This is what I’ve been working on in my new job:
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) February 19, 2019
— NHSX (@NHSX) February 19, 2019
With a fancy announcement in the House of Commons and everything!
It has been a lot of work – and I’m obviously not the only person involved – so I wanted to explain some of the lessons I learned along the way.
Working in the open sometimes sucks*
*When you don’t have the answers
I’m a true-believer when it comes to working in the open and talking about our work. But that can cause frustration. If you’re in a meeting and someone says “what does this mean for my job?” or “which exact things will it do?” or “when will this happen?” – you need an answer. We were sometimes in the unfortunate position of saying, genuinely, “we don’t know.”
Some people prefer certainty to ambiguity.
That’s stressful for all concerned but, I believe, it is a price worth paying. Let people know what you do and don’t know. Get them used to working in a changeable environment.
(Don’t) ignore the haters
Whenever you launch something a little different, people will love telling you that your priorities are wrong, that the way you’re doing things is stupid, and that you are literally evil. Most of these people will be wrong. But not all of them.
Check in with your moral compass as to whether you think you’re behaving ethically. Talk to your colleagues to see whether you are being stupid. Ignore the people flinging nothing but abuse – their lack of humanity isn’t yours to fix.
You can’t do everything
Every five minutes before launch, I was asked if we could add “just one more thing.”
Every five minutes after launch, I was asked if we could… well, you get the picture!
Sometimes you have to say no. Or, at least, “that’s an interesting idea, let’s pick it up later.”
When seemingly everyone wants to hook on to your launch, you need to be selective. Even on ideas you really like. A launch has to be pretty lean. And that can piss off people.
Talk to people
I know it is pretty obvious. But stepping away from the Internet and chatting with real people is an excellent way to test your ideas.
You don’t know everything. Well, I certainly don’t know everything. Talk to people with more experience than you.
You can’t do that
If the Ministry-of-No steps in, it is mostly OK to over-rule them – as long as you’re prepared to take responsibility for any disasters.
Most people are interested in protecting themselves – that’s only natural – so you have to calibrate your risk tolerance against theirs.
Have a drink when it’s over
At the end of the beginning, it’s OK to take a break, gather the team, have some drinks, chocolates, and generally toast your hard work.
Remember, you’re not drinking to the work done, but for the journey yet to be taken. This is where the real work starts.