February 3, 2023


In the spirit of transparency and candour, Kevin and Kelsey publish weeknotes reflecting on the what and why for their team.

Kevin’s notes

Hey y’all — Kelsey was out with a cold for part of this week and off on vacation next, so I’ll be holding weeknotes down solo for a bit.

I spent a chunk of the week in training with Marli Rusen in the MIRROR Method, a six-step framework to build productive teams by addressing workplace dysfunction:

from the workbook

With the NRS Leadership Cohort winding down I’ve been taking account of just how much I’ve learned through the program over the past year — it’s been a journey and I’m glad for the structured leadership development opportunities. Big thanks to Jill and James Mack for putting me forward for the cohort in the first place!

A few scattered thoughts on design this week.

Perhaps in our work to align the requisite policy transformations which might enable better service-level outcomes, we should struggle less with an optimal setup for the whole of the initiative and treat service interrogation (design) as an expected trojan horse to pull the whole architecture of the problem apart — one necessary preceding the other. It strikes me that for a small team, in a relatively design/digitally immature organization, it’s very challenging to sufficiently frame, operationalize, and constantly hold alighment to the meta-project of transformation, in which policy and service move through processes in concert, arriving at the desired outcome per the ‘plan,’ emergent and evolving as it may be.

Delivering transformed services requires redesigning the organization, but as a monolith endeavour it’s too much to scope or make coherent. I’m starting to accept the discrete aspects of the meta-project likely cannot be actioned in the unified way we’d envision in a more perfect bureaucracy. Rather, intentionally leveraging evidence gathered through interrogation of the service challenges offers that trojan horse through which we might bring to life the intersecting, interdependent ‘design’ challenges; policy, reconciliation, continuous improvement patterns, HR, enterprise architecture, etc. Knock over that first domino within your reach, see where it takes you. Be proactive in socializing an expectation of its potential effects, even if you can’t actually wrangle them in the present.

I’ve been thinking on wise practices for strategic design as an explicit organizational commitment:

  • Building on my points above, only engage in the work if your transformation team includes empowered policy people, even if they have a slower velocity towards change via their pace layer. A deep understanding of design/service is critical to enabling coherent, integrated policy transformations. Strategic design’s remit is to dissolve these legacy org silos.
  • Build affordances into the process — the ability loop backward to where you’ve been, to go deeper. Too often we fall into the implicit frame of linear progress. I really appreciated how Parks + CITZ are being forthright about the potential to pause/move back in a process in how they’re framing their current data collaborations. In domains of uncertainty this might be required. When planning, do future you a favour and build contingencies.
  • Be explicit in how you manage the demand for certainty; decisions will be need to be made with sub optional thoroughness to the evidence on hand. Probe, sense, respond, real-time synthesis, emergent practice — this might be the best we get. Leadership necessarily needs to accept the provision of certainty might be impossible, and worse, undermine the endeavor. Work incrementally to manage this risk.
  • Structuralizing novel practices — moving to an operational mode — is hard. Here I’m thinking of how we design with marginalized communities as core to the work, not a nice-to-have. This is often one of the first things to fall off then resourcing is stretched thin, time slips, away… we’ll circle back to it next fiscal. Etc. How might design/leaders advocate for the more resource intensive aspects of practice, the ones which make it so enriching to the org — the ones which truly change how we do business? How do we take these novel practices (yes, still novel in most public sector spaces) and make them expected, accounted, and operationalized? This is one of my challenges in 2023.

Honestly, this week was a bit of a struggle. The deep winter dark and chilly days are wearing on me. Be kind to yourself out there! Spring is just around the corner.

Taking advantage of the sunshine when it presents itself. Throttle therapy.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are solely the author’s and do not represent those of the Province of British Columbia or any other parties.



Service Transformation @ ENV (BC Gov)

Reflections on process and practice from the Service Transformation team at ENV. Formerly weeknotes (2021-23). ENV.ServiceTransformation@gov.bc.ca