Tag: culture

Three things I learned from UCAS

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to Andrew Hargreaves, Director of Marketing Communications, speak about the transformational journey of change that UCAS is currently on.

Aside from some of the Higher Education sector specifics, which went a bit over my head, Andrew delivered one of the most engaging, funny and honest presentations I’ve seen in a long, long while. Here are three things he said which I thought were really cool, and I’m going to put into practice at The Growth Hub:

1. Fix one thing every 30 days

Each manager at UCAS has a ‘fix-it list’ – a collection of issues, challenges or barriers that need sorting out. There are 10 fix-its on each manager’s list and the target is to tick one of them off by finding a permanent solution, every month. You can start by tackling the ‘quick-wins’ to give yourself more time for the harder stuff, or go in with the big guns and make huge strides of progress, really quickly.

The reason this idea is so cool is because it makes shifting the rocks in the road, seem totally manageable. Roll forward a year and you’ll have sorted out 10 major blockages. What’s not to love?


model depicting CARE- culture, analysis, rational, emotionalThe CARE model stands for:

  • Culture: The culture at UCAS is ‘to be the conscience of the customer’.
  • Analysis: For UCAS this relates to tracking digital movement and behaviour, analysing it, and making marketing decisions that are based on data.
  • Rational: On a basic level, when a customer calls UCAS, is the service decent?
  • Emotional: On an emotional level, how does the customer feel about their experience with UCAS?

This is a useful model that any organisation can think about when embarking on Change. What is the culture, how will you analyse your customers/markets/services/performance, what are the rational and emotional connections you want to make?

3. Take responsibility for outcomes, not functions

At UCAS there are a group of managers who are responsible for results, for outcomes, for delivery. They are not responsible for functional areas of the business. This means that when they are solving a problem, they have absolute clear sight of what needs to happen, and the freedom to remove ‘management distractions’ and disregard hierarchical constraints when they need support from other teams or managers. Being responsible for an outcome sure does focus the mind.

Other than this presentation, my most recent experience of UCAS was when I bought media space from them for a digital campaign last year. I thought they were well organised and impressive. It’s interesting to hear about the inner workings of any organisation but the candid approach from Andrew made it even more exciting. I look forward to following UCAS on its travels and am pretty sure the road ahead will be a pleasant one.


How to create the right environment for innovation

Apple logo
Many people think of Apple as an innovative company

We all know that the most successful companies innovate. With many people reluctant to embrace organisational change, a difficult financial environment and a general inability amongst businesses to compete in increasingly global markets, it’s critical for leaders to create the right environment for innovation. Here’s how to do it:

Develop cohesive work groups.

Individuals that feel part of a close team that is working towards the same goal may feel more inclined and comfortable in contributing ideas for new products or process changes. If there is a ‘no-blame’ culture and the risk of being ignored or even embarrassed for having an innovative idea is removed, staff are more likely to make suggestions.

It is important, however to tread the line carefully between cohesive working and accepting and never challenging the norm. Where the norm is not or cannot be challenged, innovation will generally not be prevalent.

Provide the right resources for innovation.

Google encouraged innovation through its 20% programme which allowed employees to devote a fifth of their working week to ‘special projects’. Having freedom of time supports the thought processes, trials, tweaks and failures that drive business change. Freeing up cash, people, machines, and materials for new or different work is essential for building an innovative environment. A support system must be in place as an enabler to freeing up resources- without management support, how would even the best idea get to fruition?

Embed HR structures that encourage a low people turnover.

If people leave often or without completing an effective amount of service, the environment and culture may not be open and honest. This is connected to cohesive working- an open environment breeds idea sharing and feedback. Innovation works best in businesses with a learning culture where staff are encouraged to exchange information. Give praise when praise is due- this will help develop team trust.

Involve staff at all levels in decision making.

It’s often the case that Senior Managers don’t know the detail of day to day operations. It can be that operational staff hold the key to more efficient ways of working, to what customers really want, or what local competitors are offering, and involving staff at all levels in the decision making process can tease these innovations out.

Complete an innovation audit.


  • The organisational ‘climate’
  • Your rate of new product/ service development
  • Customer satisfaction ratings
  • The cognitive styles of your leadership team, and
  • Whether the work groups, resources and structures are in place for innovation.

Learn from your audit and make changes to improve the environment.

Do you have the right environment for innovation? 


Are you working for an Inclusive Leader?


During a CIM webinar on ‘Encouraging Solutions to Gender Inequality’ Charlotte Sweeney (Inclusion, Diversity, Wellbeing and Change Leadership specialist) presented a slide on the characteristics of Inclusive Leaders. She made the point that during working life, most people will come across just one or two leaders that truly fit this bill.

Inclusive leaders:
Get to know the people in their business personally.

Focus on the quality of work not the number of hours put in.

Help those around them understand the strategic bigger picture and how they fit in.

Help those around them identify their own strengths and encourage them to build on these.

Actively seek out the ones who could make it to the next level.

Are open to feedback on their performance, behaviours and their skills.

During the webinar the question came up: ‘How is this list any different to what we know the characteristics of any good leader to be’?

The answer to this is that an Inclusive Leader understands that every person influences culture. They recognise that diversity is a fact of everyday life and organisations that have diverse workforces thrive because of the different views a diverse team brings. Value is placed on working with people who are different to yourself, and with this comes a willingness to challenge ‘normal’ behaviours or processes which in turn breeds innovation.

An Inclusive Leader recognises that every person can make a difference no matter what their level in the organisation, no matter their experience or career goals, because every individual has something useful to contribute. And when individuals understand how their contribution adds value and supports the achievement of the corporate strategy, the collective ‘pull’ drives the business forward.

Do you work for an Inclusive Leader? Are you an Inclusive Leader?  What value is placed on diversity within your place of work?
Leave a comment below.