Communication

PSNGB "Groovy Boots" video story

This is the story of the production of this video. Foden Grealy (under our Eggvids banner) produced the video for the PSNGB - the industry association for the Public Services Network. It explains in about two minutes what the PSN is and what the PSNGB is doing to make it successful.

Summary of what happened...

7 May - Neil Mellor - a director of PSNGB approached us. 8 May - Eggvid man Mark Hainge and I had a half-hour telephone discussion with Neil and Stuart Higgins - another PSNGB Director. We explained our approach (see pic below). 7 June - The four of us had a 3-hour flipchart session to work out what should be in the video. It was an excellent interactive session where we ended up with the bones of the story. 14 June - We produced a full-length rough & ready first version of the video, which Neil and Stuart provided feedback on. They liked the overall style and the way we put over the main messages; they also gave us a list of revisions to consider and some ideas about the humour (which is where the "groovy boots" came from). They also asked us if we could get the video ready for the PSN annual conference on 25 June. 21 June - We produced an improved version that was discussed by the board of PSNGB. It was approved with a few changes. 23 June - We produced the final version (after a couple of late-nighters). 25 June - The video was shown at the PSN Summit.

This production went smoothly. Neil and Stuart were great to work with (the reason it went smoothly) and were keen to participate - it felt like an interaction rather than a transaction. I'd say that it would be near-impossible to produce a video like this in a transactional way from a traditional written brief. The humour, always a potential sticking point, came easily with some super suggestions from the PSNGB folk.

I was at the first showing of the video at the PSN Summit yesterday. There was laugher, spontaneous applause and many positive comments.

We wish the PSNGB and the PSN huge success.

More info

More stuff about the video and its production.

Approach

We work iteratively. Here is a pic we used to explain our approach to Neil and Stuart...

Eggvids iterative way
Eggvids iterative way

Story

This was the output of the flip-chart session. Scientific, this...

PSNGB video flip-chart
PSNGB video flip-chart

Script

PSNGB We are the industry association for the Public Services Network

The GB bit originally meant Governing Body but we aren't one Instead, think of Growing Benefits, Government Betterment, General Blossoming, Any of those

Our members are companies supplying either the PSN, or the services delivered over it,

So, the PSN itself Public Services Network

It's a computer network. Think of it as a house-trained version of the Internet for the public sector.

Any organisation providing public services can connect to it.

It replaces a whole lot of terribly disparate network wherewithal from the past that made it very hard for people in government to do internetty things.

Most public sector organisations are on it now and are shifting their services across from existing networks like the GSI (God bless them and all who sailed in them).

Of course there's box ticking and IT faffing about involved but we are getting to the end of that.

The PSN will carry the services that existed before but the important thing is it's not just a replacement network, it is a jolly sturdy foundation that some people call a platform for building all sorts of completely new stuff . Like...

Organising public services around citizens by linking the operations of different departments Or... Enabling third parties to create new dead-funky services that no one has thought of yet Or... Making it possible for people in the public sector to use the latest technologies to work flexibly Hurrah!

And this totally new stuff will bring new ways of working, new communication, new policy, new support, new procurement, new structures, new management, new thoughts and new almost anything else you can think of

PSN can change the shape of government

Which brings us back to the PSNGB:

Yes, we'll do the usual industry association things: standards, technical palaver, all that helping suppliers to get their boxes ticked and their faffing faffed helping customers to get with the right suppliers

But we've got a bigger ambition. We want to do our bit to enable this change We want to connect people, spark ideas and make a genuine contribution to the reshaping of government

Right nuff said.

PSN, GB The industry association for the PSN... bringing Great Bounty and Glittering Breakthroughs So, fill your Groovy Boots.

In praise of the unloaded question

Yesterday, I watched a video of a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee questioning a team of senior folk from the Department for Work and Pensions. The session was about problems with a government IT programme - Universal Credit - brought to light in a recent NAO report (which was widely reported in the press with some hoo-hah). As I watched, I found myself riled. I have not been at all supportive of the approach taken to Universal Credit, but oddly it was more the nature of the committee's questioning that got to me. I woke up this morning realising that the cause was mostly the repeated use of loaded questions.

Wikipedia says that a loaded question is one that, “contains a controversial or unjustified assumption”, viz… “Oi Foden, have you stopped playing with yourself, yes or no?” a playground jibe I remember from my childhood; an answer either way bringing hoots of laughter.

Here are a couple of examples from the session (see transcript p18 & p21) when the committee were questioning a civil servant about the problems with the programme:

Questioner: “...When did you personally, as accounting officer, have your first indication that you … had not set a proper policy framework and business strategy for this programme?...”

Whether there was a lack of ‘a proper policy framework and business strategy’ had not been established with the respondent and so asking him when he realised he hadn’t set one, was bound to lead him to respond as he did…

Respondent: “I think it is worth walking through what we were doing and when, because it did not feel to me as if the entire thing was happening without a plan. If I quote—”

At which point he was interrupted…

Questioner: “...I would be really grateful if you would answer the question .. when were you, the accounting officer with the biggest project in your Department, first alerted to something going wrong?”.

He would have been crazy to respond with a date.

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Later there was the question...

Questioner: “Do you think the pilot was fit for purpose? Yes or no?”

This took me back to the school playground. It seemed to me that it had not been established with the respondent what the purpose actually was. Answering Yes or No would have again been daft. It went on...

Respondent: The (pilot) is testing useful things as we speak. Questioner: Was it fit for purpose? Respondent: It is testing useful things. Questioner: Was it fit for the purpose? Respondent: What purpose did you have in mind? Questioner: No, you— Respondent: For my purpose, it has worked fine, thank you.

It seems to me that the original question was poorly framed. Rather than repeating it when the answer was unsatisfactory, it would have been much better to pick up on what the respondent said and ask something like, “What is the pilot testing?”. This may have led to a better understanding of the purpose of the pilot and the respondent’s understanding of it. Clarity or good quality hanging-rope: opportunity was missed either way.

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There were several other similar exchanges later on.

I wondered why this was happening. Were the questions: born of a poor grasp of the topic; the result of genuine annoyance; a means to unsettle the respondent into revealing things he otherwise wouldn’t; a way of being seen to put on the frighteners; or political rhetoric with some more subtle aim? Perhaps it’s all of the above.  Whatever, I ended up feeling that this emotive questioning was excessive and got in the way.

I can’t help comparing it with John Humphrys’ interview with the BBC ex-Director General George Entwhistle about the McAlpine accusations. Humphrys did a consummate job of quickly exposing the issues, which probably precipitated Entwhistle’s resignation later that day. Humphrys started the interview with the plain question, “What went wrong?”

Use rhetoric to get juices flowing by all means, but understanding will come from asking simple questions; and by listening and responding carefully to the answers.

Blog all

On hols this week: idling in Hay on Wye, following a rain-frustrated attempt to walk Offa's Dyke. Had a very good chat last night about blogging with the family we are staying with. I was arguing that everyone should blog. Here (hugely boiled down and a bit mangled for the sake of brevity) are some of the questions we talked about... Why (on earth) should I bother blogging? Writing things down, in words that other people can understand, straightens out crooked thinking and helps you learn; it develops your expression muscles so you can get your point across faster and better in the future; and it enables others to find out about what you are interested in, which starts conversations and brings opportunity you would never otherwise have had. Really.

I don't have anything interesting to write about absolutely everyone is interested in something; and capable of being interesting about it. Not necessarily because you are an expert, but because your experience is unique.

No one will be interested in what I write Maybe no one you know will be interested but, if you publish your blog publicly, it will help you come across people who are (and perhaps bring opportunity).

I don't have time to write You don't have to write very much: just a paragraph will do. A single paragraph conveys infinitely more meaning than no paragraph at all.

I can't write Yes you can. You might be a bit rusty/uncomfortable/self-conscious when you start but you absolutely can. And if you write, you will get better.

I don't believe what I write will have any effect Read about Martha Payne (for example) a 9-year-old who seriously beat up some beefy Scottish council bruisers by writing her Never Seconds blog.

For more on this, read Seth Goldin on Talkers' Block or Euan Semple on Changing the world one word at a time (written yesterday so it's nice and fresh).

You have more opportunity than ever before to shape the world around you. Euan Semple

Whether you are a corporate bod, a mum, a student, an artist or whatever else; you will get something from blogging about stuff you are interested in.

Blog all.