Weeknote 17 for 24–28 January 2022

Jen Staves
4 min readJan 28, 2022

In search of evidence and progress

A blue sticker that says ‘Content is our product’ on a silver laptop
Content is our product, content is data, content design is architecture and content design is design. With massive thanks to Amanda Diamond for the sticker.

Things I’m happy about

This year’s content design capability survey

We released this year’s survey to all content designers at DfE (civil servants and contractors). Doing this last year was such an important part of benchmarking what we needed to focus on in content design, so I’m really excited to see how we’ve changed over the last year from a quantitative perspective. I’m also interested to see where we should focus our efforts this year.

We’ve kept the questions almost exactly the same, but have added a few to reflect progress we’ve made in content strategies for services, how our community work has influenced our delivery, and what challenges people are looking for next in their career.

I plan to use the results to advocate for things that will help us do our jobs even better!

If you’re interested in running something like this with your communities of practice, drop me a line and I’ll share some of the artefacts for you to adapt. Or maybe I’ll share the questions in another post? Thoughts welcome.

Content designers in Data

Not that you need to know our organisation design, but as context: our Data directorate sits separate from Digital and Technology directorate. That was a big change for me from my previous role, where Digital, Data and Technology were more joined up. So far, there haven’t been any content designers (that I’ve been aware of!) in Data. But that’s going to change! I’ve been working with the Strategic Data Programme who are looking at attendance, and we’re bringing in a civil servant content designer for 6 months to work on it. This could the the start of great things!

Things I learned

Personal KPIs are hard to do

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want. You need to know what you want to do before you can think about how to measure it. So what would success look like? I spent a little time thinking about what matters to me this year.

  • Leading from the front: modelling practice, making decisions, taking people with me on the journey to achieving something great
  • Retaining autonomy: where I can be given a challenge and trusted to suggest how best to resolve it
  • Being asked to solve BIG problems: whereby others know or feel that if they have a big problem to solve, that I am someone who can help them solve it
  • Expanding to a wider remit: I love content design. I passionately feel it’s at the heart of everything we do. It’s part of user-centred design, but it also ‘is’ often our product. The way it is structured overlaps with technical architecture. It can be data, and data can be it.
  • Moving out of my comfort zone: going into a place where I trust myself that I can do it, but I don’t 100% know how I’ll get there.
  • Staying in touch with people: meeting new people every week and observing 2 hours of user research every 6 weeks.

How do I measure all those things? Well, not easily. But I think what I’ll ask myself each week is whether I did these things. I won’t always do all of them, but if I can look back over a month, or three months, I want to see that I’m doing them at all, at least a little.

Things I liked that I read

‘Nice them into submission’ — a good technique for impatient people to try!

Things I’m doing next week

Manchester

We’ve had 4 new content designers start this year and I’m keen to see them all in person. So I’m heading up to Manchester. We’ll have an intro coffee together, join up with our delivery teams, and then hopefully as many Manchester content designers as possible are going for lunch. I think there are potentially 18!

Show and tell

It’s our monthly Heads of Profession Show and Tell, and we’re going to be able to share our Q4 objectives and reflect on progress so far. Always fun!

UCD community

After leading the UCD community for the last year, we’ve evaluated how well it’s met its aims. TL:DR — pretty well, but there’s more to do. Joining up with our Communities of Practice Manager next week to plan out next steps.

Keeping myself honest

How I’ve progressed on my personal goals

  • Leading from the front: sharing the copy of the survey with other Heads of Profession so they can try similar things with their communities
  • Retaining autonomy: ?
  • Being asked to solve BIG problems:?
  • Expanding to a wider remit: Getting content designers into data
  • Moving out of my comfort zone: Doing some Civil Service Learning to build my finance skills in strategic business planning
  • Staying in touch with people: 3 intro chats with new content designers

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Jen Staves

User-centred design and service delivery leadership.Head of UCD. @hmctsgovuk, formerly @dfe_digitaltech @explorewellcome @explorify @tradegovuk.