Case Study

International Development Charity

The Challenge

In response to a new Director appointment in January 2006 to drive this international development charity forward, the organization immediately identified some initial challenges that had to be tackled. The first pressing challenge was that the charity, to increase its performance and delivery as a group, had missed its volunteering targets for some years. The Director wanted to build on the success of the fundraising department, which had met their target for the previous year.

The culture of the organization was also an issue. Due to performance and delivery as well as leadership changes, some of the staff felt that the charity was an organization in decline. “The 125 strong UK operation is full of bright and dedicated individuals who clearly want to make a difference, but I really felt that there was a lack of expressed ambition and aspiration,” stated the .

“This wasn’t just personally, it was also corporately—there was no corporate growth ambition. When you have an enormous need worldwide, and we can give great value through our highly skilled volunteers, why would you not want to do more of it?”

The third key challenge was that of the structure of the charity. An organization redesign occurred three years previously, but this resulted in many tiers of management that created a complex structure and hierarchies. However, as the charity had been through constant and considerable change, any further change needed to be handled sensitively and followed through, as there was considerable “change skepticism.”

GP Strategies Solution

The three challenges that the Director outlined are interlinked and could not be dealt with separately. To tackle the structure issue and make the desired difference to performance and delivery, the culture of the organization needed to be moved. GP Strategies also advocated working closely with the UK Senior Management Team to help deliver the change. The project was led by Jane Speller and involved Nick Smith alongside other GP Strategies consultants.

“I immediately took to the approach that GP Strategies proposed,” said the Director. “I knew that I needed to change the structure of the organization, but GP Strategies brought home that any change had to be holistic, and [we need] to engage on different dimensions to deliver the change.” GP Strategies designed a three-stage process to be delivered over a 6-month time frame.

Stage 1:

Kick-start the change by involving everyone. Get understanding and buy-in; surface data about why things are as they are and how things will need to change.

Stage 2:

Work with the UK Management Team to help deliver the change by “behaving” the change they wanted to see. Instigate the formal consultation process regarding the new structure, redundancies, and the creation of new job descriptions. Slot employees into new jobs and structures.

Stage 3:

Getting going as the “new” organization.

Stage 1 events focused on achieving buy-in for the desired organizational changes, sharing responsibility for change widely by creating a common vision about what was possible, and considering desired behavioral changes at individual, team, and organizational levels. The events were designed to facilitate copious questions and collect data about what was happening in the organization, why change is difficult where things seem stuck, and where change was most likely to be welcomed. The aim was to get everyone involved and heard in a way that was clear and yet not over-consultative.

Jane Speller comments:

“At the first whole organization event, we noticed that people were very quick to fill flipcharts with words and drawings. They were very open about expressing how it was to work in the organization. But when asked to come forward to start projects or focus on specific areas of inquiry, people held back. They obviously work very hard, but we needed them to concentrate on working smarter to achieve the organization’s goals.”

During this stage, four enquiry groups were formed that addressed:

  • Customer care
  • Internal communications
  • Leadership and management
  • Links and interdependencies


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