What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?
I took up the role of permanent secretary of the Welsh Government in November 2021 following eight years as director general for health and social services and chief executive of NHS Wales. Looking back, the whole of the last 12 months has been filled with highlights as I’ve learned more about the organisation and the remarkable breadth of responsibilities we discharge across Welsh Government mixing policy with delivery. Of course, it’s been a challenging time and tested our organisational resilience, but I’ve also seen our reputation grow as the public, our partners and ministers recognise the differences we’re making. The drive and determination of the Welsh Government civil service to build a better Wales is a constant source of pride.
What was your most difficult decision in 2022?
Like many other organisations, a key priority for 2022 has been about resetting and refocusing the organisation following a sustained period in crisis-response mode. Naturally, that’s brought with it some difficult decisions as we’ve grappled with addressing operational issues exacerbated by the pandemic. However, we have done our best to ensure those decisions are taken in the spirit of openness and transparency, involving colleagues across the organisation in some of those challenging discussions and supporting a genuine conversation about change and improvement.
"We have done our best to ensure difficult decisions are taken in the spirit of openness and transparency, involving colleagues across the organisation”
What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how are you preparing to meet that challenge as an organisation?
The cost-of-living situation and mounting economic uncertainty is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing the Welsh Government in 2023 and our priority will be supporting the first minister and cabinet to protect the most vulnerable people and communities in Wales.
For more than six months, we’ve been engaging extensively with staff on a range of topics, including collaboration, innovation and wellbeing. That insight is shaping our organisational development programme, Welsh Government 2025, which will focus on driving the changes and improvements we need to make over the next three years in an increasingly challenging context. Through WG2025, we will be leading a continuous improvement drive at both corporate and local levels, with a relentless focus on maximising efficiency and thinking creatively to come up with solutions to difficult issues.
And personally, as a leader?
At our core, we are a people organisation, and my biggest challenge is to ensure everyone working at the Welsh Government is enabled to be at their best and feels valued.
It's not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season?
As a former NHS manager and chief executive, the festive period was always a visible reminder that, whilst society often pauses for the festive break, the NHS is a 365 day, 24/7 service. Throughout the year, the fantastic staff demonstrate their care and commitment for patients on a daily basis, but I always found that personal touch would be even greater at Christmas as staff recognised people in hospital were missing spending the festive season with family and friends. It reinforced the valuable human connection NHS staff bring to the service.