Weekly Braindump #24

Open Standards, Design Thinking & 5 Whys

Happy Friday! How has your week been? Here’s what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been working on..

Monday was spent putting to bed a major issue from last week. We had a last ditch attempt at getting the automated process to work before deciding to call it quits and resorting to a very manual ‘Plan B’ so that we could hit a key deadline. I then took some time out to reflect and write up everything I’ve learned to date ready to review with colleagues before the finer points evacuated my brain.

On Tuesday I had a really useful skype chat with Kelly Doonan regarding leadership. It was sparked by a tweet in which we both observed that great leaders are often good facilitators. They remove blockers so that those around them can achieve their goals. This is quite different from the more traditional role of ‘managers’ who tell their teams what to do and how to do it.

Kelly proposed that this sort of change can only ever happen if it’s leader led. That’ll be brilliant or depressing news based on how open to change your own current leadership is.

What else?..

On Wednesday I tuned into the Good Practice WAO webinar on Open Standards. There’s a storify here if you’re interested in what happened. No surprises.. I pretty much agreed with everything the panel said.

There’s a whole slew of complexity caused by systems that have trouble integrating because of proprietary standards and needless barriers to accessing (YOUR OWN!) data. That has huge ramifications for different public services efficiently working together in unison.

This quote from GDS via Terence Eden was particularly spot on.

We often forget that paradoxically it’s all too easy to create complex systems.

I also liked Jessica Hoare’s point that organisations really need to start demanding open standards as a basic requirement during procurement. I agree! It’s our collective responsibility to start nudging vendors in this direction if they want to win contracts. All signs indicate that won’t happen voluntarily as there’s an (incorrect) core assumption that enabling a product to work with a competitor means loss of sales in the future.

Also — let’s stop signing 5 and 10 year contracts. Whilst it might seem easier to reduce the frequency (and pain!) of the procurement process, it causes an incredible amount of inertia. At a time where technological change is speeding up, we really need systems that can respond to ever shifting requirements and are not handcuffed to lengthy contract terms.

What else?..

On Thursday I caught up with Jo Carter of The Satori Lab. We had a good chat about design thinking and how it might be applied to services in the Social Housing sector. I talked about some of the factors that inhibit design thinking from happening. Namely, many of us are geared for execution & delivery. Which is entirely understandable because it’s been the standard mode of operation for a long time and it’s worked well in the past.

The concept of spending as much time defining a problem as working on the solution might seem like a radical departure for some. But it’s probably where we need to get to if we want to move towards a more modern way of organising ourselves and meeting raised customer expectations.

In the afternoon I took part in a 5 whys exercise with colleagues around the large hairy problem encountered last week (mentioned at the start of this very post). Broadly speaking, we found that there was far too much human intervention in a process that should be largely automated. Contributing factors included struggling to get at the data in a system we own (open standards ftw) and thus having to cobble together data from one or more other sources. In the coming weeks I’ll be looking at vastly simplifying the process so that humans can better spend their time elsewhere and computers can do what they do best.

Today (Friday) was mostly spent trying to wrap up loose ends before I head out of the office on holiday for a week. The recently installed kanban board proved handy for identifying things that need to be finished up or allocated. This is a marked improvement over the old method where I’d delve through a couple of different systems trying to spot the things that people might need to know in my absence. Will be good to see if the kanban board provides a bit of continuity.

I’ve been reading…

I’ve been listening to…

This weeks sketchnote practice…


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