I've been playing with the idea of archaeology as an important thing for a while when it comes to government work. While I've written about the value of timelines to understand an organisation, I thought that I'd somehow have to lean into the work of the French philosopher Michel Foucault to maybe ground this idea (he talks a lot about philosophy as archaeology). I was wrong: there are some more pertinant references, even for government. Jennifer Pahlka's excellent book Recoding America has an entire chapter on archaeology and how tracing back a rule can reveal some surprising things that can then be challenged. (There is an example of an enterprising public sector technologist trying to understand where a tech regulation has come from and after going around a loop of several departments is sent back to his department!) And Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais's book Team Topologies talk about a reverse Conway maneuver (flipping 'Conway's Law' that an organisation's IT systems reflect its organisation chart by starting with the IT teams first).
This month in digital government and design
- When reading Recoding America, a key book that I had not heard of before came up: Hack Your Bureaucracy by Marina Nitze and Nick Sinai. Based on their experience working in US government, has some bluntly practical tips for getting things done in a bureaucracy, such as trying to follow the rules first (often they do work and even if they don’t you can document what goes wrong), finding your karass, and even going second. This is also a book that I’ll probably recommend to people (or at least recommend the hack your bureaucracy blog post) and is again particularly relevant for places that don’t have central levers to use for change.
- There have been discussions on The Interwebs about content design. While Nicole Alexandra Michaelis’s Why I no longer believe in content design got a lot of clicks, I preferred Jody Allard’s response Why I still believe in content design. (You don’t have to subscribe to read it.) For better or worse, most user-centred design roles are about advocacy. The other trick is for those roles in with more power to be allies.
- Also for my content nerd friends: Toby Jervis on using structured content to future proof brands and Paula Land on how to do a content audit
- That thing about how teams take issue with the Service Standard? Matt Knight wrote a parable about teams challenging the Service Standard.
- I remember once talking to someone who mentioned a meeting set up with stakeholders where the stakeholders were “listening to reply, not to understand”. I was reminded with this article by Emma Blomkamp, Thea Snow and Ingrid Burkett about co-design and ‘going from mouthset to mindset shifts in co-creating systems change’
- More from Thea: she, Fiona McKenzie, Alli Edwards, and Louise Baldwin have been looking at how to create learning networks
- Speaking of bringing people together, Dani Allen and Emma Sutcliffe (my former colleagues from a few workplaces back!) have written about how to bring the wider team into the research bubble
- I like People Street’s take on design justice as 3 inclusive design principles: centring the ‘right’ voices, proportionate universalism (they know this is a mouthful but it’s about starting from the excluded), and, my favourite, change as an accessible, accountable and collaborative process (rather than an end point)
- The excellent Dan Saffer is involved in a book about design and AI. He’s got a newsletter about the upcoming design and AI book
- If you have a website that will have an EU audience, soon you’ll have to make sure that it’s accessible. (Currently in the UK it’s only public sector sites that have to be accessible). Craig Abbott explains the European Accessibility Act.
- There’s a lot to unpick in Jason Godesky's piece about UX and agile, but in particular I like the distinction between ‘dwellings’ and ‘buildings’
- team topologies and agile in general are often about doing less. One article is a reminder that sometimes ideas are about removing rather than adding. And another emphasises the need to keep product teams small, even splitting them up.
- NHS England is doing interesting work on how they bring inclusive design into their practice
- Some practical tips from Vinita Bansal on how to prune meetings from your calendar
- I love this piece from Andrew Duval on the 5 values you need to be a good collaborator (selflessness, truth, detail, diversity and craft).
- And on the numbers game, Francesca Cortesi says that you only need 1 mindset and 3 people to make a decisions. The mindset of converging on the right direction, and 3 people—the person with the expertise, the person with the authority to say yes, and the person who has to live with it—to make said decision. Arguably, this assumes that there aren’t great unknowns, but is a way to cut through the noise of massive meetings.
- I would have never come across that Bentley ad (the one with the blonde woman whispering ‘bentlee’) were it not for the memes. My favourites are the Citreon, Ford Transit, Airbus, Steyr, Saga and Humvee (waaaaiit)
- And Just Like That season 2 has been a … ride. Some good commentary around on that ‘cringe watch’ of a show (an even better phrase than ‘hate watch’).
- To go back to the OG show, a a Gen Z Vogue writer watched Sex and the City for the first time and reviewed it. (Samantha and the theme tune do well, the smoking and casual treatment of sexual harrassment, not so much.)