Duncan Hammond

Delivery director, Guardian News & Media

Turning strategy into action

In 2015, the Guardian appointed a new editor-in-chief and a new CEO – the biggest change in leadership for 20 years. Duncan will talk about the positive effect this change has had on the organisation as well as how the Guardian is turning strategy into action and the importance of having a common purpose.

Traditional media is experiencing a period of rapid transformation. Duncan is responsible for implementing new ways of working and a shared approach across the organisation to ensure the Guardian delivers on its strategic priorities.

Duncan has been at the Guardian since 2008, holding roles that vary from monetisation development manager to head of commercial development and integration.

Dots Live

Delivering the Guardian's 2021 vision


In a time when 85c to the dollar in media advertising is spent on Facebook and Google, how do newspapers stay relevant and visible? This is one of the challenges Dots 2016 speaker Duncan Hammond faced in his role as delivery director for the Guardian.

The Guardian wanted to answer this question and put strategy into action. Six months into this process of delivering and Duncan took to the Dots stage to show the audience how it is going.

Creating a vision for the future

Looking towards its bicentenary in 2021, the challenge was to keep liberal journalism relevant, prevalent and engaging in an increasingly complex digital space.

While there are many challenges in this new digital era, it’s also a time of journalistic innovation. The challenge is to make sure the Guardian remains commercially functional, without compromising its headline-making work. This kickstarted project 2021, which at its core asks the question, what does the Guardian want to be at 200 years old?

To discover this, Duncan and his team developed a strategy focused on three key themes:

  • Common purpose
  • Clear goals that unify purpose
  • Adopting a common language

Delivering the strategy

To discover a common purpose, a questionnaire circulated asking employees for reasons for optimism and unvarnished truths. The responses guided a ‘relationship strategy’ one-pager; a shareable, stick-it-on-the-fridge document. Simple and easy to interpret, this document formed the basis of Vision 2021.

One unvarnished truth rang especially true – the organisation was too complex and not agile enough to fit neatly into the new digital world. To challenge this truth, the strategy team focused on silos within the organisation – Editorial, Commercial and Digital teams.

‘Huddles’ (cross-functional teams) were formed to work on defined objectives, breaking down silos and opening up new relationships between staff. Huddles moved the Guardian from yearly planning to quarterly sprint patterns. This has enabled the organisation to be more nimble, in an age when media is changing 24/7.

“We don’t want silos anymore, just teams with people that can talk to one another,” said Duncan.

For an organisation that started out after the Peterloo massacre in 1821, the Guardian is charging towards its 200th year on the back of a digital wave.