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The following case studies are short samples giving a flavour of some of our work and the approach
we have taken:

1. Service review
2. Accessing 'hard to reach' customers
3. Strategy and complex change
4. Team conflict
5. Board differences
6. Action Learning for creative leadership
7. Setting up a Learning and Development function
8. Coaching a new Director
9. Helping a Chief Executive get motivated


1. Service Review

A regional Service Provider was concerned about their ability to compete well in a new competitive tendering environment. We were asked to conduct a review of their services focusing particularly on improving service quality and expansion opportunities.

Our change strategy was to work in close collaboration with key personnel so that the review
became an ongoing learning process enabling improvements to be made as it was carried out. Important elements were exploring multiple ideas, surfacing and working positively with 'resistance' early on, raising awareness of gaps through joint fact finding, and jointly evaluating options for change.
The review process included:

  • Identifying service needs through consultation with service-users, purchasers,
    referring agencies, employees.
  • researching and evaluating different types of service provided by similar agencies in other
    parts of the country.
  • undertaking a financial analysis and developing a new financial model that more accurately reflected individual service costs.
  • evaluating services against a national quality framework, identifying strengths and areas for action.

The organisation was able to make rapid changes, restructuring to widen their range of services.
They went on to win more business and expand their operations.

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2. Accessing 'hard to reach' customers

A national Consumer Advice agency was concerned that they were not reaching groups of vulnerable consumers, the very people who most needed their services. They wanted to develop a new customer communication strategy to ensure all customer groups received advice and information. We were asked to help them develop methods for communicating with 'hard to reach' groups.

Working with a cross-organisational project team we developed a customer segmentation method for identifying which groups of customers were 'hard to reach'. We then piloted innovative ways of communicating with those groups, using local demographic information and community networks.
The pilots provided flexible 'templates' for communicating with different customer groups.
These were introduced to customer service advisers who we coached and supported as they implemented this new way of working.

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3. Strategy and complex change

A Local Authority in a rural area was concerned that their understanding and practice relating to
social inclusion was underdeveloped. They commissioned us to help them 'improve inclusion for the benefit of both service users and Council employees', a politically controversial issue requiring astute and sensitive approaches to bring about desired culture change rather than passive compliance.


Our approach was to work with a cross-organisational project team as 'champions' of change, and to open up the Council's boundaries to external ideas and input.
The first phase was to fully understand the complexity of inclusion and equality issues in the context of the local environment and community, and to develop an accessible and meaningful language for communicating these more widely. Individual 'champions' and consultants then worked with small groups of council officers and external agencies on practical projects identified as key 'points of leverage' in creating change. This was a major exercise stretching over eighteen months and included:

  • Researching the demographics of the area and developing a model to assess which
    groups were most at risk of 'exclusion' within the local context
  • working with the HR team to introduce workforce profiling, improved recruitment and
    selection processes, inclusion and equality training
  • running pilot schemes with two key services to consult customers on service delivery,
    resulting in many service improvements and Council-wide guidelines for meaningful
    consultation
  • reviewing and revising performance management systems so that inclusion and equality
    targets were integrated with business planning and performance review
  • developing an integrated Inclusion and Equality Strategy, based on the Local Government Equality Standard.

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4. Team conflict

The Director of an NGO invited us to work with her team who were experiencing high levels of conflict. This had a negative impact on their decision-making ability, team relationships were poor, individuals were stressed and services were becoming chaotic.

Initial coaching supported the Director to understand and deal with the difficult team dynamics and assert her leadership role.
Alongside this we facilitated a series of team 'Away days' using an arts approach to cool the temperature and enable each person to state their grievances and express their feelings. This revealed a lack of clarity about the organisation's overall purpose, conflicting priorities, confused roles, unclear policies and differing practices. Exploring these issues enabled the team to see that underlying structural problems, rather than personality clashes, were causing conflict. De-personalising conflict in this way improved relationships and the team were then able to resolve underlying issues and move the organisation forward.

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5. Board differences

A Director had concerns about serious divisions on their Board concerning the mission of the organisation and its governance structure. The subject had been raised previously but 'swept under the carpet' after an inconclusive and difficult discussion. The Director persuaded the Board to re-open discussions with external facilitators and invited us to take on this role.

We facilitated two special Board meetings to resolve the issue, opening with discussion on their current conflict handling process and how they would like this to be different. This enabled them to better understand their own behaviour patterns and created a safer environment for diverse views to be expressed. We supported the Board in holding open, honest and sometimes uncomfortable discussions. Strong facilitation enabled a robust exchange, full involvement and a final decision that everyone felt able to support. Revisiting the initial discussion on conflict handling processes the group resolved to continue being more open in discussing differences, recognising that diverse views improved the quality of complex decision-making.

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6. Action Learning for creative leadership

Under the umbrella of the European funded Creative Leadership Project we were asked to run an Action Learning Set for Chief Executives of voluntary organisations and social businesses in the South East. The group of eight met monthly for half a day.

Early on we used the creative method of metaphor drawing to raise awareness of each person's underlying beliefs and assumptions about the nature of their organisation. This illuminated how far different organisational models held in people's minds affected the way their leadership roles were understood and carried out. Then each person worked on a particular strategic issue that had emerged, developing their own unique style, skills and understanding of leadership as they tackled their issue in practice. Participants reported that the mix of support, challenge and workplace action had developed their confidence and competence in their leadership roles.

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7. Setting up a Learning and Development function

When a Local Authority Housing Department became an independent Housing Association they lost the specialist support services provided by the Council's HR department. They realised that rapid change had left many people feeling unconfident and de-skilled, but no learning and development strategy or processes were in place.

We provided the missing expertise, and worked closely with the sole HR Manager to produce a framework of Learning and Development policy and processes that could be introduced quickly and reasonably easily. Alongside this we undertook a Skills Audit and organisation-wide learning needs analysis, leading to a Learning and Development Strategy. We left the organisation with policies and processes in place, key people trained to carry out their new roles, a Learning and Development Plan for the forthcoming year. They went on to gain the Investors in People award later that year.

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8. Coaching a new Director

When a talented but relatively inexperienced new Director was appointed his Board recommended that he receive regular coaching to help him develop into the role.

Initially slightly ambivalent and skeptical about coaching the client was encouraged to consider how he might benefit from coaching, the reservations he had, and what his goals might be. Over time the relationship developed and he went on to work with the coach for a year. Sessions were used to anticipate new situations coming up, options for dealing with them, and learning to cope with the 'unknown', ambiguity and uncertainty. Very much an 'activist' he was encouraged to reflect and learn from his experience, and to seek feedback from colleagues. This deeper discussion raised awareness of some unconsciously held attitudes, and led to a more intentional development of his leadership style. He felt this gave him a more flexible approach and better work relationships.

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9. Helping a Chief Executive get motivated

A Chief Executive asked for confidential regular support at a time when he felt unchallenged, stressed, with little interest or energy for work.

It took a few sessions to unravel what was causing the down turn in the client's feelings about work and his performance. It emerged that he felt unaccountable for outcomes, contributing to a lack of focus as he launched from one idea to the next. At the same time he was experiencing several stress symptoms such as poor sleep, poor concentration, and anxiety.
Basic stress management techniques helped him cope with the immediate situation.
In the longer term it emerged that he often kept his Board 'out of the picture' preventing him from getting the direction he needed. He eventually developed, with the Board, a more detailed strategic plan with clear priorities and targets. Regular individual appraisals with the Chair required him to be more accountable and get feedback on his performance. Realising his tendency to hide from problems he commented that coaching had raised his self-awareness and his ability to confront issues.

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