It’s Tuesday morning. My alarm just went off, but I’m already standing on the platform at Norwood Junction railway station. My train doesn’t arrive for another 10 minutes so I might as well tap out last week’s weeknotes.

And there’s not many tasks to list. Last week was full of face-time and working with people instead of working near them, through tickets and docs and emails and instant messages.

What did we do?

  • We had our final team coaching session
  • We had our final team leads coaching session
  • We had show & tell, retro and planning
  • We checked in with our senior management team
  • And I went to the second ’Ethics in design’ class

I took Friday off to travel to Llandeilo, on the western edge of the Bannau Brycheiniog, for a long weekend.

Feedback and gratitude

The main focus of the final coaching session was sharing feedback, recognising growth, and showing gratitude for each other. We’ve been on this journey for six months together, and it’s been excellent to step back and see the change. So we kicked off by acknowledging that. We’ve captured the feedback on letters to hand to people’s line managers too, it can feed into professional development reviews.

There were two main goals with the coaching: reduce risk-aversion and increase confidence with engaging externally. We shared so many examples of that in the feedback, there really has been some growth. But I don’t believe it would have been possible without growing internal trust too.

Next up, the team gave the leads some good feedback, and we all showed gratitude to each other. There’s a lot of trust amongst everyone now, you can feel it. You can see it too. No longer a group of skilled individuals but a unit, using their unique skills and perspectives to pull as one.

Throughout the rest of the day everyone workshopped ideas for how we’ll make improvements elsewhere, for example, by iterating our ways of working or making it more clear when a specific is or isn’t needed. Continuous improvement, that’s sustainable beyond the end of the coaching sessions.

There’s a model starting to emerge in my mind that by improving the dark matter between people, the invisible stuff that holds the team together, the team can grow capability as a unit. You have to aim for functioning, not just building capability.


The final coaching session for the team leads was all about leading. Regardless of your organisation’s structure and how it pays people, most teams need some form of local leadership. People who get the context and understand the people. Usually they’re managers or senior specialists in a big organisation but they don’t have ‘Head of’ or ‘Lead’ in their title. In a smaller organisation you’re more able to claim that title and the pay that goes with it. But you’ll have to do some leading.

It’d be nice if the people at the top could do all the leading, but as an organisation grows the fracture planes start to show their breaks. So you need more people doing a bit of leading.

The GOV.‌UK Design System isn’t a team inside a programme inside a directorate inside an organisation, in my view. It’s not bounded by the organisation, it has stakeholders across an entire industrial sector. It has influence and it needs directing, it needs to nurture relationships with its stakeholders, and that needs a bit of leadership.

We gave each other feedback and talked about models for leading the team, which I’ve taken to calling TeamOps. (Everyone’s obsessed with putting Ops at the end of nouns, aren’t they?) Like the final team session, it was all about making TeamOps sustainable.

I was incredibly grateful to get some tear-jerking gratitude from the other leads. Now I know what people mean when they say ‘I feel seen’. And it’s going to make it hard to leave them in February, but I’m blessed to have been able to spend some time with them.

Ethics in design

This week’s lesson was all about going beyond moral intuition and hunches to find reasons and justifications which we can present to others. It’s important in both established and emergent contexts: intuition can’t provide answers in new scenarios, you need to work through to a reasoned conclusion.

The lightbulb moment for me was using different ethical lenses to make hypothetical and real moral judgments in order to discuss the different possible impacts, provide reasons and justifications to help us work out which choice to make. Help us uncover the embedded ethics.

So we took different ethical theories and applied them to scenarios, which helped us provide reasons for and against certain ventures. Theory made practical. It also helped us consider viewpoints beyond the users of a thing, going beyond being user-centred.


Having not been running all week, neglecting my training plan due to busy days in the office, I made up for it with a 32km run in south Wales on Sunday. It was a beautiful day with very little rain, and I really do find being in the outdoors a tonic. When your route takes you past an old castle unexpectedly, how can you not?! Check out photos of Castell Carreg Cennen, it’s stunning.

My route tied together parts of the Heart of Wales Trail, the Beacons Way, and some public rights of way. Very muddy at times but rather wet too, meaning the mud washed off in puddles and streams. It was cloudy on Tair Carn Isaf, the summit, but there were plenty of good views before reaching that summit.

After 1,155km (about 717 miles) I retired my ASICS Gel-Trabuco 9 GTX shoes. The toe cap separated from the upper, the upper was ripped around the toe box, and although the tread was good they were starting to feel like flip-flops. They served me well on many adventures.

This week I’m in Manchester without any opportunity to get into the Peak District, so I’ll stick to the streets.