Leading through change

The last year or so has seen massive socio-economic and political shifts on a global scale, with periods of uncertainty challenging economies, business and cultures.

With such unprecedented change, the need for strong leadership becomes ever more vital. It is an area that underpins much of Cranfield’s world-leading research across technology and management.

Join us for our sixth annual Cranfield Alumni Conference in October, where our academic experts, industry leaders and influential alumni unpick the issues affecting leading through change and share their own expertise.

Hear from experts on a broad range of topics from Brexit economics to critical decision making in crisis situations and the Apprenticeship Levy - among an evolving and dynamic programme.

Please do revisit this page as we develop and update the day’s agenda over the coming weeks.

Book your Conference ticket here

Book Joint tickets for the Conference and SoM Reunion here


Programme & speakers

Some of our great speakers include Baroness Barbara Young, Chancellor of Cranfield University, Joe Nellis our Professor of Global Economy, Paul Baines, Professor of Political Marketing at Cranfield, who will be helping us navigate the new apprenticeship levy and Bryan Watters OBE, Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Cranfield Defence and Security.

We are sure you will be inspired by our keynote speeches from notable industry and academic figures, and look forward to seeing you at our breakout sessions. There will be plenty of valuable time throughout the day to network with fellow alumni, speakers, faculty and staff members.

If you are interested in attending our School of Management 50th Anniversary Gala Reunion on Saturday 21 October, you can find further details and purchase a joint ticket here.

08:30   Registration
09:15   Welcome: Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor, Cranfield University

Keynote: Up for Change – perspectives from a Chief Executive and Chairman.
Baroness Barbara Young of Old Scone, Chancellor, Cranfield University
Synopsis: Barack Obama said “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” How to promote change as opportunity and not threat and help people and organisations to grasp change with enthusiasm. Baroness Young speaks from a leadership background in a wide range of highly visible public sector and non-governmental organisations.

10:30   Structured Networking Break

Keynote: Change programmes, people and leadership challenges.Do you have your priorities right?
Garry Copeland, Former Managing Director Combined Operations, British Airways
Synopsis: In an era of rapid and profound change, technology, tools and infrastructure generally get the lion’s share of an organisation’s attention, and resources.
Large change programmes are most often driven and dominated by complex technology, expensive infrastructure and seductive visions of a more efficient, cost effective, or otherwise desirable outcome. The disruptive and revolutionary are often regarded as ‘holy grail’ elements to rapid progress.
Yet, the most common determinant of the success of large projects is the engagement of the people involved. Project initiators, managers, workers, board members, customers, regulators share some common concerns, but are often motivated and divided by their own concerns, perceptions and philosophies.
In recent years the mix is further enlivened by a voracious media appetite for negative or critical news, and increasingly fed with all sorts of opinions via social media channels.
Garry Copeland, Former Managing Director of Operations at British Airways, considers the delivery of large infrastructure and technology programmes, and reflects on some of the practical leadership lessons learned.

12:20    Lunch and Networking
13:35   Parallel Session: 

How do you design a workforce fit for the future using the new Apprenticeship Levy?
Synopsis: In this session, leading figures from industry including from Grant Thornton and Unilever will form a panel to discuss how they are currently, and foresee in the future, using the Apprenticeship Levy to develop their senior management teams so that they have a workforce capable of taking advantage of future market opportunities. The panel will also take Q&A from the audience.
Paul Baines, Professor of Political Marketing and Director, Executive MBA, Cranfield School of Management (Chair)
Simon Littlewood, Partner, Head of Business Growth Services, Grant Thornton 
Andrew Sztehlo, Global R&D Vice President, Ice-cream, Unilever 
Mark Threlfall, Interim Director - CCED, Cranfield School of Management


Leading Intelligent Career Owners
Michael Arthur (Full Time MBA 1975), Professor of Strategy and International Business, Suffolk University, Boston
Synopsis: If your team members are Intelligent career owners, what do you need to do?In today’s global economy, people need to take ownership of their careers, rather than leaving their career futures in the hands of any single organization. This changes the rules for both leaders and team members. The old assumption of a common focus on the organization’s best interests breaks down, and is replaced by a set of interdependent interests. The “intelligent career” framework, concerned with why, how and with whom both leaders and their team members work, suggests a way forward.
This session will help participants to:
• Consider alternative approaches to leadership in a fast-changing world.
• Explore the career assumptions behind their own leadership approach.
• Consider the trade-offs between organizational goals and team member goals.
Envision a new “contract” between the leader and team members to attain mutual success.


Parallel Session:


Challenges facing the world: three wise men
Synopsis: A psychologist an economist and a consultant solve the worlds problems in an hour ....
Dr John Glen, Visiting Fellow and Former Director of CCED, Cranfield School of Management (Chair)
Tom Keohane (Full Time MBA 2005), Partner, The Berkeley Partnership
Dr Richard Kwiatkowski, Senior Lecturer, Organizational Psychology Development and Learning, Cranfield School of Management


Critical Decision Making in a Crisis
Dr Bryan Watters OBE, Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Cranfield Defence and Security
Synopsis: How do you make an ethical decision in a crisis, under pressure? Join Dr Bryan Watters, Senior Lecturer in Leadership at Cranfield Defence and Security for an interactive workshop and experience how you make an ethical decision in a crisis. Be led through a real life scenario in war torn Bosnia and Herzegovina and explore the themes of: United Nations operations, complexity, neutrality and ethics.
You can see more about Bryan’s session and the real-life dilemmas it is based on here

15:40   Structured Networking Break

Keynote: Is there life after Brexit?
Joe Nellis, Professor of Global Economy, Cranfield School of Management
Synopsis: An unprecedented pace of change and a rise in populism has created fresh challenges for businesses. There is still a long way to go as the UK prepares to leave the EU, but what should organisations be doing now to prepare for this ‘brave new world’?
Joe sets the scene and assesses where the economy is heading.


Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor, Cranfield University


Location & travel details

The Vincent Building (52a), Cranfield University.

Cranfield University is located at the very heart of the UK – within the innovation triangle between London and the cities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Our central location provides easy access from the M1, excellent main line rail service as well as proximity to key international airports. Set in rolling countryside, Cranfield offers a rich, rural landscape complemented by thriving towns and picturesque villages.

  • Road: We are just 10 minutes from Junctions 13 and 14 of the M1 motorway. There is free parking on campus.
  • Rail: Milton Keynes or Bedford
  • Air: London Luton (22 miles), Heathrow (50 miles) or Birmingham (70 miles)

For further details please click here.

Who should attend

All Alumni

Cost & concessions

Tickets for the Alumni Conference are priced at £90

Book your Conference ticket here

Book Joint tickets for the Conference and SoM Reunion here