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Brunel University London


Creation of a fifteen-year strategic vision

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Brunel University London


The challenge

Brunel University London is a highly-regarded West London University with three colleges and three major research institutes. Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor and President at Brunel, approached Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? in 2016 to help the senior management team develop their long-term strategic vision, moving away from the traditional five year rolling plan. The approach was to consult broadly across the University community and to also engage the Governing Body in the process. Julia wanted the team to research, discover and agree it themselves, so they were better equipped to make it a success. The goal was to have a clear idea of what the future of the University looked like, to focus on what really matters and to engage their employees and students to drive the strategic vision forward.

Brunel really wanted to challenge their senior team to push the boundaries and be ambitious. They knew they had to strive for something greater by working as a team to brainstorm what’s possible rather than just doing what they have always done. The senior team involved in the eight-month programme produced a fifteen-year strategic vision, a clear set of supporting goals and a detailed plan to achieve those goals.

The programme

Will It? designed an integrated programme to challenge the thinking of their team. Centred on a series of workshops and activities, the programme was created to be facilitative to encourage working together by brainstorming in small groups to expose the team to each other’s ideas, opinions and experiences. We were determined that Brunel could fully explore and challenge what they meant by strategy, vision and goals in their unique context, and what success looked like to them.

The Brunel team conducted market research to explore competing universities judged to be inspiring, stretching and to have a clear strategic direction. This involved visiting other universities, using available research data and building on personal experiences to shape key points. Another crucial part of the programme was for each of the senior team to lead working groups with the University’s employees and students – a key way to involve and engage a wider range of people in the process who could make specific recommendations to the strategic vision.

The Programme was designed with three integrated phases:

Key focus areas the senior leadership team were challenged with:
  1. What are the reasons for creating a strategic vision now?
  2. What are the University’s biggest achievements over recent years? How relevant do you see these to the creation of a strategic vision for the next 10/15 years?
  3. What is the one area that hasn’t performed as well as it might have during recent years? Why?
  4. What do you see as the biggest opportunities for Brunel over the next 10 years?
  5. What are the biggest obstacles to the achievement of these opportunities?

We worked directly with the Vice-Chancellor in between sessions offering coaching support and challenge to ensure we maintained momentum throughout the eight-month process.

The results

The results of our work – announced in a ceremony at the House of Lords – was a fifteen-year strategic vision, mission and a set of supporting goals with a detailed plan to achieve them. The vision and goals, built on the University’s heritage, provide a new direction with five key areas they will focus on. Brunel now work with a core set of values and have adopted new ways of working to drive them towards their goals. The programme caused the senior team to challenge deeply held viewpoints and enabled them to identify what really mattered to the University. There is a real sense of excitement, ambition and a desire to take the University forward in 2017 towards their strategic vision.

Tom and Cath at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? worked really well with our senior leadership team – we liked their approach of engaging people in the process and encouraging them to come up with the ideas rather than telling us what they should be. The most successful outcome of the work we have done with Will It? is the production of our strategic vision which has really excited people. What has emerged from the creation of our vision and goals is a huge sense of ambition and a real desire to take the university forward. The approach of the Will It? team really challenged us in an effective way, it was a hugely beneficial process.

Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor and President at Brunel University London

For more information on our Crazy Goal Workshop contact one of our team today on 020 3870 7088.

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