Fighting for transformation

Combatting battle fatigue and staying resilient

I saw this great question from Clare Sherwood on Twitter

A question for those fighting for real transformation. How do you combat battle fatigue and stay resilient?

In government, we talk a lot about transformation as this monolithic modification to the way we do things, which is kind of true in many ways. Compared to the raised expectations of the public as a result of the constantly connect internet era we live in today, government and government services seem somewhat stuck in the 1900s.

The problem is that a lot of people we work with in government can be stuck in their ways too, resistant to convert to a new way of working. It’s different, and some people don’t like to do things differently.

When all you’ve ever been exposed to, is lengthy procurements, signed off wireframe designs and over the wall fixed-cost-fixed-delivery-development contracts — the idea of being agile, doing ethnographic research to discover what people really need, designing and developing iteratively through collaboration and releasing little and often is a scary adjustment.

We often encounter this clash of cultures and I see a lot of people suffer from battle fatigue as we attempt to convince people that our way is the right way. Viva la revolución!

It seems second nature to us — we’re empathetic to the needs of the people who have to use whatever dire service you’re working on. We’ve got digital capabilities at our fingertips. Let’s use this power for good. It’s this feeling of obviousness that is the reason we run ourselves down. When something seems so clear in your mind, it can be challenging to accept that not everyone thinks the same way as you. This leads to wearing frustrations.

As designers, we’ve been battling this way for some time. If we weren’t trying to convince a Product Lead that every piece of content doesn’t need to be “above the fold”, we were persuading Marketing to approve spend for lab testing, so we could see if this new feature was a good idea or simply the whim of the Marketing Manager.

I see designers who are early in their careers struggle with this. The epic highs when you do successfully sell what’s in the best interest of the user/customer vs the bottomless lows when nobody shares your vision and you feel utterly unappreciated. Over time this makes you battle hardy and as you mature in your career you come to realise which battles are worth fighting for.

People in all professions who are fighting for transformation need to try and do the same. Being dogmatic won’t work longterm and not every battle will be won — that’s OK. There are times when taking a step back and being pragmatic is the right thing to do.

If you have a good manager or profession lead, speak to them. They’re there to support you. Ask if there is anything else you can pick up on the side. Side projects can be a greatly rewarding distraction and give you back that confidence and enthusiasm to fight another day.

When fighting for transformation, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit. Just because you’re the one doing the battling today, it doesn’t mean you need to carry the whole weight of the outcome on your shoulders. If you don’t succeed this time, someone else might next time — that’s OK too.

One of the most important things to remember is what truly matters, and that’s probably not anything you’ll do at work. It’s at home. Your family. Your friends. Your self. We do what we do at work because we care, but it’s not all we are.

Transformation is really just a fancy word for change. And change is inevitable. Keep going.


A collection of open stories on the realities of designing a digital government, shared by the people who work there.

Charles Reynolds-Talbot

Written by

Father. Designer. Human. Writer of #RunnerUnfiltered training for London Marathon 2019 before donating a kidney to my young son:


A collection of open stories on the realities of designing a digital government, shared by the people who work there.