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Direct Rail Services – Oakridge delivers the goods for DRS


Direct Rail Services (DRS), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, was established in 1995 as a key supplier of transport and associated services to the nuclear industry. Today, DRS has become a dynamic business with a £45 million turnover; its offering now extends into other rail sectors, and it employs more than 300 staff nationwide.


As part of a large-scale company restructure, DRS created a new manager level, with many of those in the posts new to management roles. DRS wanted to develop a proactive group and their management skills needed to develop fast. At the same time, ensuring the development of a strong team ethic was felt to be key to the new team’s success.


Oakridge is a Nuclear Employer Nominated Provider of The National Skills Academy for Nuclear and takes an active role in the development of world-class skills to support a sustainable future for the UK Nuclear Industry.


Through this work, DRS was introduced. It turned to Oakridge to:
• audit the skills held by those in managerial positions after the reshuffle;
• conduct Q&As with managers at various levels to ascertain areas of need; and
• develop a bespoke programme for leadership and team development among these managers.


This case study looks at how Oakridge worked with DRS to create a programme that has brought positive and speedy improvements to this management team.

After the initial audit and Q&A session, time was of the essence, as DRS wanted the programme to begin within weeks of the reorganisation.


The programme, which focused on leadership, team excellence, and fostering of a real work ethic among the team of managers, was delivered over two days, and was supported by a third day of follow-up after participants had had time to put their learning into practice.


Key areas of the programme included:
• Management v leadership – identifying what a great manager does, outlining the difference between management and leadership, and looking at what the expectations can be on managers;
• Leadership styles – giving insight into the Blanchard Situations Leadership Model and the participants’ own leadership styles;
• Team vision – developing an inspiring vision and being clear about what success will look and feel like, with six-monthly outcomes and priorities;
• Coaching as a leadership style – focusing on the difference between directive and non-directive coaching and mentoring; and
• Influencing – offering tools and techniques for influencing different stakeholders and for managing upwards.


The programme saw “great results”, and there was a real sense of buy-in from the group. They “quickly embraced” what they were learning, according to Oakridge senior consultant Robbie Lightfoot, who developed and delivered the programme to the team.

Although no formal measurement criteria were in place, the results could quickly be seen by those attending the programme and senior managers to whom delegates reported.


According to Dougie Hill, head of operations at DRS, Oakridge developed “a programme that not only met the brief but within days took a group of individuals and turned them into a team”. He was impressed by the groundwork and time invested by the consultants to gain “a true understanding of the objectives and needs”; it ensured a “trouble-free delivery”.


The team was, within days, more proactive; they felt able to manage issues rather than being led, and quickly adopted DRS inter-departmental management requirements. In both day-to-day working and in formal presentations, the changes were noticeable.


The training has also brought about significant benefits to the new team, not only in their intra-team work, but also in their interactions and influence with other stakeholders across and beyond the organisation.


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