Weeknote 17th March 2023

Rochelle Gold
4 min readMar 18, 2023

What did I do to make a difference this week

This week was a short week as I took 3 days off to use up annual leave. That said, I managed to pack quite a bit into those 2 days that I was at work.

I led a team of senior UCD folk to collaboratively plan and deliver a session on user centred design in the new operating model. The session was for people across the organisation to understand what we mean by UCD and how it looks in the new world. I chaired the session which was attended by around 230 people, specifically keeping the presentation time to a minimum to make sure there a good chunk of the session could be led by the queries people had and meet the needs of the audience. The presentation generated some good conversation and some great questions. We could have continued way beyond the 1 hour slot we allocated and we need to create more opportunities for people to attend similar sessions as we move through the organisational changes.

I delivered a similarly structured session on user research to our behavioural science colleagues where I covered user research in practice and spent time discussing how the two areas can deliver work greater than the sum of their parts. This and other meetings we are all attending should help to generate closer working and link ups between the work we all do.

This week was neurodiversity celebration week and I attended an online international event on building neurodiversity friendly workplaces. I am really grateful for the speakers for sharing their lived experience which gave me greater insight into what I can do to improve my workplace.

I met with one of our Exec Directors about inclusive design to gain insight into their needs and their understanding of the barriers to delivery of our work. This sparked a conversation about the impact of how we ‘brand’ and talk about our work. It also provided me with some good insight about a meeting I have coming up which has helped with my strategy on how to manage it.

This week also generated an invaluable opportunity to get a very senior NHS stakeholder observing user research. This may well happen next week.

What I need to do to make more of a difference

We need more UCD sessions for colleagues across the business so that people have the space and time with UCD leadership. I need to make sure that my UCD leadership colleagues and I are as visible as we can be to the community and available to them for the support they need when they need it.

I’ve talked before in my weeknotes about how UCD folk shouldn’t be or shouldn’t be seen to be the people that police ways of working. We are part of the product team and one of the facilitators of quickly delivering shared objectives. We are not always perceived by colleagues that way and there is a need for some focussed work on changing perceptions and almost a ‘rebranding’ of our work. UCD folk in our organisation have depth of knowledge of the service standards and how to work to them. When working in teams that have less developed knowledge we are often coaching or mentoring the team on the service standard. I think this is where perceptions of our role puts our UCD folk at risk of being seen as ‘other’ or outside the team. Yes, we are responsible for the standard of the UCD work that is conducted but the team has a shared responsibility to work to the standards expected of them by the organisation and those that oversee its work. Our assurance colleagues do service standard assurance, our UCD folk are part of the oil in the team that enables the work to be easily assured.

This also extends to me and my role. I am an SME in the internal assurance process. This means I am there to support the organisation to work in a way that meets the standard. I oil the wheels to help them turn in a way that makes it easy to be assured. This can put me in a position where my work can sometimes be seen as a blocker when in reality what I am trying to do is smooth the way so that we can continue our work and keep getting the funding that enables us to do it. I need to think about how I can make sure that this part of my role is better understood by those I am here to help.

I also need to help our organisation to understand the difference between public and patient voice work and user research, how policies designed for one may not meet the needs of the other and how it risks the delivery of our products if we treat them the same.

Next week

  • Submit feedback on future operating model
  • Start to outline new UCD ops infrastructure work
  • Time with Eva in the office — hopefully involving more whiteboards and post its
  • End of year checkpoints
  • User research leadership community
  • Cangene Canvar programme day in London as part of my voluntary work as a patient voice representative.

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Rochelle Gold

Head of User Research and User Centred Design @NHS England (formerly NHS Digital). Views my own.