Weeknotes: 19 to 23 October 2020

Painted inscription on a wall: "The Romans cause a wall to be built for the protection of the South"
Caption from murals at Wallington, which I visited during my week off

Back to weeknoting after a hiatus when my time was consumed with other things. Thanks to Rachel for the nudge I needed to get back into the habit.

What inspired me this week?

  • All the stuff that happened while I was on leave the week before! I took a whole week off, confident in the knowledge that our team objectives would keep moving ahead in my absence. It’s great to work with a team that shares a sense of purpose and has the capability to just get on with things.
  • Dean’s follow-up blog post ‘Building a diverse design team… a year later‘. Lots of progress, lots more still to do.
  • A request from a former colleague who now works in another organisation for suggestions on digital accessibility. We don’t know it all, but I’m proud of the team that has built up this practice in NHS Digital, to the point where others now look to us for advice.
  • A show and tell for a digital learning platform being built by another bit of the NHS. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they’re using our open source NHS.UK Frontend as the basis for re-factoring their service to make it fully responsive and accessible.

How can I see that user-centred design is making a difference?

  • I joined a panel at the HETT Virtual conference about human-centred design in health and social care, expertly chaired by Roz from mHabitat. I hope it wasn’t too boring to watch because we were all in violent agreement about the importance of making this a movement, and connecting with other communities that are also looking to make health and care more people-driven.
  • Inside our Product Development directorate, Rochelle has done some great work to collate the different dashboards that teams are producing with measures of their users’ experiences. We’re going to see if we can come up with a common, lightweight format, recognising that every service is different, so while there may be some shared metrics, there will also be measures unique to each team’s specific outcomes.
  • I recorded a short video for our content community, part of the Digital Services Delivery profession that I lead, in which I talked about the important of the content roles as part of user-centred design. Content people on your multi-disciplinary team make services more understandable to end users, and therefore more successful.  They can also bring their super-powers to bear on the team’s internal communications, in the way they tell the story of delivery for colleagues and stakeholders.
  • A big part of our Product Development strategy is about improving our agile engineering practices. At a strategy show and tell, I presented jointly with Andy, the directorate’s head of engineering, to talk about the benefits of being able to release working software much more frequently. My challenge to user-centred design and product management colleagues is not to think of this as solely an engineering issue: as the team’s delivery cadence increases, we have a massive opportunity to rethink how we research, design and prioritise our work to better meet user needs and deliver outcomes.

How did I uphold the NHS Constitution?

The NHS works across organisational boundaries

  • Rochelle chaired a fortnightly meet-up of our Coronavirus User-centred Design community. The idea is to regularly convene the many different teams working in different national organisations on Covid-19-related NHS services. As ever, useful connections made between people working to make sure that everything we deliver will meet user needs, as individual services and when we link them all together to form whole user journeys.

What did I do to understand the barriers to accessing our services?

  • A couple of calls with Misaki and others who are working to make our profession more inclusive, and to make sure that all our colleagues consider equalities in their work.
  • I ran my finger down the hundreds of risks in our organisation’s risk register to see how many related to equalties and barriers to access in our products. I’ve started a conversation about whether we need to do more to highlight these risks and make sure we mitigate them appropriately.

How am I developing leaders and leadership?

  • In my role as profession lead, I’ve been advising on roles that might be offered as “acting up” opportunities for colleagues who are ready for promotion. These can be a good way to recognise and develop our talent. We need to make sure they’re offered fairly, with clarity about what happens when any temporary assignments come to an end.

What do I need to take care of?

  • Some of our teams are still working in conditions of uncertainty about their remits and scope. Lack of clarity between teams and organisations can often translate into lack of clarity in the user experience. Unless we sort these out, our services won’t be as good as they could be.
  • It’s half term for many families, so my team is going to be thin on the ground. I’ll be covering for a few people. I hope I do their work justice while they’re away enjoying well-deserved breaks.
  • Next week, I’m also excited to be welcoming our new associate delivery manager for the user-centred design team. I hope that having someone in this role will help us to work in a more structured way, and practice what we preach about agile teamwork.
  • I need to find the balance between sending others to tell our user-centred design story versus being there to do it myself. Having a capable team and senior level advocates is great, but sometimes I think I need to get involved just a little bit more, especially in the most high-level discussions.
  • Probably a topic for its own whole blog post: I’m reflecting on my home working privilege and how the move to remote-first work has changed how I make an impact in my organisation, and the wider NHS. As someone based outside London, there’s lots of good in this change for me personally. For the last 20 years of my career, I’ve worked in and with organisations where decision-making tended to be very capital-city-centric. With the constraints of place at least temporarily removed, how do we readjust so that everyone’s voice is in the virtual rooms, including those who don’t have such a solid home-working set-up as I do?

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