In the spirit of transparency and candour, Kevin and Jill are publishing weeknotes reflecting on the what and why for their team.

Jill’s notes:

Do you remember that ride at every amusement park called the Zipper? Mostly thrilling, mildly terrifying, partially nauseating, yet craving it again the second you get off of it. That was my week.

we all thought it was a good idea at some point — [credit]

Mostly thrilling

I’m so proud to see the work the team is accomplishing. I spent some time this week learning more about the backlog and planned development. As Kevin shares below we are really starting to pick up speed on the design work.

I had the privilege this week of telling the story of Mines Digital Services with Jesús Hernández Tapia to an engaged group of agileists at a Business Agility Meetup in Berlin (virtually of course). I learned that our story through the intake, forming, storming, norming, performing and ultimately delivering really resonated. The common thread, empowering our executive leadership with the tools they need to lean in (or out) just in time!

We used a choose-your-own-adventure approach with Miro and posing questions to the participants. Most importantly, the mind-map process Jesús led me through in advance to gather the stories reminded me how incredible our journey was. Insert all the warm fuzzies here.

it’s a bit messy, but you get the idea!

Mildly terrifying

I have to admit, the work as it begins to stack up is daunting. I’m sure you've all felt that feeling where the excitement for what lies ahead is momentarily eclipsed by the reality of how you might get there. Good thing I like scary things.

This week we signalled intent to align our focus on service transformation with the way we approach IM/IT governance in the ministry. The current Systems IM/IT Planning (SIP) committee — composed of executive directors from across ENV and chaired by James Mack — will be empowered to lean in and guide the ministry on a modern approach to service delivery. A nod to David Tesch for getting the current secretariat and committee up and running. I have a ton to learn and I’m looking forward to taking on the secretariat role. While the committee will keep the responsibility for prioritizing capital funding submissions, we will be reconsidering how and what we work on together (or as a smaller group) over the coming months.

The scary part, with so much to do, and so many big brains contributing to this group I want to make sure I personally have the space to support the right shift, keep the momentum, and make the best use of this incredible opportunity.

Partially nauseating

I was drawn back to a few old projects this week. Wading through financial spreadsheets to remember the “why” and sifting through emails on the rationale for a decision I could swear I didn’t make. We all have those moments. Thankfully it’s fleeting and just takes some deep breaths to get to the other side.

Let’s go again

Despite not making as much progress on some of the crunchy things this week — like teams, portfolios, future vision, and all things strategy — I find myself smiling. And no it’s not because I’m taking Tuesday off for an extra-long weekend. It’s because that feeling reminds me that I care and if it wasn’t hard, I wouldn’t be here because I’d be plain old bored.

“Bending beats breaking.” ― Betty Greene

Kevin’s notes:

Whew, is it Friday already?! I’m off to go camp and climb the next few nights, a welcome interlude from the work/school rotation. It was a good week, some slower, thinky moments mixed with productive meetings and generative sessions. has hit a great design velocity, with the following discrete activities this week:

  • Information architecture testing deployed with a decent response rate thus far. We’re using Optimal Workshop for the task testing, I’m a big fan of all the tools on their user research platform.
  • We reviewed and refined the emergent design system for the site, rooted solidly in the Province’s. One more time, for folks in the back: whenever possible we (gov/vendor partners) should be leveraging reusable UI/interface components and design patterns to consistify the user experience across our digital services.
  • Kickoff with the GDX Service Design team! Very excited to have them roll on shortly, bringing user research and iterative design expertise to some key site sections/interfaces.
  • Ceremonies: very constructive backlog grooming and a sprint retro.
  • I also looped back with the Community Engagement and Education team to apply a service design lens/critique to their emergent action plan. Thanks Becs and Rike for the discourse, it’s a pleasure to contribute to your impactful work in whatever way I can.

What else this week? CHEFS! The Common Hosted Form Service is another platform tool from gov, a user-friendly, hosted service enabling teams to create and publish their own web forms. Use it!

Finally, our facilitation with complaint management stakeholders from across the sector was pushed back to next week so it opened up space for other explorations. We met with folks from the Climate Action Secretariat for the first discussion on some interesting design challenges, proposing an initial discovery activity to define the problem space and develop a scope. This had me thinking about systems theory and the [artificial] imposition of boundaries to render component parts legible/manageable. To borrow from Ryerson design and engineering prof Filippo A. Salustri,

Let’s be frank: systems don’t really exist; they’re just modelling constructs that humans use to predict future behaviours and events… there’s more than one set of boundaries possible for a system. Indeed, there is an infinite set of possible boundaries — although most of them would be silly for various reasons. So the question becomes: which boundaries are “best?” [source]

Weekly link roundup:

Design Patterns for Mental Health from Snook. A resource for those involved in developing and delivering digital mental health support. It’s designed to encourage learning and the sharing of best practice. I haven’t gone through this in-depth yet, but given who’s behind it you know it’s of high quality.

And while not directly related to our work, I’m intrigued by the ‘One-Minute City’. While the ‘15-minute city’ model promotes neighbourhood-level urban planning, Sweden is pursuing a hyper-local twist: a scheme to redesign every street in the nation. This initiative is piloted by the Swedish national innovation body Vinnova and design think tank ArkDes (led by strategic designer Dan Hill, hugely influential to my practice).

Finally, last weekend was my birthday, and to signify I went out for a lap on an old favourite, the Juan de Fuca trail. A sublime day with fog giving way to sun, stellar company, and the highs and lows one can expect ‘running’ this challenging terrain. Great to get out and stretch the legs in such beautiful landscapes.

There is no replacement for a cold Coke after a long run

notes and reflections from Jillian Carruthers (Executive Director) and Kevin Ehman (Director, Strategic Design) at the Service Transformation Branch