Chris Witham

Weeknotes s02e09

Posted by: Chris Witham - Posted on:

TL:DR; Great time with participants, support for European colleagues, information spaghetti.

[week ending: 04/03/2022]

3 missed weeks of #Weeknotes. Interesting that I continue the reflection and thinking about what I’d write, even if I don’t type it.

The good

On Wednesday this week I joined cohort 36 of the Nye Bevan programme to share my staff story as part of their first residential. I always value days when I get to work first hand with our participants. As well as supporting their development, I always get some good take aways for myself and I find it useful reflective time. If you are an NHS patient or member of staff, we’re looking for more people to share their stories and experience with participants on our programmes, do get in touch.

After a few things felt like they had stalled last week, lots of people were back from annual leave this week and we picked up the pace again. I’ve been doing quarterly conversations and personal development plan updates with my team. It’s been a good opportunity to celebrate the successes of the last year and start to plan out the work for next year in more detail. Business plans and budgets are still being finalised, but our objectives for the next 3 months are becoming clearer and I’m really excited about some of the work we’ve got coming up.

It’s been the second week of Fairtrade Fortnight this week. Rachel my wife has had her popup Fairtrade shop running in our house and it’s been great to join in with chocolate and coffee tasting sessions around work. I spent some distraction free time on Sunday evening writing up my report for the annual report and our team’s monthly performance report so that I could take some time out of Monday to see mum and dad as they called in on their way home from holiday. I really value being able to flex my work schedule and do my work when my mind is in the best headspace. I’m also pleased that we’re going to be publishing our annual report as HTML first (a microsite) and not as a PDF this year. I’m hoping we’ll be able to improve accessibility through this and open up the report to a wider audience in a more engaging way.

Our work on Learning Record Stores seems to have chimed with projects elsewhere across the NHS and Government so it has been great to see my team making connections outside of our organisation that will improve our overall products. We’ve established terms of reference for a cross teams web development group and a group specifically to look at accessibility across all of our learning content. I have high hopes for both these groups. We’re fostering more collaborative ways of working and this will improve our overall user experience.

A carpet of purple crocuses on a grassy bank under a large chestnut tree with a bright blue sky behind.
11 miles walked this week. No cycling. Not been feeling on top form and struggling to get up in the mornings.

The bad

I don’t think anyone could get through this week without being distracted somewhat by the disturbing events in Ukraine. Waking up to the news that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was terrifying from my bed in the UK. I struggle to comprehend how this would be for those in Ukraine despite the glimpses I’ve seen on the twitter timelines of people I’ve met at conferences. I’ve tried to ensure we support all our colleagues through this, especially those with direct connections to Eastern Europe. A number of team members have family in Poland who have been supporting refugees and it has been hard to see the UK Government’s approach of closing ourselves off.

I had a wonderful virtual coffee with one of our Russian colleagues this week. I was very grateful for their time and to hear their perspective. Since the sanctions on Russia started to be implemented, I’ve been thinking about how ordinary people, who have no connection to Putin and don’t agree with his actions, will be impacted. From our discussion, it was really interesting to learn how connected the Russian and Ukranian people are. I hadn’t appreciated this before, nor heard it mentioned in the media. What is taking place is akin to England invading Wales, where families exist either side of the border and in many ways, feel like one people. Living close to the border with many Welsh friends and family, this added to the horror of the situation. I’m committed to supporting our colleagues through this and I think we need to be especially careful that we support our Russian colleagues. This isn’t Russia against the world, this is Putin and his closest allies against everyone.

The ugly

The year end is bringing about a lot of process stuff. All good and necessary, but in many cases, so hard to find your way through. Secondments need finishing or extending, finances need bringing to conclusions, budgets and business plans need submitting. And other business continues, software needs ordering, access rights need amending, new equipment is needed. Several times this week I’ve tried to find processes on our intranet. I’ve been directed to NHS Futures, found I’m not in the right group so need to join, been directed back to the intranet, to Sharepoint sites I don’t have access to. I’ve found out of date information, email address that aren’t answered and many dead ends. It’s draining. And then a few days later, I get an email asking me to confirm why I requested access to a group, but I have no idea which one it was! I frequently talk about technical debt in my role, but I’ve been pondering this week what the information equivalent is? Maybe my content friends can enlighten me? Information architecture debt? I don’t know what the answer is, and to some extent, this isn’t my work and I risk stepping on toes. But it’s important and there are big benefits to be realised if we can get some of this stuff right and help people to suceed in processes first time, everytime. How would you try to influence this? Is it a technical problem with the publishing tools being provided? A problem in skills or capacity in managing the information? Poor information architecture and process design? Or a victim of high staff turnover and ever changing policies?

Noteable conversations

  • Talking to colleagues about the situation in Ukraine.
  • Team appraisals.

Things I’m reading and watching

  • Lots of stuff about audio on the Raspberry Pi. I’m trying to create a solution for our town council where we could remotely play audio in our town centre from a remote office location. I’ve tried HiFiBerry, Volumio, OSMC and Moode. Combined, they have everything I need, but I can’t find a single solution that does what I need. I’ve enjoyed digging into some more technical stuff in my spare time this week and getting back to a bit of solution development work. I’ve also learnt a huge amount about 100V sound systems!

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