Stay open

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Sharon Jay

Over the past few weeks I’ve been delving into how SMEs such as Five Mile can create better organisational structures, thereby building a more positive and productive working culture.

Why? Because these days we’re all told we have to be transparent, open and share our business ‘journey’. But how do you actually do that? Afterall, what’s the difference between articulating a genuinely interesting and important process… and over sharing?

In my first blog I touched on ‘self-managed’ teams and their benefits to SMEs. In my second I explored the challenges associated with implementing these ideas while also running a very busy agency: in other words, how do we stop and learn, when it often feels we have no time to stop and learn?

In this blog I’m looking at what it actually means to share ideas and hopefully highlight a few best practices.

One of my aims at Five Mile is to implement a culture where team members want to explore things further within their work, their interests, their ideas and within the technology they use. But there has to be more to it. Creating a working culture where everyone is fully engaged within their role and responsibilities should be shared and held up to wider scrutiny. Which is where the simple blog comes in.

Of course there are some really great examples of other organisations doing some amazing culture-based blogging - Lullabot and Clearleft to name a couple.

But perhaps one of the best examples for me comes not from the private sector, but the public sector.

Government Digital Service blog

If you’ve never seen the GDS blog, I urge you to check it out. Why? Because it’s a brilliant example of how a huge organisation has not only managed to restructure its digital offer to tens of millions of people, but also they’ve shared their journey in simple and yet powerful way.

Government Digital Service homepage

Why GDS blog ‘works’

Part of the Cabinet Office, GDS is responsible for digital transformation of government and they work openly because “making things open makes things better”:

GDS making things better

Drilling into the detail

They also have a special blog dedicated to technology at GDS. They launched this in 2013 because they realised there was more they could do to “explain the nitty gritty” of how GDS build, assemble and run software.

The GDS tech blog highlights projects and software builds, and supporting services for those projects.

The brilliant element of it is that it’s not marketing or comms people sharing the knowledge. It’s developers, engineers and architects. This is tech detail and ideas straight from the coalface.

GDS tech blog

While not all SMEs might have a tech team, what this approach shows is that GDS have recognised the power of sharing internal knowledge to a wider audience. This in turn creates a virtuous circle of learning for the teams - because if they are not learning, they are not improving. And if they can’t improve, and meet challenges, the blog story and journey will soon highlight this.

Top 5 things SMEs can learn from GDS blog

  1. All SMEs have a story to share

  2. Your employees are part of the story

  3. To get the best out of your employees, you need to let go of control

  4. A blog can break down internal silos

  5. Blogging is part of everyday work life

A culture shift

The blogs I’ve recently written - including this one - signal my plans to shake up our working culture here at Five Mile. This is a main motivator for me as we take our company forward with the right attitude of ‘self-management’.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post - we're stopping to learn. We’re unpicking things. We’re making changes and not just in a physical sense. We’re also 'loosening the reins' - letting go of control to empower and invigorate our staff to embrace this culture shift, knowing that they are at the heart of it.

I’ll be sharing more on this journey over the coming months, ensuring we at Five Mile stay open, at every level. Afterall if GDS, one of the most complex and biggest organisations in the world can do it, we can too.

About Sharon:

I help identify and develop ideas and approaches to ensure that Five Mile continues to grow as a strong and ambitious digital agency passionate about user experience, open-source technology, community and culture. At Five Mile I take pride in ensuring that our talented and expert team deliver great digital experiences, create happy users and ultimately help businesses thrive.