Helping NHSBSA create a shared vision with Rich Pictures

Written By
November 8, 2021

Most of us have a deeply personal and emotional connection with our NHS. From routine visits to the GP, all the way through to emergency care, many of us feel indebted to this institution and the people who look after us when we need it. 

So when the opportunity crops up to work with the NHS, we're always really excited about it.

We're working with the NHS Business Services Authority's (NHSBSA) to transform NHS Jobs services. This began with the creation of a Rich Picture, a way of exploring a situation through diagrams that helps to open discussion and come to a broad, shared understanding of a situation.

In this blog post we'll take you through our experience of delivering NHSBSA’s collection of Rich Pictures, bringing the organisation’s vision and strategy to life in a visual and highly personal way.

Starting NHSBSA’s Rich Picture with NHS Jobs

Work to create the Rich Picture began with our Service, Product and Delivery leads, who shared their progress developing the new Jobs service and the exciting vision for the future. This is where we presented our first sketch of the service, depicting its main operations and relationships. 

We then went through and put post-its on the diagram, with each post-it representing an addition, or an amendment that needs to be made.

Time is tight at this stage, there’s no place for ‘meetings for meeting’s sake.’ This gives every session a sense of urgency and purpose that's really invigorating.

It's also important that these sessions are well facilitated. We have to soak up the passion, ambition, culture, and emotion, listening hard to the points people make to figure out what’s most important to them and what needs to be represented most prominently in the diagram.

First sketch of the NHS Jobs Rich Picture with post-it notes of amendments

Next, we translated our thoughts into visuals and co-created another sketch with our artist.

This process is designed to be provocative and engaging to deliver the best results. When clients challenge elements of the picture, it helps them refine their ideas about how the system operates.

When an idea is accepted, the client's emotional engagement with the project increases as they can see their contribution in the picture. It’s really powerful to work with people in this way, because it provides an opportunity for people to share understanding and be clearer about their direction.

Visualising the rest of NHSBSA’s future

We shared our early work on the Jobs service with NHSBSA's CEO Michael Brodie, and chatted about the possibility of creating a visual for the entire organisation.

This was some challenge – we would have to create a picture of dozens of interconnected services - a scale and complexity that few have worked with.

We needed a much deeper understanding of the organisation to do this Rich Picture justice so we arranged group sessions with the board, and spent time with each member of the senior team to delve into their priorities and unique leadership qualities.

Gathering this insight, adding it to the sketch, and regularly reorganising things led to a fantastic outcome - a Rich Picture displaying the entire remit of NHSBSA's work across Citizen Services, Primary Care Services, and Workforce Services.

The final NHSBSA Rich Picture

Moving out of the centre of the picture you’ll see the service providers, with the persona of ‘Grace’ interacting with services in a lifecycle that takes her from before the cradle to beyond the grave.

Depicting the scale of NHSBSA

After the service layers were added, we moved onto context and scale. During our board sessions and interviews, the NHSBSA team casually mentioned the scale of the organisation which needed to be brought out. Time with the finance and communications team then provided a breakdown of the £36bn annual spend, the scale of transactions for each service, and the number of users impacted.

Joining the dots between services was another key element of the Rich Picture, as over time the organisation had organically taken responsibility for a range of services. Connecting things visually helps people think strategically about how they could work better together to achieve the NHS’s goals.

An example here is joining the student bursary service with NHS Jobs – providing insight and opportunity for healthcare students towards the end of their studies, and using data to forecast trends in the workforce.

Next, we did a lot of detailed artwork and added text to represent key messages and services. At this stage, our artists added colour and emotion to the characters before going through multiple rounds of quality checking internally and with the client.

Getting the most out of visualising the ecosystem

Understanding the density of the information provided from across the organisation doesn’t work for everybody, and there really is a lot to take in in this Rich Picture.

With this in mind we wanted to thin the information out, making it easier to absorb and relay.

We did this in a couple of different ways.

Firstly, we applied a mask to highlight certain elements of the picture at a time.

NHSBSA Rich Picture with Workforce Services mask applied

Adding a mask to the picture enables us to separate its different elements into service areas. Here you can see that 'Workforce Services' includes services like NHS Jobs, the Employee Service Record and NHS Pensions.

This helps people from that team understand where they fit in, what products they’re working on, and how they relate to other areas of the organisation much more easily.

We also isolated elements to show what individual components of a service do.

This graphic, for example, represents a user searching for a job - as a candidate at the start of their application process.

Bringing it all to life

Finally, after thinning all of this information out to provide an overview of the whole organisation, we brought the story to life by animating the picture.

It provides a two-minute overview of NHSBSA that’s easy to understand and really impactful.

Watch the animation of NHSBSA's Rich Picture here.

Playing this back to the Board was powerful. Many people commented that it “changed the way they think about NHSBSA”, that they “felt connected and proud to be part of the organisation”, and that “it engaged and energised” them.

Using the Rich Picture for future impact

The next step was to figure out how to best use the Rich Picture to make the greatest impact going forward. Early discussions were really promising, with the training team looking to use it for the induction of new joiners, and management interested in using it in their presentations.

There was also interest in creating a large installation on the wall, as a visual reminder of the fantastic work going on at NHSBSA.

Teams in NHSBSA are incredibly well led, productive, and capable of delivering at pace. They have a great culture - senior leaders are low-key and knowledgeable, and everyone is united by an incredible shared mission of delivering their users the best services possible. We're really pleased to have been able to contribute to their work in such a positive way.

“Creating a compelling narrative and explaining your purpose is essential to every organisation. As an Arm’s Length Body of the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS Business Services Authority is responsible for a breadth of critical business services, relied upon by the health and care system. But that breadth, coupled with the complexity of what we do, has historically made it difficult for us to tell the story of who we are and what we do. We therefore commissioned TPXimpact to develop a Rich Picture of our service portfolio. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome, which provides a highly visual representation of all that we do and all who benefit from our work.” Michael Brodie, CEO at NHS Business Services Authority

Want to visualise your team’s vision and strategy?

Our Rich Pictures service is a great way of aligning new and traditional cultures, provoking important conversations to share and align thoughts about your organisation and team.

It’s fast, high impact, and anyone can be involved.

Talk to us about your story and we can energise and connect your organisation, just like we’ve helped the NHS do here.

This article was adapted from a blog post by John Fitzpatrick 

Twitter: @Fitzdigitalgov