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A quick guide to quick guides

 

Blog headlines

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    2 April 2020

    To fill a gap in the market for timely and relevant Covid-19 information, Martin Plackard, director of global crisis communications at NHS Blithering introduces his latest initiative to reach out to stakeholders during the outbreak.

  • Social distancing the Longstay way
    27 March 2020

    We asked Sir Trevor Longstay, chief executive of the NHS Blithering University Hospitals Foundation Trust and commander-in-chief of the Blithering Covid-19 Taskforce to give us some practical tips on social distancing. Here he shares some of the lessons learned over four decades of leadership – not all of them relevant or epidemiologically sound

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  • Matt Hancock’s diary – a week of levelling up
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  • Exceeding your expectations: the Blithering staff survey
    20 February 2020

    Staff at NHS Blithering feel listened to “at least once a year” and report that their expectations of taking part in surveys have been “met” or “exceeded” in the past 12 months.

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Tuesday
    7 February 2020

    The second in our series of privileged insights to the working life of Martin Plackard, the NHS’s most gifted communicator

  • Martin Plackard’s week: Monday
    30 January 2020

    First in an occasional series of glimpses into a typical week in the life of Martin Plackard, the NHS's most influential strategic communicator

  • A quick guide to quick guides
    24 January 2020

    Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

  • Towards people and impact
    17 January 2020

    This week the Royal Pharmaceutical Society advertised for a head of engagement and belonging. Such titles can be controversial – but not for Martin Plackard, whose CV features a number of leadership roles in the fields of impact, euphemism management and talent delivery.

  • National log-in reset will change everything
    9 January 2020

    This week the Department of Health and Social Care announced a £40m investment to make it easier to log-in to NHS computers. It’s a laudable aim, akin to fitting a keyless entry system to a Ford Anglia to make it go faster.

  • Martin Plackard’s top tips for making a difference in 2020
    3 January 2020

    NHS Blithering’s Martin Plackard MBE was recognised in the new year honours list for services to strategic communications and meaningful engagement. Here he gives his top tips for others who hope to make a very real difference to people, communities and their own career prospects in 2020.

  • My amazing Twitter year – by Matt Hancock
    20 December 2019

    It's been a fantastic year on social media for the secretary of state for health and the other thing. Here it is in very nearly his own words

  • Sustainability and transformation parties: mandatory guidance
    5 December 2019

    As Christmas fast approaches, system leaders are getting ready for so-called sustainability and transformation parties, the highlight of the year for those who enjoy kinky integration with strangers.

  • All the latest health policy news from the general **** campaign
    29 November 2019

    Because purdah is still in force, this week’s **** has been heavily redacted. Here are the main parties’ plans for government as set out in their manifestos. A full unexpurgated version can be obtained from **** Party HQ.

  • New outfit more splendidly integrated than ever
    21 November 2019

    The emperor has announced plans for yet another new outfit, amid claims that this one will be even more splendid than the last.

  • Purdah – guidance for professionals
    15 November 2019

    After Christmas and the HSJ Awards, purdah is Martin Plackard’s favourite time of year.

  • Tools honoured in Blithering awards
    8 November 2019

    The Blithering Celebrating Success Awards are always eagerly anticipated. Every November, they recognise the commitment and dedication of people who put other people at the heart of everything they do before going the extra mile in their shoes. They also reflect the passionate belief of the organisers, Spume Media, in an awards-led approach to healthcare improvement science.

  • Provisional findings of the interim report
    31 October 2019

    The programme delivery group at One Blithering, the emergent NHS Blithering integrated care system, has published an interim report containing the provisional findings of a year-long strategic review.

  • Toast
    25 October 2019

    "The biggest complaint about the NHS which is beloved by everyone is about the food, and the biggest complaint about the food is about the lack of toast.”

  • Plackard’s misdirection and a victory for old power
    17 October 2019

    In which no one can find Plackard's signposting event, an old foe returns from his past and Sir Trevor Longstay loses interest in compassion

 
 
Friday, 24 January 2020

A quick guide to quick guides

Few of us have time for long documents that take ages to read or a lot of expertise to put together. That’s where quick guides come in.

This handy, bite-size explainer tells you all you need to know to create quick guides of your own.

Start by picking a complex topic that people often find hard to understand, such as medicine, then turn it into an eight page A5 booklet leaving out the boring, difficult bits.

Or choose a topic that people feel they should know about. Safe choices are compassion, leadership, collaboration, change and patients.

Who am I writing it for?

Your ideal reader knows nothing about the topic, doesn’t have the time to learn about it in depth, but may have an urgent need to express an opinion about it in a meeting or on social media.

Your job is not to fill their heads with “facts” but to get them started on their learning journey (see also our Quick Guide to Personal Growth).

What if I know nothing about the topic?

Then you are in an ideal place to understand the needs of the reader. Knowledge will only get in the way.

How should I get started?

Google should provide you with all the material you need. Don’t get bogged down in lengthy reports and academic papers. Don’t “reinvent the wheel” or feel compelled to do “original work”. Look for other quick guides on the same topic and cut and paste the best bits into yours (see also our Brief Guide to Plagiarism).

What should I include?

A high-level introduction – this should clearly set out your aims, the scope of the guide and a summary of the main points for anyone who doesn’t have time to read the whole thing. Include clear and simple instructions about how to use the guide, for example “Start at the beginning and read the words until they run out”.

Practical advice – readers will only engage if they believe they are getting practical advice or if the advice you give sounds practical. Your role is to stimulate their interest in practicality not to tell them how to apply it.

Top tips – don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Remember, some readers will know even less about the topic than you do. Examples of reusable top tips are: “Involve other people and ask them what they think”, “Focus on building relationships”, “Make a plan and stick to it” and “When you have a good idea, write it down” (see also our Smart Guide to Effective Tips and Hints).

Case studies – nothing illustrates the art of the possible better than a case study. Like everything else in your guide, these should contain a minimum of “information”. Remember to include an encouraging description of one or more desired outcomes. Actual outcomes, where available, are a bonus.

Checklists – pilots and surgeons rely on checklists, so should you. A checklist will help the readers to gain the confidence to take their next steps whether that’s flying an Airbus, performing delicate neurosurgery or starting a stakeholder outreach project.

Actions – these may or may not be appropriate to your guide. If actions are not for you, leave them out or save them for a follow-up guide.      

Illustrations – too many words will put readers off. To appeal to different learning styles use visuals such as infographics, which allow you to oversimplify even the most difficult subjects, and diagrams to convey ideas that might sound implausible if you described them in words. Helpful shapes include pyramids and quadrants, while arrows are good for creating a sense of direction or movement.

Links to useful resources – a long list of further reading will create the impression that you know the subject inside out. You don’t need to have read it all yourself – you can’t be expected to do everything.

Glossary – readers will appreciate a brief description of any acronyms, jargon or terms you’ve invented to make your document truly indispensable.

How long should it take to write?

A quick guide should be a five-minute read. Obviously it will take longer than that to write. Allow yourself at least 20 minutes. If it takes all afternoon you’re probably overthinking it (see also our Beginner’s Guide to Thinking).

Bite-size editor: Julian Patterson

julian.patterson@networks.nhs.uk
@NHSnetworks

 
richard.ward3@nhs.net
richard.ward3@nhs.net says:
Jan 24, 2020 02:43 PM

Julian - pithy article as ever. I know you haven't covered FAQ's per se, but I wonder if you could give a quick guide on FAQ's. I'm particularly interested in how many times a question needs to be asked in the NHS before it becomes "Frequently Asked". Every time I'm presented with a new website I ask the question, but there is no consistency in the responses I get. Can you quantify?
Many thanks
Richard

Julian Patterson
Julian Patterson says:
Jan 24, 2020 03:31 PM

Thanks, Richard. I'll give it a go and speculate that most NHS bodies need to be asked a question a minimum of zero times before it features in an FAQ. I hope that helps put your mind at rest.
Julian

Lawrence Moulin
Lawrence Moulin says:
Jan 25, 2020 03:23 PM

This article looks very interesting but sadly I'm too busy to read it all, do you have an executive summary available?

Jeff Hudson
Jeff Hudson says:
Jan 27, 2020 08:49 AM

Ah Julian! You missed 2 fundamental points:
1) Never Ever put your contact details on the guide as you'll be pestered for life for more information that you don't have. The phrase "I was only asked to do a 2-sider for the boss" doesn't help.
2) Never ever assume that there is any deeper / more detailed guidance behind the quick guide. They're generally just someone's thoughts on a page with a fancy title and couple of photos of generic smiling patient and compassionate actor...

Jeff Hudson
Jeff Hudson says:
Jan 28, 2020 09:12 AM

Dearest Julian...how quickly we forget...re: towards impact:
Posted this week on NHS Jobs: Head of Kaizen Promotion Office, The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Shrewsbury
https://www.jobs.nhs.uk/showvac/T2QNW2/5355881/915934762
Kaizen: Japanese word meaning "change for better", without inherent meaning of either "continuous" or "philosophy" in Japanese dictionaries and in everyday use.