University of Cambridge
Managing change in research support clears the way for a more competitive Cambridge
Competition among the world’s research-focussed universities – for funding, prestige and top international researchers – has never been more fierce. Despite its history and hard-earned global reputation for excellence, the University of Cambridge recognised a need to improve its support structures for Principal Investigators (PIs). To this end, it created a new team comprising up to 20 additional staff to help PIs identify and target funding opportunities. However, given the perceived impact on existing team members and no clear pathway for managing change, we were called in to help get the project back on track.
- Allayed staff concerns about job security
- Established a clear roadmap for change, with universal buy-in
- Set up a Change Network with volunteer Change Champions.
Clarity and engagement
Despite its history and global reputation for excellence, the University of Cambridge recognised a need to improve its support structures for Principal Investigators (PIs). It created up to 20 new positions to help PIs identify and target funding opportunities.
Although the new appointments had already been announced, it had not been effectively communicated how the change would affect the incumbent team. Over the course of eight weeks, our diverse team of experts embedded itself in the heart of the Research Operations Office (ROO), improving staff engagement and setting out a clear path to positive outcomes.
Making the case for change
This involved writing a ‘case for change’, clearly setting out why the change was necessary and what the benefits would be, backed up by an illustrated visual roadmap of the key milestones. Overcoming initial scepticism, we also set up an active ‘change network’, with 12 volunteer ‘change champions’ from among the workforce. Perhaps most crucially, our team simply made its presence felt alongside those potentially affected by the new arrangements, winning their trust and answering their concerns.
Transforming to ensure long-term competitiveness
In a short time, this project laid the essential groundwork for the new team’s arrival, in terms of clear goals and channels of communication. It transformed a source of genuine discontent into a cause for positivity and hope, enabling a change that will be of significant benefit to the University’s long-term competitiveness.