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Helping Heathrow’s 550-strong team of engineers to find their “Edge”, drive exceptional performance and create lasting engagement among the team.

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Heathrow is the world’s busiest two-runway airport, with around 1,300 aircraft movements and over 200,000 passengers travelling through the airport on an average day. With plans for a third runway underway, Heathrow’s 550-strong team of highly trained, multi-skilled engineers are a vital part of the airport’s growth. Against a backdrop of aggressive cost reduction targets, and ambitious expansion plans, they play a critical role in protecting the efficiency of the airport.

But whilst their performance was acceptable, engineering had slipped down Heathrow’s internal engagement surveys with some teams displaying passive attitudes, unwillingness to change and a fear of making mistakes. This, along with siloed working and duplication of activity meant that optimum performance was not being reached.

Launched in 2016, the Edge programme sought to reawaken the inquisitive spirit in the team, increase engagement and drive performance improvement. Edge was described as four key behaviours Customer First, Take Ownership, Understand Why and Be Professional. But though the idea and goals of Edge were clearly defined by senior managers, the concept needed to gain traction among the wider team to have the desired impact.

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With many years of experience delivering change programmes, and an understanding of the psychology of change, Heathrow engaged Natural Direction to take Edge beyond the corporate wallpaper, and help embed it into the fabric of the engineering culture.

Sensitive to the needs of an ever-changing environment, multiple teams across a wide range of disciplines, round the clock shifts, and the need to minimise the impact on the business, Natural Direction helped Heathrow create a five-phased engagement approach that deployed carefully crafted activities to engage the team.

Through a series of two-day events, we created a network of natural influencers or, “Edge Champions” to bring the Edge behaviours to life and equip them for their role in inspiring high performance and driving Edge throughout the team. Using Champions as “co-facilitators”, a series of Edge Awareness sessions then engaged the wider community and gave them the opportunity to contribute their own views and ideas.

Central to the Edge approach is the idea that if you can change language, you can change behaviour. This was not about managers trotting out worn out cliches, but getting front line teams to use different words to handle problems, deal with pressure and find innovative solutions. Progress is tracked using a “win, learn, change” framework and language such as “above the line thinking” and “moving from blame to aim” have become part of the engineering lexicon. Edge is now included in all team discussions as well as recruitment, onboarding, apprentice schemes, and other development programmes.


Everyone in engineering has been touched by Edge and the results have been outstanding. Many people describe the process as “career-changing” and engineering being “the best it has ever been”. This anecdotal evidence is supported by hard metrics:

  • Achieved an outstanding Best Companies result, with 78% response rate and a 66 point year on year improvement, the strongest result amongst comparable peer groups (large frontline based teams) by some margin. Heathrow has been named one of Best Companies ‘Ones to Watch’ for 2019.
  • Rated by MCP benchmarking assessments as ‘best global airport Engineering team’, achieving ‘exceptional’ first visit score of 71%, surpassing all expectations and demonstrating leading practice in many areas.
  • Out-performed 2018 Management Business Plan through the relentless working of risks and opportunities.
  • Finished Q6 outperforming the overall business plan, delivering substantial cost savings.

Our clients

We have the privilege of working with some of the most successful organisations in the world.