I’m now at about 12 months into my role as Group Chief Digital Information Officer at the University Hospitals of Northamptonshire (Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals).
What has gone well?
- New Starters. Dan started in July 2021 to complete the full compliment of Exec-level digital leadership. Dan and Ian have been excellent colleagues and done so much to progress the digital agenda in the last 6 months.
- Securing Targeted Investment Funding (TIF). We speculatively put a number of bids in for national funding in October, all aimed to support elective recovery, expecting for many of them to be rejected, only to have 9 of the 10 bids accepted. We made a good start in putting things in place to have a good run at this in the first three months of 2022.
- Continuing to push against Racism. As Exec sponsor of the REACH networks at both hospitals, I’ve played a small part in keeping the topic of racism on the table in our Board discussions. I hosted a couple of sessions to talk about the book White Fragility that has been so implactful on me personally this year and I like to think those sessions have been motivating for others. So whilst this is in the “What has gone well” section, I’m really clear that we’ve got a long way to go to tackle the deep roots of racism in our society and therefore our organisations.
- Making Case for a Firebreak. During the course of the last 6 months, it became apparent that progress on the move to Power BI was not going to happen unless we took some decisive action to free up some of the team’s time. So we proposed a Firebreak for Health Intelligence — taking 12 weeks to dial down the work on ad-hoc reporting and focus on 8 dashboards in Power BI. That we were able to make the case is a testament to the regard and importance having good information to make decisions on is held in our organisations.
- Using Trusted Executive Dashboard. As part of my coaching sessions I’ve been using a tool that sets out my three work challenges, and the KPIs that I’m using to measure progress. It also has sections for Courageous Goals for Business, Personal and Wider Societal Contribution. This has been a really useful document to frame coaching sessions and actions I take on the back of them.
What have I struggled with?
- Breaking my collar bone. Not being able to cycle has been incredibly hard on me mentally and physically. When I broke it back in May 2021 I assumed that I’d heal in the 6-8 weeks typically quoted. But the continued lack of progress made me think at some points would I ever get better. I had over three months where I couldn’t drive and worked from home all the time.
- Organisational Change. I truly believe I’m doing the right thing to bring our teams from the two hospitals into a single Digital function, but it doesn’t make it easy.
- People Leaving the Digital Team. Kenny and Adrian, the Heads of Health Intelligence at KGH and NGH respectively left in July; Anna CAHPIO (Chief Allied Health Professional Information Officer) at KGH left in Autumn and then to cap the year off, Ian and Dione announced they were leaving. All the people have made great contributions to the Digital journey at both hospitals over the time with us and will be sorely missed.
- Learning the Group Digital Strategy isn’t embedded yet. It became apparent during the last few months that many colleagues in the Digital Directorate across our Group hadn’t read the Group Digital Strategy, and in turn comprehended their part in it. This has made me realise how much more conversations are needed with different teams on the Group Strategy and what it means to them.
- Progressing the ICS Digital Strategy. The current strategy we have is very outdated and a document I’ve always found confusing to read and uninspiring, so taking on the Digital Exec lead for the ICS was exciting to be able to put strategy together we can proudly stand behind. Sadly, despite some great discussions across the ICS, we’ve not made much progress in actually getting a first draft together.
What have I discovered about myself?
- Doing stuff I should delegate. When I got back from my extended holiday in the summer, I came back to a situation where the winter modelling work hadn’t got to a good position, so I ended up rolling up my sleeves and pitching in to help it get to a position where we could have confidence in the numbers. Over the next few months I did some of the updates, wrote the covering reports and even got into the fun of Monte Carlo modelling. I’ve got to say I really enjoyed the latter part as it was the nearest I’ve got to the deep intellectual challenge of writing software in a long time. But when I look back, I have to think was that the best use of my time? Should I have delegated it? Could I have spent that time on more strategic stuff? Could I have made sure we were more prepared for 2022 instead? A cold hard analysis would say I should have delegated it, so I need to be more concious of that in the future, but I can anticipate the struggle will continue, particularly as we enter the year with some gaps in certain roles (see above). There’s also something about my personality type that makes me dive into this stuff.
- Insights colours/Hogan. Talking of personality types, during the last 6 months, I did an Insights Colours exercise through my coaching arrangements and also did a review of my Hogan personality assessment.
My Colours Insight shows me to high on green and blue energies and be very similar at home and at work, which won’t surprise my family at all!
One of my strongest scores in the Hogan HDS report was being Dutiful — which “Concerns being eager to please and reluctant to act independently”. Interestingly, I’ve realised this over the years prior to this assessment and been keener to seek out people I call the squeaky wheels. It’s clear I need someone around me like that to be prepared to challenge my thinking where my tendency may be to go with the status quo.
What are the things I have appreciated?
- Great Colleagues. As we develop our Group Executive Management Team, we’ve been spending some time together, learning more about each other and working out how we’ll be most effective together. We had an away day in December where we shared our personal timelines which was one of the most powerful exercises I’ve ever done in any team I’ve been part of. We left the session feeling closer together. One of the books that impacted me in the last 6 months was Think Again by Adan Grant. One of the things that he talked about psychologically safe teams was the ability to attain relationship harmony yet still cope with task conflict. I certainly went away from those sessions feeling that was more attainable. Outside of the Group Executive I also have some superb colleagues, including Dan and Ian who are just brilliant.
- Breaking my collar bone. This might seem like an odd thing to say, given what I said above in that I’ve not been able to cycle for the majority of the last 6 months. However, I’ve tried to appreciate the things that my incapacity has forced. The first of these was in the early days, when I could only type with one hand or use dictation software. Just before breaking it, I’d had a moment I wrote about at 6 months where I’d hit full capacity, so being forced to slow down and be grateful for achieving anything in the day through the pain and lack of sleep was a useful lesson. When the pain reduced a bit I was able to at least walk, and I discovered a load of new footpaths on our doorstep, which was surprising as I’d thought I’d travelled them all during the first lockdown in 2020.
Update on some things I committed to do in my last reflection:
- Getting out into the hospitals more. I have managed to do a shadowing session on the KGH service desk. I’ve done ward visits at Naseby at KGH and Maternity at NGH. Still more to do on this front.
- Leveraging the Group. Progressing the Group structures for the senior digital team was a step forward in this area. We also signed up to BCS membership as a Group and this is a first step towards collective learning and development across the Group. We also saw some good expression of this last year during the heightened Log4j cyber awareness, where the teams worked brilliantly as a group entity.
- Make sure the new stuff all works together. This is the area of least progress I think. There’s so much foundational work needing still to take place and we’re not quite in the right place to bring the various components together quite yet and certainly not at a group level.
What will I work on over the next 6 months?
- Making Significiant progress on Groupwide Digital Function. The next 6 months will see us a good way through the next phase of the development of function that works across the whole of the Group. There’s some more work to do to get the final senior posts appointed to which will help this.
- Developing the ICS Digital Strategy. My plan is that we have an agreed ICS Digital Strategy and be on our way to an agreed three year ICS Digital Transformation Plan.
- Building the new Digital Leadership team. Spending time to build the new leadership team across the Group. Reflecting the changes that have happened and making sure achieve pschological safety to equip us for the challenges ahead.
- Getting TIF Schemes over the line. In the first half of the next 6 months, lots of energy will be spent getting the Targeted Investment Fund schemes delivered before the 31 March 2022 deadline.