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The “Translink Project” is a major organizational development initiative that won the CIPD”Change Project of the Year” Award at the CIPD Northern Ireland Awards.

It embraces on-going change, reform and continuous improvement of the business within backdrop of reduced public funding and a challenging economic environment for customers. The “Translink Project” was designed, deployed and managed by Dr Adrian Gundy, from Centre for Competitiveness, to deliver outputs and benefits aligned to the corporate plan, to increase competitiveness and develop business performance through the continuous “pursuit of excellence”.

The project aimed to develop “Best in Class” people management practices through the establishment of cross functional project teams to carry out research from world class organizations and use this learning to design and build bespoke solutions to be implemented within Translink. What marks Translink’s approach from others is that it required HR to work with top leaders within the organization to create and implement a Continuous Improvement culture and the climate for high performance. This involved engaging the organization’s Senior Executive Team to sponsor the Project, seconding a senior operations manager into a full time project management role and the deployment of senior business managers as project team leaders.

To maximize the collective contribution of the projects on organization performance, they were organized into four key work streams:

- Performance management
- Leadership and Change
- Employee Engagement and Internal Communications
- Strategic Learning and Development

The key objectives of the project were:

- Establish an appropriate management framework to embed excellence within the organization.
- Define and create the Translink Leaderships Behavioural Framework to underpin corporate vision and values
- Formulate an appropriate employee engagement and internal communications strategy
- Create systems to drive a high performance culture.

- Create a learning and development strategy linked to organizational business requirements

The “Translink Project” was designed for helping to embed customer focused growth, service improvements, enhanced commercialisation of services and developing an employer brand which attracts, motivates and retains the best people.

A well-defined project plan was the outcome for a structured planning activity that lasted 4 months (Start up June-Sep 2010) as well as the development of Project Management skills for the team members.

The most important Stages of the project were:

  • Stage 1: Diagnosing the Change (oct 2010-march 2011). The project teams conducted desk research and benchmarking activity as well as reviewing the “As Is” state within Translink in relation to their work stream area.
  • Stage 2: Creating Alignment and Options (march 2011-nov 2011). The project team developed solutions to improve Translink’s people practices in relation to their specific work stream.
  • Stage 3: Making it Happen (nov 2011-march 2013). Communication of project findings and final recommendations to the wider business through a series of road show presentations and briefing sessions followed by a phased implementation of project outputs.

The project governance structure involved:

  • Executive Sponsorship and Steering Group: They provided guidance, comment and stage based challenge on the output of each project.
  • Project Manager (2 year secondment): The Project Manager was responsible for the delivery of planned milestones on time and to budget.
  • Project Team Leaders: The main task of the four project team leaders was that the workstream areas were effectively defined and managed throughout the project lifecycle and that their respective project achieved agreed outcomes.

The execution of this project was supported by the External Support of:

  • The Centre for Competitiveness (CforC) provided development, coaching and facilitation throughout the project
  • Penna and CforC worked with Group HR to develop an OD strategy and terms of reference for the programme
  • Ipsos MORI was commissioned to facilitate the Translink employee engagement survey: Your Company - Your Voice

The main Key barriers to the successful execution of the project were identified and corrective actions designed and implemented:

  • Lack of Awareness and knowledge. Executive updates, lunch and learn workshops, regular team briefs and a dedicated webpage on the company intranet site were used to alert stakeholders after each key project milestone was achieved.
  • Lack of Motivation. Project support/compliance was built into the performance objectives of each divisional executive and senior manager.
  • Scepticism. Cross-functional teams were formed in which participants from throughout the business developed recommendations based on their own research and benchmarking activity.​
  • Skills. All project participants attended training on change management. Site visits to EFQM award winning organizations across UK and Ireland took place along with bespoke workshops delivered at Aston Business school. Each project team received on-going coaching support from the Centre for Competitiveness. 



  • Launch of leadership Competency Framework. The framework was used as part of a new Group-wide talent and succession planning process and formed the basis for leadership development centres aimed at assessing the leadership competence of Translink senior managers.
  • Targeted Learning and development. A structured leadership and management development curriculum aimed at developing leadership, professional and business skills has been implemented. The launch of a learning and development calendar, targeted strategic development programmes at team leader and supervisory level, the establishment of a strategic partnership with the Ulster Business School and the creation of a female leadership forum have all taken place in 2012.
  • Implementation of Employee Engagement Survey. This was followed by divisional focus groups and the formation of local action planning teams to drive improvements arising from survey feedback at a local level. A new Group-wide briefing process, ‘Team Talk’, has been implemented.
  • Implementation of new Performance Management System. An updated system incorporating the three key themes of performance improvement, development, and managing behaviour has been implemented. A training programme supported this for all managers engaged in appraisals.
  • Key Results. The project was initiated to improve the change readiness of the organization before progression towards the establishment a Continuous Improvement culture to embed excellence within Translink. Since the implementation of work stream recommendations the organization has undergone an assessment against the EFQM Excellence Model in which it attained a European Recognized for Excellence Four Stars award. In addition, Group Human Resources attained an IiP Gold Standard-the most recognized accolade in the UK for business improvement through people. By achieving Gold it is now part of the top 1% of UK organization recognized by IiP.
  • GORDON MILLIGAN , Acting Group CEO

    "In addition, 2012/13 was a real success story for the business with over a millionmore fare-paying passengers compared to the previous year. In total, over 78 millions passenger journeys were made, exceeding set targets and reflecting a wide range of business developments. There has been investment in, for example, free on-board WIFI, mobile ticketing, better passenger information and excellent customer service, and all have helped to attract more people onto passenger transport. Official industry recognition including top accolades at the UK Rail Business and UK Coach Tourism Awards reflect the hard work of employees right across the company and their efforts to build a more sustainable future for Northern Ireland."