Weeknotes S4 E3 2020

“Graphic design is my passion”

I’ve been doing/thinking about…

I had a lovely whilstle stop tour of a process mapping tool courtesy of Andy Sandford. This is something we’re looking at because we want to capture our processes in a more consistent way.

Up till now we’ve used a variety of different tools (Google Drawings, Miro, Lucidchart) but the downside is that a) they’re difficult to re-organise to visually highlight different things to different people and b) they’re drawings not models, so are trickier to use if you wanted to calculate time/cost for differing options.

I produced the first set of project weeknotes. This has been in my backlog for a while, and kept popping up when talking about how to better radiate intent to others and how to document decisions as we make them. These are internal for the moment whilst I fiddle about with the format. I’d like to make these public once we’ve established a bit of a rhythm and figured out what’s ‘just enough’ detail to share if it was open to all.

We are currently working on a replacement case management system. This is the first candidate for the low code platform we’ve adopted. Lots of work going on at the moment in terms of getting integrations with key systems up and running. Having in-house expertise to navigate our data is proving to be invaluable because experience has taught us we can’t always rely on suppliers to have this product knowledge or the willingness to work openly. (There are exceptions, but they are just that.)

Within the next week or so we should be able to get into the actual system so that we can begin to work through the user stories we’ve collected. By my own admission, the user stories could do with further refinement (I know this because I did them!) but they’re a good starting point to get underway.

Design Thinking Notes

I’m currently doing U101: Design Thinking with the Open University. These are weekly notes and observations from this course.

I handed my first proper TMA (tutor marked assessment) in on Friday. The jist of it was working through a design process to ultimately produce a t-shirt with a design on it. The focus wasn’t so much the design itself (which made me think about that ‘graphic design is my passion’ meme the whole time) as focusing on the design process and reflecting as you go. The goal being to create a running dialogue between the analytical and creative bits of your own brain. Some of this is natural to me, but doing art on a deadline definitely was not.

I must confess it involved burning the candle both ends. Unlike a written excercise, this really was a process. So it normally entailed sketching something out, then iterating on it. Then perhaps shelving that concept and going a different way. With this sort of work it’s hard.. perhaps impossible to shortcut it. It’s something I found I needed to work through in order to gain the learning about how to move forward. But, I got everything done without it feeling rushed and I feel okay with the end result (… in as much as I’d stared at it until I felt sufficiently tired of looking at it and couldn’t think of any other obvious ways to improve it).

Abstraction is a thing that’s been whirring around my brain the past week. I think it’s interesting that when we draw or sketch something, we are automatically choosing which details to omit that we consider to be surplus to visually communicating that thing to another person. I’d never really though about this before because it’s such an instinctive process.

This had me thinking about how I might more intentionally apply this to work. We talk a lot about ‘making it easy to do the right thing’. And of course, making things easy paradoxically takes lots of hard work to strip out needless complexity. So perhaps there’s an element of abstraction in everything we do? We might frame this as ‘leaning’ a process. Higher levels of abstraction may be really going back to first principles and figuring out what the irreducable core looks like. And of course, what might seem obvious to me may be less so to someone else, so this lends itself to being an open and outward looking endeavour.

I’ve just realised that I’ve written about abstraction before in the form of service patterns for collaboration, and I’ve only just connected those dots! (Yay for writing stuff down!)

Abstract to collaborate
One of the most common reasons for not working together is…

Next block in my course will be about ‘Design and others’ which I suspect will be a little bit more familiar territory. Looking forward to it!

I’ve been reading/watching/listening to…

The CDO for Welsh Gov wrote this blog post on their first mission to ‘Deliver and modernise services to a common set of standards so that they are simple, secure and convenient’. It shouldn’t surprise you that I like this a lot!

Polly Thompson shared this post about ‘pre-mortems’ with me. I’d like to run this with some colleagues as I think it could be incredibly useful in scanning for risks as a collective excercise before we get into the work.

I listened to this GDS podcast about GOV.UK Pay. Really interesting to hear people behind the scenes talk about working on the payment platform and particularly around where surges of demand come from over the course of this very strange year. Fishing licenses! Who knew?

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