Weeknotes: 16 to 27 September 2019

Coconut sponge cake and custard
Coconut sponge cake and custard in the NHS Leadership Academy canteen

Another two week batch of notes, having missed last week’s due to various pressing deadlines. I hope not to make a habit of this. The downside of fortnightnotes is that 16 September feels like an eternity ago. On the upside, I’m reminded just how many good things have happened since I last hit the “publish” button…

1. What inspired me?

  • Emily and Harry, two of our new Digital Services Delivery graduate trainees have started working with  senior researcher Matt on what we need to support “research ops”. After only a few days into their work, they gave us a great playback of what the term means, and what they might explore in their discovery phase.
  • Meanwhile Lucy and Lisa have been gathering input to plans for a UX lab in NHS Digital’s new Leeds offices at Wellington Place. There’s a great opportunity to put research at the heart of how we work when we move to the new building.
  • I caught up on my overdue 2 hours every 6 weeks by observing a couple of sessions that Ana was running on stomach cancer content for the NHS website. Some more of our new graduates were also in the observation room for the first time. Seeing users’ responses to the content was a reminder to me of the care that needs to be taken with information about serious conditions, and how people might react differently to the same words depending on where they or a loved one are on a journey of diagnosis or treatment.
  • Becca has written a brilliant blog post about her 6 months on service design for urgent and emergency care: The ‘as-is’ state of my service design placement: 8 things I learned in 6 months.
  • Inspiring as always to spend two days with my NHS Leadership Academy Bevan Programme learning set. If you think this course might be for you, applications for next year’s programme are open until Monday 7 October.

2. What leadership teamwork did I see?

  • A big part of my last week was recruitment for two key roles in our new design and user research operating model. I was fortunate to have as interview panel members two leaders from our Product Development directorate, and two design and user research leaders from other government departments. At the end of the process, I was delighted to ask Rochelle and Tero to step up as Head of User Research and Head of Design respectively. I’m looking forward to working with them both to take user-centred design to another level in our organisation and across the wider health and care system.
  • This Monday, we published our implementation plan for the organisation change for people in content, design and user research roles. We’re a growing profession overall, but the plans are not good news for everyone. I’m grateful for the teamwork of our practice leads, HR colleagues, and admin support staff in getting everything ready to share the plans and make sure any colleagues affected could be clear on what happens next.
  • Later in the day, I joined the design team away day, expertly led by Afsa and Eric (and in the planning stage by new dad Karl – congratulations, Karl!) Thanks also to Jason Mesut for facilitating an activity for designers to think about their own strengths and what kind of designer they aspire to be.

3. How did I make expectations clear?

  • Ian and his team asked me some questions about the work they’re doing on the information architecture for the NHS website. I hope I made clear how important this work is as part of the transformation from health information website to mobile, accessible, actionable digital service. When people can’t find what they’re looking for on our website, it undermines their confidence in our service – and also, more seriously, perhaps their own health literacy. This work should generate a clear picture of how the NHS fits together from a patient and public point of view. We’ll be able to use that in many other ways to design and improve health and care services.

4. What connections did I make?

  • Talking with patients and NHS staff as part of the Bevan Programme this week, I was reminded of the need to explain in the simplest possible terms how the work we do on digital services has direct benefits for the people we’re here to serve. If the first thing someone does about a new health concern is to search the web, then the NHS-provided search result is our new front line, and the content designers and clinical experts who write it are our frontline workers.

5. What do I need to take care of?

  • Attention to detail and leading with care are still required as we move into implementing our organisation change process. This matters for all our staff, but especially those at risk of redundancy or in selection processes.
  • I need to make sure that Rochelle and Tero have the space to operate as heads of their respective practices, and that I refocus my own priorities on the things I have committed to do in my new role.
  • On the Bevan Programme residential, I got some feedback that something I shared as a sign of personal commitment to my work, came across to some people as not being a team player. I need to think about how to say that differently next time.

6. How did I uphold the NHS Constutition?

  • I had a discussion with HR and training colleagues about a small but important change to some entry criteria. I believe this will bring our rules closer to our values of equlity, diversity and inclusion.

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