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Tradition, technology and culture change

9 October 2020

The article at a glance

The University of Cambridge is immersed in over 800 years of rich history. Cambridge scholars pioneered new interpretations of scripture, identified the …

Category: News Programme news

Abstract chaotic background.

The University of Cambridge is immersed in over 800 years of rich history. Cambridge scholars pioneered new interpretations of scripture, identified the building blocks of life, the origins of the universe and the origins of man. They invented the computer and the webcam, the rules of football and the jet engine. From its origins to present day, the University has been a place where tradition works alongside innovation and the latest technology.

As the University looked towards a future with ever-increasing dependence on advanced digital capability, it began to consider the ongoing requirements of its own IT systems. The University Information System (UIS) provides the IT infrastructure for the whole of the University, spanning staff and student support to large-scale supercomputing, data storage and visualisation. The UIS plays an essential role in maintaining the position of Cambridge as one of the top-ranking universities in the world.

The UIS employs over 300 people, who supply IT services that support teaching, learning, research and administration for around 40,000 students and employees across the University. Following a prolonged period of consultation, it was decided that to best serve the vision of the University, the UIS needed to adapt to a more service led organisation with a focus on ‘adding value’. This would require a culture shift away from technology-based silos to more customer-focused, solution-oriented working.

It was at this point that the UIS engaged with Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) to devise a service leadership programme that would bring to life the culture changes required within the UIS.

CJBS worked collaboratively with UIS to develop a six-month programme that would activate their service delivery and cultural challenges. The programme took into consideration the long-standing culture that already existed, whilst focusing on the need for a rapid pace of change. CJBS developed a four-stage process that took UIS employees through the journey of culture change.

Programme overview

Stage 1: Programme launched with a two-day workshop focused on the challenge of implementing change and leading a service culture. Greater clarity around the challenge and the vision was achieved and participants felt engaged in the process.

Stage 2: A series of eight half-day interventions were hosted with the UIS ‘service leaders’ that pragmatically worked through the challenges, offering space for discussion and exploration. Topics covered included peer-to-peer coaching, developing an ecosystem, understanding the customer experience and the demands of team roles.

Stage 3: Cross-functional project groups ran concurrently throughout the programme, giving participants the chance to work on solving an issue directly related to the culture change strategy. This increased communication and understanding between colleagues who had previously been siloed in different departments within the UIS.

Stage 4: Participants were asked to present their ideas to the senior management team and feed in to the overall strategy for the future of the organisation.

Following the six-month programme with CJBS, the senior management team at the UIS have observed significant shifts in the culture of the organisation. Having merged what was four separate departments in to one central department, the collaboration between the UIS and CJBS worked hard to ensure the change in culture followed. The programme achieved a prominent level of engagement from the staff at the UIS, many of whom reported shifts in personal approach and thinking as a result of attending the programme. The service leadership programme offered staff the space to reflect on the vision and feed in to the strategy, whilst giving them the time to understand the challenges of their colleagues.

The overall impact of the programme has been to assist the UIS in its ambition to be a fully equipped partner of the University, supporting its vision of ‘contributing to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence’.

To speak to someone about your culture change needs, please contact Elizabeth McDonald, Corporate Business Development Director.

Learn more about Executive Education at Cambridge Judge Business School


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