Weeknote 24, for 11–15 Jul 2022

Unstructured emails, court visit plans and join-ups upon join-ups

Jen Staves
4 min readJul 15, 2022
5 floors with many differently-coloured doors along each level
Photo by Dil on Unsplash / www.instagram.com/thevisualiza

I’m still very much in learn mode alongside design and delivery mode. Each day I feel like I uncover a new area of the organisation that does something completely differently, and I need to decide whether to open that door and walk in, or close the door behind me and deal with it another time. After all, I’m technically on loan, and I can’t solve every problem, and I need to be clear about what I can and can’t take on.

That said, I love information, and I want information, any and all information. So I rarely completely shut the door…

This week there were two of those doors. One was finding out that there’s a another area of the business that calls itself Service Design. Now, I’m not precious about Service Design or being the ‘only’ team that does service design. But I want to know that what’s being done IS service design. So far, I’m not sure it is — I think it’s a mixture of a few other DDaT professions, but that’s ok. So I’m bringing them into our community to see what they can learn from others, and vice versa.

The other door was Crime. For the most part, my team focuses on Civil, Family and Tribunal. But Crime is huge. And I found a new team of UX contractors working over there. But that’s cool! More for the community.

Things I’ve learned this week

Unstructured emails slow everything down but the solution isn’t simple

One of our Senior Service Designers, Ali, has been doing brilliant work on how we can reduce emails coming into our service centres. There are so many problems with email: double handling, time-consuming tasks, security. But her lens on it is great — you can’t just take away email, you need to reduce the NEED for emailing in the first place, whether that’s before, during or after case submission. I’m really excited about some of the hypotheses coming out of her work, and how we might test them.

Getting onboarding wrong messes with teams

Onboarding new specialists into the team, whether they are civil servant or contractors, too easily forgotten, but it’s really the single most important thing we can get right. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s summer, and some people are away, but there have been a few cases of new people coming into teams that have not been set up to do good work and feel empowered. Part of this is about understanding the big picture, while part of it is about ways of working and how we want to work together. I was shocked to uncover in one service how the content and interaction designers were expected to work together! We are going to kick off some work on this to identify the pain points and design a holistic process.

Things that have made me happy

MoJ and HMCTS join-up

A great meet-up with the other Heads of UCD in MoJ, which was great. We’ve been thinking about all the things we can collaborate on — design systems, style guides, communities, and more. We’re contemplating a potential 2-day conference in October — watch this space!

BA and Product join-up

I was over the moon when our Head of BA got in touch to say they wanted to form a Centre of Excellence with us, focusing on UCD. This is so great, and potentially a HUGE step for an organisation that’s historically been very technology focused. We’re kicking some great things off, and developing plans to upskill all our DDaT professions on UCD.

User research

I am not happy that I’ve not attended any user research since starting here. But I am happy that I have a court visit booked — Snaresbrook Crown Court in two weeks’ time. I’ll be attending open hearings but also observing how the back office works and getting to talk to support staff.

What I’m doing next week

  • Talking about content strategies at the NHS Digital away day — redoing this presentation I gave for Services Week — you might be able to see it here! Content designers, if you’re interested in how we might do content strategies for our services, let me know
  • Our second cross-HMCTS community meet up! I’m really looking forward to it. I’m going to adapt this group activity that I’ve done before on understanding how each profession works and where our gaps and overlaps are.

Things I’ve read that I’ve liked

I’m hoping to share my own deletion story next week!

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know as much as I’d like to about the specifics of technology — and it’s not exactly fair to expect other roles to understand the basis of UCD if it’s not reciprocated! So I’ve been challenging myself to read at least a new technology article a week.



Jen Staves

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