Project Enable - Project updates

Regular updates on Project Enable’s activity will be provided here. Read on for the latest work that has been done by the team.

15 November 2022

Thinking Like a Designer Workshop

On Tuesday 13th September, colleagues drawn from across the teams of our six Strategic Projects took part in a workshop facilitated by Warren Bramley, a Visiting Fellow in the School of Business and Economics.  

The all-day workshop explored design theory and practice, drawing on Warren’s experience as a strategic designer, as well as his time leading a design studio. A law graduate, Warren’s career in the creative industry started when he worked for the Factory Records, alongside bands including Joy Division and New Order. From here, Warren founded a design innovation studio – four23 – based first in Manchester, and later London. His work in research-led strategic design, alongside institutions including Somerset House and Medicine San Frontiers, led him to study an MA in Global Political Economy at the University of Sheffield. Now based at Loughborough, Warren has continued his work in social enterprise, co-founding the Coloral Cycle Company, and chairing the community arts organisation, Creative Scene. Found out more about Warren’s work on his website:  

The first half of the day considered perspectives on design and how adjusting the lens through which design is viewed can influence outcomes and aims for a wide range of sectors and organisations. Simple techniques include reframing questions and challenging whether the question being asked is the one to be asking. This evolved into the notion of co-design: using creative and participatory methods to engage with stakeholders and ensure input is acquired as equitably as possible. This was facilitated through a series of activities including concept development, iteration of ideas, and novel uses for cardboard boxes and facilitators! 

After lunch, we considered the Design Futures method which seeks to develop a prospective and systematic exploration of transformative change. An important consideration here is the timeframes through which change is being considered, ensuring that journeys to an endpoint are valued, rather than simply aiming for a future achievement. In the workshop, this manifested through groups exploring what a Higher Education sector of the future – more than 10 years from now – might look like, and what would be the trends and factors that appealed to the needs of current employees and students. A fun element of competition was introduced with the groups judging one another on plausibility, the methodology employed, and how engaging a pitch was. 

Though diverse in their remit, each of the teams delivering the University’s Enabling Programme of projects agreed they will benefit from this new perspective on how to approach design and change, ensuring that all stakeholders are considered equitably, that sufficient time is given to the articulation of the problem, research, and the generation of ideas, and ensuring that future-thinking is embedded within the process.  

The feedback collected by attendees at the end of the day suggested there are numerous learnings that colleagues would like to embed into both their departments, as well as the wider institution. 

"I wish more teams could come together to define a concept."

"What if we all thought a little bit more about the future?"

"What if we added more team building days?"

"I wish I had a toolkit to take home"

"What if we took time in meetings to 'define' things?"

"I wish I could identify more opportunities to use tools in my role"

The overall theme of the workshop prompted a number of key takeaways, that colleagues hope to embed into their working practice and the overall culture of the university’s approach to project delivery. Takeaways included properly framing questions and challenges to address, before defining their solutions. This is important in ensuring outcomes are cognisant of all individuals’ needs. Properly framing the question or challenge helps inform the sense-making stage of a project’s lifespan, including not being afraid to consider thoughts and ideas beyond the original intention of the project.   

We are grateful to Warren for giving up his time to lead this workshop, and we look forward to implementing the lessons learnt in our work going forward. 

Anyone for whom this write-up of the day sparks has sparked ideas about how design thinking principles could inform the work of their teams is invited to contact the Enabling Programme Manager, Jenna Townend (, who is currently exploring how to share this knowledge within the institution.   

18 October 2022

In June, the Programme Board determined the second phase of its workstreams (see June update), and began work to finalise their scope and success measures.The team are pleased to be able to share a selection ofexciting updates relating to some of these workstreams. A number of these updates were also shared by the Vice-Chancellor, as Project Enable’s Sponsor, as part of a wider update on our strategy at the September meeting of Senate.

Processes and systems

Operations Committee and related processes
Changes are being made in 2022/23 to the approval process for all staffing budgets, increasing the authority of leaders and budget-holders, and leading to faster decisions.

Ethics approval processes
From October, Phase 1 of this workstream will be implemented across Schools (alongside training), whereby ethics applications made by undergraduate and postgraduate taught students which are classified as low risk will be signed off by the supervisor without further review. This will remove over 1500 additional checks from the process each year, saving time and resource.

Fieldwork risk assessment processes
Policy documentation has been revised to ensure a risk-based approach is taken to its implementation. The current, paper-based form is being replaced by an intuitive electronic form that will ensure colleagues only need to complete the questions relevant to the fieldwork they are undertaking. Once complete, this is estimated to save each colleague (over 250 across the institution) who uses it at least 2 hours per trip undertaken.

Culture, behaviour, and ways of working

Use of internal communications and email
The purpose of this piece of work is to explore opportunities to reduce noise in internal communications and email, as well as to enable us all as colleagues within the organisation to critically reflect on how we can use electronic communication methods most effectively. The team are about to launch a series of focus groups with a range of academic and Professional Services colleagues to better understand how needs and approaches to email and internal communications differ between teams and areas of the organisation. Anyone wishing to be involved in this work can contact Matt Youngs:

Paperwork for University meetings
Linked to the outcomes of the Council Effectiveness Review completed in 2021, work is advanced with committee secretaries and chairs to agree the changes required (both practical and cultural) to enable a consistent approach to papers and meeting packs that are concise, focused and clear, and which enable effective and timely decision-making. The team leading this workstream are also developing training, for launch in early 2023, that will be available to any colleague engaged in writing papers, reports or briefings for our committees, project management boards, forums, etc.

Colleagues can find out more about any of the pieces of work outlined above by contacting Jenna Townend:

Colleagues who have additional things – such as a process they think we could stop doing or do differently – that they would like to bring to the project’s attention are very welcome to do so, and can contact the team via our ‘Get involved’ page.

13 June 2022

13 June

The Programme Board for Project Enable recently determined its Phase 2 workstreams via a prioritisation exercise that brought together the data and information gathered during Phase 1, which resulted in a list of 77 potential items that could be looked at within the project, and assessed the impact, effort, and visibility of each. The Board have also endeavoured to ensure that there is a balance across the size, beneficiaries, and visibility of each of the workstreams. The seven workstreams are:

Processes and systems

  • *Assessment of our taught students (over-assessment, design, delivery, feedback)
  • *Risk assessment and fieldwork risk assessment processes
  • Process for allocating annual leave for part-time staff
  • *PGT processes, e.g. reassessment

Culture, behaviour, and ways of working

  • Ways of working: meetings (both large and small), calls and expectations around availability
  • Internal communications and email
  • *Paperwork for University meetings

Workstreams marked with an asterisk will be delivered by/in collaboration with an existing project. In parallel to the above, the below workstreams will be progressed by members of the Programme Board or in collaboration with another existing project, reporting to Project Enable:

  • Operations Committee and related processes/decision-making (DVC and Director of Planning)
  • Helping leaders to define and communicate our risk tolerance (Project Expectations)
  • Process review as part of the redesign of PDR (Project Enable and Project Expectations)
  • Ongoing challenges relating to module/programme updates (PRUAS, Academic Registry)

Colleagues can find out more about any of the pieces of work outlined above by contacting Jenna Townend:

5 May 2022

The Programme Board approved progression of two smaller pieces of work that will help to reduce burden and noise across a couple of smaller, but nonetheless significant, activities.

The first relates to us turning off automated notifications sent to managers via my.HR when a direct report registers for a development or training opportunity. Having explored this during Phase 1 of the project, managers determined that these updates were not helpful, since colleagues would either raise these opportunities during regular 1:1s and should be trusted to manage their own development/training choices.

The second relates to exploring how we can more effectively share voluntary team roles, such as fire marshals and first aiders, within buildings that are shared by multiple Services, rather than training individuals into these roles across each team within a building.