public but not gov — on some DesignOps stuff, working with some people who are big brains and big talents on something that is big in volume and reach. We’re working out how to move the work from being in dithering mode to doing something mode. It’s really fucking hard but an experimental mindset from everyone is helping us try things and inch forward into shaping a strategy that has a roadmap of tactics. (And yes, an Out Run style road map not a linear road map etc etc.) This work finishes this coming week, been very much some set up time into some days working together and… that’s it.
Overall I’ve been doing lots of brain dumps sooner this last week, externalise what’s in my head, half to help get my head clear, but also so I can move the work on or move onto the next thing I need to do. Looking back through my notebook it’s interesting the variety of ways these came out, from lists to scamped wireframes (some of which I shifted to quick in-browser prototypes) to double page spread maps which ended up being dumped into something like Miro. An 8 out of 10 for variety there.
I’ve got some work creep into the weekend — a couple of loose ends (maybe that missing content I mentioned earlier), a little to get ahead — to make next week feel a little more comfortable. An hour or two through the weekend helps my head be clear for the weekends focused not on work. From my WhatsApp/Signal/private Slack chats seems a few designers are doing the same recently, feeling on the back foot, using their weekends to help themselves and their teams being more on an even keel. Also interesting hearing how their teams respond to them doing this.
I dipped into some community events this week too.
Tuesday was the monthly service design breakfast run by Leanne Coker at dxw. 15 to 20 minutes of sketching around a topic and intros (and a wake up!), choosing a topic, 15 minutes breakouts to chat about the topic and then coming together to share the discussion. It’s a good format, steady, balancing people and sharing. The chosen topic was scaling up services. Leanne shared more on Twitter. Held every first Tuesday of the month, the next meet is on 1 December. More details on Eventbrite.
Making the DesignOps meet ups because they are now virtual is super handy. They’re also super fun! One of those in my week was refereshingly passive.
On Friday I ran the second local gov research and design meet, facilitated using one main Google Meet, and three individually created Meets waiting in the sidelines for breakouts. Meets seemed to be the commonest platform for the majority of people. It seemed to work for attendees and it just about worked for me as the “ring master”. We looked into playbooks and design systems for local gov. Fruitful discussions! We’re going to analyse the session in the coming weeks, and the playbook work might get its own meet-ups going forward. I’m going to write a separate blog post around this with some detail rather than bury it in my weeknotes. Another local gov research and design meet is being eyed for week commencing 7 December. Follow the meets on Eventbrite.
I’ve been having intro chats about what’s next as my time on project MT is winding down, project MV is done next week and I’ve got available time in the coming weeks. I’ve become quite brutal about saying no to things that aren’t for me. I look for interesting work, a team that understand how my skills would help with that work (and in reverse if it looks like my skills aren’t a match), a decent team doing the work (in experience, skills, ways of working and tone) and decent conditions for success at the least. A couple of sorry, not for me already, but booked in helping a place and people I’ve time for. And next week a few follow up chats about longer term stuff, not all freelance/contracts, but all promising sounding work.
Next week already looks busy with work, but looking forward to taking some time out to run a session with students at a local university. Using Data in Service Design is in my diary and Paper are doing an excellent looking session on How We Treat People. And a couple of half hour catch-ups in the mix too.
Feels the refocus earlier this year is paying off, a lot going on, but there’s a balance there: work/life balance, doing work (that I get on with) but also looking wider — and giving something back too. And there’s an openness to where things to go too.
Away from work, nothing much I feel I want to share. Nearly three weeks into my forced rest my right leg/stay off running and not enjoying it, but hey ho could be worse.
Oh. And this weekend I will finish off When They See Us. Yes I will.