Back to weeknotes after a 2-week pause to reflect on my past 6 months at NHS Digital. I’ve tweaked the questions I ask myself so they focus on some things that are important to me as part of my NHS Leadership Academy Nye Bevan Programme.
1. What inspired me this week?
- NHS.UK show and tell, including Dean and Sarah presenting the work they’re starting on information architecture. The IA is unfinished business from the transformation of NHS Choices, and an essential foundation for some of the new ways that people will access NHS information and services.
- Dean’s post on the GDS blog about adapting the GOV.UK Design System for the NHS.
- Tero openly releasing his model for health and care journey mapping.
- User research fieldwork synthesis from 6 weeks of discovery in Urgent & Emergency Care. Can’t wait to hear what patterns and opportunities have emerged from this important work.
- Rochelle Gold leading NHS Digital’s user research community of practice, now including NHSX’s researcher too.
- NHSX CEO Matthew Gould setting out to see for himself the user experience of professionals and patients across health and care. It sends a powerful signal for a national digital leader to start by getting out of the building.
- The positive encouraging response to my 6-month-notes.
2. What do I need to take care of?
- Hubris! I don’t know who’s behind the Twitter account “Designers congratulating themselves” but it’s a fair cop. Relentlessly highlighting the good things that inspire us is an important part of leading any change. As a recovering cynic myself, I’m mindful that it might grate with others, especially if their own disciplines lack the same culture of celebrating progress.
- Doing the hard work to make it inclusive. I made a point of making something inclusive and then the technology let us down and it was less inclusive than it should have been. I’m kicking myself because that wouldn’t have happened if I’d prepared better.
- With priorities and organisation structures shifting at multiple levels in multiple organisations, it’s really easy for a change in one place to be percived as a slight to people in another, even if that’s not the intention. We have a duty under the NHS Constitution to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. In our national arms-length body context, that has to mean coordinating change and opportunities across multiple organisations, not just within each one individually.
3. What connections did I make?
- Joined a sub-board that was considering a standards notice we plan to issue soon, and shared a draft blog post explaining the background to this notice for comment among colleagues.
- A good call with James from Health Education England about Building a Digital Ready Workforce.
- Helen is organising a strategy day for one of our directorates. I connected her to a brilliant guest speaker who I’m confident will help get the day off to a great start.
4. How did I make expectations clear?
- Published my 6-month-note, which I hope gives people a clear picture of what’s important to me, and what I want to achive in the next 6 months.
- Prepared for my talk at Camp Digital next week which will cover some similar themes.
- I’d had conversations with team members who I trust to take important things forward, specifically on community of practice, and use of web analytics to make some discovery work more data-informed. A joy later this week to notice on Slack that they’re just getting on with them. I responded with the approprite emojis.
5. What board-level behaviours did I see?
- As part of my preparation for the next Nye Bevan Programme residential, I observed NHS Digital’s public board meeting. Two of the directors (one non-exec and the other an exec) were kind enough to share their reflections with me afterwards. Next week, I plan to observe the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board to compare my national context with how boards operate at a local level.
- I saw some great system-wide thinking and doing from senior colleagues in response to a challenge from Wendy, our exec director, to pull together a team to work on a high priority discovery. I knew our organisation had the talent to staff this team. The important thing was our ability to free the right people up at short notice, which required leaders to see the big picture and be flexible about how they’ll achieve their other objectives.
- I’m also advising on the creation of another multidisciplinary team, which requires two directorates to work together differently than they’ve done before. The test of this will be the directorate leaders’ ability to create a single set of aligned objectives for the whole team, removing the inefficiencies that come from competing agendas.
6. How did I promote our design principles?
- I advocated a “make, learn, iterate” approach to resolving competing agendas. We could spend ages debating the architectural approach, or we could make some things that test which approach works best. As a design leader, I have a bias to prototypes over presentations.
- Leigh‘s work to make accessibility a central concern for all our digital roles is paying off. Right now, we’re looking for contract front end developers with accessibility experience. Could that be you or someone you know?
- Also, Alison, who is doing brilliant things at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, shared a photo of these lovely posters by Duncan Stevenson. Hope he gets time to complete the set.