Hello! It’s been a while, but on the grand scale of things, it’s just a blink of an eye. Motivated and inspired by a talk that Martin gave during one of our DigitalService Lunch & Learn sessions, here is another week/reflection thingy.

An exhausting week is winding down, besides supporting the teams’ 2024 strategy work, I felt the pressure to “keep the lights of delivery on”. So I drowned myself in context switches and operative tasks:

  • Preparing for next week’s Digitalcheck-Intro-Workshop, as usually, we implement some improvements, so I redrafted the presentation part about our 5 principles and simplified and visualized the German property tax reevaluation law as a novel and more realistic training example
  • Finalized and sent out our evaluation questionnaires to all policy-drafters that have used the V1.2 of the Digitalcheck
  • Finalized and sent out the evaluation for the NKR personnel
  • Reacted to some visualization focus-topic related developments, although we have semi paused the efforts on the topic due to the strategy stuff.
  • Reached out to some actors within the visualization space to ensure a smooth re-start of our work on the focus topic as soon as the strategy time is over
  • Contributed to an ecosystem visualization in the context of the strategy work
  • Spared to the Digitalcheck dashboard with our new engineer #datadriven
  • Provided feedback on a blog post about visualization that will be released soon
  • Participated in the team’s retrospective and a retrospective with our governmental counterparts
  • Listened and jotted down some notes on Martins’ long slog talk during be said Lunch & Learn session
  • Reflected with a transformation colleague about measuring impact and outcome as well as the overall direction of DigitalSerive
  • Participated in a small bookclub gathering (currently reading Recoding America by Jennifer Pahlka, highly recommended!)
  • Reflected in my tech understanding learning slot with a senior engineer about data handling, data structures and databases as part of our joint bi-weekly session, we do since April (I briefly mentioned it in this Weeknote)
  • Talked to our ecosystem manager on how to monitor all the networking that is happening at DigitalService
  • Had my weekly 1:1 with my manager, in which we reflected on that this list is definitely too long.

The long slog – reflecting on the recipes

Kara and Martin created a remarkable talk about “The long slog of public service design” for the Service Design in Government 2023 conference (while I don’t know if there are any recordings, here is a write-up by Martin). Luckily, Martin agreed to give the talk a second time for all the DigitalService employees as a Lunch & Learn session. It resonated a lot, and I want to take some time to build on top of the five recipes that Kara and Martin recommend to every public-servant.

I will do so by adding examples of how I applied these recipes over the last three years of my “public service career” (sometimes accidentally, lately intentional). I hope this is inspiring as it makes them even more actionable:

1 Offer a tool that multiples (and be open by default about it)

  • The chatbot-checklist we developed as Tech4Germany team together with the BMI and ITZBund to leave behind some actionable recommendations for the German government. Our goal was to help public-servants to make informed decisions when they think a chatbot is the right solution. The checklist still lives on in the social intranet of the German government. (Tech4Germany 2020)

  • Different Datenlabore Archetypes as well as core elements of those that aimed to demystify the term data-laboratories. While the political call for data-laboratories was quite the hit with the media, nobody actually knew what to implement in the government. That was the problem a team I co-lead tried to solve – while I don’t agree with the final format (I doubt that it has a multiplying effect), we had the best intentions. (PD 2022)

  • 5 Principles for digital-ready policy – creating a digital-readiness check for policy, called for a tool that multiplies and also helps to communicate and talk about “digital” on different working and seniority levels. As time tells, this worked: we already talked to three different countries about these, we participate in an intra EU exchange because of these, different German federal states are in contact to build on top of these, the principles are used by implementing bodies at conferences. Even more importantly, we see them also used in the communication of senior personnel of our departments (BMI Pressemitteilung). (DigitalService 2022)

2 Make yourself useful (deliver something to deliver the right thing)

  • During my time as a consultant tasked with initiation of a nationwide roll-out of an inward facing digital service at a federal agency - I followed this recipe multiple times. The core of it, is to build trust with stakeholders. For example, creating a dashboard to discuss service quality with a critic that then helped us to increase the quality, helping and professionalizing the support that enabled us to deliver a better service, making the wonderful work of normal staff visible - which opened many important doors), overall this helped to get the sign off on the service roll-out (something that got stuck three times before, as different stakeholders tried to stall it for their agendas), the original task I had. (PD 2021)

  • Creating a service landscape of the German policy-process and publish it. When we started to work on the digital-ready policy subject, we knew the theoretical policy process. By exploring, mapping, and refining a “true” service landscape, we delivered some tiny bit of value to policy staff (e.g. this is now sometimes used to onboard new policy staff). That might have helped to create buy-in for the Digitalcheck that is our service now. (DigitalService 2022)

3 Communities are the glue

4 Be ready to use the window (and be aware that it has opened)

  • The beforehand mentioned service roll-out at the federal agency is another example. We already created all the needed materials and schedules to do a nationwide training for the roll-out before we had the official go. When that came around, we were ready to implement it right away. (PD 2022)

  • Working tirelessly at a Kabinettbeschluss for over a year, to be ready if the window opened. Our continuous, iterative, evidence-based development approach to the Digitalcheck is rather different from normal government projects. That’s why we believe that senior sign off is important, and we used the window when it opened (and yeah, the document had over 20 different versions over the year..). (DigitalService 2023)

5 Let’s try again (or somewhere else)

  • That’s my story of creating and supporting a digital government with an iterative, data-driven and human-centric mindset. From being introduced to the governmental sector during Tech4Germany. Then working as a freelancer with clients on a municipality level. Towards being employed as a senior innovation and strategy consultant at German’s administration in-house consultancy and ending up at DigitalService as a Product Manager 1,5 years ago. It’s been three years, many projects, some services, and many different departments – some progress, some fails and on the grand scale of things, just a blink of an eye. It will be a long slog, but so far, I believe it’s worth it!
  • Recoding America (Book) - get the book if you want to get a more profound understanding of why your governmental services might suck and what policy has to do with it. It’s amazingly well written and a lot of the struggles are similar in Germany. Might do a write-up on this from a German perspective.
  • Revisited an old article I wrote as we had some understanding issues about the term synthesis with a collaborating consultancy -> Blogpost Synthesis
  • Inspired by Martin’s talk, stumbled across this gold nugget about good step-by-step navigation: GOV.UK Step-by-Step
  • eGovernment Monitor 2023 <- read the new eGovernment Monitor for 2023, might also be doing a write-up on how we are trying to contribute with the Digitalcheck to get past the many problems we are facing
  • One of our amazing engineers made me aware that this -> Code and policy in one repo exists. It’s a dream so far, but bundling code and policy (and visualizations) in one repository would be a giant step ahead!
  • Policy Prototyping - a nice answer on how to do policy differently. Understand -> Empathizing -> Defining -> Ideating -> Prototyping -> Testing – sounds probably familiar as it is close to many Design Thinking “processes”.