Attending to Needs is All We Need

Attending to Needs is All We Need

You may be thinking that “attend to folks’ needs” is some moral crusade. Or some naive admonition to be more humane. I had neither of these things in mind when proposing the Antimatter Principle.

Rather,  the Antimatter Principle addresses the question of:

“How to encourage the emergence of a workplace in which people might feel warmly invited to give of their best, and find much joy in the simple act of working together, in the company of fellows.”

This seems like a question of almost universal relevance, these days.

The core principle is derived from more than twenty years of my personal experience in its application, and from the stories of hundreds if not thousands of people practicing and sharing their experiences with Nonviolent Communication.

By way of illustration, this post takes the eleven principles from my previous post, and explains – using only the first principle as core – how all the other ten are simply derivatives. Here’s the eleven principles from that post:

GDS Design Principles – Improved

  1. Attend to folks’ needs
  2. Do what’s needed – more more, no less
  3. Continually Evolve The Service with Quick Feedback and Iterations
  4. Make It Optional
  5. Flow
  6. Build for Inclusion
  7. Understand Context
  8. Build Services, not Digital Services
  9. Derive Consistency From Need
  10. Make Things Open
  11. Build Improvement Into the Way the Work Works

Underlying Needs

  1. [Core principle.]
  2. This principle speaks to some folks’ needs to meet folks’ needs, fully but not excessively. Underlying this may be a whole host of deeper needs: for kudos, job security, advancement, status, self-worth, promotion, peer acclaim, respect, community, and so on.
  3. This principle speaks to some folks’ needs to avoid both rework and the delivery of unneeded features, etc..
  4. This principle speaks to the needs of e.g. digitally-excluded folks to have access to government services, and the needs of some folks to cater to this group.
  5. This speaks to some folks’ need to do the best job that they can – i.e. to apply learnings from seeing a service running live, with real users. Maybe there are other folks who need to demonstrate their competence in delivering ever-improving services.
  6. This speaks to some folks’ need for justice – or maybe to be seen to care about the disadvantaged.
  7. Not too sure about which needs are driving this one. Maybe it’s UX folks with a need to produce good work (i.e. services with relevant features). Maybe it’s higher-ups, who need to be able to cite positive acclaim and kudos from users.
  8. This speaks to some folks’ need to demonstrate that they are competent at providing/building/implementing/running high-quality (digital) services for citizens, and, more fundamentally, the need for job security and status/promotion/peer acclaim/respect.
  9. This speaks to some folks’ needs for e.g. easy allocation of staff to projects, easy transfer of staff between projects, and maybe, more fundamentally, their need to be seen as competent, cost-conscious and “responsible”. (Whether consistency is an effective strategy for meeting these particular needs bears more examination, I feel).
  10. Maybe this principle speaks to some folks’ need to give to the world. To make a difference. To some folks’ need for peer-recognition. And to some folks’ need to be the best they can be – by e.g. learning from feedback on their code, designs, architecture, etc.. Maybe, also, it addresses some folks’ need to feel belonging (to e.g. the wider Open Source and/or Software Craftsmanship communities).
  11. This, being the principle I myself added, speaks to my need to see an organisation improving its effectiveness, and thereby to see folks spending more time on – and finding more joy in – doing things they love, and less time on things which bring little or no joy to them. Maybe some other folks also share this particular need.

With the above descriptions, I’m pretty much making (informed) guesses about the needs driving the aforementioned principles. And I’m sure many other needs, not mentioned here, have shaped the evolution of those principles. Without a record of the original needs and stakeholders, it’s difficult to know how close these guesses come, and whether folks’ needs have changed materially since these principles were declared.

A question in my mind remains: how much value is there in articulating these principles? Or could an articulation of the underlying needs – and constituencies – afford more value? Put another way, what and whose needs are being served by articulating these principles? And could those needs be attended-to by more effective means?

– Bob

Further Reading

Needs Inventory ~ The Center For Nonviolent Communication


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