Working in the open; airing your dirty laundry or a problem halved?

Dewbien Plummer (she/her)
5 min readJun 13, 2021


make things open; it makes things better

I’ve watched as some of the latest additions to the Royal Greenwich digital team have been writing week notes. They are openly talking about their hopes & fears, sharing the lessons learned and the mistakes they’ve made.

I’ve been impressed.

But I mean, is this even allowed? Can we actually do that?

Turns out we can.

And not only that, working in the open is one of the government’s 10 design principles.

The Government Digital Service, (GDS), if you didn’t know, are the team responsible for that glorious triumph of a website, where renewing your passport or drivers licence is now not much more than a few clicks of a mouse. I still remember the Krypton Factor style obstacle course of paper forms, post office queues, (a place where hopes and dreams go to die); and scamming websites.

As a British citizen, I’ve watched as little by little, interacting with the government has become easier.

These wonderful people, having made their mark in central government, (& across the world), are now looking to do the same at a local level, and we at Royal Greenwich, have welcomed them with open arms.

Yay for us!!

We should share what we’re doing whenever we can. With colleagues, with users, with the world. Share code, share designs, share ideas, share intentions, share failures. The more eyes there are on a service the better it gets — howlers are spotted, better alternatives are pointed out, the bar is raised.

By working in the open we can learn from each other and make sure that tragedies like Grenfell never happen again.

We can make better use of our housing stock to house more people.

We can engage meaningfully with residents.

We can finally give our residents the service they deserve.

I say all that to say I’ll be doing my bit, and I invite other social housing professionals to do the same.

Here goes nothing;

Highlights of the week

Working with the amazing Lingjing Yin (obsessed 😍), Head of Product, to start putting some shape and scope to the first discovery opportunities for our Housing & Safer Communities (HSC) Digital Roadmap. This is a 3-year programme of wholesale transformation from homelessness to repairs. She talks more about it in her latest week note.

We’re also starting some much needed user research to better understand our residents. We manage around 26,000 properties and there are approximately 23,000 people on our housing register. With numbers like that where do you start? Together we are defining what we want to get out of it and who we need to speak to.

After work team drinks. You know it’s been a good night when the bar person disturbs the conversation calling last drinks! I got home (upright and sober, I hasten to add), but it was close to midnight, on a school night. We had a good time getting to know each other in a relaxed setting.

My 17 year old son, however, was not impressed. “I can’t believe you’re only coming home now.” He said. “Where have you been?”

I had to remind him I pay the bills around here!

These kids. 😎🤣

Lessons of the week

Getting governance right is trickier than I thought it would be. I’ve given this my best thinking over the last 2–3 months, as well as teamed up with two very competent colleagues, and still the proposals weren’t quite right. Bringing the work in progress to the board meeting this week felt uncomfortable, but we came away with a much better product as colleagues were able to give input. If anyone has any ideas on good practice mixing agile working and robust governance please let me know.

Being ok with not getting things right first time. The more responsibility I have, the more I feel pressure to have all the answers: and this is a trap. One of the best things about digital principles, is the freedom to try things out and to fail. This is good in theory but without the backing of senior management, especially in local government, it is just a pipe dream. I’ve been grateful to have executive leadership with the expertise and mandate (Yay for Kit), to help us explore this very different way of working.

What I’m reading

Digital transformation at scale: why delivery is the strategy by Andrew Greenway.

I found this gem through Phillipa (😍), our new Head of Delivery. It’s part the story of GDS, but as a guidebook/case study showing what went well and what pitfalls to avoid. The author helped bring key concepts to life and is a great reference book. This is one I would highly recommend.

Special mention for the Royal Greenwich Digital Team Week Notes (the cavalry has arrived!)

Here are the week notes from my esteemed colleagues doing marvellous things at Royal Greenwich. Each one will have a different perspective on our digital journey so please follow all of them. (If I have missed anyone from the team apologies & please let me know! 🙃)

Phillipa Newis — Head of Delivery

Linjing Yin — Head of Product

Eleanor Dean — Senior Content Designer

It would be cool to share week notes (or their chosen medium), of local government officers working in the open, so please send through any recommendations.

What I’m listening to

Cleo Sol, When I’m in your arms. This song is on repeat, perfect for the summer.

Fun fact… in a former life & decade (2012 to be exact), I did behind the scenes photography with Cleo at some of her gigs and music videos.

Cleo Sol 2012. Never the Right Time. Taken by me.

The picture above is one I took at the Never the Right Time video shoot. I’m only putting it here because as I was writing this, I remembered that this was the most technically difficult shoot I ever did. They kept changing the colour of the lighting so it was really hard to get the right light balance — (excuse my nerdy jargon but that will mean something to someone). I think I did ok with this one. (Here’s the YouTube link — watch the video, you’ll see what I mean about the lighting…)

(Happy Pride Month 🌈)

London Pride with Leona Lewisham



Dewbien Plummer (she/her)

Digital Transformation. Social Housing. Black Girl Magic