Most people in government have to deliver policy, products or services as part of their job. And whatever they're delivering, people face similar problems.
Over the last 6 months, my job was to understand what help people in the Department for Education (DfE) needed in order to deliver things.
Their answer was quite simple: they wanted practical help. Advice on how to do things.
They needed to make sure that they are tackling the right problem, that they better understand the scope at the start, and that they have the right research early on. They need to get answers fast. People were really clear that they wanted help to invest in the skills of their team. They said, “Advise and support me, but don’t do it for me.”
I spent weeks writing that guidance, and at the end found myself facing a new problem: how to share it with the thousands of people and dozens of teams working around DfE, in London and Manchester and elsewhere.
So I made it into a book, so I could literally hand copies of it to people.
Practical and dip-in-and-outable
It's not a publishing masterpiece. I used an online print-on-demand service to turn the documents I'd already written into a simple spiral-bound book. (The binding makes it easier to leave the book open to refer to, while you're doing something else.)
The Delivery Book is divided into 3 sections:
- Define the problem
- Establish your project
- Understand users
Each section is split into short chapters on specific topics (for example: 'Identify your assumptions' or 'Set out the benefit').
Each chapter follows the same format: What the topic or work is, when to do it, and how to do it. The how-to section is usually the longest and most detailed. Every chapter includes a suggested practical activity, with instructions for participants.
At the end of each chapter there are some tips and next steps.
Writing to this format makes the whole thing more dip-in-and-outable, which is the whole point. I do not expect most people to read the whole thing cover-to-cover, but rather to keep it handy and refer to it when they get stuck on specific issues.
Cheap, easy, iterative
As books go, it's basic.
But it does the job, and the reaction so far from teams I've given it to has been very positive. One person who’d tried some of the practical activities said their whole team benefited: “It's informed our conversations and helped us make a list of things to do next.”
Throughout the book, at the end of every chapter, there's a call for feedback to help make the next iteration better. So far we've been through 2 versions. As more feedback comes in, I'll make more changes. Just because it's printed on paper, that does not stop us iterating.
That's one of the good things about using an online print-on-demand service. We can do small print runs of each version at very low cost. They're printed and delivered in days.
I'm still at the sharing and feedback-gathering stage at the moment, but I expect to print a new iteration of the book in the summer. After that, if there's any interest, we shall look at making it available for everyone. And we may publish the book online in the future too.
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