Small teams can make a big impact: keeping the focus and doing the fundamentals well

28 July 2020

Virgin Media is a business with over 11,000 employees, 6 million cable customers, 3.1 million mobile customers* and ambitious plans to grow its network to build more connections that really matter for the UK. For an organisation of this size, we’re a really small team, three people to be precise.

Over the last five years we’ve delivered an ambitious 2020 sustainability strategy, focussed on using digital to make good things happen for people and the planet. Focus is the operative word, having a laser focus on our strategy has been our biggest success tool. It’s given us the ability to drive a core set of programmes forward and permission to say no (politely, of course) to work that doesn’t further our intended impact.

Focus is one of a series of principles that has helped our small but mighty team to complete our 2020 strategy. Here are the others;

Establish a clear vision

When we set our 2020 strategy, we created two distinct pillars of activity, Digital for Good and Sustainable Growth, which were underpinned by five ambitious goals to hit in five years. We’re all strategic thinkers so across the five year period we stuck to this structure but constantly reflected on how we were delivering against these goals and the impact we were having. The five year time period also gave us permission to have a vision and time to figure out how to get there.

Everyone is clear on their roles but working together is critical

We divided and conquered our 5 in 5 goals with separate managers accountable for the two pillars of activity. However, we all jump in to support the busiest team mate when their workload is high and the coffee is running low, and we’ve driven much of our core impacts by marrying what we do externally with partners (Digital for good) with an internal programme of activity (Sustainable growth). For example, we championed disability inclusion in employment with our strategic charity partner Scope at the same time as delivering an ambitious disability action plan to transform the experience for our disabled colleagues who apply and work at Virgin Media.  As a team we’ve been really clear on what our remit is and what we don’t own. This has helped us stay focussed both as individuals and together as a team.

Strengths lie in our speed, flexibility and strong networks inside and outside

We set a vision for our five strategy but we were flexible on how we achieved our intended impacts to reach our five goals. For example, we shifted the focus of our partnership with Scope midway through our strategy, from the direct provision of digital technology to supporting disabled people to get into and stay in work through a new digital employment service; we identified that disability unemployment was the biggest barrier to independence for disabled people, so that’s what we went after. We demand pace and delivery from our partners, but that’s because we know momentum and responding effectively to external circumstances or new information powers the most impactful programmes.

Clear and continuous communication

We’ve always had a slightly different approach to the annual sustainability report. Rather than a document published at a similar time every year we’re advocates of reporting, that means using our sustainability report to publish our annual progress against our goals but continuing the conversation with our people and our customers throughout the year, to ensure these groups understand what we deliver, the impact we’re having and importantly why it’s important for more than a single moment in time.  The principles of ‘human’ and ‘digital’ have been our consistency compass and have remained at the heart of all of communications.

Everyone has autonomy

The last point to make is that each of us has decision-making power across our remit. This enables us to work with speed and agility, which we know is important, but it also builds stakeholder confidence and credibility as subject matter experts. We know what our roles are, have fun and we get those jobs done.

We’ve learned a lot over the last five years through our 2020 sustainability strategy and have made our fair share of mistakes. But the principles set out in this article are the ones we’re taking forward as we try to set ourselves up for success for the next five years. Stay tuned, we’ll be announcing our 2025 strategy soon.