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John Fitzpatrick
June 8, 2020

Helping NHSBSA create a shared vision with Rich Pictures

NHSBSA strategy Rich Picture

Difrent's Transformation Consultant, John Fitzpatrick, shares his experience of delivering NHSBSA's Rich Picture, helping them communicate and tell the story behind their organisation's vision.


Most of us have a deeply personal and emotional connection with our NHS.

From providing pain relief and fixing broken bones in my teens, emergency surgery after the school bus crashed, or the exceptional prenatal and neonatal care for my family are just a few examples.

It’s that experience that makes many of us feel indebted to those who care for us when we’re at our most vulnerable.

So when the opportunity crops up to work with the NHS, like everyone there I’ve crossed paths with, I’m humbled and ready to give my absolute best.

Those of you that know Difrent’s CEO, Rachel Murphy, will know a LOT goes on in her brain. She makes thousands of connections others would find difficult to see.

NHSBSA are transforming NHS Jobs services in partnership with Difrent. After catching up with Chief Digital Officer Darren Curry, Rachel and Darren agreed to develop a more compelling visual for colleagues and stakeholders that set out the ambition for NHS Jobs.

In this blog post I walkthrough my 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.

A delivery powerhouse

It's important to acknowledge that teams in NHSBSA are incredibly well led, productive, have a great culture and deliver at pace.

Their senior leaders are low-key, knowledgeable, egoless experts, each with a unique style and each an utter delight to spend time with.

They are united by their incredible mission and passion they share for it, delivering their users the best services possible.

Few could match the confidence and proficiency with which this team delivers in an organisation of the scale and complexity of NHSBSA.

Frankly, I’ve never before seen a CEO like Micheal Brodie, tear down their office walls to create an accessible collaborative working space, that means everyone can have one of those invaluable, natural water cooler conversations and see their leaders physically connected.

Starting NHSBSA's Rich Picture with NHS Jobs

Service, Product and Delivery leads David, Anna and Chris emptied their brains to share where they were up to with developing their new service and an exciting vision for the future.

Time is tight here, there’s no place for ‘meetings for meeting’s sake’, everything has an urgency and purpose so each session has a preciousness about it, it’s refreshing and invigorating.

It’s here where we presented our first sketch of the service. Each post-it represents an addition, an amendment.

My job is to facilitate. I soak up the passion, ambition, culture, emotion, and listen hard to the points people make and reiterate to figure out what’s most important to them and what needs representing most prominently.

NHS Jobs Rich Pic first sketch with post-it notes

Image: first sketch of the NHS Jobs Rich Picture with post-it notes of amendments

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

For an assignment like this, we work with Scriberia. They’re at the top-end of illustration studios. We’ve worked together brilliantly for around eight years now and each creation is an improvement on the last.

I always expect that what we’re producing at this stage is going to be wrong but this process is designed to be provocative and engaging to deliver the best results.

As clients download the wrongness to me, they’re consciously rejecting elements of the picture and replacing them with their own ideas.

As soon as one is accepted and committed to drawing, emotional engagement increases and the client sees their idea and contribution in the picture. Their idea is a part of the whole that makes up the organisation's picture.

It’s powerful to join up a team this way, it shows how the team and stakeholders are connected, provides an opportunity to share understanding and be clearer about the direction of the team.

Visualising the rest of NHSBSA’s future

During my first day, I shared our early work with Darren Curry. He lit up with enthusiasm and booked some time with CEO Michael Brodie and we chatted through some ideas about creating a visual for the whole organisation.

This was some challenge - dozens of interconnected services, a scale and complexity that few have worked within.

We needed a much deeper understanding to do this justice so Darren arranged sessions with all the senior team and supporting functions.

In addition to group sessions with the board, we 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, then reorganising things regularly led to a fantastic outcome.

NHSBSA strategy Rich Picture

Image: the final NHSBSA Rich Picture

We landed a picture of the organisation segmented into three main service areas. Moving out of the centre you’ll see the service providers with the user moving through a lifecycle that sees ‘Grace’ emerge from before the cradle to beyond the grave.

After the service layers were added, we moved onto context and scale. During the board sessions and interviews, the team casually mentioned the scale of the organisation which needed to be brought out.

Some time with the finance and communications team provided a breakdown of the £36bn annual spend, scale of transactions for each service, and number of users impacted.

Joining the dots was another key element. The organisation had organically taken responsibility for a range of services. Joining things visually helps people think strategically about how they could work better together to achieve the NHS’ goals.

An example here is joining the student bursary service with NHS Jobs - providing insight and opportunity for students towards the end of their studies, 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, the studio 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.

Hearing that provided some new challenges for us to thin the information out, making it easier to absorb and relay.

We did this in a couple of different ways.

NHS Jobs Rich Picture Workforce Services mask

Image: NHSBSA Rich Picture with Workforce Services mask applied

Adding a mask separated elements into service areas. Here you can see “Workforce Services” includes services like NHS Jobs, 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.

NHSBSA Rich Picture isolated element

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

This, for example, represents a user searching for a job within the context of a candidate at the start of their application process.

Bringing it all to life

Finally, by thinning all of this 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 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQMpZWYn2Lo

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

We finalised the Rich Picture and figured out how to best use it to make the greatest impact.

For example, the training team is looking to use it for the induction of new joiners and management are interested in using it in their presentations.

There’s also been discussions about a large installation on the wall. Early signs sound promising and I can’t wait to see how this develops.


“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 Difrent 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, Chief Executive @ NHS Business Services Authority


Want to visualise your team’s vision and strategy?

Difrent’s Rich Pictures service is a really good 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, anyone can be involved and they’re relatively inexpensive.

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


Written by John Fitzpatrick - Transformation Consultant @ Difrent

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-fitzpatrick-37409a18/

Twitter: @Fitzdigitalgov

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