Anglian Water Group - 'bringing the outside in' to transform its leadership

Anglian Water Group is geographically the largest water and water recycling company in England and Wales. It is also one of the East of England’s largest employers and job creators, with nearly 4,800 employees and a network of partner organisations employing around 7,000 people.

The beauty of the Transforming our Leadership programme is bringing the outside in and looking outside the water industry. Exposing our people to what is going on in other leading organisations is really helpful.

Peter Simpson, CEO at Anglian Water

The Challenge

Anglian Water operates in a world that is changing radically, with a complex regulatory framework and intense pressure to drive down water consumption and preserve the natural environment. As Phil Brown, ‎Head of People Development, observes, “We’re one of the few industries where we put a lot of energy into encouraging people not to use our product.”

One of the many challenges currently facing Anglian Water is the opening up of the water utility market in April 2017, bringing increased competition. Commercial customers can now consolidate multiple contracts in different parts of the country into a contract with a single provider.

Building high-performing teams

Against this backdrop, Anglian Water recognised the need to develop inspirational leaders who could survive and thrive in a time of change, and bring their teams along with them. The outcome was the 2-year Transforming our Leadership programme. Lane4 was selected to create and run the complete programme, comprising an inspirational launch event, 5 residential workshops and 3 leadership conferences.

Phil comments, “We knew the experiential approach of Lane4 and their partner Loughborough University would resonate with our delegates’ engineering bias and help them apply their learning immediately.”

The Solution

  • A whole-company vision

    140 Anglian Water leaders in 8 cohorts, carefully composed to break down organisational ‘silos’, were joined by 13 delegates from strategic partner companies.

    Reviewing the benefits of learning in a mixed cohort, delegate Robin Price, Head of Water Quality, says, “Now when I meet with fellow delegates in the course of business, we share a common experience, framework and language around leadership and have more productive conversations as a result.”

  • Learning from best practice

    Given Anglian Water’s enviable record on staff retention, a key objective of Transforming our Leadership was to help leaders avoid becoming too inward-looking and to learn from best practice.

    Phil explains how the programme encouraged fresh thinking, “We didn’t want the programme to become just an ‘echo chamber’ of received Anglian Water wisdom. So, facilitated by Lane4, we brought the outside in, exposing delegates to a total of 30 successful organisations in industries ranging from financial services to manufacturing – Waitrose, Jaguar LandRover, Twinings, Unipart and Virgin Money among them.”

    He adds, “We reinforced the message about being open minded and adopting a learning mindset by giving each delegate their own ‘commemorative’ sponge, playing on the idea of being a sponge, not a rock.”

    Robin can again confirm the benefit of this approach, “Hearing the experience of other leading UK businesses was immensely valuable. In a leadership exchange, my group visited 3M in Bracknell. It was a genuine two-way street – a mutual sharing of best practice.”

  • The second wave

    Such has been the impact of the programme on the business that 110 Anglian Water leaders, typically newly promoted or newly recruited managers, have now embarked on their training. Meanwhile, an abridged version of the programme is being rolled out to nearly 700 first-line managers.

Key benefits of the programme

  • Anglian Water has had its most successful year to date on nearly every measure
  • Engagement surveys show significant improvement on both leadership style and behaviour
  • 100% of delegates would recommend the programme


This programme has won the prestigious Personnel Today Award for Excellence in Learning & Development 2017 award and contributed to Anglian Water being awarded the top spot in Glassdoor UK’s Best Place To Work in 2019 as well as being named Utility Company of the Year in 2018.

  • 100% of delegates would recommend the programme.

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