Year of the Dog: Notes from ‘Insects Awaken’ (Jingzhe)


Yesterday was the end of the micro-season ‘Insects Awaken’ which pretty much started on the 5th so this is a two weeknote 🙂

It has been an interesting couple of weeks one way or another but still not particularly challenging work wise on a day to day basis. I know I should take advantage of the relative space to think instead of the constant drive to deliver but I am finding it disconcerting!

My role is mainly account management I guess. I am the ‘interface’ between the civil service clients and our supplier team — I enjoy this element of acting as the universal translator between everyone and I think I bring a degree of empathy to the needs on both sides. Alongside this I do a bit of the pastoral management of the team and contribute to the planning as we start to scale up. The reality is though longer term this would all be better served by an Engineering Manager with some technical and management chops. I could operate in the role longer term but I not sure I should.

I’m also looking at DOS a lot (like a LOT)and trying to articulate what I think a high performing ‘squad as a service’ might look like in case the right opportunity comes up.

The big thing that has happened was my trip to Edinburgh as a last minute addition to the ‘Service Design in Government’ conference program. It was a bit of a slog getting up there — mis-booked flights, taxi no shows and late night trains included but was well worth the trip. I was only there for a day but the sessions were fantastic, the vibe really good and it was lovely to see so many people committed to improving digital in government in one place. I’m far from a service designer but I think this event is a must for anyone working in this space at all.

My talk was (surprise, surprise) a bit of an outlier — I was talking about the importance of openness in making change happen — it seemed to go down OK though despite the lack of rehearsal and some technical hitches.

Off the back of it I have spun off a bit of a UK tour speaking at meet-ups and remain open to other offers if anyone is interested in a bit of West Country colour at your meet-ups.

In fact yesterday I gave a version of the talk to the digital team(s) at Department of Health and Social Care — thanks for the invite Ben.

I am also finding I have a lot of blogposts rattling around in my head at the moment — the latest to escape was this one about coaching ways of working rather than agile frameworks but currently in draft I have a bunch more with titles like:

  • The (digital) spine of a team
  • Strategic storytelling
  • A company ‘of the web’ not ‘on the web’
  • The Tao of Teams
  • Professionalism and this ‘thing of ours’
  • Working in the open works: the missing chapter

Some or all of these should see the light of day in the next week or so.

I’m also — someone punch me — wondering about trying for a book about all this working in the open stuff. Maybe just a collection of interviews and case studies?


I do find myself becoming..I don’t know the word…wistful maybe…about being in the thick of it in a digital team. I ‘borrowed’ a desk for a couple of hours at DfE yesterday and felt unusually content amongst the chaos, kanbans and Post-Its. I’ve also been looking jealously at some of the recent tweets from erstwhile colleagues at ONS.

I’m not sure what that would look like from this side of the table but I’ve been on the sidelines long enough I think and want to stretch those muscles again. This might be foolish of course — many such thoughts are. The thing is I genuinely think I’ve learned a huge amount since the last big project I ran in this space, there are things I want a chance to do differently and I’d like to do it all now I’m bloody healthy for the first time in who knows how long!


Swansea life remains pretty good to be honest — I like being in a central AirBnB even if I don’t use all the options it provides I do like having M&S across the road for my food shopping, a cinema next door for entertainment and a Five Guys two minutes away for cheating on my diet!

Speaking of my diet I’m currently just two pounds short of hitting my four stone loss milestone but the recent weather has led to more carbs than I would have liked! This photo gives an idea of the scale of the change though and the need for new clothes (this is/was my favourite shirt!)