Weeknote: 13 to 17 May 2019

Sophie presenting at the Digital Urgent & Emergency Care conference. Repeat after me to the tune of Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans Europe Express’: “human. centred. design.”

1. What inspired me this week?

  • The GDS Sprint Leeds event: So many of my favourite people were there! There were service jammers, GDS people, DWP people, Leeds City Council people, NHS people. I’ve known many of them for years, but in separate bubbles. Seeing Eve Roodhouse and Lisa Jeffery co-hosting the event at the Queen’s Hotel brought home to me how those worlds are finally converging as part of a shared agenda to make public services better. Among the participants were some of our NHS Digital graduates, who I firmly believe will carry this agenda even further forward to places we can’t yet imagine.
  • The Digital Urgent & Emergency Care conference: Sophie and Dom presenting the service design work they’re leading together as a blended NHS Digital and Futuregov team. The whole conference had a stong design theme running through it, including me being on a panel skillfully produced and chaired by Emma Mulqueeny. Also at the event, we heard from Simon Eccles, Sam Shah, Terence Eden and Hadley Beeman. I was videoed talking about my impressions of the event…

And there’s more…

  • Practice leads meeting for the Digital Services Delivery profession. Everyone had reasons to be cheerful, and things we needed to work through a time of organisational change. I couldn’t be profession lead without this crew.
  • Chats with Wendy and Helen, who both helped me channel some of my frustration about slow progress and obstacles into constructive next steps and proposals. They’re both really busy people and I appreciate them taking the time.

2. What connections did I make?

  • GDS Director Kevin Cunnington came in to meet with people from a couple of our NHS Digital teams. He got a demo of the Manage your referral service, and toured the Digital Delivery Centre, which runs and continuously improves some vital national NHS live services. I’m proud to have profession members working in both areas.
  • I met some more people in the Building a Digital Ready Workforce team, who asked me some challenging (in a good way!) questions. We talked about my own family’s good and not-so-good experiences of care, and also how we might help each other, given our complementary networks in the public sector digital capability world.
  • After a meeting earlier in the week, I’ve been thinking about how we often look at the tangible output of our work – websites, standards, guidance, and so on – and overlook the value in the knowledge, skills, confidence, and relationships gained through the process of making those things together with our colleagues and users.

3. What capabilities did I build?

  • Pleased to see a couple of people from our Leading in NHS Digital Leadership programme getting started on projects that will benefit my profession, and allow them to develop their own skills.
  • I recommended GDS Academy courses to a couple of senior colleagues, in particular Hands on Agile for Leaders which I used to facilitate when I worked in the Academy.

4. What goals were met?

  • Made progress getting a small team together for a proposal I need to write, but still waiting for some important data before I can get on with it.

5. What goals were set?

  • After my chat with Wendy, I had another proposal to work up. I put together a first draft, with a little help from my team.
  • I had a performance review chat with Ian, my line manager. We talked about the past year, and also about my objectives for the next few months. I had proposed some objectives but have tweaked them based on his helpful input.

6. What do I need to take care of?

  • In my performance review, I talked about the trust I place in others. I trust my executive leaders to decide when they need me in the room. And I trust my team leads, who are better than me at many of the things they do. This is the only way I know of working as a senior leader, short of having to be everywhere all the time. I can’t really compute how people who don’t do these things get by without burning out.
  • I’ve been thinking about the balance of my time spent inside and outside the organisation. I need to work in the open to advance the cause of user-centred design across our complex health and care system. I also need to be present for my team and NHS Digital’s own leaders. It’s not an either/or: everything I do in the system also makes me more effective as an operator inside my own organisation. As a learner, I frequently share work in progress, and things that are puzzling me, with my network inside and outside the organisation. This is not so much external influencing as using people’s collective brilliance to shape my own thinking and challenge myself. It plays directly back into the work I do with our own teams. But I need to be mindful of how this may come across to others who have not had the privilege of being able to work so openly for so long.

And that’s a 10 week streak of public weeknotes! I’m probably going to take a couple of weeks off weeknoting as I pause to reflect on the past 6 months, approaching my 2-year anniversary at NHS Digital. A lot has happened since I wrote my 18 month reflections.

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