Weeknote: 7 to 11 November 2022

View across wide footpath next to muddle Thames waterside. In the distance are city of London skyscrapers
Three days in London this week. The Tube strike got me travelling above ground

What did I enjoy?

Helen, Lara, and I presented to an advisory group of NHS England and NHS Digital exec and non-exec directors about the shift we’re making to a product mindset across our new organisation. We had a good discussion and an encouraging response. It’s always helpful to hear how our most senior decision-makers are looking at the challenges we face. The meeting was “hybrid” but my decision to be there in person was amply rewarded by a couple of really helpful corridor conversations as we debriefed outside the meeting room.

The following day we had a run-through of work on our new directorate operating model with the directors who lead each of the portfolio areas. Every area is different, but there are some common team types and themes that are helping us to shape a coherent proposal overall.

What was hard?

The timelines for the operating model work remain incredibly challenging. Everyone is doing their best but inevitably things are getting missed. I felt personally responsible for the failure to press through one decision about how we work with another directorate, leaving a colleague to pick that up quite late in the day. And there was confusion between central and portfolio area design leads about what information would be needed when, which led to unnecessary extra stress. I’m confident in the overall process we’re following, and feel well supported in that, but the pace means we’re often playing catch-up when communicating with our colleagues and other teams.

What did I learn?

This week has really brought home to me the importance of creating a psychologically safe space for teams working on organisation change. That’s a hard thing to do when time is tight and numbers of roles are being reduced. I’m lucky to be working with a group of committed and experienced professionals who have a shared vision of the organisation we’re creating. Every day we’re having to balance between what’s urgent in the timetable for change and what’s important about the quality of the proposals we put forward. The safe space also has to extend to the wider community of leaders and line managers whose words and actions will influence how well their teams adapt to new circumstances.

What do I need to take care of?

In the coming week I’m going to pay special attention to how I talk about other leaders and teams. In times of stress it’s easy to casually shift the blame for some of the pressures we face, but this only undermines the mutual trust and respect we need to deliver effectively. Ultimately this is an operational efficiency measure: inefficiency mushrooms when people aren’t trusted to do their jobs, leading to second-guessing of decisions, and senior leaders micro-managing delivery that more junior colleagues are very capable of leading autonomously.

Having been largely absent from the Digital Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) portfolio while leading on the operating model work, I’m keen to get back into UEC work if not this week then the week after. We’ve been quite successful in securing agreement for a new way of working, and I’m determined that my own portfolio will be among the areas that put it into practice to make things better for patients and frontline staff.

Follow me on Mastodon

This week my Mastodon community reached a tippng point as more than half of my “favourite people” list from Twitter were now signed up somewhere in the fediverse. This feels like a good time to commit to posting mainly on my Mastodon feed. You can find my profile, with a verified link back to my blog, at @mattedgar@mastodon.me.uk

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