Weeknote 18 for 31 Jan-4 Feb 2022

Concentric circles, train journeys and lots of connections

Jen Staves
4 min readFeb 4, 2022
A multicoloured circle with a lot of big and small circles within, overlapping at various points
How I’d like to think about our UCD community — with all the professional communities and portfolio-based UCD communities within. Credit: Serendignity/Flickr

Things I’m happy about

Content design in Manchester

We’ve had 4 new content designer join in the past month, and it seemed like a great opportunity to get everyone in Manchester together. So we had 16 people come together for the day! I’ve not seen that many content designers together in person for a very long time indeed.

Some brilliant connections made by being in the office. We’ve joined up a content designer with our work on Schools Account, so prototyping won’t go ahead without input. We were able to introduce a new content designer starting on the day with the user resaercher in team, who also happened to be in the office. And one of our interaction designers did a spot demo on the prototyping kit with two content designers from different teams who are working to build their skills with the kit. Win, win, win, win win!

The survey is off to a great start

So far, half of the community has filled out the survey I spoke about in my last weeknote, which means we’ve almost already met the same number of responses as last year. We have a week left, so I’m really hoping we get over 80% participation. I’ve been peeking into the results, which obviously won’t be representative, but I’m really pleased to see some of the specific things people learned in community that they’ve gone on to use in their delivery.

I’m especially hoping we make improvement here:

Graph showing confidence levels of collaboration with different UCD professions. An area to improve was with content and service designers.

Setting my FLS objectives

My coach on the Future Leader Scheme has been encouraging me to set my objectives for myself and make time for my development.

So I’ve decided to prioritise these areas: regular, weekly reflection; being more open about areas of vulnerability; increasing networking (which I hate, really); finding opportunities for service delivery leadership

So over the next 6–8 weeks I plan to:

  • Spend half hour at least each week spent reflecting and preparing for week ahead
  • Reflections include areas where I feel vulnerable and how I might need to work more; share these reflections openly through weeknotes and personal discussions
  • Reach out to / have coffee with at least one person a week who I think I could learn from or make a valuable connection with as part of this journey, either in FLS or other DDs
  • Actively look and put myself forward for service delivery leadership opportunities

Things I learned

Concentric circles of community

This week I spent quite a lot of time going through the UCD community feedback with our Digital Communities of Practice Manager Alex Rippon. She’s had some interesting insights.

Respondents were less likely to identify with the UCD community as a whole (77%) than with their individual professional community (88%).

Some great insights on the types of things they’d like to see more of:

  • More interaction between communities outside of the UCD hour
  • More take-aways / actions from sessions.
  • More time inward focused as opposed to external speakers
  • Involve more new starters or people on more junior grades
  • Align ways of working across UCD community eg processes, systems, resources, approach
  • Alternate remote sessions with face to face sessions

However, we were starting to struggle to get volunteers to help run the job family community. Which leaves me with two questions:

  1. Communities need to be run by the community, not for the community. How do we develop a mentality whereby it’s not a service that a few people organise for everyone else?
  2. What’s the right balance between professional and job family communities and how will this change over time? As professions mature, is there then a bigger role for the family community?

Things I read that I’ve liked

I’ve not been reading around work-wise this week, but that’s because I’ve got my nose buried in Hamnet. I think I’ll be finished by the weekend.

Book cover of Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell

Things I’m doing next week

Heads of Profession away day

On Tuesday, we’re getting most of the crew together in person to discuss a topic near and dear to our hearts: measurement. What does success look like for professions? How can we report on it in a way that’s meaningful?

FLS group coaching session

I’m in a session next week with my coach and two other cohort members, one from the Home Office and another from the Railways Agency. I’m so intrigued to hear about their challenges and see what I can learn from them.

Speed demos

Next week at community we’re demoing 10 of our services in 50 minutes, with the goal of learning what each other is working on and spotting gaps, overlaps and patterns. It’s exciting — and I think a great start to thinking about community crits down the line. It can be nerve-wracking to show your service, but this is going to help us all so much. One of our content designers is so excited she wants to invite the rest of her team to lurk! To me, content community is a safe space, so let’s try it…



Jen Staves

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