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Four lessons we learnt from working through the transition period

A screeshot of an MS Teams meeting with the authors
Molly and the team in a virtual MS Teams meeting

It was clear from the outset that delivering everything that was needed for the end of the transition period was going to be challenging, never mind with the added pressures of a pandemic.

The Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) team at the Department for International Trade (DIT) were tasked with delivering the trade infrastructure that was needed to formalise the UK’s departure from the EU. This included building and rolling out the tariff management system, as well as a number of business facing tools such as check for barriers to trading and investing aboard. The tools were built to provide businesses with key information to help them understand how to trade internationally, and with the EU.

Here are the lessons we learnt from working on a career-defining project like the transition period.

Lesson 1: “Learn to adapt to change every second of the day”

Molly Wing, DDaT Portfolio Lead

There were so many lessons that I learnt along the way while working on the transition period. One that really stands out for me is the importance of staying flexible and being open to change every second of every day. There were so many different possibilities for us to prepare for as a team. I learnt not to get too attached to any one of those possibilities. There would often be the least expected change, at the least expected time.

I am so proud to be part of such a collaborative and dynamic team. Together we were able to work through uncertainty and resolve some really challenging issues. DDaT has achieved so much in what has been a hard year. I will always look back on our time working on the transition period as a unique and fascinating experience. I will take this lesson with me into the rest of my career.

Lesson 2: “Plan for every scenario”

Charlie Stewart, GOV.UK Content Lead

The transition period offered some unique challenges for the Content Design team. With information changing almost daily by the end, we had a huge amount of work to get through. We had to respond rapidly to understand emerging requirements and provide the information our users needed.

We’d spent months in the run up to December planning for different possible scenarios. This involved collaborating across the whole department to prepare what we could in advance and get our team ready for any outcome. The uncertainty meant preparing for things that we knew wouldn’t happen. As it turned out, our planning was essential.

When the announcement came on Christmas Eve, we were already in a great position to respond and we managed to turn around large amounts of content in a really short time. It was hard work but setting it up the way we did gave us the confidence in what we were doing. The team can be proud of what we achieved.

Lesson 3: “Listen to your body and know when to take a break”

Dan Wintercross, Service Owner

Working on the transition period was relentless and difficult for all of us. This was due to the uncertainty of whether we would get a deal or not and needing to manage various scenarios. Looking back, it’s truly an amazing achievement from everyone at DIT.

One thing that I learnt from working on the transition period is that it’s important to know when to take a break. Weather permitting, get outside and do some exercise, even if it is only a short walk. In the summer months, I regularly cycled in the evenings or before work. It was trickier through the winter, but even a walk in the dark was a welcome distraction. It undoubtedly always helped me to feel better and gave me a chance to reset and recharge.

Lesson 4: “Build a strong peer network”

Priyesh Chauhan, Senior Delivery Manager

I joined DIT at the beginning of November to help deliver the transition period milestones. There were lots of moving parts. As you can imagine, having to piece them all together felt like a mammoth task. Thankfully the team were so kind to me. They never got tired of me asking for updates or questions. This was crucial as there were a lot of reports to update. We also had to assure the senior management team that we were on track to deliver.

The team truly worked in an agile way. We ensured that we were prepared whatever the transition period outcome was. I had every confidence that it would be delivered regardless of the circumstances. My one regret is that I’ve never met the team face to face. However, I am proud of what the team has achieved and to be part of this historical change in the UK.

Find out how we created the services and tools for the UK’s future trade infrastructure

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