Weeknote: 3 to 6 May 2022

A terrace of Arts and Crafts movement houses with small front gardens and privet hedge facing onto a road
Bank Holiday trip to Castleford to seek out these rare houses by Arts and Crafts architect CFA Voysey

Back to weeknotes after a short pause for the pre-election period. On Friday I reflected with colleagues that we’d packed a lot in, and it didn’t feel like a four-day working week. I spent 2 days in the office, including impromptu face-to-face meetings with colleagues, because we happened to be in on the same day. It’s nice to have that serendipity again.

What was hard?

Matthew announced that he’s stepping down as National Director for Digital Transformation at NHS England. We’d known for a while that this was on the cards, but I’ll still be sad to see him go. Matthew has been a great champion for user-centred design and the digital profession in health and care. I’ve personally learned a lot from his inclusive leadership style. The silver lining is that Matthew is sticking around for a little while longer to work on a special project covering the Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) area.

What did you enjoy?

Meeting Helen, the new Executive Director for Product Delivery at NHS Digital. I have a “dotted line” report to Helen as part of some transitional organisation changes. Helen’s first leadership meeting was a chance for everyone to introduce themselves and their areas of work. It’s a big portfolio, and I learned a lot from hearing everyone else’s introductions. I also reflected that compared to intro sessions for Helen’s predecessors in this role, there’s a much stronger voice for user-centred design around the virtual boardroom table now. I’m looking forward to working with Helen on the next stages of NHS transformation.

Brin, our head of transformation strategy for Digital UEC has run a couple of collaborative sessions to help the team explore the benefits that we’re seeking to deliver with our programme of work. I enjoyed the playful, visual, storytelling approach that Brin took to sharing this work with his colleagues.

What did you learn?

Learned helplessness, once embedded, takes time to turn around. One of our national platforms is not as good as it should be. As senior responsible owner, I know this, and have been signalling my support for improvements. In fact this platform accounts for the biggest single item of spend on my transformation budget this financial year. But clearly I need to do more to demonstrate that things have changed, because I still hear secondhand that no one cares about this platform.

What do you need to take care of?

Managing up! It’s less than 12 months since I moved full time into my digital UEC role, but in that time I’ve seen a complete clean sweep of new senior leaders in my reporting line, right up to the Secretary of State. I cannot assume that any of them knows why I applied for this job, why I was appointed, or the priorities my team are working towards.

There’s a workshop coming up this week on one of our pieces of work. I’m confident that we have the right people involved, and the right approach to running it. A couple of times I’ve had to remind colleagues that this is just one workshop as part of a long-running process. We don’t need this one session to answer all the questions, or get everyone agreeing about everything.

There are still one two things on my to-do list that I’m procrastinating about. I need to get on with them, and then have a proper think about why I find them hard to engage with.

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