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The Facilitation Impact Awards (FIA) honours organisations that have used facilitation to achieve a measurable and positive impact as well as the facilitator(s) who worked with them. More about FIA
Silver award
The Corporate University of Russian Railways
Moscow, Russia

Game-changer: Embedding Facilitation into Culture Code of Mega-company


A significantly new format was embedded in the managerial practice of the largest production unit of the Russian Railways Holding (RZD) to find the key problems that reduce the effectiveness of processes and ways to solve them. 

The communication platform was created for the employees of RZD, its business partners and clients that enables them to build a common picture of weak points of interaction and develop new consolidated business solutions. 

The developed format allowed the organisation to hold strategic sessions for a wide range of business units of the RZD – railway infrastructure, traffic management, logistics, technical policy, HR, economy and finance and social development – covering diverse aspects of RZD activities:

  • 21 strategic sessions were held in one year with the involvement of all regional branches of the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit with a total of 1192 participants.
  • More than 30% of the managers in the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit were involved in the new working format which allowed them to learn about new opportunities of facilitation in decision-making.
  • 78 strategic projects have been developed and launched to improve the performance. Three key projects in the areas of predictive management in the railway track complex, wagons repairing and maintenance, signalling and interlocking systems have target KPIs of losses decrease up to 30%, realization terms decrease up to 50% and faults decrease up to 40%. The remaining 75 projects are for 18 regional branches of the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit.  

Context and challenges

The Corporate University of Russian Railways is an autonomous non-commercial organization of continuous professional education, founded in 2010 by OJSC “Russian Railways”. The University provides business education for the employees of RZD. The University develops unique learning products, uses up-to-date tools for staff assessment, builds managerial culture, creates effective encouraging environment and promotes the best managerial practices and initiatives that contribute to the implementation of the RZD strategy and transport industry.

The University portfolio includes more than 200 programmes of various formats and areas. More than 270 thousand railway people have become University graduates since its foundation. The University has 202 employees and three campuses located in Moscow.

The main challenge facing the University was to embed a communication platform uniting different divisions, business partners, federal executive authorities and RZD clients (cargo-owners and passengers) to elaborate and implement disruptive business solutions to develop railway transport and transport industry as a whole.

Key considerations were:

  1. The scale of RZD – to engage a target audience of great scope and geography in a short time.
  2. Regional diversity – to consider the particularities of each regional division that depend on the economic and social development of the region, culture, climate and railway traffic.
  3. Cascading – to involve all management levels: strategic, tactical and operational. 
  4. Cross functional cooperation – to engage as many RZD divisions and external stakeholders as possible to provide a comprehensive discussion of business challenges and to generate a consolidated plan for solutions.
  5. New formats of decision-making – to change a managerial culture and develop the culture of initiative, search for nontrivial solutions and interactive format of discussion. 
  6. One or two-day duration of an event – to involve senior executives in the subject discussion to enable rapid decision-making.  

Project objectives

The project objectives were to:

  1. Embed the strategic sessions format to elaborate progressive business-solutions for the long-term development of RZD. 
  2. Engage the managers of all managerial levels in problem analysis and making strategic and tactical decisions.  
  3. Engage a wide range of stakeholders to elaborate promising business-solutions together RZD.
  4. Embed facilitation culture, principles and tools in the managerial practice of the leaders RZD.
  5. Analyse challenges and elaborate solutions for improving the performance of RZD divisions with the usage of facilitation technologies and tools.

These objectives fully support the mission of the Corporate University of Russian Railways which is to:

To develop an effective system of continuous corporate education of various groups of the Russian Railways employees and key stakeholders beyond the Company, forming on the basis of a value-oriented approach and the best world practices new knowledge, competencies and culture necessary for the implementation of the strategy of the Russian Railways Group and the transport industry as a whole.


The challenge was met by a team of University facilitators – employees of the Centre for Prospective Management Practices. They developed a new format for the University – strategic sessions bringing together managers of different functions and project teams to elaborate business solutions, which had taken months before, in 1-2 days.

The project undertaken for the Railway Infrastructure Business Unit, a branch of RZD, is an example of the approach developed by the University facilitators.

The project was launched in February 2019 and involved four key stages:

  1. a strategic session in the field of staff development and motivation
  2. a strategic session for project ideas development aimed at the priority tasks of the Unit
  3. a cascade of 18 regional strategic sessions
  4. an annual strategic meeting of the Unit and business partners (suppliers, manufacturers, and service companies).

The cascade of 21 sessions was conducted in one year. The duration of each session was 1 to days and many participants (up to 500) attended the sessions and many work-related questions were posed (up to 20 per session).

Each facilitation preparation took no less than 20 hours including meetings, briefings, scenario planning and developing the visual design of the session. Preparation of all 21 sessions took no less than 420 hours. The University team engaged in the arrangements of the facilitation sessions included 40 employees: 15 facilitators, 2 methodologists, 7 support and organization members, 2 IT support assistants, 9 law and finance departments members and 5 top-executives.



Cascade of strategic sessions




“The uniqueness of this format implies that it is the first time when we meet in such a group not for judging or summing up, but for discussing challenges and generating solutions. All the participants have revealed themselves step by step joining the discussions with interest. They were all equal to each other regardless of their positions during the discussions. Such an open dialog let us consider the challenges in a different way.”

Yuriy Aleynikov, Deputy Head of the West-Siberian Railway Infrastructure Business Unit




“The main objectives of the held session were the increase of the corporate competencies level and elaboration of project ideas aimed at solving the priority issues of the infrastructure complex. The employees’ motivation, interaction with the adjacent divisions, regulatory documentation are among the problems discovered by the participants with the help of the experts of the Corporate University of Russian Railways. The projects developed as a result of the strategic session will be evaluated and, in case of their feasibility, will be supported by the management of the regional branch and launched.”

Vladimir Oganesyan, Head of North-Caucasus Railway Infrastructure Business Unit