Weeknote: 27 to 31 March 2023

Mould for a ceramic tile with indented square featuring a sailing boat design. The tile is in a museum display case between a metal jug and metal tin
Private view at Lotherton Hall

What did I learn?

In a team “away day” in the Canary Wharf office with our executive director, Helen, and other members of her senior leadership team, we took some time at the start to listen to Professor Geoff Bird from the University of Oxford, before thinking together about the strengths in our team, and how we work together.

I dipped into the NHS England Public Participation team’s #StartWithPeople Spring Event. With re-structures and financial year end dragging us into organisational self-absorption, it’s both important and refreshing to spend time hearing the voices of the people we’re all here to serve.

A couple of days later this thought-provoking article popped up in my timeline: Speaking truth to power: why leaders cannot hear what they need to hear.

What did I enjoy?

On Thursday evening, the private view for new exhibitions at Lotherton Hall, where my wife Caroline is a curator. Over the past few months I’ve had some insight into how much work has gone into opening up a new space in the museum, and putting together a display of arts and crafts objects from loans and the city’s own collection. Obviously I’m biased, but it’s well worth a visit.

A one-to-one with a colleague in the Digital Urgent and Emergency Care team. I wanted to hear what they really wanted out of work, and the kind of team they enjoyed being a part of. We talked about some specific things we need to focus on for the part of the team that they lead.

I caught up on my 2 Hours Every 6 Weeks with a couple of user research sessions run by the 111 online team. As ever, there were things that surprised me, and it was a timely reminder that – all-encompassing though the NHS may be – patients are always making choices about whether and how to seek help with their health, and from whom.

Later in the week, I enjoyed seeing designers from a number of our teams in a sketching workshop along with strategy colleagues as we try to broaden the range of possibilities for how digital could play a part in navigation and access to NHS services in the future.

What was hard?

As we continue to bring teams together from the old NHS England and the old NHS Digital, I saw divergent expectations about how much clarity one team can expect from another. There’s a risk of teams that work in a constant state of change and ambiguity being held to an impossibly high standard, or that other teams may delay engaging as they wait for a level of certainty that will never arrive.

We reached the financial year end with processes for the new year still changing around us. That meant a series of very last minute requests to enable some important work to continue. Besides the management attention this consumed, it also impacted on some colleagues who felt  their governance was unfairly portrayed as “non-compliant” even though they had done everything that was asked of them by their organisation’s leaders at the time.

What do I need to take care of?

On a one-to-one with a colleague, we reflected on how work is slowed down by the unspoken fears that people bring from the legacy organisations’ cultures. No matter how much we may want to move of from them, past experiences in different contexts will continue to overshadow us unless we make those fears explicit.

“Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company” – W. Edwards Deming

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