The Hot List
Working transparently. Whenever possible.
It's 6 am, and New York City is waking up to another busy workday. In the middle of it is a 30-ish something man in a sweaty hoodie finishing his run. He runs up the stairs, takes a shower, and rushes out to get to work. Minutes later, he arrives at the New Amsterdam hospital.
Today is Max Godwin's first day at his new job as the medical director of the largest public hospital in New York. He meets his new assistant at the entrance and, after a quick intro, tasks her to create a hotlist. The assistant gives him a confused look." It is a to-do list, but cooler.", Max replies.
Although New Amsterdam is a typical US TV drama, the episodes show a good variety of challenges a manager might face.
As a design leader, I serve people while creating an environment where we can do our best work. People around me inform my focus—both my supervisors and my reports. Yet as we scale, I feel I'm becoming more distant from everyone. More people, more locations, more challenges to tackle. How can I keep everyone in the loop and allow them to challenge my focus?
In 2021 I tried an experiment to create my own weekly Hot List. A team-wide page that shows where my head is right now.
Currently, it lives as a page in Notion visible to everyone in our UX organization. I update it every Monday morning, and if urgent topics arise, I adjust during the week. Anyone can see my current and mid-term focus. I link to the list in various places, but the most visible is at the top of our weekly standup document.
Topics to solve
A list of the central themes I'm focusing my week around. Occasionally, my focus involves a topic that is not shareable with a broad audience. In that case, it doesn't appear on the public Hot List. It still exists in my "Mission Control Center," the primary workspace where my management & planning happens. One day I can write deeper dive into that ecosystem.
There is not much I can write about a simple to-do list. It is a bullet list with additional smaller tasks. The difference compared to "topics to solve" is that I can finish these with one or a few small actions. It doesn't require a lot of coordination and an extended timeframe. Same as in the topics section, confidential tasks don't sync from Mission Control.
The newest part I introduced this year. People from around the company share files with me which they expect me to comment, review and approve. Those files appear here. Teammates can notice relevant information to read through in this stack.
Meeting of the week
I always try to pick the most influential gathering of the week – a discussion that could affect our teams. Team members can ask about these meetings and open a dialog. It helps me prepare and address colleagues' concerns early on. Moreover, I can represent a united front on behalf of our team in cross-department meetings.
The dreams of 20XX
As the name of this section hints, dreams don't change weekly. These are significant ongoing initiatives I engage in. My quarterly goals or our strategical roadmaps appear here every quarter. People can check the direction we are steering towards in the mid-term through this list.
Reading & writing
I'm an avid reader and get into a discussion about books regularly. I decided to inspire through this list and always post the look at my bookshelf. Specifically now during the lockdown when corridor talks are impossible. The books represent my current challenges which I'm trying to understand deeper. This way, I can get recommendations from others for more resources.
I post links to current drafts of my writing in the writing section. This newsletter appeared there as well. People can check it and share feedback with me. After all, the majority of my writing is about our collaborative work – together. It helps me keep myself motivated and constantly rewrite my creations to be better.
Benefits of a Hot List:
Transparency to everyone in the organization
Management work can be hard to imagine for people across the org. This list brings the role closer to everyone.
Weekly dose of motivation
The fact that I publish what I'm going to do makes me more accountable.
This source of truth gives me a space to link the visions and strategical goals to everyday tasks.
The after-hours content, like reading, gives people something to talk about.
Max Goodwin turned the New Amsterdam hospital into an effective environment where people aren't afraid to express themselves. Healthcare workers find ways to support each other while overcoming stressful emergency challenges. I hope that this simple Hot List will positively contribute to how people perceive our environment. Showcasing that transparency, shared ownership, and constant feedback are critical pillars of our growing organization.