Weeknote: 24 to 28 June 2019

Design principles and journey map posters on the wall at Futuregov

1. What leadership teamwork did I see?


  • I worked with Helen, Karen and Jayne to put together a strategy day on Tuesday for our exec director Wendy and her product directors. (Thanks to Futuregov for hosting us, and to Dominic Campbell for an inspiring talk to kick the day off.) I reached into my facilitation toolbox (and my kitchen cupboard) to get the directors turning empty cereal boxes into product vision boxes for some of our new priorities. The “culture hack” of making (not just talking) together worked even better than I had hoped. Several participants said they’d use the exercise with their own teams. It was great to have Iain from NHSX join us for the whole day too.

  • The next day Tero and Rochelle presented on user-centred service design to Wendy’s extended leadership team. They introduced a new one-day course that they’ll be offering to colleagues across NHS Digital.
  • On Thursday, senior leaders from across NHS Digital met to hear from some of our exec team, and take part in a condensed session of learning led by Octavius Black of Mind Gym.
  • I had to sneak out early from that to join the Building a Digital Ready Workforce programme board, which James chaired brilliantly.
  • Throughout the week, our Digital Services Delivery practice leads rose to the challenge of assessing requests to join our profession.

2. What connections did I make?

  • I shared a selection of our digital job descriptions with colleagues from other NHS organisations.
  • I booked a place at the UK-wide Q community event to be held in November.

3. How did I uphold our design principles / NHS Constutition?

  • I put the design principles on the wall of the product directors’ strategy day. We had a short discussion about the value of these. We could have adopted the brilliant GOV.UK principles wholesale, and would certainly sign up to all 10 of them. By having principles that reference the NHS Constitution, I feel we’ve been able to get NHS teams engaged with design and design principles in a way they might not otherwise have done.

4. What do I need to take care of?

  • There’s a lot going on, as the publication of the Digital Transformation Portfolio prioritisation has coincided with tight deadlines for NHS Digital’s own internal reorganisation. The week after next, I’ll be out of the office for 4 days as part of the NHS Leadership Academy Nye Bevan programme, so I need to make sure I’m not a bottleneck to any time-sensitive decision-making.
  • I’m also conscious that we need to take care of the way we communicate all the changes that are going on. As a profession lead, and head of a function that’s all about clarifying intent, I wonder if we’re making enough time, and using all the talents in the organisation, to get that right?

5. How did I make expectations clear?

  • In my 360 report, I received feedback that some people didn’t hear from me often enough. I’ve arrived at something I can do, and something I need from the people who have me as manager. The thing I will do is try to notice when they do things that impress, inspire, or surprise me in any way, and let them know there and then. The thing I need them to do is to ask for feedback if they’re not getting enough of it. I trust them to decide how often we need to talk, and I’ve told them I’m counting on them not to let that slide.

6. What inspired me this week?

It’s easy for those of us working on specific programmes to jump straight to the detail of the new priorities, but I think we’ll get further faster if we start by focusing on the five missions that Matthew is setting out:

  • reducing the burden on clinicians and staff, so they can focus on patients
  • giving people the tools to access information and services directly
  • ensuring clinical information can be safely accessed, wherever it is needed
  • aiding the improvement of patient safety across the NHS
  • improving NHS productivity with digital technology

I hope we’ll use those as a test – not only for the things we’re doing today but also for new ideas and initiatives wherever they may come from.

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