We were asked to design and deliver a programme for the whole leadership group. After consultation with a sample of stakeholders including the Executive Team, a set of guiding principles were agreed as follows:
- An asset-based approach – this programme would not set out to “fix” Seafish management or culture. It is designed to build on existing strengths and add new capabilities.
- Inside and out – the ambition to re-position Seafish as a listener and enabler (rather than a teller and authority) was mirrored by the intent to develop stronger collaboration within and across the organisation. Much of the programme content supported improvement both inside and outside the organisation.
- Universal – the programme was for the whole management population, with no distinctions related to experience, hierarchy, qualifications, etc. Cohorts taking part were mixed.
- Evidence-based – content was informed by relevant, fresh evidence about what works best in leadership and management.
- Collaborative – programme activity built in frequent opportunities for collaboration between people who don’t usually work together.
The overall structure of the programme is illustrated above, incorporating innovative elements such as a “management lab” where delegates carried out Behavioural Insights-type randomised control trials to explore the impact of new approaches to staff induction, meeting management, stakeholder influencing, etc.
Participant feedback across the whole programme has been hugely enthusiastic (“this is the best learning programme I’ve ever been on” is a representative comment), and the real impact for the organisation has also been quickly apparent as breakthrough moments seemed to happen all the way through delivery:
- Very early on it was decided to incorporate a strengths-based approach into the organisational selection process as a result of learning in Module 1
- After the same session, several managers decided to build appreciative enquiry into the way they ran team meetings
- Action learning was also adopted early as the main mechanism for project review meetings, and the Head of IT was delighted at the sudden surge in use of collaborative apps like Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting
- The management lab element (with a Dragons’ Den pitching session and project presentation day) is already considered to have delivered improvements which have more than recovered programme investment, and the methodology itself is now being incorporated into the annual staff engagement programme.