Reflections 6 months into my work at NHS Digital – part 2

This is part two of some personal reflections on my first six months at NHS Digital. Catch up on part one here.

Drawings of all the designers

The design team we need.

Many of our designers are highly motivated by the mission of the NHS. They must also be critical friends. Friends don’t let friends settle for second best when it comes to what’s possible with user-centred design. We need our new recruits to bring to the table diversity of background, empathy for all our different users, and a wide range of skills to conceive and realise a continuously improving service.

We’re still finding the balance between working embedded with programmes while being a unified team. In the next phase, a tactical approach to recruitment needs to give way to a strategic structure organised around user archetypes and needs states.

There are so many open goals for user-centred design in the NHS, and not enough players on the pitch to score them all. Partly we’ll grow the numbers by recruiting more people to our team. While recognising that some skills are hard to find right now, we don’t always need to fish in the same tiny pond as our job market competitors. We can also do more to grow our own talent, from entry level through to making great designers into future design leaders.

I hope very much that we are developing a team culture of consistency, fairness and respect. We need to develop and maintain parity of esteem between our three main design specialisms: service, interaction and graphic design. While they differ in the materials they work with, they all share a core user-centred practice.

The foundation of a successful design team is simple: designers talking to each other.

First, designers lead other designers to achieve more together than they could alone. The growing team becomes self-organising as they share their work, seek advice, and give constructive peer review. It’s a joy to see designers stepping up like this, and important to give them space and trust when they do so.

Next, design as a practice starts to lead the wider organisation to achieve better outcomes. This requires confidence, capability and visibility among the design team, and a keen awareness of what the organisation’s non-design leaders are trying to achieve. I feel fortunate that many here are open to new approaches. More often than we realise, we’re pushing at an open door.

Some things I will remind myself to do every week:

  • Develop my own capability
  • Reflect and plan
  • Listen better
  • Influence more
  • Say no to more things
  • Say yes to more things
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mattedgar

Product strategy and design leadership in web and mobile media. Before that I was a newspaper journalist and history student

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