Network Rail

The challenge

The Infrastructure division of Network Rail – the organisation charged with managing and maintaining the UK’s rail network, was handed the challenge of quadrupling project throughput from £300m to £1.2 billion over a three-year period.

This stretching target reflected; a rapidly growing rail market; significant extra investment in the rail network; the pressing need to ensure that the railway infrastructure was upgraded to meet the demands of growth.

The scale of the challenge was immense. It was clear that incremental changes were not going to be enough. A quick assessment showed that many projects were not being started on schedule, being poorly managed and taking far too long to be completed. Based on this the change programme was going to have to encompass process, behaviour, organisation, structure and, most important of all, the customer interface.

The result

The ‘flagship proposal’ that came out of an eight-week programme was to fast track the initial development phases of the process. What had historically taken up to nine months, at a cost to the customer of, typically, over £50,000, would, under the new proposed way of working, be completed in two weeks at a fixed price that was a fraction of the original.

The outcome for the business has been:

  • On average, saving 50% of costs and a substantial reduction in the time taken to deliver the initial project proposals
  • Cost savings of approximately £25,000 per project – important in an environment where there were 900 projects on the books and 6 new projects per week
  • Projects being launched earlier due to greater certainty around resource planning
  • Customers being able to get a project proposal, a quote and plan, for a fixed fee, in just two weeks.

What made it successful

We created a set of Fast Track teams. These teams are given two weeks, against very clear specifications, to gather the data necessary to produce the project proposal and plan. The approach was successfully piloted for two months and then rolled out across the business. Success was down to:


  • Focus – We were able to run an intensive eightweek programme with a dedicated group of staff members. The expectations of senior stakeholders were high. Commitment of this resource was a huge signal to the organisation
  • Innovation – We used the Ignite Innovation and Change approach that is designed to deliver breakthroughs for clients. The approach was flexibly deployed to engage the team in delivering against this challenge. We encouraged the Infrastructure division to think laterally rather than silo by silo, injecting a wide range of insights to stimulate creative approaches to achieving seemingly impossible outcomes.
  • Insight – This is the key tool used to unlock breakthroughs. We used Insight constantly throughout the programme, in a variety of different ways. One of the most impactful and memorable was a trip to Whipsnade Zoo to look for models of organisation and behaviour that would help move away from an entrenched ‘command and control’ management style
  • Engagement – Ignite ensured that there was a close working relationship with the wider business and stakeholders to ensure they were on a similar journey as the project team. We emerged with the team and stakeholders aligned and ready to support the radical proposals