Weeknote 19 for 7–11 February 2022

Reflections on organisational change

Jen Staves
5 min readFeb 11, 2022


Things I’ve learned / am learning

Group coaching and a reflection eureka moment

I had my first group coaching session with some colleagues at Home Office and Office for Railway.

One thing that came up was progress towards our personal objectives. I shared how I was trying to be more open with my reflection, but that it sometimes felt too personal, almost narcissistic.

My coach encouraged me to reflect generally, and that it didn’t have to be about me or my performance. That was a lightbulb moment — I could start to dig down and reflect on things that might be adjacent to me.

‘Trust as an ongoing accomplishment’

The only constant is change, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It means we have to constantly be actively communicating and meeting the needs of the people who are dealing with change.

This academic article on organisations and how they preserve trust during disruption struck a chord. It’s a recent take on how you preserve trust rather than build or restore it in times of change. This could be massive disruption, like the pandemic, or it could be senior leadership changes, or even middle leadership changes, depending on how big a change that would involve.

These are three trust-preserving practices they identified:

  • cognitive bridging
  • emotional embodying
  • inclusive enacting

With cognitive bridging, you have to ‘reintroduce the unfamiliar to the familiar’ or ‘creating a cognitive bridge for people to ‘walk over’ (Williams, 2007), by explaining why the status quo of the past was no longer viable given the present disruptive context by providing information on how the organization would transition from the present uncertainty to a more certain and positive future, and by specifying what the organization in the future would look like.’

So in my mind, this might be: ‘Although we liked x way of working, we can’t achieve a anymore, because of y. So if we change x to z, it will allow us to achieve a, and maybe even b!”

Communication is the key (obviously) here. More frequent communication, more direct communication, more open and honest communication. Someone once said to me that it’s only once you’re tired of saying something that people are starting to hear it.

With emotional embodying, senior leaders have to create an open, safe space for emotions to be shared and worked through. These could be platforms for conversations, and there were often both individual and group spaces. This is ‘people over process’ — as if you go too quickly, people don’t have the space to come to terms with change.

So in my mind, this might be: “We know this is a lot of change, so we want you to feel you can talk about it. One thing I’m worried about is x, for example. There are group sessions for sharing and discussing and anonymous feedback routes too.”

With inclusive enacting, you have to ‘involve organisational members in decisions, giving them voice throughout the disruption, as well as to create processes that are fair and consistent.’ This is about reducing vulnerability, building a sense of the group, and of control. If you allow people to be involved in the process and the timescale, you can maintain that trust, even if it’s not at the exact same level.

So in my mind, this might be: “Every group who has been affected by this change can nominate two people, from any level, to represent them in the planning process.”

This model shows that when there is a jolt that poses a threat to trust, how trust preserving practices such as cognitive bridging, emotional embodying and inclusive enacting, along with enabling mechanisms like mobilising established trust foundations and understanding of role can preserve organisational trust.
Fig. 2 Model of organisational trust preservation from Preserving Organisational Trust during disruption.

Deep stuff! I’m keen to try these practices mindfully next time I need to make a change.

Things I’m happy about

Speed demos

This Thursday we had one of my favourite content design community sessions ever. We did lightning demos, where 7 different services/service combos were demoed end-to-end. We had lots of interest from interaction designers, product managers, user researchers and more attending — which was great, and some people are saying they’re keen to watch it back again.

  • Find teacher training / Apply for teacher training / Publish teacher training
  • Non-transactional services
  • Give feedback on Apprenticeships providers
  • Manage case concerns
  • Help for Early Years providers
  • Manage an academy conversion

We had more volunteers than time, but we’ll definitely run another one of these — I can already see how we can collaborate, experiment and learn from these so we can align our services more and more and deliver better outcomes for users!

Great questions on linking and join-ups between services, how many actions per page, Notify and URL behaviour, what qualifies as non-transaction, and more.

Heads of Profession away day

On Tuesday, the Heads of Product, Delivery, Content Design, Service/Interaction Design, Architecture, User Research and Software got together with the Head of Digital and our Capability Delivery Manager to talk MEASURES.

The Heads of Product, Content Design, Design, Architecture and Delivery. HT to Jill for excellent photography skills

It’s that thing everyone means to do but doesn’t get the time. Great discussion on what measures we can collectively take, and what’s more ‘by profession’. Some rely on others, and there’s not the infrastructure to report, but we can make a plan on how to get there. One of my favourite chats were about proxies for certain measures, like innovation — one of which is commonly considered to be investment. Food for thought…

Survey responses

As I write this, we’ve had 58 responses to put content design yearly capability survey, which is brilliant as I sent it out to 79 people. So we’ve got a pretty good response rate of close to 75%. Can’t wait to dig into the data when I’m back.

Things I read that I’ve liked

What I’ve learned from six years of leading a profession by Scott Colfer

How we put users at the front of our vision by Sarah Clive, a former content designer of ours. Exciting to see what she’s doing at DLUHC, where there’s not yet a huge UCD contingent

Things I’m doing next week

Half term in York! Taking the kids, who’ve never been. So Yorvik Museum, Imaginarium, long drives, etc.

Holding myself to account

  • User research sessions observed: 0 BUT I’ve signed up to observe 4 when I’m back
  • New people met: 0
  • Retaining autonomy: Constructively challenging when asked to pass along a narrative without understanding the bigger picture
  • Being asked to solve BIG problems: ?
  • Expanding to a wider remit: clear evolving standards
  • Moving out of my comfort zone: signing up for benefits management training — who even am I?
  • Staying in touch with people: a walk-and-talk with a colleague I’ve not seen in awhile



Jen Staves

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