An odd title for this week’s weeknotes. Even though I’ve got a good 4 months left before I finish my contract with the GOV.‌UK Design System team at GDS, the end is starting to approach. I can feel it. I’m saying ‘When I’ll be gone’ much more.

It’s not here yet though, so what did I get up to this week?

  • Lots of catching up on emails and Slack messages on Monday
  • Onboarded a designer new to the team
  • Booked travel and hotels for upcoming events
  • Unfortunately realised I can’t afford to make the International Design in Government meet-up
  • Ran the fortnightly team reflection session
  • Wrote some thoughts on where RICE prioritisation would and wouldn’t be useful for the design system and GOV.‌UK Frontend
  • Updated the Design System Day page with some of the sessions you can join, and whipped up a code of conduct
  • Gave some feedback to the team for their mid-year feedback reviews
  • Ran show & tell and sprint planning, and joined retro
  • Spoke to CDDO about the cross-gov Slack pilot and our involvement in proving the value
  • Enabled message activity on the #govuk-design-system channel on cross-government Slack, so we can analyse the effectiveness of our messaging
  • Had a chat about RICE prioritisation, which moved up a few gears to the convo we really needed: setting aside time to do strategy work properly instead of trying to parallelise it with delivery work (we don’t have the capacity)
  • Prepared for check-in with our senior management team
  • Meet with Hopin’s customer success folks, the platform we’re using for Design System Day, so we can purchase the right subscription tier
  • Prepare for and lead an alpha service assessment (last-minute thing for a big programme)
  • Have a couple of one-to-ones

Given I’m writing these on Friday morning, what will I do today?

  • Finish up the roles and responsibilities for volunteers on day 2 of Design System Day
  • Write our team weeknote for the programme’s weeknote email
  • Have some catch-ups with folks on the team and my contract manager
  • Check in with our senior management team
  • Start writing some questions for a fireside talk I’ll run on Design System Day’s second day (very excited about this one)

Tracking work

Last week I started using Roger’s system for tracking work and keeping focus so that I could stay on top of tasks, make sure I’m working towards the right goals, and to introduce feedback loops into working month.

I can’t summarise the entire week yet as it hasn’t finished, but I can tally up the week so far.

So far I’ve completed 27 tasks, with an even split between planned and unplanned tasks. My achievement rate is 50% again: I’ve achieved 3 of my 6 weekly goals, progressed 1 other goal, but 2 weekly goals I haven’t touched. But 1 of those goals is less relevant now, so I can descope it. The remaining goal isn’t massively urgent and can be done next week, that’s fine.

I’m definitely feeling the benefits of this system. The sense of achievement is one thing, but just having a second brain to store it all in is really helping clear my mind.

Setting aside time for strategy work

Ollie surfaced a thought that I’d been feeling, which is that although the team coaching has been fantastic, there’s so much to change, monitor and assess after one of the sessions that we just don’t feel we’ve got the time to do. We’re delivering big missions currently which eat up a lot of brain-space (check the roadmap).

Alongside the tweaks to our ways of working, we also need to pool ideas for a more intentional strategy for the design system, one that’ll last for a couple of years. But some of the leads on the team are engaged in that busy delivery work, so pulling them out to think big-picture would be a bruising context-switch.

I’m a big believer in slowing down to go fast later, specifically on strategy work. You need the headspace to compute multiple futures, to spot the nascent problems and conflicts in the timelines, so that you can pick a more plausible path. The tweaks to our ways of working are all about adding a little more adaptability and focus, which can be helpful in responding to changes in context or working through emergent problems.

So I’d like to set aside most of November for that thinking. It’ll give us time to work on the beginnings of a strategy together, and we can take those assumptions to be validated in a discovery in the new year. It’s pushing plans back slightly but adding more colour, more detail, which will result in a shorter discovery with fewer questions to ask.

Putting end-to-end services through the existing assessment process

The last service I assessed was in March this year and I reflected in a weeknote that a service assessment acts a bit like an investor meeting for the organisation. That was a big end-to-end service and trying to cover all the moving parts inside of 4 hours was near impossible.

Yesterday I was in a similar assessment with a similarly large end-to-end service. It’s being developed in stages – quite sensible ones – but you need to context of the whole problem (and whole service) in order to understand the slice that’s being brought to you.

If you ignore the taxonomy of service assessments in CDDO/GDS world, using instead the description of products and services from NHS Digital, we were assessing an alpha product for a multi-stage end-to-end service. The product gave users an output they’d need to move along the service, but the outcome they were seeking had a few more stages to complete first.

4 hours to assess a product is doable. But we need a bit more time to take in the context of the wider service. Allowing assessors that time would make assessments fairer, which might mean fewer Not Mets and quicker delivery for big programmes.

I hope someone’s taking a systems-thinking lens to service assessments soon.

Fireside talk

OK, since you’ve made it this far down my weeknotes, I’ll give you a little treat. On day 2 of Design System Day, I’ll be chatting with Ethan Marcotte about responsive design, modern web design standards, design systems and ‘hyperobjects’. We’re releasing more tickets on Monday, so check the Eventbrite.

And if you want to come along to the in-person day in Edinburgh on 10 October, ping me, I’ve got a few tickets!


A light week. Trialled running with a local club which was fun, a 13K jaunt through the suburbs and hills of south Croydon. Nice people. Will give one of their Sunday morning trail sessions a try too.


In other news, I am refining my pizzaiolo skills. Last weekend I cranked out some decent porchetta, fig and blue cheese pizzas. The dough was baked just right but the crusts were a little too puffy. Might benefit from being wider. And I’m overdoing it with the toppings…but who doesn’t want boatloads of cheese?