10th July to 29th July mammothnote

Some of the things that happened

I spoke at the NHS Digital Full Digital Breakfast — Let’s talk user-centred design — 15 July 2021 — YouTube I was on the panel with other UCD colleagues and also the executive director of product development and the deputy CEO of NHSx. We all spoke about the value of working in a user centred way and how this enabled us to deliver during the pandemic. I also attended a review of discovery work to support the procurement of a service at which the programme head said ‘ user research de-risks procurement’ which was then followed by the programme director agreeing and saying it ‘de-risks the corporate position.’ Having spent the past 6 years working with colleagues to build the case and advocating for working in a human centred service design way, hearing others advocate for and talk about its value reminded me how far we have come. It is easy to forget when you are in the thick of things.

I went to our new office for my induction to the building and to pick up my new pass. It felt strange to be going to the office and even stranger to have to look up the address for where I worked. I felt more comfortable to be back in the office than I thought I might, not least because there was a heat wave and it was air conditioned. There were not many people there and we were all socially distanced, but I had a full tour including seeing the rooms where our user research labs will be. Whilst I know there is no expectation to return to work in the office at the moment, it is good to know that I can access the building and work there if and when I choose to. I also had my first face to face work meeting that day when I met up with Kathyrn outdoors in a local park which was also something that felt like a good next step. Catching up with someone in real life in a way that feels safe for everyone is something I think I will try to do more of.

Related to this, I have also been reiterating our organisational stance on face-to-face user research. Given the lifting of restrictions, it is something that researchers are asking about. Our default is still to be remote. We need to balance the risk to researcher and participant, the value of the data and the need to use face-to-face methods to get it. We have an ethical duty to consider and mitigate this risk. We have criteria to review potential exceptions, and there may be some, but these need to be carefully considered by an experienced lead user researcher to make sure they are safe, in-line with ethical practice and necessary.

We had our first Heads of Product Development community meeting where we come together as heads of design, user research, engineering and product to drive the maturity of the directorate in these areas, build capability and uphold standards of practice. As part of this work I have also been spending a lot of time reviewing and discussing target staffing models, dealing with recruitment and then working as a matchmaker for people, roles and products. It often feels like one of those puzzles with a square missing where it makes a whole picture but you have to keep moving different squares around to solve it. Other aspects that contribute to maturity is standardising and articulating what user researchers do so I have been working with Claire in our learning and development team to match our user research job description to SFIA competencies.

I met with Jackie who showed me a brilliant example of the value of working in a user centred service design way within a complex system of products and linked her in with a number of people who I thought should hear about it too. I heard Amy talk to our user research community about some equally brilliant work that she has been doing with Nancy H and Henry on inclusive design that I think needs shouting about. I then shouted about it (not literally) to Ben who has got behind it to move it forward. I also showed it to colleagues at the covid UCD community meet up who were equally impressed.

I met with colleagues from another health and care arm’s length body who are just starting up their user research capability and wanted advice on the specifics of user research in health. I have shared a number of our resources and templates with them. This was just one of a few meetings that I or our research ops team have had where we are supporting others across the health and care system to develop user research and research operations capability. It is hard work setting up user research capabilities from scratch and in places which are new to the concept of user centred design. One of the particularly difficult things in health is that healthcare is quite rightly always based on research evidence. People are on board with ensuring there is a robust evidence base but their mental model of what that means comes from research such as clinical research studies that focus on clinical outcomes, rather than user research to understand problems that people experience in accessing or providing care and test ways that to solve them. Both are important and complement each other but it is often easier to get user research understood, utilised and practiced to standard in an organisation where other types of research are not embedded.

I again stepped out onto the other side of the conversation and put my patient and public involvement rep hat on. It was again in relation to the CanGene VarCan study and was a meeting about how we can ensure the study is inclusive. It is another occasion where my job and my personal voluntary work have enhanced each other and I have been able to create links that enable everyone to make their work more inclusive.

What made me think

My goal of a weeknote rather than a fortnight or month note was scuppered by a double bubble burst which mean that at least one or both of my children were isolating. Family comes first so any capacity to think never mind freely write up my thoughts went to year 2 and year 4 maths and English work. Since they have been ‘set free’ and I have more head space, I have been reflecting on the impact on me when I have less time to reflect and how I can carve out more time to do it.

Some of my plans for next week

Business continuity plan development

Coffee with Emma

Directorate organisational design work

Finalise SFIA competency work

Planning session with Tero

Head of User Research @NHS Digital. Views my own.