Farewell London Drinks

If you fancy one last drink and/or chat before I head back to Australia, I’d be very happy to see you next Wednesday evening, 9 September.

I’m optimistically suggesting the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden at South Bank sometime between 6pm-8.30pm.

(The weather will turn beautiful once the kids go back to school, right?)

If you fancy coming, add yourself to this Facebook event so I can let you know where we’re going if the weather is not cooperative.

Coming home

I’ve got some news.

I’ve been in London for almost ten years now, but I’m an Australian, and I’m excited to be heading home to Sydney in September to continue the mission to bring great service design and user experience to government by joining the Digital Transformation Office.

I’ll be helping the DTO build a great service design practice, working with user researchers, designers, content designers, accessibility experts and data analysts who will help to make Australian government services simpler, clearer, faster and more humane.

It has been a real privilege to be a part of the team at GDS – I’ve learned a lot from my time working with this talented and dedicated team, and being a part of government in the UK. I’m proud of what we have achieved.

I’m particularly proud to leave behind a government who now has many talented and experienced user researchers working tirelessly to understand user needs and to work with teams to ensure that the services we design meet those needs. Not just in GDS, but in almost every department you can think of.

I’m excited to take what we’ve learned and bring it home to Australia and see if we can’t just do some things even better :)

Thank you GDS, thank you UK UX Community, and thank you London. I’ll miss you a lot.

And, hello Sydney. If you fancy being a part of this next adventure, you should get in touch.

where does crazy come from?

You can imagine how this went down.

The lawyers decided that the privacy policy needed updating, so they updated it and put it on the website.

Then they decided that they had to make sure people knew about it. Who knows why… I can only imagine because they’re actually starting to do something that they know people probably won’t really be happy with (or they’re beginning to admit that’s what they’re doing), so they need to prove that a certain number of customers knew about it.

They say, ‘put a sign up in the stores, we have to do this because this is a risk to the business. It could damage our brand and cost a fortune in law suits’.

No one wants to be the person who is putting the company at risk and responsible for lawsuits, so they don’t ask any questions except for what is the cheapest and easiest way to meet the lawyers’ needs.

I imagine the email the lawyers sent (it would totally have been an email and not a meeting), the meeting to discuss what to do about the lawyers email, all the emails to argue about which type of signage they’d use, what would get bumped so this sign could exist, arguing over the wording. And finally, the meeting where someone approved this.

And so it is that, as I go to buy some paracetamol, I am informed that the privacy policy has changed and I can find out about this on the website.

I wonder – is this just the website privacy policy, or the Boots loyalty card privacy policy, are those the same things or different?

I wonder – how many people would pull out their phones or rush back to their desks to find out what changes have been made (I did… I couldn’t resist. There’s nothing to draw your attention to this information on their website and the section on privacy doesn’t make any reference to recent changes). Even if I do want to find out about the changes to this policy, I can’t see how on earth I might meet that need on their website.

I wonder – did they think about how it would make people feel or act to see this.

I wonder – did anyone fight for this not to happen? They probably did. Fear won.

I wonder – if a law suit did come up, could Boots actually prove that this has sufficiently informed people of the change to the privacy policy? Probably not.

I wonder – what opportunities were lost to actually understand the end user need and design a way of meeting that need in a way that benefitted the relationship between Boots and their customers.

You see these little things that companies do, you can see that all they’re doing is ‘ticking a box’, a token effort for the lawyers or whoever else, and you know that they’re pushing the burden onto the customer, and probably missing gigantic opportunities to be really great.

Fixing the crazy way things like this happen is at least as important as designing the shiny signs and the websites.

being more human at work

I went to see Steve Hilton talk about his new book, More Human at the RSA last night. I was sufficiently inspired to buy his book and I’ve just finished the chapter on government – so only just started really.

As I read it I keep flip flopping between feeling hopeless and excited. Hopeless because the future he imagines requires such enormous changes in both government and society that – as good as they may be – how will they ever happen? And excited that there is someone who is as relentlessly optimistic as me, who seems to think that if you just say it often enough and clearly enough, perhaps enough of the right people will listen and do something sensible to radically change the world we live in so that it is fit for purpose for now and the future.

Then I thought about my little personal rule:

If the process insists that humans act more like machines/robots/spreadsheets than real human beings, challenge that process.

Don’t just accept that the process is right. That the way you’re doing your business planning and budgeting (something that’s on my mind at the moment) is actually sensible just because it has a form you fill out and makes numbers in the spreadsheet that create the impression that we have a process that ensures the most important things get funded.

Don’t just accept that the performance review process is right just because it appears to enact a policy that is theoretically designed to be fair and equitable and that gives the managers graphs that makes them feel as though they understand how people in their organisation are performing.

Just because it appears to be rational doesn’t mean that it is not entirely insane – and the best predictor of insanity in business process is a person who is still thinking and behaving like a human being. (Too many of us get trained out of keeping our humanness in the workplace – I’ve heard it’s a good way to get promoted.)

Consider every business process as a (usually) poorly solved design problem and approach it like a design team should – firstly understanding the what the actual problem is then thinking about different ways it could be solved, and then choosing the one that actually solves the problem – remembering that businesses are really nothing but groups of humans trying to work together to do something great. (There’s that relentless optimism again)

Insist on speaking and acting like a human being, especially in the workplace. Any time you’re not listening or not being heard, or being forced to communicate in a method or manner that doesn’t feel natural, throw up the red flags.

It will make you a right pain in the arse to work with, just ask any of my colleagues, especially my bosses. But it is the right thing to do.

If more of us challenged and fixed small things to make them more human then I’d have a lot more hope that the world that Steve Hilton envisages – a world where people come first – might ever come into being.