https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2018/04/27/sharing-what-we-do/

Sharing what we do

Colin and his colleagues in the product team

I’m a product manager working on creating a new website for Parliament. The team I’m in mainly focuses on the new MPs’ and Lords’ pages.

Over the past six months I’ve been writing updates about what the team has done. We work in two week sprints, which is why I called them Sprintnotes. It’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to and open to all.

I’ve followed the same format from the start: what we’ve done and what we’ve learned/been reading.

Why do it

I’ve always been interested in openness and transparency in the work that I do. I also shamelessly adopt practices I learn from others that I think will be valuable.

In PDS, colleagues were already creating weeknotes and writing their own personal updates about their work. I found them interesting insights into how my colleagues thought and felt about work we’re all involved in. It seemed like a good idea, so I thought I’d give it a go too.

I thought the benefits of doing fortnightly updates would be:

  • having a record of what the team has done is a bit like having a diary as you can look back through it and see our achievements
  • by pulling together all the good work people have been doing, it makes you appreciate how much thought and effort goes in
  • openness and transparency allows more people to engage in what we’re doing and get more input

Good things I’ve learned

To be honest, for the first few months I wasn’t sure anyone was reading my updates. I didn’t really share them and so nobody was interacting with them. Slowly, I came out of my shell and began tweeting them. Gradually, I got positive feedback from colleagues who said they were useful and were considering writing updates themselves.

I definitely think my initial thoughts about writing them are true. I’ve also experienced some extra benefits:

  • people do give feedback which is really useful in helping the team to improve or grasp future opportunities
  • having a resource to show other people builds empathy
  • even the people who sit a desk away from you like to know what you’re doing and will chat to you when they notice something interesting
  • more people follow your work if you constantly publish it
  • on a personal level I find the routine extremely therapeutic
  • having a section on what we’ve been reading motivates me to read more myself as I’m in search of interesting or curious things to add to the updates

Getting feedback

As I said, I’ve followed the same format from the beginning. I spoke to a content designer in PDS and they gave me some feedback on areas I could improve, like structure and content:

  • changing the name - people don’t necessarily know what a sprint is and the title isn’t descriptive so it doesn’t entice people to read
  • the introduction could be better at setting the context of what we’re working on now
  • it’s very link heavy which can cause link fatigue
  • the links don’t have enough useful descriptions to know what they’re about or why you’d want to click them

Changes I’m making

I still love the concept and think it’s worthwhile, but have decided the updates need to evolve. Future updates are going to take the feedback on board and - hopefully - will be easier to digest. This is my first attempt at the new format.

More changes are likely to come as I’ll be leaving PDS in a few weeks, but a new author will take over. I’ll be really interested to read about all the good work the team continues to do.

Let us know in the comments below what you think of these updates. 

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