Mike Bracken & GDS —

I watched this talk from Mike Bracken about the Government Digital Service. He talks about how the processes and practices the GDS encourages can help reshape how government is delivered in the increasingly digital future.

On the purely practical level I think the GDS can make the business of government (i.e. living and working) more up-to-date and more politically progressive. On a current affairs note it could also be a way to facilitate budget cuts that not only keep ‘front-line’ services the same but actually improve them.

But more than that, I’m interested in the way the GDS does this. Mike Bracken contrasts the iterative, responsive, adaptable and ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ approach of the GDS to a ‘big bang’ style favoured by policy makers. I’m becoming more aware that successful projects seem to have this modular structure built into them. It means they can be added to later (as needs or budgets develop), moved in a different directions and also contribute to a coherent whole.

It’s not just government or design projects this can apply to – in analysing the things I like about my garden it’s this ‘ahem’ organic way of allowing things to happen and within certain boundaries not being too fussy. Later on you can check on what’s happened in the system or framework and make decisions from there. If it’s good - encourage it, if it’s bad, stop it and try something else. This sort of plan also allows for serendipity and responds to actual conditions rather than sticking rigidly to the plan you set out at the beginning..

I think I’ve fairly comprehensively mixed my metaphors here but I’m sticking with it. Gardening is good, setting up systems is good, and working iteratively, with cycles of critique and reflection is good.