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How to build a strong team: Part 3

Published on: 19 Jan 2018

Lincolnshire RTPI award square [square]Teamwork is an essential ingredient for success in planning. At the 2017 RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence three organisations were recognised for their exemplary team building. Matt Moody asked them how they did it

North East Lincolnshire Council and ENGIE

In 2010, North East Lincolnshire Council entered into a 10-year regeneration partnership with energy and services provider Engie. Seven years later, the partnership team was recognised for its efforts as the RTPI’s pick for Local Authority Planning Team of the Year

Building a cohesive team out of two organisations with different working cultures required a measured approach, says Cara Portress, partnership communications manager at Engie. “We initiated a transformation project by appointing a business improvement manager from a non-planning background, and a planning manager keen to enable development. As a result, we were more able to cut through professional barriers and foster a new culture, which saw staff from both Engie and the council embrace new ways of working.”

The project saw a number of changes, says Portress. “First, we encouraged the idea that each and every team member has an equal responsibility for maintaining the service’s reputation through high performance, which helped develop our ‘one team’ culture. This included celebrating success too – ensuring team members at every level understood the value of their contribution.”

Recruiting to the north Lincolnshire area proved a challenge, but this has strengthened the partnership’s commitment to staff development. 
“It’s important for us to develop young people and ensure we have a succession plan to develop and retain our future leaders. There’s also a strong desire to create more job opportunities for local people. These factors have encouraged our ‘grow your own’ philosophy, supporting junior staff to progress through our graduate scheme, work placements and apprenticeships.”

Strong and effective teamwork in the planning department has had a knock-on effect for the organisation as a whole, says Portress. “Not only has it led to the success of the planning department, but also encouraged the wider organisation to embrace our approach in other areas.”


  • Reward success and share it with every member of the team

  • Make sure leaders are clear on purpose, outcomes and the role of each team member

  • Take your team on a transformation journey with you and they will be proud of what is achieved

What the judges said

“This partnership is a high-performing planning team with a ‘can-do’ attitude,” observed Nick Raynsford, the chair of judges. 
“Their ‘enabling not controlling’ attitude to development should be held up as an exemplar. Feedback shows their planners are transparent, proactive, pragmatic, objective and professional. They have some great ideas for best practice including paper free planning, commitment to staff development, joined-up working and face-to-face or telephone engagement rather than email.”

Read about the Awards for Planning Excellence on the RTPI website