Weeknote: 28 November to 2 December 2022

View from train, modern blocks of flats seen beyond electric wires and gantrys
To London by train on Friday

What was hard?

I was hit by a bad cold for most of this week, which was a terrible week to be below par due to important deadlines in the operating model work. To be fair, when I read back over my weeknotes, almost every week for the last 2 months has had important deadlines for the operating model work, and no doubt there will be more to come. I shouldn’t feel bad about taking an afternoon away from my computer to sleep it off, and I hope any of my team would feel able to do the same. Once again, colleagues were working late to make sense of incomplete data, and I would have liked to have been more present to support them.

What did I enjoy?

By Friday, I had recovered enough to make a trip to London for a meeting of senior leaders from the new NHS England Transformation Directorate. (I was going to call it an “off site” but as a distributed team split across many locations, I’m not sure what “on site” would even mean.) It was good to be in the same room as colleagues old and new, including some I had not met in person. Together we began to reflect a little on the culture we all find ourselves embedded in, and how we will navigate the bringing together of our teams as part of the new NHS England. I enjoyed this space to pause and reflect together amid the never-ending rush of the last few weeks.

What did I learn?

As part of the introductory activity at the “off site” we were asked to pick from a deck of cards about the things that motivate us to do what we do in the NHS. One of the cards I picked was marked “delusions of grandeur” – a reminder that anyone privileged to work in a senior role at the centre of England’s national health service needs to guard against hubris, given the scale of the challenges that confront our whole service.

What do I need to take care of?

The confidentiality required in corporate reorganisation means that many colleagues have to wait for formal consultation to find out what changes are proposed. This process exists to ensure everyone is treated fairly, and to give our trade unions and staff representatives a chance to see proposals before they’re put out for wider consultation. But inevitably it creates a distance between a group of insiders who have more pieces of the jigsaw, and the rest of the team who don’t. I want to close that distance in the meantime by meeting with teams and individuals and being as open as I can about the principles and reasons for the change, even if I am not able to share all the details. The time for those conversations is easily squeezed out, and I’m worried that people don’t feel able to ask for me or another director to come to their team meeting, or for a one-to-one chat to talk about concerns. Next week, I will renew my offer to spend time with teams and individuals, and try to protect the time for that if I am invited.

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