Tweeknote 10 of 2023

fare thee well, spring

Tweeknote 10 of 2023
Photo by Tschernjawski Sergej on Unsplash

What’s gone well:

  • Our team did a couple of demos which sparked conversation and feedback — awesome!
  • I had a super productive design community planning session with my lovely community colleagues. Jacklynn took the iniative of setting up a roster of planners for our monthly community calls so I’m not taking it all on myself and it was such a relief and joy to feel like it wasn’t all on me and my efforts to distribute the ownerhship have been working.
  • I met up with a colleague I knew from the federal government who recently joined the BC Gov for coffee and it was really nice to meet IRL and chat about our various work and experiences.
  • We’ve been onboarding some new team members to our product team and portfolio / division which I’m super excited for :)
  • For public service week, we heard from the Heads of the BC Public Service and the Public Service Agency (who manages all our HR and hiring policies) and I was impressed with their priorities (especially more flexibility for leadership positions)
  • We also had a BBQ for our ministry which was fun. I was glad that I tagged along with my very extroverted colleague because it made the small talk much easier and gave us a chance to catch up.
  • In the spirit of being generous and working in the open, I put a little offer out to speak at anyone’s community of practice and was really excited by the response — lots of people reaching out but also offering to share with our community. Thank you to everyone who got in touch.
  • I wrote another blog post! Ten small ways to work in the open.

What’s been difficult

This fornight has felt heavy and I’m especially feeling discouraged about the future of the design profession in the BC Government. Lately I’ve been seeing people get moved or promoted into “Head of” roles for design who have no background in design, and no knowledge of the day-to-day challenges of working in design. This isn’t a criticism of any of these people by the way, they seem to me to be brilliant, caring and dedicated public servants who I’m grateful to work with. And I’m hopeful and optimistic that they will have a big impact.

What I’m struggling with, though, is what this means for our organization when we value generalists who fit the leadership mold, over the skilled professionals of that discipline who are on the ground implenting the work. I know for a fact that talented designers have applied for some of these roles (including me — I didn’t even get an interview despite 12 years of experience.)

To me, this is sending the message that we don’t actually value diversity of thought at leadership levels, or the skills of the people working at the implementation level; We only want people who think and look like the ones already in the room. And that’s incredibly disheartening.

Other tricky situations this week:

  • I had a difficult conversation with someone at work where I let them know they had let me down. This is really hard for me to do because of my people pleasing personality but also because this person is someone I really like and respect and want to (and need to) be on good terms with. The conversation itself was tough but it’s already had positive results and I’ve been really impressed with how the other person has owned this and is trying to show up for me now. It could have gone the other way so I’m relieved, and thankful I stuck up for myself.
  • Some wonderful people are leaving my product team, the portfolio team, the division… it’s bittersweet. But that’s the nature of teams and evolution is a good thing.

What’s inspired me

  • Jennifer Pahlka was on the Ezra Klein show talking about her new book Recoding America and honestly, I think this episode should be required listening for all public servants. It was like hearing my career’s purpose and all the challenges I face in podcast form. I especially loved the moment when Ezra observed back, “We think services are being designed that way, but the truth is, they’re not being designed at all” (seriously, listen to it)
  • I loved this newsletter from Sara Wachter-Boettcher, a followup from her amazing LinkedIn post, on how designers are getting blamed for failures of their organization: “Friends, this is gaslighting. It recasts structural dysfunction as a personal failing, and tells people that if they can’t handle the challenge, it’s because they’re not resilient or competent or committed enough.”
  • To make better services, make better service organisations by Kate Tarling — a condensed version of what her excellent book is about.

Reading, listening, watching