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LGSS Digital Blog

Service design for local government

Adele Gilpin

Digital Services Architect

Eat, sleep, hack, repeat

If you are used to working in an agile environment, the process of sprinting will be a very familiar concept.

A sprint (usually) comes at the implementation stage of a project. At LGSS Digital, this is when the devs get their heads down and flex those coding muscles.

Sprinting isn’t often done at the design stage because we find getting access to people, gathering stats, mapping journeys and then pulling it all together takes time.

However, we like to shake things up in the LGSS Digital team. And so, we decided to see if we could run a week-long design sprint!

We certainly weren’t the pioneers of this idea and we pretty much followed the guidance of Jake Knapp’s book – Sprint – to the letter. It’s a great book, but we did change the name from “sprint” to “hack” because we think it sounds cooler.

Kat Sexton and I worked with colleagues from the transformation team, learning disabilities team and adult learning and skills team in Cambridge. We defined our “ultimate goal” for the hack as follows:

Build aspirations and opportunities for people with additional needs to gain and maintain employment

The week was structured as follows:
  • Monday we heard from experts
  • Tuesday we picked where to focus and sketched possible solutions
  • Wednesday we picked a solution and created a storyboard
  • Thursday we used the storyboard to build the prototype
  • Friday we demoed the prototype to our experts and gathered feedback

There will be a more detailed look at the week soon, however I wanted to use this opportunity to write about my experiences, fears and lessons.

Experiences

All I can say is, goodness me! We achieved an incredible amount in just one week! It really highlighted what you can accomplish when people have a drive to make things better and are willing to try something new.

One of my favourite aspects of the week was the continuous energy from everyone. I think a lot of that was to do with the core rules from the book which are:

  • Look after the humans! (make sure food and drink is always available)
  • No devices!

I can tell you, it’s extraordinarily liberating being told to whack that out-of-office on, put phones on silent and just focus on the hack.

With those distractions removed, I allowed myself the time and space to learn, be curious, experiment and reflect.

It’s extraordinarily liberating being told to whack that out-of-office on, put phones on silent and just focus on the hack

Look after the humans!

Fear #1

“What if the experts don’t turn up?” 

In general, finding people to research with is one of the hardest aspects of the design phase, but it’s crucial, as it’s where you capture those precious user needs.

Inviting people to come to Cambridge on Monday and Friday afternoon is a big ask.

Lesson #1

I really needn’t have worried because there are some incredibly dedicated and passionate people out there who were more than happy to lend their time

Do your networking beforehand to give people enough time to come and lend a hand. If in doubt, bake brownies.

Finding people to research with is one of the hardest aspects of the design phase of any project, but it’s crucial as it’s where you capture those precious user needs.

Fear #2

What if I just don’t feel creative that week?” 
Sounds silly right? But we all have times where our brains just don’t work, possibly from the heat? Maybe from tiredness? The pressure of trying to be creative for a whole week did play on my mind. This is where following the discipline of the book was key and Kat did a brilliant job of keeping us on track.

Lesson #2

The hack is all about working as a team and so there was never the pressure for one individual to be creative all the time. We all contributed ideas and our “deciders” made a choice on what path to follow. This stopped the “…but what if?” thoughts that can often block creativity and made sure you didn’t get invested in an idea that didn’t get taken forward. The week moves too fast for that!

The hack is all about working as a team and so there was never the pressure for one individual to be creative all the time.

So what next…?

There is so much more I could say, and I will, as it feels like the beginning of something really special. The LDHack was the first of its kind for us and we all wanted to make it a success.

I found it valuable to work with colleagues from different services, all with different skills and experience and our eyes fixed firmly on the “ultimate goal”.
We now have a consortium of organisations and individuals who want to drive this forward and make changes. In the words of our wonderful expert William…

“Don’t sit back, just get up and do it!”

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