Being in different offices different parts of the week is helping me stay grounded and connected to the team as much as I can. The opportunity to lead the organisation wide senior leaders call with my boss this month was brilliant, giving digital a meaningful voice at the largest of tables. The interest is clear across the whole organisation in all things digital and this means we still are being given the opportunity to transform this amazing business we are part of.

It’s the start of a new week, so a nice time to reflect just a little on what it means to try to achieve what we are here to do.

I was recommended a podcast over the weekend an interview with local NHS CEO Matthew Trainer, it was an hour well spent. I especially loved what he had to say about leading with optimism;

“Cynicism is a cheap way to establish yourself as knowledgeable, a way that is incredibly destructive”.

It got me thinking about our organisation and how we can be a bit cynical (by design) sometimes, particularly when we are trying to plan for the future. As we step through the 2024/25 planning process and look even further into the future it is easy to be a little less positive about what we can do, it feels hard doesn’t it to plan for things we can not yet see, but it is so necessary as well. Securing how we make a difference has to be a focus over the next few weeks and maintaining the optimum amount of positivity balanced with reality is going to be how we get this right.

It is often said that when it comes to planning digital people have a positivity bias, we think we can achieve everything! I know personally that I do have that bias, a positive outlook on the world is, I think the best way for me to be. I like the positivity we bring to sessions on the future, that art of the possible balances the somewhat cynical nature of our business when it comes to considerations about change, and I guess my ask is that even in the face of a fear of change we somehow try to maintain this. I think it has to be a digital leader’s trait as it is key to building engagement.

Spending time with some of our apprentices last week certainly gave me a reason to be positive. Seeing how they want to change the world as they learn and grow in the roles they have landed in helped me maintain that belief still further, what we do can make a difference.

There is a phrase that is often quoted in digital healthcare planning;

‘The most dangerous phrase in the English language is, we’ve always done it this way.’

This is attributed to rear admiral Grace Hopper as she tried so hard to make change happen in the US Navy.

In digital healthcare transformation the quote was often wheeled out to point out that the need for growth and change has always been there and just because the status quo is long established it doesn’t mean its right. The same can be said for the ‘we tried that before and… ‘ quote too! In the late 00s as healthcare had its ‘turn’ in digital investment these barriers were hard to be broken down, eventually it was realised that actually these were THE barriers to breakdown and the investment, no matter how huge it was, would not make a difference until the people part of change was cracked.

So why am I wittering on about healthcare (again) I can hear some of you saying.

For me in my organisation it feels like we have the opportunity that took health so long to seize because of the attitude the team brings to how we work and the vision we have of a future with what we do at its core. I think the most exciting thing we will do between now and the end of April is collectively define what ‘Digital First’ is at DWP. That is exciting because we set off wanting to do this together with our business and for me that means we build a new engagement unlike anything we have done before.

As we build the engagement we need to make the equation…


… work for us. Its probably the hardest part of the planning process right now, to define how we deliver a change for what cost and have some degree of surety about the benefit that change will make. The timeline to do this needs to be shorter and shorter and not because we want any kind of thanks now in 2024, no the reason it needs to be shorter is because our department, the whole department, is here to support a group of people whose needs get heightened more and more and it is part of our job to help each and every one of them.

A brilliant friend of mine in my old job had a phrase that he implored digital to adopt always,

“Better for customers, more efficient for our business and simpler for our colleagues!”

As a none IT person in an IT function he had a vision that we were there to achieve these three goals, it just so happened that we could do that with technology. As we set that Digital First view I am quite attracted to that being at its core if we can make it so.

Cost predictions are hard aren’t they, particularly when we look at inflationary pressure on what we do and the ever changing IT partner landscape. When we relate this back to our optimism we know we need to be careful. One of the hardest things I am finding now that I really am onboard in my role  is how we judge the team size we need and how we find the talent to achieve the goals. One of the most common questions I get from other digital professionals is what makes people want to work in your organisation. It was raised quite vehemently on one of the apprentice calls last week too. Is it salary, mission, opportunity, culture, or some secret sauce of all of these.

We know you can work in other digital roles and likely earn more, possibly in a tech firm you will get to be involved in more width of digital but I don’t think anywhere else offers what we do as far as being able to know why we are here and to work together on that mission makes Monday morning easier than so many other places. So, as we head into March and as I head into being in my role ten whole months I guess the key is I think we have a positive outlook on what is coming next. We know it’s hard but together we can achieve so much, so very much.