Weeknote: 29 April to 3 May 2019

Posh bus to Harrogate

1. What goals were met?

  • Confirmed the start date for our new lead user researcher for NHS.UK. Looking forward to having them on the team.
  • Job adverts went live for internal applications for 1 senior user researcher and 2 user researchers – all of them vital roles on NHS.UK.

2. What goals were set?

  • Likely scope and timelines of some work we have to do on job descriptions for our profession group. If we get this right, it will make it much easier for people across the organisation to understand how specialist career progression works, and how the different multidisciplinary team roles fit together.

3. What connections did I make?

  • Met Hassan who is leading a small team of consultants helping with the work on job descriptions. Later in the week, introduced him to some of the practice leads who are the experts on each of our digital roles.
  • Met Patrick, the Senior Responsible Owner (in public sector jargon, SRO) for the cross-organisation Building a Digital Ready Workforce programme, which I’m starting to work with. It was great to hear his vision for this vital area of work. Back at NHS Digital, I also caught up with colleagues to understand how finances work on the programme.

4. What inspired me this week? (Lots of things!)

  • The first meeting of the NHS Digital product management community of practice – brilliantly led by Trilly, with input from heads of product, Emma and Becky. Our exec director Wendy started a discussion about the collective noun for product managers – further suggestions welcome.
  • A great meeting with Nic, Jim and Martin, exec sponsor and profession leads for our project and programme managers. The way our profession groups work together will be really important in the transformation ahead.
  • The moment I looked up from my laptop to see a crowd of user-centred design people gathering for a design crit of professional-facing work on e-Referrals. Credit to the team for the work they’ve done, and for bringing it early to their peers. A design system is great to have, but the foundation of everything is a culture in which designers share their work and talk to each other.
  • A chat with one of the people I’ve been “career manager” for in NHS Digital. He is doing great things with his team. I hope we don’t lose the quality of conversations that have gone on with career managers as we move to a simpler, single line management model.
  • Lou’s tweet asking for the most influential people in service design. I made a Twitter list of all the people mentioned in reply.
  • Announcement of the dates for the Global GovJam in October. The global team have made some changes which I hope will enable more cities to take part in this amazing public service event.
  • Can disappointment and anger on someone else’s behalf be inspiring? Simon’s tweet about a failure of care coordination made me more determined than ever to improve the standard of user experience for our professional users.
  • A meeting of my Nye Bevan Programme learning set, hosted by Jodie at Harrogate District Hospital. All of my learning set peers are brilliant, with bright futures ahead of them as leaders in the NHS. We had some difficult discussions and tried to approach them with the board level behaviours that the programme expects. It was a bonus at the end for our group to hear from Steve, the Harrogate and District trusts’s new CEO.

5. What did I notice about my own approach?

  • On Monday, I found myself avoiding a potentially difficult encounter. That says something about me, and something about the shifting context that my colleagues and I find ourselves in.
  • I’ve been reflecting on how I listened and provided feedback as part of the learning set meeting. Holding to account is hard, and I felt I could have done it better if I had put a little more time into preparing for it.

6. What do I need to take care of?

  • My over-arching mission, to radically improve the user experience of the NHS, is a cross-cutting one. It doesn’t fit neatly into the categories in which portfolios are prioritised or funding controlled. So I need to make sure that the essence of that work, and the capacity for our people to do it, is remembered in the room when senior leaders are making rapid decisions about system-wide priorities.
  • Looking after our people and teams, which figures on this list pretty much every week, continues to be a theme.
  • Having sensed a peak in my workload, I made a decision to step aside from one important fortnightly meeting for a couple of months. Dean, our lead designer, is going to take care of those, which I’m sure he’ll do brilliantly.
  • What’s urgent – When responsible for people and public money, there can be urgent things that need my attention. I live in fear of missing one of those in my growing unread mails list. I have strategies for dealing with this: making sure that people have the delegated authority to not wait for my sign-off unnecessarily, and asking them to be crystal clear about what they want me to do and when.
  • What’s important – I try to keep Fridays free of regular meetings, to spend time on one-to-ones, reflection and planning. What with Bank Holidays and Bevan Programme days, it’s been a few weeks since I had one of those Fridays, and it shows. Next week is a 4 day week again; I will make sure to reserve Friday for the important stuff.

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