3 min read

26. Connections

Ends (both good and bad), Agile history and high performing teams, and airports

February may be the shortest month of the year, but for me this has been a long one. I'm writing this from Auckland Airport as I prepare to start on 32 hours of a long path home to the UK.

It's been a month full of catchups as I haven't been to NZ since 2014. (I was meant to visit in 2020 but… covid).  I've discovered that asking "so, the last 8 years…" has meant some wild answers. All lives are fascinating when viewed with enough distance to see the contours of time.

I've had a lot of flexible plans as my friends have kids and New Zealand has wild weather. Thankfully no one I know has been terribly affected by either the Auckland flood or Cyclone Gabrielle, but not everyone has been so lucky.

And in something that I just can't really put a positive spin on, I've had one spectacular airline fail where I was given bad information in writing, questioned on what I'd done (thankfully I had that information in writing) and given terrible service on fixing the problem. Let's just say I don't have good feelings about Emirates right now. I'll probably do a teardown of all of that later.  

I have a lot to mull over as I start on my rebooked flight.

This month in digital government and design

Aside from being on holiday, at the start of February I finished Joe Macleod's Endineering course. The course covers consumer experience (which I thought of a lot with my Emirates horror story), but also cover consumer culture and waste as well as models for endings. I particularly loved 'the crack of doubt' model (created by a former nun!).  For anyone who is interested in the course, I have some discount codes available (email me for more details).    

Christina Wodtke has done a self-admittedly 'ridiculously long article' about high performing teams. Look forward to the book she's promising to write.

Working with staff can mean unpicking some nuances with power - they may feel unempowered but can still do more than an end-user. KA McKercher's got a great workshop slide to help navigate the power tensions.

Speaking of changing power dynamics, the excellent Hmntycntrd people are sharing a lot of resources to change common design thinking approaches, such as switching from individual interviews to group workshops to better identify systemic issues.

The people at language app Babbel bravely talked about how they messed up a product discovery and what they'd do differently next time. More of these stories please!

And in visual stories, Pia Andrews has made a comic about how government makes, implements and manages policy.

I've really enjoyed reading some articles from the US Web Design System (USWDS) team, ranging from inclusive design patterns, to the WSWDS web design system maturity model (starting from principles to guidance to code) to hiring designers (think doctors - sometimes you need specialists but you also need some GPs!)

I loved a recent talk from information architecture veteran Donna Spencer. I particularly liked the model of thinking of design as a funnel, but also enjoyed the critique of design sprints (problematic use of UR and decision making) and capabilities (instead, have a mindset of T-shaped people and teach!)

Can you diagram systems to include warmth and an acknowledgement of complexity?

The folk at GDS have written about making maps accessible.

Speaking of accessibility, a blind person has written about his experiences using online banking apps (spoiler: a lot of it isn't great) and TPGI have written about how to make kiosks accessible (less braille, more easy-to-update voiceover).

Please don't use the title 'cargo cult' but that aside, have a read of Jason Yip's survey of agile (and what it isn't).

And three takes on service design skills: one from Emma Parnell about if service designers just do workshops, one from Lou Downe about creating service design capability, and one (from 2020) from Create/Change on things a service designer in government needs to be good at.


When your billboard is eligible to be upgraded to Windows 11.

A lot of people enter Harvard Law school thinking that they'll be pro-bono lawyers. Then all of the events sponsored by Big Law begin.

Jarvis Cocker dressed in the style of British Rail tickets.

Speaking of airports, LaGuardia airport has gone from the USA's worst airport to possibly the best—here's how.

A story of a Briton's worst nightmare. (It's so true).

Until next time