Weeknote: 9 to 13 November 2020

Fire bowl with fire, gazebo with coloured fairy lights, and a bottle of prosecco on a table between garden seating
An autumn lockdown treat: we cooked Saturday evening dinner over an open fire in the garden

What inspired me this week?

  • This brilliant video featuring some of my NHS Digital colleagues…

  • Tero’s post on Apolitical: Design is the strategy
  • More workshops with colleagues from Primary Care. This week it felt as if the team got into their stride, and found a good way of structuring conversations about a knotty challenge that we’ve collectively been set by leaders in the national NHS organisations.
  • Peter, our team’s new delivery manager, made suggestions to reshape our Trello board and change the fortnightly cycle of meetings. I’m really pleased he’s here and helping us to use agile principles to work together in a more structured way.
  • We had a lunch and learn session for Product Development directorate staff from Matthew Skelton, author of “Team Topologies”. Matthew’s talk was great, and very timely as teams are thinking about how they can increase delivery cadence and get to a more dependable state of flow.

What feedback did I give?

  • A first meeting of the new internal assurance board where Rochelle and I will be representing user-centred design.
  • Several sessions with sub-directorate leaders to review the mix of skills they need for the future. As profession lead, I’m especially interested to make sure we have the right levels of product management, delivery management and user-centred design capability in all parts of the directorate.
  • One-to-ones with a couple of user-centred design leads, who are making great progress in difficult circumstances. It can be hard to balance between delivery commitments and working towards the bigger picture of establishing our UCD culture, especially when everyone’s working remotely. These two are both doing it brilliantly.

What connections did I make?

  • An action I set myself after completing the Nye Bevan Programme was to consider applying for a non-executive director role that I could do in parallel with my work at NHS Digital. I’m therefore delighted to be joining the board of Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association. I had a couple of introductory sessions with members of the exec team and board, and then joined part of their staff conference. So far everyone I’ve spoken to has been committed, customer-focused, and really good at connecting what they do to the organisation’s social purpose.
  • Taking on this additional role is a 2-way thing for me. I hope I’ll be able to bring my experience to support the team at LYHA, but also that working with them will keep me grounded in the world beyond the NHS. A safe, warm and affordable home is one of the most important social determinants of health.

How am I developing leaders and leadership?

  • I had a lovely Friday afternoon chat with Anne Cooper for her Leadership Quest podcast. I’ve no idea how the recording will turn out, but I certainly enjoyed the conversation and Anne’s gentle questioning about design, leadership, and how we can make health and care more user-centred.

What do I need to take care of?

  • One of the things I discussed with Anne was the joy of knowing when not to intervene as a manager. When teams are facing challenges, they usually know the solutions better than me, and are better placed than me to argue for them. I worry that sometimes when they’re facing tricky situations, I could back them up more. I need to make sure no one feels as if I’m avoiding conflict when they need to me to step in. I hope they’d tell me if that was happening, in time for me to do something about it.

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