Weeknotes 17 — team space, amazing Kate(s), thankyous

A landmark week in lots of ways. I can feel that the emphasis is shifting for me now towards preparing for my new role. There’s still lots to do at Acas but the team are moving on without me and that’s good. And I’ve got some leave coming up whilst my Dad visits from Australia which means I’ve only really got a couple of weeks left before I start my new role at Hackney.

This week was Kate N’s first public weeknotes and they were great. We’ve been talking together for a while about the importance of working in the open, and why it matters in the context of change so it was lovely to see her taking the plunge.


So what happened this week?


We’re finally in our team space – and it’s looking brilliant. We’ve designed it to be as collaborative and open as possible, with shared tables and small open meeting areas. There’s still not enough room for everyone every day but with some organisation between teams I think we’ll be able to manage. And it’s a big improvement on where we were camping out before. Most excitingly the mobile wall/storage has arrived (I’ve been coveting one of these since a visit to the new GDS offices last summer).

wall space and storage combined, a thing of beauty

In the afternoon we had a final practice run through our ‘show the thing’ section of our assessment. Really useful – and I got some valuable feedback from my colleagues that mean it ran smoother on the day.

Paul and I caught up about priorities for the next month – focusing on building up an emerging devops capability and for me, ensuring a smooth handover to my successor*



To be honest I spent the day feeling nervous and also croaky with a sore throat so not feeling that productive as a result. There was a definite sense of focussed and purposeful prep across the team both from those who were presenting the next day, and from the rest of the team providing us with brilliant support.

We had a good session with our policy and comms colleagues working out a first go at ordering the topics we’ll work on during public beta. There’s lots of factors to take into account, with user need and business value delivered being the key ones. It was really valuable for John and Rebecca to show colleagues how they’ve been analysing the existing content using ROT analysis (redundant, out of date, trivial) and for us to collaborate together on a plan.

To help de stress in the evening I went for a classic, and effective, combination of yoga followed by junk food. . .

Wednesday — assessment day

we’re all smiling — we think it went well

A post assessment download in the pub. Awesome team, who did an awesome job telling our story to our Cabinet Office colleagues. Thankyou Philippa Newis, James Abley, Aleks, Cass and Jonny. And thankyou to everyone back at base who’ve been working so hard — Luka Alexander Michelle Bayley Cheryl McMillan Sarah, Julian, Charlotte, John, Anton, Jess and Curtis. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved.

And of course huge thanks to Luke, Sam Villis and the Cabinet Office team for taking time out of their busy day to put us through our paces, and ask us insightful and thoughtful questions. They gave us some good pointers to think about — developing our use of data science as we go forwards, publishing any Drupal updates to the community, and reaching out to bengubbon.

We don’t have our assessment report yet but the lovely Sam Villis said really nice things about us in her weeknotes which made us very happy.


Philippa Newis and I went to volunteer in the morning at Bromley by Bow community centre helping people get online. It was quite a busy session and we reflected on the way back that a lot of the barriers we help with at Bromley by Bow are down to poor content design on top of language and literacy barriers.

I had the afternoon off — but saw Cheryl and Philippa later on for our final coding class. It’s been great (and challenging) learning something new — and being taught by the lovely, calm and knowledgeable Rosie. Well worth reading her blogs, and about her journey from art history to coding . . . I’m even contemplating doing the next course as a result.

James Abley shared this link with me. I think regularly learning something new, whatever that is, is a really good way to appreciate other people’s skills (and a good way to remember that there’s always new things to learn!)



I worked from home for most of the day — but I started my day at Hackney, with a quick meet up with some of the team to talk about roadmaps, and engaging with stakeholders. It was great to spend some time with people, and listen to their ideas for what we might do around this in July. I’m really excited about the new job — and looking forward to starting at the end of June.

What did I read this week?

I thought this blog from Katherine Vaughan at Citizen’s Advice was really good about design and rethinking your approach based on user research.

This round of research taught us a lot. One important point is that as user researchers, we need to dig beneath what users like, to understand what they need.

Giles Turnbull wrote about agile comms in a really insightful and useful way. As someone who’s moved from comms to digital it articulated a lot of what I’ve been thinking for a while now:

You probably don’t need any comms principles

The government design principles aren’t just about “design”, they’re also widely applicable to almost anything else, including comms. If you use the design principles to guide your comms work, you’ll be fine.

*we are as excited as Kate McCaul at the news that she’s joining Acas. Cue lots of lovely tweets between the team and Kate. She will be an ace addition to Acas and I’m really looking forward to welcoming her in June 🙂

Weeknotes 16: inclusive design, letting go, retro dancing


We had our accessibility audit carried out by the lovely people at digitalaccessibilitycentre.org (DAC)in Wales. Luka Alexander went along to watch the testing and meet the testers. So far the results are looking great, which is rewarding as we’ve had a real focus on inclusive design right from the start.

As a team we’ve learnt a lot about different accessibility needs (especially ones that you wouldn’t normally immediately think about such as panic disorders and time out actions — this is all really useful for future services even if we don’t have that sort of functionality now.

I’ve started work on a handover trello board — listing the things that come next, where we are on various issues we’ve been trying to solve, and what I’d do if I was staying. There’s a sense of trying to get everything sorted before I go, but that’s unrealistic and the team are in a great place to take things forward.


I’d volunteered to help colleagues at BEIS with some interviewing for a product manager so I spent Tuesday morning sifting applications for the role. I really like working with other teams and departments on recruitment — it’s an opportunity to help colleagues out, and it gives me an insight into what skills people are looking for, as well as how different people approach applying for roles.

We had sprint 6 review and retro — sadly I missed the retro because of other meetings but it apparently involved dancing and pleasure/pain, loss/gain axes (I had to look up the plural of axis btw)

a lot of pleasure and gain for the team, which is good


We spent the morning in sprint 7 planning. There was of course cake:

gluten free, very gooey, chocolate and raspberry brownies

Over lunch Philippa, Cheryl and I did some more work for our coding course — there’s two weeks left and prizes to be won for the best team site built during the course. It’s not that we’re competitive but . . .


Sprint 6 show and tell *— sharing early results from the accessibility audit and from the latest round of user research. Later on I demoed the beta site contents to our Board — great feedback from them, and we’re testing the site itself, and key user journeys with our Chief Exec and Chair this week**.

Thursday evening was the penultimate coding course — luckily (!) the projector was broken so instead of learning more things we all got to work on our project sites. I needed the time to consolidate what I’ve learnt so far.


I was out on leave on Friday but the team moved house (to the other side of the 22nd floor to join our technology colleagues.) We can finally stop camping out in other teams spaces. Most excitingly there’s loads of clean white wall space that we can’t wait to get our hands on.


Things I read this week:

Via @ClareMoriarty on twitter

I’m with you on this, @simoneverest. When I was asked to give a talk on digital transformation I started by defining digital as ‘the world we now live in’ & digital transformation as ‘changing to keep up with the world we now live in’ #keepitsimple


and via HBR this great article on joy at work accompanied by my fave photo of the week

from James Padolsey https://unsplash.com/@padolsey

*snack vision was ‘spherical’

**point 18 of the GDS standard, our equivalent of the minister.

#weeknotes 15 — time off, telling our story, more yoga

I gave myself the week off from writing over the bank holiday weekend and focussed instead on the sunshine, being outside and exercising. I decided when I started writing weeknotes that I would plan in some breaks, so that it didn’t start to feel like a chore.

This did mean though that I didn’t write about a great day spent in Bristol with Sarah Prag and Gavin Beckett, meeting people from the web team at Bristol City Council who were happy to share their experiences with us. And I also didn’t write about discovering the incredible http://www.hartsbakery.co.uk.

Cardamom buns . . . yum

Or the great show and tell on our latest user testing we ran at the end of sprint 5, led by Michelle Bayley and Charlotte*.

So, back to this week — feeling energised and refreshed . . .


I caught up with Paul Dowse, our head of Digital Data and Technology to look at our budgets for the coming year, ahead of a discussion about priorities and business planning with Board colleagues. The rest of the day I spent with the beta team preparing for our assessment in a couple of weeks time. We’ve got loads to show the assessors and lots to say — and Philippa Newis has done a great job of organising our thoughts into a trello board that the whole team is contributing to. We’ve only been working with our colleagues from Digi2al since March and it’s felt very much like #oneteam from the start. Huge thanks to all of them, and to Roo Reynolds for helping us build this project team.



Started early with a coaching session with the awesome Sarah Gornall. I’ve been working with her for a few months now, and it’s been hugely useful and impactful. We talked about leaving — people, systems, processes, organisations, and she helped me think through some ideas that have been going round in my head for a while.


Wednesday evening is yoga @ acas. Our second in house yoga course is well under way — and popular. We’ve iterated and improved our admin processes, signing colleagues up for a 6 week block has made it much easier to manage! As ever — it was a great way to relax at the end of the day.


I worked from home which meant I could catch up on emails, bits of paperwork I’d put off and finalise our GDS spend control submission for the beta phase of submit a notification. Charlotte and I caught up via skype about how it’s been going for her on user research (really well) and her training provider for her apprenticeship (a tiny bit frustrating tbh).

Later on I popped over to Hackney to catch up with Rob Miller and talk about their (our? at what point do I say that?) apprenticeship programme, which is very exciting and ambitious. I’m really looking forward to starting my new role at the end of June . . . Recruitment for the apprentice roles will be in June and July.

Coding week 6 was all about javascript and jquery — including some discussion about boolean values. A tiny bit hard going at times, and def out of my comfort zone, but that’s the point of learning something new** .



Lee joined us — he’s from our comms team and is going to be spending every Friday with us to learn from John and Luka Alexander during the rest of the project. It was great watching knowledge sharing and shadowing in action — sat round our communal workspace.

We were testing the coded pages today with users — they’re looking awesome thanks to the hard work of all the team — partic the fabulous Luka Alexander who worked over the bank holiday to make sure they were all ready in time. Next week is our accessibility audit — testing the code and the designs to make sure we’ve made it fully accessible.

Fridays are often quiet in the office so it’s a good chance to catch up with people who are there and find out more about what’s happening in other teams. I had some good conversations with people I haven’t seen for a while. First off with Jon, our head of research, analysis and insight about building internal user research capability. And also with Gill Dix our head of workplace policy around bigger picture policy themes for Acas.

What did I learn this week?

Many many coding things — how to add twitter bootstrap, how not to commit to github (and subsequently how to).

I read this via Helen Bevan and Harvard Business Review:

‘We cannot change anything unless we first see our own self as powerful enough to act” (oh so true)

Also over the bank holiday I read a novel — A line made by walking, by Sara Baume. Beautifully written and haunting.

*our snack vision was fruit. And cake.

**said through gritted teeth

weeknotes 14: it’s cold :-(, meeting new people :-), lamnuts :-0

[HT Debbie Blanchard and Chris King for the format]

I am writing these weeknotes slightly grumpily because it’s cold outside and summer has gone away again. I’m so done with winter*.

I went to Hackney on Thursday and met some of my new colleagues. It was a great day — gave me a good introduction, and I came away with lots of thoughts and ideas. Thanks to Rob Miller for organising it and everyone for making me feel very welcome.

I checked in with Michelle Bayley, and we talked about how we can inform and excite our wider colleagues in the work we are doing.

I worked on governance this week — still thinking about how to get the right decisions at the right time, with the right people. I don’t have an answer yet but am starting to pull ideas together. Am working my way around this list from Richard McLean which is full of helpful sources.

I connected on linked in with Catherine Howe after she published her weeknotes 16 — interestingly looking forward to the week and not back, and all about governance.

I chatted to Paul Turner from the Office of Product Safety and Standards (BEIS) about how our teams might continue to work with each other to share learning and resources. He’s one of those brilliant people who’s always looking for ways to collaborate.

I smiled when I worked out how to add a pop up in html as part of our coding course. And then turned it dodger blue (what a great name for a colour!)


I realised I’d overcommitted this week. I need to get (much) better at managing my diary.

I relaxed at yoga. And watching TV (just in case I was sounding way too virtuous).

I read lots. This from Tom Hewitson (via Beth Aitman) on naming your service and why it’s hard. I’m still reading A seat at the table, and it’s still good. Sarah Richards on human optimised content.

I got excited about starting two new trello boards — one for handing over my current job, and one for the new job.

We engaged with our infrastructure and architecture colleagues to jointly solve how we’ll go from beta to live. Mathew from the infrastructure team is going to join us to work with us which is ace.

I learned a whole load of things: about github desktop, branches and forks, wireframes, design, and amazon web services to name but a few.

I have missed my eldest son this week (he’s gone back to uni).

I discovered Crosstown lamnuts. Oh dear. Too good.


*since I started drafting these it’s warmed up. 🙂