Another month gone. It’s a cliche, but it really has just disappeared - I’m sure New Year was only a few weeks ago. But that means it’s time for another month note.


Lots of moving pieces this month in my health board role.

Started out with our Partnerships, Population Health and Planning Committee (PPHPC), looking at everything from regional plans for Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics and Diagnostics through to updates on the winter Flu/Covid vaccination plan.

Ended with the People and Culture Committee (PCC), looking at ‘agile working’ (aside: I hate this term - essentially how we make it possible for people to work from where they need to), through to revalidation of licensed doctors.

The Executive are deep in the development of the annual ‘Integrated Medium Term Plan’ (IMTP) - which sets out our plan/milestones/actions for the next 1-3 years - and we’ve had a few sessions on this over the month. 2024/5 is going to be difficult year for everyone given the financial situation and waiting lists.

I got to visit a potential new office building that would allow us to bring various ‘back-office’ Health Board teams together for the first time. It was great to hear from the leaders of the teams that might be based there about how the space could be designed to support them do their jobs better.

Last week I spent a bit of time with some of the Digital and Technology team talking about how we might expose more of their work to the Board and provide assurance in ways that don’t require written papers and allows them to celebrate success as much as highlight issues.

I’m starting to see influence on the board having a bit of impact: the IMTP will have some clearer prioritisation and connections between activities; we’re talking about some new approaches to governance; and some individuals are keen to adopt things like week notes. Slow progress, but good to see.


In my day job, I’ve spent a good portion of this month just keeping plates spinning.

I mentioned last month that I was kicking off new pieces of work in Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Kyiv. Those things are continuing, and we’re prepping for a few more things starting next month, so I’ve been thinking a lot about teaming and scheduling.

The work we’ve started in Kyiv is now public. It’s an important and complex piece of work, in a difficult environment. Whenever we ask the local team how they are doing, there’s a pause before they answer; and when they say they’re having a difficult morning - they really mean it.

Hafsah, Maria and Emma are doing an amazing job at building trust and navigating everyone through the work.

On our work supporting the Nova Scotia Registry of Motor Vehicles, I’ve been helping them with the process of hiring a new Director of Technology. We’re looking for a person that doesn’t really exist, so we’re also figuring out what compromises we need to make and what support is needed to fill the gaps.

I’ve also been talking lots to the RMV senior leadership team about how to move away from day-to-day firefighting towards more intentional leadership.

Personally, I’m feeling a little stuck in the firefighting myself at the moment.

If I’d joined a new company, I’d have had some time to play the ‘I’m new’ card for a bit and figure out where I should focus while I found my feet. But instead I’ve dived straight into the day-to-day.

I’m not sure if I’m adding value, and if I am, whether I’m adding the right value. It’s hard to get out of this mode when everything is so busy.

Nothing has fallen over or broken, so I’m taking that as a win.



Ann and I finally got some time away this month. We trialled handing Dilys over to a local boarder, while we had a short weekend in the Gower.

The weather was fantastic - shorts and t-shirt weather on the beach at Three Cliffs Bay.

Beach in the Sun

We had a great meal out at The Beach House in Oxwich. And, even better, leaving Dilys at the boarder was a success. So now to book more trips away.

House work

We’ve been slowly working away on plans to renovate the house to make it work better for us and modernise the look and feel. We worked with a fantastic architect last year to design what we want, then working with a great local builder to get the work started. But, we’ve been firmly stuck in the mud for the last few months thanks to the quantity surveyor.

Architect work in progress

We’ve been back and forth on costs, getting nowhere. The first set of costs had too many things missing for us to make decisions, there’s been an incredibly slow feedback cycle (4 weeks to respond to questions), and then a second round of costs which still aren’t right.

We’ve thrown a bit of a temper tantrum and insisted that everyone get in a room together at the same time to work through it, which is finally happening in a few weeks.

We’re told all of this is normal - but it’s just frustrating and anger inducing.


We have a small stream through our garden. It’s very reactive to rain and can quickly change from a sedate, inch deep trickle to a 3ft deep angry torrent.

We have high/steep banks on our side of the stream which over time is being eaten away, inching closer and closer to the house and studio.

We’ve had a very wet winter with some days getting 4cm of rain in a short space of time. This has caused a huge increase in the erosion of the banks.

We’ve looked at putting in gabions to stabilise and protect it, but they’re really expensive and very disruptive and will mean we lose a couple of really lovely small trees.

My dad has been doing loads of research, and we’ve decided we’re going to try Willow Spiling instead. We’ve found a local supplier for the willow, and we can do the work ourselves in a few weeks time.

Will report back next month on how it’s gone.

I’ve been thinking about

It’s been so busy this month that I didn’t get round to writing up any of the things from last month. But here are a few more to add to the backlog…

Small steps to turn the oil tanker

Getting an organisation to work differently is a huge effort. Back in GDS days, Mike used to describe it as trying to turn an oil tanker.

You have to do it in small steps.

At the moment, I’m really enjoying working with teams to introduce some small things that demonstrate a different way of thinking. Things like weeknotes, show and tells etc.

Showing momentum

Heavily related to the previous thing - building (and showing) momentum in work we’re doing is really important. The lack of momentum is why things fail.

Things like being open about the work, week notes, show and tells, prototyping etc are all ways of starting to show momentum, and can make a huge difference to the viability of work.

Devolution / Wales is not understood

This is a huge personal bugbear of mine.

Many areas of public policy are devolved to Wales. Things like the NHS, education, local government. This is often missed or forgotten about.

When people talk about “The NHS”, they often mean “NHS England”. I find myself having to append “in England” too often to headlines/social media posts.

It also means that interesting areas of policy where Wales differs from England is ignored by many people. There was an interesting Twitter thread on this the other day looking at things like the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and the basic income for care leavers pilot etc.

But it also allows Wales to get away with cases where it’s behind other parts of the UK - like digital in public services.

Things I’ve read

Where I have headspace for reading - it’s mostly focussed on work-related things like board papers.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Radical How from Tom and Andrew.

Aside from that, I’m really enjoying the resurgence of public week notes from various individuals. It feels like 2024 has seen a big reset and a step back to the type of openness that got me interested in Digital Government in the first place.

I want to shout out in particular to the team at Natural Resources Wales. Their week notes are a fantastic example of putting a human face on their work.

Photo of the month

Ann & I standing at the top of Three Cliffs Bay. A little colder up here than down on the beach, but what a view.

Three Cliffs Bay