Driving Strategic Success with Purpose 

How M&S redesigned their ideas program to drive impressive results under new leadership. 





Use Case

Process improvement, employee experience


Microsoft Teams


Launch a new leadership strategy and making M&S a great place to work and shop





More engagement




Introducing ‘Straight to Stuart’

Retail giant M&S operates in 62 countries with over 1500 stores. It has remained at the top of its game thanks to the company’s ability to innovate continuously.  

This success partly stems from a connected corporate culture and commitment to the company’s employees. Under the leadership of former CEO Steve Rowe, a scheme aimed at collecting colleagues' ideas from across the business and bringing them to life called ‘Suggest to Steve’ was introduced.

With the appointment of new Chief Executive Stuart Machin came an imperative to overhaul ‘Suggest to Steve’ and an opportunity to combine Stuart’s leadership strategy with the launch of the new program: Straight to Stuart.   

We knew what we HAD to do: redesign and relaunch a scheme, redesign it with new goals and ambitions, deliver it for 10am on that one specific day. And it HAD to work. The difficult part was HOW to do it.

Josh Vincent, M&S Straight to Stuart Lead Josh Vincent, Straight to Stuart Lead Marks & Spencer


Urgency, Precision, Priorities  

The program was off to a fantastic start, leveraging M&S’ embedded culture of ideas, its legacy of success with a top-down approach from the most senior stakeholder. As an integral part of Stuart Machin’s personal leadership strategy, the program also needed a complete redesign to match the new direction.  

The launch was scheduled to coincide with Stuart’s start date and to feature as part of his first company-wide communication as a strategic opportunity to maximize impact and adoption. With an eponymous brand name, a high-profile prime-time announcement and a history to build upon, this project had no room for error or delay; the stakes were extremely high.  

In a truly collaborative way, we accomplished something amazing in a record time. Now that the program is live, seeing M&S colleagues engage with Straight to Stuart and submit their brilliant ideas is incredible, and makes all the hard work worth it! It’s amazing what can be done with the right people, processes and will to make a difference!

laura Laura Watters, Head of Professional Services Sideways 6

The Solution - Teams App

When three become one

Building on a long-standing relationship, M&S engaged the Sideways 6’ Services team to revamp the program, including a new identity, ideas management workflows and ways of working. The team engineered a three-month project to be delivered in just one, with a laser focus on timely and seamless delivery.  

First, they looked at redesigning the idea management process, including submission questions, lifecycle stages and ideas reviews. Then, the project focused on rebuilding the new processes into the Sideways 6 platform whilst engaging and educating internal stakeholders. The team also needed to ensure a seamless rollover from the previous program to the new one on Microsoft Teams before the relaunch. This was no mean feat given the highly customized and embedded technical aspects of both the previous and new programs.  

With strategic focus, re-prioritization, and a great deal of internal alignment, ‘Straight to Stuart’ was launched without a glitch and on time.  

It was a no brainer to continue to work with Sideways 6 Services to support the redesign. We trusted them, we knew we'd get the results we wanted and had confidence that the platform would deliver.’ 

Josh Vincent, M&S Straight to Stuart Lead Josh Vincen,t Straight to Stuart Lead M & S

The Solution - Sideways 6

Redesigning for success 

'Straight to Stuart' was redesigned to generate better value, more engagement and a higher quality of ideas. Through strategic design and configuration, M&S and Sideways 6 Services worked on developing a way to collectively achieve this goal.  

New idea submission questions were introduced so that colleagues would provide detailed insights into how their ideas would benefit the business, resulting in stronger submissions from the get-go. The team also implemented a better reward system, re-framed the review process, involving more senior members, and ensured that Stuart was personally visible to be engaging with the program. Internally, there was a significant effort to educate leadership on the new processes. This led to greater internal visibility of the program and crucially, better-quality feedback on ideas.  

With the process redesigned, high levels of engagement from the senior leadership and internal education and buy-in, the program was ready to launch.


I regularly suggest to Straight to Stuart and encourage all colleagues to share their great ideas. The responses are so quick with real informative feedback (even if the idea has already been considered).

Lee Goodwin M&S Lee Goodwin, Central Store Operations Manager Marks & Spencer


The Power of Effective Execution

Stuart's first-day announcement and the launch of the program was executed seamlessly, which has embedded and reinforced Stuart’s leadership direction in the business whilst also reclaiming the value listening to employees as part of M&S’ corporate DNA. 

After just one year, the program achieved remarkable results, with nearly 8,000 ideas submitted, and compared to the previous program: 111% more likes, +75% more staff engaged and a whopping 1261% more comments on ideas. That period also saw 218 ideas chosen for implementation (a 118% increase on the previous year) including industry-leading initiatives that have driven huge PR attention and success.

M&S is now committed more than ever to continue to drive this program forward through even deeper engagement from across the business, gather transformative ideas whist fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to the company's future. 


I am delighted to have had a ‘yes’ from Stuart. I cannot wait to see my idea in action and make a difference to the company I am so proud to be working for.

Screenshot 2023-08-02 at 13.04.31 Lesley, Front line worker Marks & Spencer

Get a copy of the case study

The Marks & Spencer Story