Weeknote: 28 October to 1 November 2019

User-centred design team. We’ll know we are design and user-led when… There is design leadership across product development and all sub-directorates; Our teams understand principles and approaches of service design and have had access to relevant training; Our new programmes are established as exemplars. From the start we establish design thinking and agile processes, including governance and funding
Making my new team objectives more visible

1. What inspired me this week?

  • All the likes and retweets for our user-centred design graduate scheme – open for applications until 30 November!
  • Getting along to the weekly design huddle for the first time in a while. Sam’s spooky Hallowe’en presentation of a challenging piece of work was excellent.
  • Meeting former GDS Academy colleagues, Angela and Paul, along with Martin, the profession lead for project and programme delivery, to hear feedback from some training they’re delivering for NHS Digital people.

2. How did I uphold the NHS Constitution?

  • We’re soon to recruit for a senior role on one of the highest profile services that NHS Digital runs. This gives us a perfect opportunity to put into practice the organisation’s new approach to recruitment with equality, diversity, and inclusion on mind.

3. What connections did I make?

At the design huddle, I reflected on a couple of interactions – one with clinicians and the other with patient representatives – that have set me thinking about how we use people’s names in the NHS:

  • Clinicians use names, combined with other details such as NHS Number and date of birth, to identify patients. This demands that names be presented with no room for ambiguity and that information about patients with similar names never gets mixed up. Treating the right person, with the right person’s information, is imperative for clinical safety. As patients, we expect that too.
  • But names mean more than that to people. They’re a mark of respect. This week I’ve heard about a couple of cases where people can’t get healthcare professionals to call them by the names they prefer to go by in their everyday life.
  • A family member once came round from a general anaesthetic to hear nurses worriedly calling “Jean? Jean? She’s not responding.” She wasn’t responding because, while Jean is the first name on her birth certificate, she’s always been known by a middle name.
  • National health information systems do support storing a “preferred name” but it’s far from universally populated, displayed, or referred to in the multitude of digital services in use across the health service. What does that say about our priorities, in the light of our NHS Constitution commitment to maintain the highest standards of care and service, treating every individual with compassion, dignity and respect?

4. How did I make expectations clear?

  • I recorded a video for the delivery manager away day, which is coming soon. Sorry I cannot be there. I hope the assembled delivery managers will use their combined experiences and enthusiasms to move their practice forward.
  • I have been working on my own objectives for my new role. Without slavishly following the format, I’ve used a spreadsheet template for objectives and key results (OKRs). This helped me to link organisation, team and personal objectives together. I started with the strategies and standards that I work to – our Product Development directorate strategy, an early draft of the organisation’s people plan, and the Government Service Standard. This allowed me to create two sets of draft team objectives, one for the user-centred design team, and one for my wider profession group, asking for feedback on both from team members. Then I took a subset of those into my own personal objectives. I want to be really clear to myself and others about the things I will do personally, and the things I’m counting on others to pick up and make their own. When my objectives are clear, I’ll publish them on our Teams site, and stick them onto the user-centred design team wall.

5. What leadership teamwork did I see?

  • We had proper team meetings for both the user-centred design team and the profession practice leads this week. These teams don’t get together often enough, and every time they do, it gives our work new impetus.
  • In her last few days with NHS Digital, Helen, our directorate strategy lead, put together a draft agenda for a two-day strategy session in a couple of weeks’ time. We don’t often get our most senior people together, hopefully with few distractions, so a small group of us, including Ian who is picking up the strategy role, have to put in a lot of thought beforehand to make the most of it.
  • This week, the product development directorate leaders had to deal with the news that we’re losing our brilliant exec director, Wendy, to NHS Blood & Transplant. We’re all going to miss her, and it’s a silver lining that she is staying in the NHS. I’ve been undecided where in the weeknote to put this bit, because it loomed large over the whole of this week. I reckon “leadership teamwork” is the right place. I started asking myself this question to help me reflect on my Nye Bevan Programme learning outcomes about constructive teamwork and the behaviours associated with effective board leadership. Wendy has consistently been an inspiration and a role model for both those things.

6. What do I need to take care of?

  • I was really looking forward to working more with Wendy as part of her directorate leadership team. Now it’s up to us to keep up the sense of purpose, delivery track record, excellent relationships with NHSX colleagues, and an open environment where people can raise issues with leaders.
  • Sam’s presentation at the design huddle was a reminder that we need to support our designers and user researchers in pushing back on requirements that are not user-centred. Sometimes the people we need to persuade are outside our own organisation, so we also need to support the managers accepting that work, to make sure they accept commissions on the right terms.
  • We still have people going through a stressful time as part of organisation change. They need to be supported.
  • Prompted by last week’s “Management Matters” course, I’m trying to break a habit of procrastination replying to messages when I don’t think I have an easy answer. Sorry if you’re still waiting for a reply from me.
  • Parliament will be dissolved next week and a general election campaign will begin. I’m not quite sure what this means for these weeknotes, but along with many other public servants, I may go quiet for a few weeks. If so, normal service will be resumed on the other side.

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