Leadership skills for digital practitioners

Ade Adewunmi and I ran a training session for service designers and heads of service design across government. It’s an expanded version of our tutorial on this topic which you can read about here and here. The training was held at GDS on their last day before moving out of Aviation House, which was a nice symmetry for me.

The training covered how to lead people and teams, whether you’re in a formal leadership role or not, by

  1. Telling a good story
  2. Having evidence for putting users first
  3. Getting people involved, because it gets them invested
  4. Being nice
  5. Looking after yourself

It’s based on what Ade and I have learned in leadership roles, and we aim to make it as practical as possible.

It’s always fun to deliver this session and I learned some new leadership tips myself. My favourite was equipping your teams with ‘lines to take’ on questions or criticisms you regularly receive during your work e.g. “why should we bother doing research?”. Brilliant idea. I love this because it’s really useful and should empower people to stick up for themselves and their work in situations that can be stressful.

We got some lovely feedback from people who came to the training. Thanks folks!

If you’d like to come to this, we’re running it as a 90 minute tutorial at UX Cambridge in September, or you can hire us to do it for your organisation.

Digital project management training for charities and non-profits

Sarah Jackson of Kestrel Copy and I have developed a training day to help charities and non-profits do excellent digital project management.¬†We ran a pilot of the course in June and we’re planning to run it again in Autumn.

The course covers how to

  • carry out internal research and review your existing site
  • set website objectives and choose the best performance metrics
  • get to know your users, engage your staff, and keep your stakeholders happy
  • choose the right agency, and know what red flags to look out for
  • make the most of your budget and stay on schedule
  • use Agile, user stories, wireframes, and develop your minimum viable product
  • carry out a content audit and make a realistic content migration plan
  • steer clear of launch day panic.

It was really rewarding to do something in a new sector, and fun to work in collaboration with Sarah. People said they found it useful and gave universally positive feedback. My favourite piece of feedback was

“Really enjoyed it and found it very useful. Met my goal of feeling confident about having to take on quite a bit of large digital projects in future.”

It’s nice to think that the day helped people feel more confident about their jobs, and as a result some charities will have better digital delivery in future.

Leadership skills for disruption

Ade Adewunmi and I have developed a tutorial about leadership for people working in digital transformation. We’ve done it at General Assembly and Service Design in Government 2017. On Medium, Ade explains the tutorial and about leading teams, and I write¬†about leading organisations.

This work is important to me because leadership skills aren’t something that are often taught, or at least, they weren’t taught to me and the people I know. Leadership skills can seem to “naturally” occur in people in leadership positions, and leaders can hold and extend their power by not explaining how leadership is done. In the area I work in, these positions are held in great number by straight, white, middle class men. Explaining how leadership is done might chip away at the idea that leadership skills are found mostly or even “naturally” (shudder) in those¬†people, and encourage more¬†people to have a go.

January to April 2017

In January I had a bit more of a rest. No work. It was brilliant.

In February I started working with a management consultancy to develop a digital proposition and business plan. This has been a really fun project, good to do something more commercial.

In March I ran a tutorial called “The essentials of leadership for service design” at Service Design in Government 2017, with Ade Adewunmi. We’ll write more about that anon.¬†I also started working for the Department for Education to help them develop their digital capability.

In April I continued those two projects. I worked with a software company who wanted to get on GCloud to sell more services to government. And I worked on a training course for charities that will start in June (excited for that!).

May to October 2016

I spent lots of time at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy working on 3 programmes. Not all at¬†once, thankfully. I’m not sure I can say too much about them here. ¬†I led a¬†service design review of the Student Loans Company. ¬†As part of this, I did Wardley mapping for the first time. I was underwhelmed. I ran a discovery project to figure out how to get user-focused finance and HR services to 15,000 staff. I was overwhelmed. And when the portfolio team found itself without a manager, I stepped in to help oversee the department’s digital transformation programmes. Phew.

February, March and April 2016

I wrapped up my 6 month contract at UKTI in the first week of February. Lord Maude left the week after.

I’m setting up a digital transformation agency with my friend Dean Hanley. I’m very excited about this. We’re finding out¬†what potential users of our services need, developing our proposition and twiddling around with names and websites. We’ve got on the¬†Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework, which gives us a route to public sector work.

I’m also working part-time at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. I’m lucky to be part of a brilliant team led by Chief Digital Officer Emma Stace. I’m acting as a¬†roving programme director. I’ve been leading 3 discovery projects – one about digital transformation of corporate services, one piece of service design and one piece of Wardley mapping.

I’ve been doing some speaking too. I took a delightful excursion into the world of live art to speak at¬†The Pacitti Company¬†with the amazing artist¬†Gemma Marmalade. We¬†talked¬†about how punk and feminist principles inform the (very different) work we do. Or ‘our practice’, as they say in the art world. I did my talk about feminism, punk rock and public services at¬†People Before Pixels. I loved this meet up and it’s going to become a regular date in my diary. I spoke about digital transformation at¬†Think Cloud for Digital Government¬†in London and took a trip up to Manchester to talk about local government digital and procurement at¬†Think Cloud For Local Government.

To do all that stuff, I spend a lot of time looking at screens. To balance this out in my spare time, I’ve unsubscribed from Netflix and Amazon Prime. It’s made me so happy. I read books again! Next up is the new Nicola Barker novel,¬†The Cauliflower. A new novel by my favourite writer, at the exact moment I’ve started reading again. It doesn’t get better than that.

December 2015 and January 2016

I’ve been doing the final third of my contract at UK Trade and Investment. My team’s recent blog posts explain what we’ve been doing better than I can.

Digital service for UK businesses that want to export –¬†Talking to Businesses¬†and¬†Researching Export

Services for staff – Finding People in UKTI

UKTI proof of concept market overview

Source: UKTI Digital Trade Blog

We ended 2015 by briefing Lord Maude, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, on the digital service for exporters project. He said it was ‘exactly what [he] was looking for’. But more importantly, the users we’ve been testing with say the same.

A blog is your contribution, over time, on the internet

I love this post by Giles Turnbull about what blogs do for organisations. Giles argues that

“A blog provides something that posting on social networks has never been able to match: a searchable, linkable archive of thoughts over time. A blog is a terrific way of explaining what you‚Äôre thinking and how those thoughts change.”

I agree. My blog shows my thoughts over time. Sometimes my thoughts are “I would also like to modify the citational practices of digital government, which as an intellectual project rests almost exclusively on a canon written by white men” (December 2014, pretentious, true). Sometimes they are “I‚Äôve been doing a bit of talking”¬†(December 2015, less pretentious, also true).

But blogging has another purpose for me – recording my contribution. I try to write a factual summary of the work I’ve been doing every month or so. Partly, I record my work because I want people to hire me to do more work. Mostly,¬†I do it¬†because I want my contribution to be publicly recorded. I blog¬†to take up space. Too many people (women) I know¬†have had their contributions written out of the story of things they’ve worked on. Writing down what I do might not solve this, but I hope it will help.

An ‘eek I haven’t written anything for 3 months’ update

In my last monthnote I mentioned I had a new project, working at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). Things have been busy since then, hence the radio silence.

I’ve been setting up a team to work on a new service for UK businesses that want to export, which you can¬†read about on the UKTI digital blog. I’ve been very fortunate to hire a talented and determined team who are doing excellent work in sometimes challenging circumstances. I’ve also been working with¬†UKTI colleagues on our internal tools, and doing regular skills-sharing sessions how you can use agile outside digital teams. It makes me very happy when people in finance teams tell me they’re doing stand ups.

UCD

(Photo by @mskatiebenjamin)

I’ve been doing a bit of talking too. I spoke about doing digital transformation in departments to government officials from Australia, New Zealand and Canada at Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Digital Government Symposium. I spoke to cool design types at UCD2015 about feminism, punk rock and public services. This was the first time I’ve talked about my work in a personal way. I loved it and other people seemed to like it too. Girls to the front!