Shepherding Government Towards Effective Delivery

Stephen Foreshew-Cain

Recorded at GOTO 2016


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hello this feels like it's suddenly
turned into the effective delivering
government track following following
jer's because I'm going to talk a little
bit about government but I'm going to
talk more i hope about our culture and
behavior and what I think a
high-performing organizations but before
i start i should say a word about jargon
the technology industry is second only
to government in obscuring its meaning
by using jargon so we had a ritual at
the last organization i led where if
anyone on a stage suddenly slipped into
using jargon it was both the right and
the responsibility of the audience to
call out jargon and the speaker had to
stop and make sure that they explained
and clarified what they were talking
about i have tried very hard not to slip
into jargon government jargon as i get
please feel free to scream out jargon at
me and i'll do my best to clarify what i
meant to hello copenhagen i'm super
excited to be here literally a longtime
listener first-time caller and when when
dan first contacted me and said you know
i'd like to to come along and speak it
go to this year I neatly did what I've
always done in preparing for speeches
which is to go through all of the half
written speeches that litter my office
to think what the hell am I going to
talk about and what would be a good
topic for you know this track there's a
track of effective delivery and there
are a number of topics I considered and
my process is to start writing them just
to see which one kind of kind of comes
up and comes to the front so things like
government services and really what we
were doing in the government digital
service although we tagged it digital
transformation really what we were we
were dealing with and what we were
tackling was institutional reform
through the digital transformation of
government so I thought I could talk
about thought I could talk about a
sponsored responsive and adaptive
governance models have some of that
stuff that Dan was just talking about at
scale how do you govern large technology
programs I could talk a little bit about
organizational design for the Internet
error these organizations that we exist
in
often have not changed in any material
form since the Victorian times so I
could talk a little bit about what's
changing in that space I'm one topic I
talk a lot about these days is the
talent for that the war for digital
actually where we have legislated pay
constraints and some of the things we've
managed to do there now whether I was
talking about you know digitally enabled
reform of civil institutions or whether
i was talking about approaches for
making decisions and for managing and
directing investment in highly
competitive and dynamic markets or
whether i would talk about you know what
is it about those organizations that
have the ability to design and redesign
themselves as the market around them
changes or what are the characteristics
of an organization that have the ability
to attract and retain the top technical
talent i realized as I was starting to
work up some of those ideas there was
something I kept coming to if I was
going to talk about any of those I had
to talk about the culture and the
behaviors of the organization which
those things were successful so I'll
start with an apology I'm sorry if any
of the things I've just listed with the
things you were hoping I was going to
talk about because I'm not what I am
going to talk about is a little bit
about digital government but I'm going
to use it as an example of how even in
the oldest and the Krusty 'used and the
most rigidly hierarchical and
constraining of organizations can you
change culture and that can be the lever
that allows you to deliver simpler
faster and better services digital
services to users so service is so good
as we used to say in the government
digital service in the UK so good that
users want to use them so before I get
into that today I'm going to need to set
a little bit of context because i'm
going to be talking about government and
and technology and using them as
examples of a high performing
organization so I you know following on
from jazz it's fair to say that if you
use the word technology and government
in the same phrase it's not usually a
great starting point
for talking about a high performing
organization your government's
implementing and operating digital
services or leveraging in avid
innovative technologies they haven't
always had a great track record I'm sure
we can all recall a headline at one time
another here's one that jazz referred to
earlier healthcare.gov in the US the US
and not alone you may have read about
recent challenges that the Australian
census survey had our weather service
went down at a critical period in
collecting the data about its nation and
it wouldn't be right if I didn't put one
of my own up there so indeed during my
time at the government digital service
ahead of a recent referendum you may
have heard something about the
individual Electoral Register a digital
service that allows people to register
to cast their vote was unavailable at an
unprecedented and press evented demand
point in the run up to that deadline so
we've all heard those stories catalogues
of wasteful and Technology programs or
failed technology programs pauling
elapses of data security or digital
services like this one that crashed on
first impact with with their users the
citizen and beyond that even if we could
even if we can't remember those those
big headline-grabbing stories we all
know what it feels like is a citizen to
go to a government to be required
because that is often what is is
legislated about how we consume
government services where we've gone to
a government service or a website and
we've gone just doesn't work the way I
want it to work doesn't do the thing
that I've wanted to do and we've had to
we've had to pick up the phone or in
some cases we've had to go into a
government office somewhere and yet
despite that being the perceived
reputation of digital government and
technology in government and tell you
about an organization that has thrived
at the intersection of government and
technology and at the heart of its
success beyond all of the other things
it did I absolutely will point to
culture and behaviors as the unique
thing that enabled its success so I'm
going to repeat several times this
afternoon
the what we did as significant as
successful as we were at times it would
not have happened without the
intentional choices about how we were
going to do it about who we were going
to be and how we would define how we
were going to do it so little bit about
me up until a few years ago I was a
career consultant I was an expert
advisor you know the job was be a hired
gun management consultant overhead was a
label I often got and i've been working
in technology for about 20 years and my
job in a nutshell was to help
organizations use technical innovation
for commercial advantage I'm not an
engineer but my role was to advise
organizations on better ways of working
of implementing efficient and effective
organizational designs and operational
governance and delivery models of
creating the right conditions for
excellent delivery execution and so then
I was doing all right of that I thought
and then about three years ago I took a
bit of a left turn and started working
for the British government as a senior
civil servant in the Cabinet Office and
a relatively new part of government
called the government digital service or
GDS jazz has anyone heard of it just
okay there's more work to do there then
great so I was a fairly reluctant higher
into government but mainly because of
some of the stories I've just recounted
although I've always been passionate
about the social impact and the
transformative potential of technology
in people's lives but you know it was
aware of that reputation and actually
I've been a consultant to government so
I I had seen why some of those horror
stories sometimes happen so you know
when I was approached to come and help
lead this effort to transform government
to build a digital government I was
pretty skeptical so this this was the
received wisdom in government this this
is if you're in government this is how
you got stuff done does everyone
understand what i mean when i say policy
hands up if you kind of get what I'm
saying it'll be okay so government
thinks it's a special little snowflake
very different from anything else so
it's got to have its own special
language policy is just strategy
politicians are elected to do things
their campaign promises the manifesto
commitments policy is how government
goes about designing the strategies for
implementation a meeting user needs as
you can see is often a fourth-order
problem the second-to-last thing
considered technology was not seen as a
strategic enabler it was seen as a
procurement problem we design our
strategies we design government
processes of how we're going to
implement those strategies we then go
and buy something that will implement a
system that delivers that process that
meets the policy intent and it it's only
after we've done that do we go and
consider how would users interact with
this thing and you know the ultimate
goal here obviously is something that is
designed not to change stasis and I
think for too long in government we've
been the debate has been about policy
about what are the choices we can make
is government to implement manifesto
commitments and yet what we're living
through right now is not a policy option
but it's a delivery crisis your
government is full of empty strategies
that were not executed did not deliver
the outcomes that they were intended to
and yet despite that there is a lack of
recognition that delivery was the thing
that got stuff done hundreds of
thousands of people use government
services every day in the UK and yet the
needs of government have traditionally
trumped those of the citizen its actual
users we thought about what does
government need to do to implement a
policy as opposed to what do we need
users to do for us to have the outcome
that we want to see and it's worth
noting that you know government when
measured on the scale of transactional
interaction between citizens and state
it's not that big you know I think
online retailers are big in
transactional terms banks are bigger my
experience based on the data I've seen
is you know most large dating sites like
OkCupid have a more day-to-day
transactional interaction we
they're uses the most governments do
what it would seize the services that
government provide are important the
licensing your car paying your tax
seeing your GP your doctor possibly
getting an unemployment benefit they are
important but they are not that big and
what happens when you start to confuse
big with important there's some horrible
side effects because what generally
happens in government is we extrapolate
extra we confuse important with big and
then we extrapolate big must mean
complicated and so we then add on a
drive to stasis we try and understand
all of the complexity we try to design
for all of the complex and then we try
to fix it make sure it won't change and
that results in an odd culture it
results in a culture of overly risk of
us have I asked all of the questions
have i understood every permutation and
being over the risk-averse in the
government contacts encourages risk
escalation and decision-making so we see
decisions actually being moved and
lifted away from the point of both
context where people have the most
knowledge to make the right decision but
away from the people we're actually the
impact of those decisions will be felt
and when you start to lift
decision-making out of the environment
where they are best to be made what you
get is a concentration of authority and
the few and and as a result you lose
connection between the outcomes that
you're trying to deliver and the very
people that you were trying to deliver
it for and it's not a very productive
delivery culture but something different
was happening in the United Kingdom in
in 2010 we had bold leadership in the
form of Francis more the then Cabinet
Office minister who'd come in as part of
a coalition government he was
championing very loudly from the front
institutional reform of the British
civil service and had seen the potential
for technical innovation to unlock it
and Francis did what clever people do
they don't assume they have to know all
the answers and they go and get help and
in Francis's case he sought in sight
from thought leaders in in the digital
economy in the UK so martha lane fox
founder of last minute calm she's now a
board member for twitter has set up a
charity in the UK could dot everyone dog
which is about getting people online she
came inside the ball rolling by being
commissioned to conduct a strategic
review of the primary website of
government had to we had thousands i
should say but there were two
specifically the mouth of the direct gov
which was the primary transactional
interaction between the individual and
the state and business link which was a
similar interaction site between
businesses and the state mainly around
tax and so she undertook a review in the
back end of 2010 no Martha her brief was
to go and have a look at government
websites how could websites be better no
Martha being Martha didn't stop there in
her role as the UK digital champion
actually appointed by the the previous
government she expanded on her report to
consider efficiencies that best realize
the online delivery of public services
and quickly recognized that goes just
beyond websites so not just fixing web
science an out of Martha's report and if
you haven't read it and you are
interested in reform of government
services it's online it's on gov UK
director of 2010 revolution or evolution
but out of it came a mandate to do four
things for disarmingly simple things one
establish a sense of digital expertise
in government a thing that did not exist
0 a procurement problem we didn't need
that expertise in government we're about
policy and government we buy that and we
outsource that and along with
outsourcing that we outsource strategy
and now decision-making ability so step
one was established a center of
excellence in government to fix
publishing we had thousands of websites
and they required you to do simple
things you had to understand how
government was constructed and you had
to work out which of the and I'm making
this number up slightly but around 4,000
government websites you needed to go to
to interact with government if you want
the day you had to work out all of the
agencies of government
acts possibly your local authority
possibly the pensions part of government
you had to go and work out which those
sites and on them look the same num them
felt the same you had to relearn that
experience to work out how you were
going to work with your government so
fixed publishing was the second thing
that Martha said third one was fixed
transactions the idea and I had these
conversations when I was a consultant to
government was you know we're going to
digitize government often what that
meant is we're going to put the PDF
online what Martha spoke to is going
beyond that really thinking about user
experience and how digital techniques
could actually help us redesign these
services from the ground are and then
the last point she said was go wholesale
make that the new normal make digital
the default of government that when we
think about the things that our
politicians have won elections on the
back of how are we going to meet user
needs and put put digital thinking at
the heart of it so GDS was established
in late 2011 and its job was pretty
simple those four things boiled down to
make it easy for government to be
digital to be of the internet leading
the digital transformation of government
and thus leading to making services that
were so good that people wanted to use
them that people would actually think oh
I got to do that thing rather than I've
got to do that thing and at the heart of
this new organization was a new
organizing principle i should say the UK
civil service has been around since a
report was written by Northcutt
rebellion in 1854 and it fundamentally
hasn't changed some of its structures
actually directly relate to 160 years
ago so bringing a new organizing
principle into government is not easy by
any stretch but we put it at the house
of GD acid citizens shouldn't have to
learn how government has organized
itself to transact with governments for
the things they are required to user
needs should be considered primary and
user needs should come before government
needs so this is francis maude that
their minister the cabinet office in the
House of Commons
of the government digital service which
is committed to ensuring that as we
reform the delivery of public services
they are designed around the needs of
the user rather than has been far too
often the case in the past being
designed to suit the convenience of the
government so revolution or evolution a
complete step away from the previous
process of thinking about how we
implement government policy and so step
one was fixed publishing this is what
directgov looked like I think this is
2006 but I reliably informed it change
very little between 2006 and 2011 these
went off mainly the static sites you
were required to run offline processes
you often had phone numbers or forms or
or in fact in the case of employment job
centers that you need to go into and so
Julia set about reimagining what that
could be they had a dream seems simple
just so if I'm going to deal with
government just sort it out for me you
know here's my name here's where I live
do the thing that I want to do that was
the dream I actually don't know who
mocked this up originally but it's
beyond the wall for dds for some time
and we do go back to it is it forces us
to think about what to read users really
want and need of government to do the
things we require them to do and it's an
organizing principle it reminds us to
make it simple to make it fast and to
simple then this is who I am this is
where I live just do the thing I want to
do that led to this which was one of the
earliest sketches of gov UK I think this
dates from about the time that GDS was
established a team of about 14 people I
said it again the team that we're going
to redesign the authoritative voice of
the UK government online was 14 people
out of a workforce of about 400,000
civil servants at the time and they were
put together and they were asked to
completely rethink about what government
on the web could be lying and they work
differently they put user needs first
they were agile and they were at the
heart of the organizer
that has grown to be GDS today of around
700 750 people I think I'm baked in from
the beginning here's why the early
prototypes they created an alpha we
didn't assume that we could do the whole
thing we just started with a prototype
it was deliberately different it was
designed to provoke a reaction and
interestingly it was designed to provoke
a reaction we wanted to make our
ministers say I want one of those I
don't just want to twiddle the knobs on
the thing I've got I want one of those I
want there to be a passion at the
political leadership about it and it
worked and then when we have ministers
saying I want one of those we then we
set to the hard work of actually
building a public beta and they iterated
and they iterated the iterated again so
this is beta version one i would say
early 2012 beta version 2 jun 2012 a
month later and july a little bit later
cover months later until we have the gov
UK we know and love today and it looks
like this and it is the authoritative
voice of government online it is now the
home for all 24 central government
departments it has over 300 agencies
today govorit lee different and that's
because we were agile that's because we
iterated our way to this this wasn't the
idea this wasn't his my name my address
just sorted out for me this was ours
literally thousands of hours of talking
to users doing things without work and
constantly improving in the dds is best
known for this in fact a lot of people
think it's the only thing we do but far
from it and I want to pause on this this
isn't just me grandstanding but it's won
awards now think about where I started
crashing website services that were
unavailable it's won awards on the
reputation government and it won a
designer world and not just any designer
what it want the design award for a
government website who thought so was
that one fixed publishing we've shut
down thousands of websites it saved
about 60
a million quid in real money in the UK
so we moved on to tackling the the
second point of the third point of
Martha's plan which was to tackle
transactions between citizens state
taking those transactional services from
Anna lie analogue heavily reliant on
and so whilst we do gov UK and whilst we
started to tackle the individual
transactions it's more than just fixing
websites we weren't just about doing
digital stuff we were about
institutional reform and so GDS as an
organization based on the success of our
ability to interact with twenty four
departments three hundred plus agencies
and look at their services we've grown
to do much much more than that you know
all over the office of GDS we have a
little signs up to identify each of our
teams there's a selection it's not even
all of them these are just the ones I
could fit on a single slide the point
here is the organization on a
willingness to push itself and to be
confident that it can do good found the
space made for it they're doing a lot
and the success i think has been on the
basis of which they've been able to grow
and to contributing to government on a
scale that would have been hard to
imagine any a few years ago when those
14 people in early 2012 we're tackling
publishing you know they're working on
things like cross-government platforms
like pay and notifies to pay a payment
platform so we don't have to go and
build a payment integration every time a
new service needs to take payment a
thing government does a lot of there is
an open API and a service can simply
consume that the cost is now onboarding
knowing to jess's point earlier it's pre
/ cured and it's pre secured it's built
its operated it already meets the
standard it needs to for government
notify another platform we've built one
of the most common things that we see in
interactions between citizens and states
is the where's my stuff question where's
my license where's my passport where's
didn't need a where's my stuff service
people didn't want to go to websites to
find out where their stuff was what they
wanted to do was be notified when this
stuff was ready when the stuff was
progressing so we built a notifications
platform and verify one of the most
important developments I think in the UK
which is identity online identity for
the individual assurance because if
we're moving a lot of services online we
need to be very sure that we're
transacting with the person that they
say they are and so you know Jesus is
helping departments to provide their
services also with new better tech we
used to have these huge tower agreements
with service providers and within those
tower agreements for infrastructure and
custom development we'd also have end
user device provision and so when I
started in the civil service the first
device I was given to 20 minutes to boot
up and 20 minutes to boot down nearly an
hour of my day wasted and just trying to
get this device to do what I wanted so
GDS has moved interesting actually we're
going to expect civil servants to be a
part of changing government they need
the modern tools that will allow them to
do that and a big part of GDS as workers
been making procurement simpler and
faster I just talked about the fact that
you know government always wants to add
minimum standard add more the kurma
problem in the UK often is is not about
am i buying the right thing it's it's
usually about in the buying the right
thing am i doing it legally am i doing
it compliance compliantly and so we did
a lot of work to simplify that process
to make it safe to buy things whilst
complying with the relevant legislation
so all of that and more is gov UK and it
goes beyond the UK yeah there's an
interesting thing going on right now
you've just heard from jazz it's you
know this isn't just happening in the
United Kingdom where I've been working
for a couple years but it's happening
all around the world in the US estonia
Australia New Zealand Israel Canada
others within large scale bureaucratic
organizations which have been around for
decades and or you know in the case of
the one I was working for over a century
and the that model of GDS is one that's
being adapted and iterated and evolved
with the potential for digital and how
governments interact with their citizens
really being able to be recognized and
exploits it and more than being
recognized
really acted upon things are getting
done the strategy is and policy
definition the strategy is delivery you
know and as a result how governments are
relating to their citizens is changing
is you know it i think it is helping to
make the democratic process easier to
access so that's bit of contacts about
what we've done how we've done it and
then to reset possibly some of your
expectations about the reputation of
government so how do we do that how do
we do the thing that before i joined
government i shook my head and said
that's you can't do that that's not
going to happen well I fundamentally
believe that the fuel for success for
what's happened in the UK and what we're
starting to see happening governments
around the world at the heart of our
ability to have such a wide reaching
impact was establishing the cultural
behavioral norms within GDS and then
allowing them to bleed out into the rest
of the civil service a culture and
behaviors that were better designed for
the digital age that we were working in
and and I think that has led to delivery
affected delivery transformative
delivery in the most unlikely of places
so I said earlier that if you're in
government this was how you would
approach implementing political
manifesto commitments this is how you
did stuff your most government services
have traditionally been served by a
bewildering complexity of technologies
you know it was a system systemic
problem that government would see
technology as primary and the digital
output as secondary so when we put
digital in technology we're starting in
the wrong place you guaranteeing failure
you know the problem with digital
services being the outcome of technology
purchases is that the organizers I
organizing principle behind that is
purchasing whereas for digital the
organized I organizing principle needs
to be the user so rather than IT
determining digital service of the
future it becomes the thing you go
to when you need some technology
technology is critical but spend and
structures get in the way and techniques
just get out of the way it's a
fourth-order question in my opinion so
we created and incentivized a culture
that recognized change as a constant and
incentivize the primacy of the user so
we went from this to this we said user
needs first we need to understand who it
is we are serving clues in the title we
are the civil service who do we serve we
serve users once we've understood what
our users need only then can we start to
think about what is the service that
most effectively and efficiently can
deliver that service once we've
understood that service then we can
start to build that system then we can
confirm through real use of the system
we have built real users using real
systems giving us real information can
we check whether we are getting the
policy outcomes are we delivering the
strategy that we said that we would and
we have a loop of feedback that
continues to readjust and retune there
so we go from that old professed process
to the new process I'm not kidding
myself there were there were loads of
other stuff that helped us get from the
old to the new and they're all talks all
on their own like work on stuff that
matters work on the services that matter
a great deal to a great number of people
and also focus on the ones that
government can and should do with finite
resources if somebody else can do it and
it is safe to do so let them do it deal
with the enterprise your procurement
processes need reform it is a sad sad
fact that when i joined government about
eighty percent of billions of spend on
technology went to six or seven
companies only six or seven companies
you know don't play on the kind of terms
that lead to huge inflexible contracts
in decades worth because in those
contracts remember stasis was the norm
and therefore change was expensive start
with the reforms the hard way make the
infrastructure work for you and
recognize that delivery is kryptonite to
the rest of the organization you're
working with so be conscious of what
happens when you throw that delivery
krypton I am Thursday those are some of
the other stuff we really thought about
but above and beyond and enabling all of
those was culture far away you know the
most important and when you're using
words like transformation you're talking
about big change Martha's report said
revolution not evolution not a little
bit lots you know my friends Erin snows
one of the leaders that the the
government transformation service in the
u.s. he liked to say you know we are
about the home run we don't talk about
doing a little bit of transformation
transformation is serious business
messing around we don't go to all of
this effort just to make a little bit of
change and to take that sort of change
on in a system of 400,000 people at
which as I say hasn't really changed
since 1854 use a different type of
working environment so in the context of
trying to hit a home run every time you
do it you need to think about how
transformation relates to your culture
and the behaviors you see and expect to
see in our work spaces and incentivize
those that in that relationship begins
when we when we talk about what we mean
by digital what do we mean when we use
the word digital and a government
contacts so i think it's it's important
to be clear about what and how we define
that this is it there's a tweet written
by one of our GDS alumni chap called Tom
Luse mall he's worked in the the Civic
tech space for a while now you may have
come across and be right there digital
means applying the culture practices
processes and technologies of the
Internet era to respond peoples raised
to expectation he's brilliant and that
is it in a nutshell in 140 characters
it's not about computers not about the
people we're serving and not about us it
starts with culture it's about people
it's about realizing what those people
are capable of what the skills that we
have in our context in government and
how then we find a way to put them to
best use it's about trust it's about
giving our team the mandate
and the space to do what they believe to
be right because I fundamentally baby if
you foster the right environment of
creativity of Mines free to explore of
trust and empowerment you are going to
get better results from your team and
the team we've been saying for a very
long time now at GDS the unit of
delivery is the team the team is the
unit of delivery we believe in
multidisciplinary teams and we believe
they're essential for an adaptive agile
iterative way of working if the team's
not right then the thing the team are
working on is unlikely to be right
either so focus on how you complain
skills how you make it easy for teams to
readjust and readjust and find what they
need and pull them in that's what those
signs are for we didn't put the signs up
just so strangers walking to our
building could navigate their way around
we put the signs up so people at GDS
could go I need a user researcher where
are they and to do digital well you need
to focus on building and maintaining the
team bonds but you need to be able to
allow them to flex as well bringing
people together giving them the space to
thrive and allowing them to move on to
where they need to go to next and
allowing that to be part of their
decision making of course none of that
is really a new idea you know thinking
like this has been more commonplace in
the private sector than the public and
also in the technology industry than
others but it is certainly not the
norming government is certainly not the
norm in large institutions that have a
bureaucratic culture now government's a
few years behind the rest of the world
for sure and I think we're catching up
with the work that we're doing in GDS
because we know we can and we know we
have to but bringing around that kind of
change is a really big step and when
you're dealing with change of that scale
it means you have to handle it with care
now at GDS where we were kind of
fortunate and this was a lesson for me
which was you know genius was a
relatively new organization doing new
things that the Civil Service had not
really done before so we were in the
very fortunate position of being able to
build out our culture up from scratch
from the ground up in some ways we were
able to you know really think about what
we wanted to be and what Julius has
become from its early days when a small
team of people there's 14 people working
on that original alpha a lot of what
they were talking about thinking about
became the kernel of what GDS is today
but then since then it is iterated it
has evolved and it has changed like all
of the products and services we change
there's almost not a thing we do today
in GDS that was the same as we did it
back in 2011 and the goal of the
leadership team has always been to
encourage and foster a working
environment for humans to recognize in
our workplace that it is important that
we recognized our our team members
humanity as much as it was their
employability or their productivity we
considered what did they need as people
before what do we need from an engineer
or how much could we could we expect to
get out of people's working time so I'm
going to wrap up at the end now to show
you some of the examples of what a
humane people focus workplace look like
or at least certainly what owls came to
look like this is probably one of the
best-known chunks of the dds culture our
design principles this started as a
bunch of sticky notes on a wall in the
early days of gov UK but i should say
don't let the name mislead you they're
not just about design they are built on
a huge amount of collective wisdom these
two have evolved they've become a guide
book a staff handbook a learning tool a
motivational tool we know that if we're
doing what the principles are guiding us
to do we are probably doing the right
thing and if GDS culture began anywhere
it began with this stuff it started as
as I say a bunch of sticky notes became
seven principles they iterator to this
list of ten and we live by them we check
ourselves to them i sat in a management
committee meeting where we were
discussing one of the items at the end
of the meeting was should we publish the
the meet
minutes ten leaders of the organizations
that are on the table we've talked about
important strategic stuff should we
publish that stuff now there's a bit of
a debate is it sensitive or we're
revealing something too soon is it
likely to distract the organization that
they go off and do something on the
rotor back of that and then someone said
number ten make things open it makes
things better we've got 700 people that
we've brought into this organization we
respect them we think they're amazing we
think they're super super talented why
wouldn't we want them to know what we're
talking about because if they know
better why wouldn't we want to hear
make things open make it better we knew
what we had to do if you ever get the
opportunity to come and visit GDS in the
UK I encourage you you can see the
culture all around you our office is
colorful it's decorated with bunting we
everything about bunting and I've also
used for thinking out loud and for
sharing with our colleagues you know the
environment produces the atmosphere and
the atmosphere produces the work
internal communication is super super
important and it's often overlooked when
I walk into organizations I often don't
know what the organizational
conversation is because I can't get a
feel for it because there isn't really a
sense of internal conversation now we
didn't get it right all the time at GDS
either we occasionally just pumped out a
weekly you know an email that nobody
read and so when you'd say oh well that
thing was in the email nobody would read
it but one thing we did find was getting
the walls to speak and communicating by
ourselves that the stuff that matters to
us in this case about why user research
given that users are so primary to our
organization why use research was
important and why everybody at GDS new
two hours every six weeks why we
expected them to get involved in that
process to understand what users were
saying about services this is another
GDS catchphrase it's still very relevant
and useful today but the trust thing
that bit applies to many things but but
importantly it's about the trust we put
into our teams we trust GDS staff to
behave like grown-ups to foster a good
environment for everyone if anyone
misbehaves they are abusing
trust and it gets spotted and dealt with
really quickly when it happens which you
know thankfully is fairly rarely and
then last year we set up a body called
the people born I've worked in
organizations where there have been
people councils or people boards before
in the case of GDS it's it's a group of
12 people nominated and elected by their
peers we're a democracy they regularly
meet to discuss the ideas and
suggestions for making GDS a better more
humane working space now the important
thing here is the team that I was
leading the management group we
empowered that group of people to make
decisions to decide things because they
were closest to the point of impact and
they were closest in the context again
there's that theme of trust empowerment
if that board said we should do a thing
we did it because that's where that
decision-making powers was devoted they
set up whiteboards people could comment
anonymously on things that bug them and
so far you know up until I left GDS the
board help fix little things like tea
and coffee supplies in the office it's
extraordinary the Danai in the civil
service you don't get tea and coffee in
the office so we had to work out a way
of crowdfunding that but they also did
big things like radically improving our
performance management process which was
a horrible annual Oh crikey my
performance review is coming up let me
think of 10 friends who can give me some
feedback so i can skate through that as
painlessly as i possibly can to making
it a much more humane process that was
about a coaching conversation it is
management done by the team rather than
by managers which has a wonderful effect
one you have less managers because
everyone's a manager that frozen middle
whose job it is is just to inter mediate
between worker and management goes but
also you get better decisions because
the people making the management
decisions are those people most directly
affected by them and culture needs to be
free it needs to be able to reshape
itself where my proudest moments was
when out of the blue one of my team
general ad kochanek hughes she's
spectacular wrote a blog post about
boldness in government unprompted and
really what it was a rallying call more
than anything else a reminder that five
years into this mission we had to
continue to be bold we continued to
start
with the dream and drive towards there
and so suddenly it was turned into
posters and stickers and put them up all
around the place and the posters and
stickers are a constant reminder they
work because you know every now and then
people will refer to them and say well
we can be bold right they can we can
choose to do the bold thing right
culture spreads when the organization
shows it support we showed our support
by allowing this stuff just to happen to
let it thrive another one I'm pretty
proud of this was a a team decided to
sit down and write the unwritten list of
rules that were at GDS you know the
things it's useful to know when you
start working at GDS but that no one's
job it is no one's job to tell you so
they made a little poster this stuck
when the walls and says things like it's
okay to say you don't understand
government's complicated it's okay to
say I didn't get that what do you mean
it's okay to ask why and if you're being
bold ask why not what else could we do
my personal favorite is sing it's okay
to sing in GDS I've yet to have a
stand-up done in three part harmony but
I'm not done yet it was a huge hit this
is importantly I was huge hit in GDS we
tweeted it other government departments
picked it up when ya that the unwritten
rules we want that to be a thing um and
then the curious thing is with picked up
outside government we started getting
organizations tweeting us saying I can't
believe this describes a government
department wonderful and the good part
good culture evolved spontaneously and
the best part is it spreads all by
itself your job is to let that happen
now sometimes things happen that I'm not
okay I get that this isn't all you know
pink unicorns and about a year and a
half ago GDS was struggling to be its
better self when it came to the
treatment of the women that worked at
GDS and so when something like that
happens the team organizes do something
about it some of them set up a women's
group but it was a group for everyone
irrespective of gender who cares about
having an equal and diverse work space
at GDS and that group had been our
running up about a year I guess now
hugely successful
and hugely influential you know some of
the things that's achieved increasing
partnering with with organizations and
activities like code bar and makers
Academy to get more junior developers
into the industry and specifically into
GDS also we made a parity pledge for
diversity at conferences the GDS 10 so
we have rules now so no one from GDS
will take part in a panel discussion at
a conference of two or more people
unless there's at least one women on the
panel one woman on the panel not
including the chair and no one from GDS
will speak at a conference unless the
event organisers are clearly working
hard to address gender diversity on the
state and we've had the courage of our
convictions to see that through it's not
about absenting ourselves from the
conversation but making those
conversations richer and more diverse
and none of that would have happened
without a self-organizing group of
people within GDS it said we got a
problem we got to fix it so that's a
whistle-stop tour of the GDS culture I
hope it gives you some ideas of the
sorts of things you might want to take
back with you to your own working
environment but what's really important
and one of my last point I'll make is
what's really important is none of those
things I've just showed you none of the
such a special place to work the post is
the people board the the the women's
group that the being bald they're saying
what's okay and what's not okay to
asking why none of that came from
leadership the leaders it came from
would never work you can't impose
culture on an organization you can't
tell an organization how to act so if
leadership is a behavior not a job then
your job as a leader is to provide the
right environment and within which
culture can emerge and evolve all by
itself it means trusting people your
colleagues but it also makes sure it
also means making sure that they feel
safe it's safe to ask questions it is
what you think is right and if you can
do that then I think magic can happen I
some 67 and I've done the last scene
apart power of attorney for Merck for my
mother my mum's grasp on modern dear
living as it was a bit limited so it was
decided them that i would pay all the
bills sort everything out for three
years ago i had a stroke and you start
think about your own mortality and he
start thinking about well if something
that have happened to me then our would
mum have co-opted what would have
happened anyway looking on the internet
and I'm literally stumbled across the
government site for the lasting power of
attorney started to look at it natha
this is good because you can download
all the paperwork yourself you don't
need a solicitor and the instructions
that went with each section of the
lasting power of attorney would they
were improper people speak not in legal
jargon so it was very easy for me to
follow it if I can do it anybody can do
it you know it's easy the written
instructions you just can't go wrong and
I would say now to anybody don't be fri
and don't worry about going to see a
solicitor do it yourself I'm glad I did
it and I'm glad I did it when I did it
and my mom's really pleased
I cannot say thank you just want to say
thank you to everybody involved in doing
the website because it's given me peace
of mind and i'm sure it gives a lot of
people peace of mind and my friend now
is doing that and you made it so simple
and so easy for anybody to do and i just
hope that anybody who sees this film
please do it and you'll feel so relieved
afterwards you know it's east grit and
all that the people that you care for
everything's looked after for them thank
you government services that people want
to use change doesn't happen overnight
and the gds culture is still changing
day by day we see it as a cycle of
improvement this cycle of improvement
better culture through those things I
talked about trust safety empowerment
the devolvi of decision making to the
right place in the authorization means
more diversity means the quieter voices
can be heard the unexpected voices can
be heard and that and more diversity
leads to better results we don't get to
choose our market segments in the UK all
citizens of the UK are our customers we
can't decide there are some that we are
not going to serve and through diversity
we get better results we get services
that actually do speak to the whole of
the population and better results mean a
better culture and so it goes on public
services so good that people want to use
them thank
fantastic thanks Steven wonderful so
we're sort of bang on time and there was
one question as more of a technical
question about so what do you do is
there a back-up plan a backup strategy
if a government digital service is
offline yeah what's to do insured so
digital by default it doesn't say
required to as part of the design
process understand how to service demand
if for some reason the service is not
available online we also have to
recognize that about twenty percent of
the UK population either through
socio-economic circumstances or or age
or education are not able to access
digital services so we'll though we say
have an offline channel or a digitally
assisted channel that enable everyone to
consume that services because as I say
we have to build them for everybody not
just for those that have got a mobile
device or a laptop fantastic and the
other question was about the technology
stack but it's probably not your bag but
I find enough I know the answer to that
so if you want to know what the tech
stack is coming off me anyway thank you