It’s been a *long time* between weeknotes, I almost don’t know how to start! I guess I’ll give a little intro on why I’m starting again, and the context of the work I’m doing these days. That’ll make this a longish week notes, I promise to be briefer next week.*
A few months ago, I received a message from someone who would become my boss, the marvellous Magda Hribar. She and her research practice lead, Helen, had been reading all about ResearchOps, and they had questions. One thing lead to another, and here I am, the ResearchOps Lead for the Commonwealth government Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment.**
I’m in a special little spot, working across two areas (and having two bosses!), one of which comes under the leadership of the equally marvellous Jordan Hatch. You can read more about the work we’re all doing over on his weeknotes.
(yes!! I have a boss who does weeknotes)
So, weeknotes is happening because there’s an expectation that we will work in the open and transparently. Which makes me do a little dance, we all know how I feel about that! But importantly, weeknotes is happening because although the field of research operations is expanding rapidly, it is still nascent. Anything we can document, has got to be useful, even if (especially!) we get something wrong.
Before I get started, I’ll just add a quick link to two articles about what on earth ‘ResearchOps’ is (though if you’re reading this, then you probably follow me, so you probably already know?).
First, there’s the article written by Kate Towsey about the huge project we did in the ResearchOps Community to work out exactly what this ResearchOps thing was, and next, there’s the 8 Pillars of User Research by the incredible Emma Boulton. I’m just so lucky to know them both, and to have played my part in helping work all this stuff out alongside them, and the wonderful ResearchOps Community, which Kate founded, and which now Holly Cole, myself, and our wonderful board of Directors, run.
What did you do?
This week, I think it boils down to a couple of themes. One big one, and some smaller ones.
Communicate. And then communicate some more
Firstly, communicating, helping others communicate, connecting people so they can communicate, working out ways of communicating that work for everyone.
The longer I do ResearchOps, the more I’m convinced it is a connecting things kind of a job, and so it makes sense that I do it, even if my previous careers make it seem incongruous — connecting data and metadata, teaching people about how things are connected, and writing about the impacts of social policy across society — these don’t immediately scream ResearchOps. But the work of research operations is the work of mapping out all the parts in a complex system (as much as is possible). It is also about trying to work out which bits need to continue to be custom built, and which bits can be moved forward towards a commodity (did you spot the reference to Wardley Mapping? If not, here’s a good primer).
So, most of my week, especially seeing as it is still early days, was spent communicating — individually, putting in a good investment to understand the magic sauce that each person contributes, in small groups such as in daily stand ups, meetings across the department to find and connect all the people doing research, and special longer meetings with the Research Practice team (led by the aforementioned Helen) and the Capability Team, headed up by the also wonderful Mariam Ibraheim (are you sensing a pattern? Yup, the people I work with are wonderful and marvellous). At the start of the week, we had a guild catch up where we are mapping out the service of research recruitment. At the end of the week, it was the Service Design CoP, lead by the (yup, you guessed it) wonderful Bruce Klopsteins, where we shared ideas on vertical campfires — virtual and physical.
When you’re doing something new, you need clarity about where you are going, what you’re going to do, and how and when you’re going to get there. Recently, I put together a strategy based on work we’d done internally, and with inspiration from the work of Maike Klip from the Dutch government’s Executive Agency of Education and her blogging about using the 8 Pillars of User Research to work out her research strategy. Because the 8 pillars map out the way ReOps is connected to user research, it also works perfectly to work out your strategy for Ops. Part of that work was also finally (I’ve had this on my to-do list for years) making myself a Tree of Ops, inspired by the Tree of Up. So, I have the where, what and how. This week was about working out when, and what success looks like (how we’ll know when we get there).
Talking to others about measurement also had me reading over this article on citizen experience measurement by Prime Minister and Cabinet, and this article on performance measurement by the Digital Transformation Agency. I was also reminded of this one about story as measurement by Dyfrig Williams on Measurement, which I’ve mentioned in a previous weeknote.
Infrastructure — the big thing that supports the small ‘o’ Ops
Something I’ve struggled to articulate well over the past few years, is how much ReOps needs something physical to facilitate showing how everything is connected. It’s an imperfect analogy, but some parts of running ReOps are exactly like running a product team (hence the use of the Tree of Ops). The product is also the service, and that’s why it is an imperfect analogy. Suffice to say that the product of ReOps has been on my mind this week — all I can say is there’s a lot to do!
Research socialisation (not just sharing research)
Every time I spoke to someone this week, in or out of work, if they wanted to talk about research outputs (or communication!), it was about this little thing that we don’t give enough attention to: research socialisation. Outside work, I’ve been mentoring a researcher doing a post grad in a related field, and this was one of the nuts she needed to crack this week.
Doing research is fine, but we human centred researchers need to be equally human centred in the way we share our research. Sharing research is such an important thing, it is outlined as one of our responsibilities (page 17) according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC, the Australian body responsible for research involving humans and setting guidelines). But it isn’t just making research available or handing it over. Knowing the ‘user need’ from the perspective of the people consuming the research is a critical key, and one that ResearchOps can help with, by providing that enabling function via platforms and digital experiences for people to receive and consume research, and working with researchers to make a good user experience.
I think we can learn a lot from science in this respect, where science communication is a whole separate profession.
What are you thinking about?
Not an exhaustive list
It was a personally intense week this week with a lot going on in the family, so to be totally honest, there’s not a lot I’m thinking about other than what’s above!
We had our monthly W+PSI meeting this week, and my friend Nour Sidawi gave me a few things to think about that I won’t share here. I will say every time we chat, she asks me hard questions that make me step back and look at things from a totally different angle. Gotta be one friend in everyone’s life that does that :)
Oh I think that was quite enough for one week! Besides, we’re trying to find a new house and move, and there’s a mountain of to-be-filled cardboard boxes in front of me as I type…til next time friends, have a good week!
*we all know I’m not known for brevity, but I’ll do my best :)
**how cool is that acronym? (AWE, in case you didn’t spot it)