Monday was some wider design team actions (sorting out designers to get some experience on assessments, sorting designers for some upcoming assessments, little catch-ups with a couple of senior designers), a user research session go-through, and off the back of that getting down some screens to help talk through and then explore a tricky problem with the business analysts in the team. Showing your thinking, talking it through, being clear what the issues are, and doing what is needed to narrow down your thoughts is best with a conversation of open minded people focused on the problem in hand.

A grab of the six screens I pulled together to talk through with the business analysts in a team I work with.
A grab of the six screens I pulled together to talk through with the business analysts in a team I work with.

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Tuesday we went through the screens above, tried to decide on a path forward, and preparing for the assessment the next day (by going over the stuff sent over by the team we’ll be talking to). The afternoon was Leeds Gov Design number 7, with Tom and Chris from work doing sessions, Tom on service designing and Chris on the work in his programme.

Tom talking at Leeds Gov Design about What’s A Service Designer?
Tom talking at Leeds Gov Design about What’s A Service Designer?
Chris talking at Leeds Gov Design about his work
Chris talking at Leeds Gov Design about his work

Tom and Chris work alongside each other too so it was a nice lift-the-hood on what is going in their working world. The DWP Digital comms team came along — and a big thank you! to them for doing that — and did a video with Chris and another with me. The day didn’t end there, heading back to the office to pick up where I left off on the design work and ending the day with a long catch-up with Gav.

Wednesday some work prioritisation (you cannot solve all the problems at once) and I headed off at 10am to be design assessor, for a private beta. It was a really good assessment, the team really being into the problem(s) they are trying to solve, have a clear idea about how they are going about it, a solid product in beta (that they are continually looking to improve, always be in beta fans) and some lovely understanding of the service and how their product helps with that. I was encouraged by the relationship between the DWP Digital team and the wider DWP team who “fulfil” the service, a really healthy mutual appreciation of what each side is doing, respect that leans on each other to make both the product and the service better. I think out of everything else in the assessment that was the biggest model example to a lot of other pieces of work going on, and not just around DWP.

I should have written the report up straight afterwards but I ended the working day with a weird half hour, getting back to the team to find a feature we had designed and written up to be developed had been redesigned while I was at the assessment. We’re at a point where as we build the product we need get to features in that are just good enough, but we can pick up them up later and improve them. In the morning we had a catch up about the next priorities — basically what else was missing — so just a bit weird to find something we’d put to bed “for the evening” as a team being dusted off suddenly – and then just being asked to check through someone’s thinking. It felt what I responded, asking and suggesting, was falling on flat ears. I felt dented — and it’s been one of a few times over recent months when my experience and advice as a designer (which is usually “here’s my best guess based on what we know, what do you all think, OK we’ve done some changes and we’re all in the same place, let’s go through with it with some potential users”) was just ignored. There’s something in this about yeah yeah we need T-shaped people in teams, but respect the views of the person whose role has specific responsibilities for a particular task in the team’s flow. I felt flat leaving work, the flattest for a long time. It hung about at the back of my mind during an after work meeting, and then on the dog walk — and I decided to go for a run.

A grab of from the Nike Running Club, showing my split times for the 5 kilometres I ran on Wednesday. There are lots of kilometres that are between 5 and 6 minutes long, but there’s one stand out: 7 and a half minutes. Thinking hard can mean slow running. (Or is that pace actually jogging?)
A grab of from the Nike Running Club, showing my split times for the 5 kilometres I ran on Wednesday. There are lots of kilometres that are between 5 and 6 minutes long, but there’s one stand out: 7 and a half minutes. Thinking hard can mean slow running. (Or is that pace actually jogging?)

Last week I talked about the mind clearing I get from running. I was planning a day off but ah man know when you have something that you cannot let go of? It was hard hard work, running another 5km (for the fourth night on the trot) and with the mental burden. I track my runs and the splits showed pretty much when I started to grapple with the issue in my head. I’d worked it through by the fifth kilometre though, with possibly my fastest kilometre for a while.

It turned out to be my last run of the month as well, notching up 47.75 kilometres in 17 days. My goal for January was 20km so not too bad.

As I was running my phone kept buzzing with messages from the Leeds Service Jam squad, sorting their meeting. I am also starting to accept I am not going to be able to help out this year organising Leeds Service Jam, in for the last weekend of March. I need to get some time this weekend to tap a handover email to the team already beavering away. They’ll be fine though, but I do like helping sort them. There’s only so much time though.

Thursday I started to acclimatise to a new problem in another part of DWP Digital. There’s a team already working away and I am going to spend time with them. This meant talking with people. Well, mainly listening to other people and then asking them to explain stuff further or fill in some blanks. Essentially I was looking to find out what problem the team were looking to solve. This continued through until Friday lunch, ending the Friday morning with a quick half hour debrief of this is what I have and haven’t found, is it missing or have I missed it, and setting down some next steps. There’s a degree of urgency here, I am worried there’s too much focus on making a “digital system” over designing a service (which isn’t uncommon, even in these supposedly service design led times), but I might be wrong. Whichever that doesn’t mean we cannot set down some degree of process to make sure we are on the right path doing the right things. More next week but it felt good to be back doing something more service design-y and team-y.

I managed to squeeze in watching Steve’s broadcast about Check Your State Pension and grab a paneer wrap from Manjit’s Kitchen for lunch. Saw out the week catching up with Rich, a chat with a team over in Manchester, and browsing through all the Services Week stuff, basically by browsing the #ServicesWeek hashtag on Twitter. I really liked Craig’s little video about accessibility and Adele’s post on designing letters as part of the whole user journey. Big up to Martin Jordan for kickstarting it all off. Danke, Martin.

Next week is going to be another full on one: More with that new team, two assessments, and whatever else pops up. This weekend I need to be putting in one place stuff to do in Berlin in a few weeks. Any suggestions? (Especially good places for a run. 🙂)


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